Let us start the game. Those five words changed my perspective in many ways, not just in gaming but how my cognitive perception on reality truly is. It's no secret that I love this franchise with a perpetual passion. Its incredible narrative, and determination placed amongst our young hero's are extraordinarily galvinising. Endlessly, I continue to praise its concept, and how imaginative and wondrous alternate realities are represented in its astonishing abstraction. The hypothesis of one's heart being pure or distorted so firmly, that it controls one's pathway to freedom or damnation is encapsulating in itself. The twist of political or religious justification that controls society, delivers on such a timely notion, especially given how our current global climate stands. Faith is all we have, and if we lose that then all responsibility supposedly lies in our own independence. Cool, huh?
For those uninitiated, Persona 5: The Animation is the Anime adaptation to the critically acclaimed, long-running JPRG gaming series Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, from Japanese Game Development studio, ATLUS. Persona 5 the game was initially released after a lengthy development cycle from its predecessor in September 2016, and was hailed for its original story, awe-inspiring aesthetics, and captivating characters. With Persona 4's success, it was only a matter of time before its elevated praise reached its sequel giving it universal commendation. Much like its prior entry, Persona 5 has redefined a generation of JRPG titles with snazzy cinematic's, catchy compositions, and a vastly superior gameplay loop that has been praised as the new industry standard for the next generation within the RPG category.
A mangaka adaptation had released alongside its initial launch in 2016, with lead artist and writer Hisato Murasaki (D-Crackers, Hyakume no Kishi), assigned to serialise its narrative. The manga’s first Volume was read by over 1 million people within its first 24 hours online, which had Japanese outlet Ura Sunday, commission another three chapters in the ongoing publication. After its global launch in April 2017, the title had garnered universal acclaim receiving perfect scores across the board, and placing it in a prestigious position as one of the greatest title’s developed this generation. It was shortly thereafter, Aniplex had licensed the series for its Anime adaptation with Animation Studio Cloverworks commissioned for an above industry standard 26 Episodes, with two feature length OVAs that concluded the series, and tied in with the release of Persona 5: Royal.
Revered for their work prior to Persona 5: The Animation, Director Masashi Ishihama (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Erased) and Screenplay Writer Shinichi Inotsume (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Food Wars), both lead the adaptation with concept artists Toshiyuki Yahagi and Keita Matsumoto supervising the project, keeping Persona 5’s animated adaptation faithful to its original vision. Lead composer Shoji Meguro, reprised his role within the franchise and delivered exclusive arrangements to the animation with Lyn Inaizumi, returning to lend her dulcet tones as lead Vocalist to the anime’s official soundtrack. The series first premiered in Japan on April 7, 2018 with its localisation made exclusive to its Blu-Ray release. Aniplex of America acquired the license to distribute the English Dub digitally across multiple platforms, worldwide.
⚠ Main Plot (Warning: Spoilers)
Mirroring its source material, the series begins with a mysterious voice explaining how humanity’s distorted cognition has turned world to ruin, and distrust. Only those with the will strong enough to face those are known as Trickster’s. We’re then taken to a Casino, where a group of young thieves are retrieving a briefcase containing a certain treasure. Scaling chandelier’s and leaping various obstacles, our lead protagonist code-name “Joker” attempts to evade security, and escape the clubhouse. Guided by his cohorts through radio transmission, Joker is warned of an swarm of swat members readying to take him down, in which he fearlessly fends off. With a smug smile and a cavalier curt, Joker escapes by diving head first through a stained glass window, landing on his feet outside in whimsical fashion. Within seconds of his supposed getaway, Joker is ambushed by Police outside of the Casino and taken into custody.
Joker is then awoken in maximum security with a menacing agent informing the thief that he is being charged for multiple counts of various misdemeanours including manslaughter. The teen remains stoic but is suffering side-effects from being injected with multiple doses of truth serum. The ominous officer tries to negotiate with the rebel, but is taunted by the teen’s arrogance. Demanding to know more about each “crime”, the pompous police officer beats the thief until he surrenders his identity. Bruised, gashed, and bewildered, the leader of the Phantom Thieves finally reveals his given name. “You can call me, Ren” he murmurs as the officer grasps the young Shujin Student by the strands of his soaking scalp. Footsteps echo down the desolate ingress of the underground vassalage.
Sae Niijima, a public prosecutor for the Tokyo District confronts officers guarding the room comprehending the young suspect. An informant of the Prosecutor’s office intercepts her investigation, claiming the case is out of her jurisdiction, and that she was not allowed to be there. Another officer approaches the group stating that Niijima’s Director was on the phone. Her superior suspiciously illustrates that she was not needed for interrogation, to which she argues that the entire investigation was her case and that she had every right to interrogate the suspect. To her behest, her superior reluctantly allows her to continue with the investigation. She enters the dark room with the injured enigma, completely disoriented. Stunned, however unvexed, the young prosecutor identifies Ren immediately, and advises that his friends are safe.
She explains that accusations made against the youngster were serious, however the misnomers could be cleared if he gives an accurate account of each incident involving The Phantom Thieves. Joker agrees to Niijima’s terms, and begins his recount from arriving to Yongen-Jaya, meeting his new guardian Sojiro Sakura, acquainting himself with his new high school, and befriending classmates in the same year level. All these events trigger a weird dream, where Ren is cuffed, shackled by a ball-and-chain, and is held captive inside the Velvet Room. Resembling a penitentiary, the beryl blazoned bastille is ruled by its Master Igor, and his two Wardens, Caroline and Justine. The elderly, hunched-over gentleman glares at Ren, boasting bloodshot eyes and a.beak-shaped nose.The daunting don explains to Ren that he is in a cognitive universe that exists within his heart, and is only manufactured by his ideologies, and current state of mind.
The only way to escape such a grim cognition would be to adopt the ways of a Trickster, and lead a revolution against corruption. Ren awakens from his dream, leaving the dusty attic of Cafe Le Blanc, a coffee house in a back alley owned by his guardian and where the teen resides while in his guardian’s courtship. Making his way to Shujin Academy for his first day, he experiences a premonition within the bustling city of Shibuya. A spirit vested in crimson manifests from blue flames which has the teen completely mesmerised. Joker snaps out of his vision when fellow female student, Ann Takamaki greets the shy transfer, reaching for a rose petal stuck in his fringe. A car pulls up curbside, with a teacher from the academy offering Ann and Ren ride. While she happily agrees, Ren declines his kind offering. After the pair head off, Ren is then confronted by a bleached blonde, scruffy rebel shouting profanities towards the moving vehicle. While browsing the suspicious app, Ren’s phone recognises select keywords that trigger an event that causes a sudden headache between the two students.
The scruffy student offers to guide Ren to Shujin, taking a shortcut through an alleyway. As the pair make their way towards the front gates, they are greeted with unfamiliar skirting that has adorned the academy’s hallowed halls. Unable to cipher what exactly had happened, the two enter the school across a drawbridge, with its entryway resembling that of a castle’s foyer. The teens are then assaulted by a gargantuan figure resembling a medieval knight that knock the pair unconscious, leaving them locked in a cell hidden beneath the castle. Becoming cognisant of their surroundings, the two devise an escape plan but are apprehended by guards and confronted by a devious individual, resembling the teacher that had offered a ride to both Ann and Ren. Suguru Kamoshida, Shujin Academy’s leading PE Coach and faculty member, garbed in nothing but a King’s crown, a red mantle, hot-pink underwear and slippers.
Spouting disparaging comments towards Sakomoto, Kamoshida begins punishing the rebel by physically abusing him. Kamoshida taunts a helpless Ren, as he spectates the unlawful acts of his supposed educator. Ren is suddenly in trance, with a voice that questions his worth and whether he would simply let this abuse continue? The invisible echo offers to forge a contract, which will see Ren cement his fate as a Trickster. After verbally agreeing, Ren suddenly shrieks in agony, blasting strong gusts of air that annihilate Kamoshida’s hoard. Baffled by the inexplicable occurrence, a mask appears upon the Trickster’s face in which he tears off, revealing the Pillager of Twilight, Arsene. The angelic figure explains that Ren may harness his powers, and free them from Kamoshida’s turmoil. Using his newfound capabilities, Ren fends off the corrupt King’s minions, with Ryuji escaping the King’s clutches then proceeding to lock Kamoshida inside his own cell, and escaping the palace.
Making haste towards the castle’s entry way, the pair suddenly stumble back infront of the Shujin’s school gates with both, the Vice Principal and Kamoshida, awaiting their arrival. Unable to explain what they had just encountered, Ryuji accuses Kamoshida, in which the teacher denies any involvement and warns Ren that his stay at Shujin may be short if he continues to defy the school and befriends the likes of Sakomoto. After classes end for the day, the daring duo meet on the school’s rooftop, ensuring each other that their experience within the alternate universe was indeed legitimate, and that they may need to return and investigate the palace in hopes of finding out the truth behind its existence, and how it ties in with reality.
So, before I begin gushing over how much I love this adaptation and how faithful its narrative remains, I need to give some constructive feedback on its overall animation. Besides its mesmerising aesthetics that carry over from the video game, and core concepts that are reflected, I’m underwhelmed by its lacking appearance. For a franchise that has been praised for elevating visual standards seen in the JRPG market, I would not say that I was completely satisfied with its representation. Sure, its localisation has been given some polish in areas, but nothing particularly stands out from its initial launch. Familiar moments from the games cutscenes have been poorly re-animated, with our central characters looking completely disfigured at times. Persona 5’s vibrancy is omitted for a dreary complexion that undertones the source material’s overall quality.
Our protagonists are almost unrecognisable in certain moments, and are only identified by their school uniform or phantom attire. Given the grandeur and value we’ve come to experience in anime, this falls short to the astonishing library of Japanese Animation on the market. Is it disappointing as a Persona 5 fan, in its poor design and detail given to moments that could have flourished, and may have laid a foundation for the series’ own legacy within anime? Sure. Am I discouraged to continue with the rest of this adaptation? Absolutely not. It’s disparaging to claim that the series has little to no worth in its overall narrative, and would be disservice to anyone that has not experienced how incredible its plot truly is. As someone who has sunk a near thousand hours into the video game, and its Royal revision, I cannot begin to praise its impeccable creativity and how relatable these characters are.
While I may not be able to neglect its average representation, P5A delivers on every other key aspect that made the video game, an essential. From its gorgeous aesthetic, its captivating storylines, its quirky cast of devious demons, our hero’s and their ambitious quest for global resolution, and let’s be honest the real star of this entire franchise, Sojiro Sakura. The man is suave, and defines the term “Cool Dad” in so many ways. Popular playlists are placed appropriately within memorable scenario’s. Rearranged renditions of Meguro’s works are scattered in multiple encounters, and are accompanied by some expeditious animation that fans and devotee’s will recognise, and applaud for its savvy fanservice. Ren’s usage of multiple Persona’s, Ryuji’s catchphrase, and Morgana’s presumptuous personality remain prominent, and ultimately define this series’ authenticity.
Persona 5: The Animation is an encouraging binge watch. Could we see a revision similar to Persona 4: The Golden Animation? Possibly. I would hope that Aniplex may reconsider which studio takes the wheel, if that were to eventuate. For now, we’re privileged with a satisfactory result in this retelling of sorts. It’s unclear how an episodic season will condense a 300 hour experience but I do have faith that it will convey the action and suspense delivered within its initial concept. Persona 5: The Animation continues the illustrious quest of the Phantom Thieves, and hopes to extend its legacy beyond gaming and I believe that it certainly will.
Noteworthy Mentions (Warning: Minor Spoilers)...
Break in to Break out, reintroduces fans to Persona 5 and it’s mystique with an astounding performance by Lyn Inaizumi, with series composer Shoji Meguro and Lyricist Benjamin Franklin, creating the OP theme exclusively for the anime. I will admit the OP is quite intriguing, as it displays our central characters in unique situations unseen in the video game. I’m unaware if there are original scenarios in the OVAs, but its interesting to see none-the-less.
The gang is back together. It’s an absolute joy to experience the entire saga with the localised cast reprising their respective roles. Erika Harlacher (Ann Takamaki), Max Mittelman (Ryuji Sakomoto), Matthew Mercer (Yusuke Kitagawa), Cherami Leigh (Makoto Niijima), Erica Lindbeck (Futaba Sakura), Xanthe Huynh (Haru Okumura), Robbie Daymond (Goro Akechi), Jamieson Price (Sojiro Sakura), and a cavalcade of additional cast members that make up this who’s-who of cream of the crop, voice over talent.
Condensing arcs, yet keeping it faithful. I don’t mind if the series cuts out the fat and omits sidequests that were useless in character progression. Including these stories may do more harm than good, for an anime that is already lacking in engrossing animation.
Tell us more about our favourite thieves. What I would love is some clarity behind their personalities, and possibly some original, sentimental moments that further our existing connection with each character.
VERDICT: HELL YES🔥
Persona 5: The Animation is an anime television series produced by CloverWorks based on the Persona 5 video game by Atlus. The anime series is directed by Masashi Ishihama and written by Shinichi Inotsume, with Tomomi Ishikawa adapting Shigenori Soejima's original character designs for the animation.