Anime Vice News

Anime Amateur: PERSONA 4 #1

So far, this show is a perfect recreation of the source material. But is that a good thing?

Welcome to Anime Amateur, a feature where yours truly (Nick Robinson, Whiskey intern) comes out of anime-watching retirement and jumps into the deep end with some of the stranger shows the world of Japanese animation has to offer. Join me as I try desperately to find my bearings in this strange and often beautiful land. My goal? To filter these shows through a decidedly non-otaku perspective. Let's dive in!

If you're reading this, odds are you're as big of a Persona 4 fan as I am. I'd even be comfortable guessing that more than a few of you don't consider yourselves 'anime people.' As you might have gathered from the title of this feature, neither do I! But for many of us non-Japanophiles, Persona 4 is sort of the exception that proves the rule; it's a distinctly anime-ass thing, but, for some reason, it captured the imaginations of many of us who otherwise wouldn't give most JRPGs the time of day. There's something truly special about Persona 4, and even if our fascination with it is just repeat exposure effect, it seems like this is an affliction many of us are stuck with.

Which helps explain the overwhelmingly positive reaction from the Whiskey Media community when the Persona 4: The Animation was announced. An animated take on one of our most treasured story-driven games, with all the dungeon-grinding bits replaced by action scenes? Who wouldn't be excited?

Well, it's here, and thanks to The Anime Network, it's being simulcast both in Japan and here (with subtitles). Convenience! Here's episode 1, for your viewing pleasure:

So, how is it? It's...all right! I think!

Here's the thing: This show is a lot like Persona 4. Like, a lot. If this first episode is any indication, they've used the PS2 game as a show bible, and the anime is alarmingly faithful to the source material as a result. The shelves in protagonist's bedroom, the buttons on Chie's jacket, even the homeroom seating chart (Sleeping Student is still conked out right behind the empty desk): virtually every detail of Inaba is reflected perfectly here.

This is a still from the show, not the game. Yes, seriously.
This is a still from the show, not the game. Yes, seriously.

And the P4 fanboy in me is beside himself. This first episode gave me a taste of the feeling I imagine Star Wars diehards had when they first saw the Episode I trailer; every time I recognized a person, place or thing from the game, I was elated. Which was something that happened a lot, because holy shit does this show ever cram plot points in!

If the Endurance Run is any indication, this first episode of P4A condenses over 90 minutes of pure story into a 25-minute episode. In one episode, we're introduced to the Velvet Room, the Dojima family, the adultery scandal, the concept of the Midnight Channel, shadows, Personas, Chie, Yukiko, Yosuke, Morooka, Teddy, Young Detective and at least a dozen other characters and locations. The resulting show is packed to overflowing with details, eager to fit every reference in, but ends up feeling a bit shallow as a result. What we have on our hands here is, so far, the Watchmen movie of anime: something so perfectly, unflinchingly loyal to the source material that it might actually be worse for it.

For me, the strongest part of Persona 4 was always the characters. In its 100+ hours, the game made ample time for its cast to just hang out between investigations. My worry is that if P4A continues to be a frantic Cliff's Notes of the game's main story beats, it'll miss what made the original stand out for me.

Get used to this blank expression: you're going to be seeing a lot of it.
Get used to this blank expression: you're going to be seeing a lot of it.

Also, can we talk for a second about what an awful anime protagonist Charlie Tunoku Yu Narukami makes? Like, he has literally zero personality traits. In the game, he works great a proxy for the player, but as a main character of a television show, he's about as charismatic as the paddle from Breakout.

I mean, let's try for a second to understand what this show would be like to someone who has no idea what Persona 4 is. Seriously, imagine it. Did you see how confused the person you just imagined was?

Look, there's a part of me that'll be satisfied if this show continues to be nothing more than a shot-for-shot anime version of the game. I've even seen some folks complain that the way Yu summons his first Persona is different from how it went down originally. And I'm not gonna lie: when I yelled at the screen after seeing that Yosuke was in the trash can but not rolling around in the trash can, I was only half-kidding. There's a reason Persona 3 fans reacted as cooly they did to 2008 series Persona: Trinity Soul: it had nearly nothing to do with the game, and it seems like Atlus got the message.

But what we've got here isn't even a retelling - it's just a telling! I definitely plan to keep watching, but right now, I'm not certain that this show has a ton of value outside "Hey, it's Persona 4! Again!"

So what do you guys think? Is this what you wanted out of a Persona 4 anime? If any of you are completely new to Persona 4, what was your reaction to this first episode? Let us know what you thought in the comments!

Nick Robinson is a Whiskey Media intern and a journalism student. Won't you follow him on Twitter at @Babylonian? He'd be ever so appreciative!

metalsnakezeroon Oct. 10, 2011 at 1:53 p.m.

It needs more time to develop which I kinda wish it didn't need to do that. As a fan I'm happy so far with the first episode but for others it'll be a little hard get in to. Still keep watching and see it development through.

ComradeCrashon Oct. 10, 2011 at 1:59 p.m.

I'm going to have to check this show out. I loved the game and the GB's Endurance Run that I will give this a shot.

crusader8463on Oct. 10, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.

Gotta wait for the english dub. Just won't be the same without them.

Waleson Oct. 10, 2011 at 3:41 p.m.

I was going to make the Watchmen argument as well but you already beat me to the punch. I guess we can't gauge how the rest of the series will go until we see more of it. It does look like they are taking some liberties with the plot like how the group encounters a flock of Shadows and how Yu discovers his Persona immediately.

advkowon Oct. 10, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.
I think we'll have to see how episode 2 comes out...if they were only rushing suepr fast through the first so that they could ensure they had fighting that's fine and good.
CH3BURASHKAon Oct. 10, 2011 at 4:11 p.m.

What's the ongoing tally of Charlie's "Hm"'s?

mrcraggleon Oct. 10, 2011 at 4:52 p.m.

I actually want to see this dubbed as weird as that sounds. The English speaking cast did a phenomenal job in the game I want to see them brought back for this.

TehFlanon Oct. 10, 2011 at 4:58 p.m.

I actually saw a bit of a personality in Charlie Yu. I t wasn't much, but when Yosuke was complaining about the fall into the television, he said "That's nothing new," making fun of Yosuke constantly getting hurt up to that point. Maybe he'll keep being super sarcastic and calm about everything; that could be an interesting way to portray the character.

Parsnipon Oct. 10, 2011 at 7:17 p.m.
I might watch it when they do an official dub for the whole thing.
ShadowConqueroron Oct. 10, 2011 at 7:26 p.m.

This show is actually pretty good!

Except "Everyday young life, Junes." That shit can go to HELL.

onizon Oct. 10, 2011 at 9:44 p.m.

I... liked it. It wasn't as awesome as I would have hoped, but it certainly kept me wanting to see the rest. I mean, too much fast forwarding, and the characters so far is basically the blank protagonist, clown-chie and clown-yosuke. One thing though, did anyone else notice the poster of Rise outside of the car in an early shot? Thats when I realized im a fanboy :)

The_Great_Skenardoon Oct. 10, 2011 at 10:39 p.m.

@Babylonian: That's actually exactly what happened with the manga. It has the same character development wheel, and as that gets filled out more and more as the series progresses, the protagonist's character actually starts coming to the fore. Especially as December rolls around...

Levanceon Oct. 10, 2011 at 10:52 p.m.

I will never forget them if they do not use this OST

mewarmo990on Oct. 11, 2011 at 12:02 a.m.

I think that blank look that Yuu shows a lot is mean to representative us gamers' facial reactions to things that happen in the game.

That is, moments where we would type "lol" but IRL we don't even crack a smile.

UsbCableon Oct. 11, 2011 at 2:34 a.m.

As a guy that beat Persona 4 and watched it during the endurance run of course I loved the Anime. It was what I expected and even though I know what'll happen I'll still watch it. I felt like the biggest dork on Earth when I sang the Junes song in sync with Nanako in my head because I knew it was coming and those cheesy Persona songs make me feel good. :p

KillyAshitakaon Oct. 11, 2011 at 6 a.m.
Do you guys think this anime might appeal to someone who's not played the game nor has he watched the Endurance Run yet (I know, I know... shame on me, but it's hard to find the time)?
wafflezon Oct. 11, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.

give me the english dubs, jack frost, and you can take all the money I have.

Levanceon Oct. 11, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.

@KillyAshitaka:Even if you haven't played the game, the story is crazy enough to give you a good impresion, howver I believe that it will be a bit tedious, to hear "You're not me" like eight times

spilledmilkfactoryon Oct. 11, 2011 at 11:57 a.m.

I'm in the same boat as you, Nick. I haven't watched anime in almost any capacity since I was in 9th grade, but now after almost six years I've started up again because of this show. And you know what? I was completely ecstatic about it. Part of me doesn't even care if it's a good show, per se, as long as they keep up this vicious rapid fire barrage of game references. Of course it'd be nice if it amounted to more than that, as my one true worry for the show is that the creators simply won't have the time to cram in all of the social linking that made the game so relatable. Only time will tell. Either way, I'm happier with the show than I expected to be.

Levanceon Oct. 11, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.

Hanamura Yusuke: "You're not me!"

Satonaka Chie: "You're not me!"

Amagi Yukiko: "You're not me!"

Tatsumi Kanji: "You're not me!"

Kujikawa Rise: "You're not me!"

Teddy/Kuma: "You're not me!"

Kubo Mitsuo: "You're not me!"

Shirogane Naoto: "You're not me!"

Narukami Yui/Seta Soji: ............

Dig Deeper into Persona 4: The Animation

Persona 4: The Animation is an anime based upon the popular PlayStation 2 game. People are going missing in the rural-town of Inaba. A team of high school students discover a world within the TV that is linked to the murders.

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