Persona 4 (ペルソナ4)
is the anime adaptation of the game of the same name developed by Atlus. Produced by AIC A.S.T.A. and directed by Kishi Seiji (Angel Beats!, Ragnarok the Animation, Kamisama Dolls), it is one of the most anticipated series this season. The cast features a motley crew of seiyuu veterans: Horie Yui, Seki Tomokazu, Morikubo Showtaro, Koshimizu Ami, Paku Romi, Kugimiya Rie, Sayaka Ohara, Kaida Yuko and Yamaguchi Kappei among others.
OP: “Pursuing My True Self” – Hirata Shihoko
ED: “Beauty of destiny” – Hirata Shihoko, featuring Lotus Juice
Supposedly, Persona 4 takes place within the same universe as its spiritual predecessor, Persona: Trinity Soul. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Trinity and, regrettably, I have no previous experience with the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona game franchise. Thus I shall endeavor to review P4 as one of the uninitiated, so if you are a die-hard fan of the games I ask in advance for your indulgence if I do not thoroughly examine/compare every reference.
Inaba: aside from the eerie fog that occasionally rolls in to lend the area an unsettling, otherworldly ambiance, there is precious little to distinguish it from the many other unassuming, rural towns that scatter the countryside. Enter protagonist Narukami Yu, a transfer student to Inaba’s Yasogami High. Because of his parents’ work abroad, he has come here to spend the next year with his uncle Dojima Ryotaro (Ishizuka Unshou) and cousin Nanako (Kanda Akemi). Cool and aloof, in spite of his loner status and somewhat serious disposition he quickly becomes friends with the upbeat Satonaka Chie (Horie Yui) on his first day at his new school. Later that day, the students are evacuated because of a certain undisclosed “accident” that had occurred on campus. Effectively dismissed for the rest of the day, Yu walks home with Chie and her friend Amagi Yukiko (Koshimizu Ami). Meanwhile, Yu’s uncle has been called in to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the dead body discovered by a female Yasogami student earlier.
The next day, Yu comes across the somewhat clumsy, laid-back Hanamura Yosuke (Morikubo Showtaro), whom he also quickly befriends. As a token of his gratitude for being rescued from a garbage can Yosuke treats Yu to beefsteak, and along with Chie the trio dicuss the Midnight Channel (Mayonaka terebi 真夜中テレビ), a popular rumor that one can see one’s soulmate if watching TV alone on a rainy night at midnight. Curious, Yu decides to test the Midnight Channel for himself. As the screen flickers with the hazy image of a girl resembling schoolmate Konishi Saki, a voice tells Yu he is the one who will “open the door.” As the voice fades, Yu’s hand briefly passes through the television screen. At school, Yu tells Chie and Yosuke what happened to him the night before and they decide to try it out on a TV at Junes, the local department store. Seeing Yu’s reaction to the broadcast in front of them, Chie mentions their classmates’ speculation that Saki is the witness in the news interviews concerning the recent murder. Deliberately, Yu attempts to insert his hand into the television screen, to the great shock of Chie and Yosuke, who causes them to fall headlong into the monitor where they find themselves in a silent, ruined world of mist.
An ominous figure approaches them from the depths of the fog, causing them to flee in terror. The unknown figure turns out to be a strange, anthropomorphic albeit unthreatening bear-like entity (Yamaguchi Kappei), who gives them a pair of special glasses and warns them to leave before they are found by the Shadows. The Shadows arrive just as Yu puts on the glasses, pursuing them to the street; just when it seems they are cornered the voice again calls out to Yu. Invoking his Persona, he activates his latent power and cuts the wraith-like beings down, neutralizing the immediate threat and saving them from danger.
So! With the conclusion of the opening act, we have the makings of what is sure to become one of this fall’s best action titles alongside rival upcoming contender Guilty Crown. I have high expectations from the series. With only twelve episodes to work with, there’s no room for vagueness and needlessly overwrought complexities.
Most of what little knowledge I have about Shin Megami Tensei/Persona I learned from Trinity Soul and while that’s not a bad introduction per se, an anime adaptation, no matter how well done, hardly compensates for the experience of playing the original game it was based on; and in that regard, I really wish I’d had a PS2. Incidentally, there was a certain period from around 2001-2008 when a slew of what amounts to some of the best RPG/adventure/strategy gaming was released.
I think that may be the central aspect of my fascination with Persona 4 and other games like it. The Shin Megami Tensei/Persona franchise has such an engrossing central concept/narrative, and while each game is unique certain fundamental characteristics remain consistent across each subsequent title. Famed for its rich plot with likeable characters in whom one can get emotionally-invested, its no doubt Persona is a great title. Hopefully the same qualities will make the anime a success as well.