|Soundtrack from the game, a great cast of characters, pretty good battles||Very rushed at times, Animation had weak moments, weak adaptation of the ending|
I think anyone who has watched a lot of anime would agree that converting a story from another medium into anime can often be difficult. Whether it’s light novels, visual novels, books, games, or manga there are bound to be various difficulties that come up. In the end, Persona 4 the animation attempted to convert a big RPG from the Playstation 2 (also remade onto the Vita) into a 26 episodes anime series. Now I will say right now that I think a much better job could have been done if the series was given more episodes to work with. Of course only certain shows end up going past the 26 episode mark these days, but I still stand by the statement that it could have been even better with more time to allow for transitions, plot development, and of course the ending.
However, it’s best to start at the beginning. Persona 4 is the story of Narukami Yu a transfer student who moves in with his Uncle and Cousin and becomes involved in the mystery surrounding a series of murders occurring in the town. Of course, it’s not just some normal mystery. A mysterious world inside of television (literally) and a strange program called the Midnight Channel. Not to spoil too much, but Yu and his friends have to enter that TV world and fight against the strange creatures inside of it. To do that and through certain actions they gain the power of persona, which allows them to summon a being able to fight for them. The first episodes definitely hurry along setting up the series so even if someone has little idea about the source material they’ll have a decent picture of what is going on after the first episode.
I think the story and characters are a strength for the series thanks to its source material. The mystery itself is solid and the story has a few twists along the way as you try to figure out just who is behind the killings. Of course, the key to the story is the main group of characters and especially the lead. The anime really had freedom to do whatever they wanted with him because his role in the game was more silent. Yu really came alive during this series and was entertaining most of the time. The early parts of the show did somewhat waste that and simply used him for humor. He would deliver a comical response, but in a very serious tone. The problem was not those scenes by themselves, but how many times they used him for those kinds of jokes. It got a bit repetitive at times. As the series went along and things got more serious, that started to drop off and I started to like his character a whole lot more. By the end, he really had grown as a person.
The ending is one thing I was not satisfied with though. I felt like they made it needlessly complicated so they could try to add to Narukami’s character development. I get what they were hoping to do, but it just did not really work well. It might have achieved the main goal, but it just felt awkward. It didn’t help that they took almost the same concept from an earlier episode and used it again. Just playing the scenes straight would have made it much easier to process than messing with the viewers.
The rest of the cast was likable in their own way as well. The personalities in this group are great and it’s a lot of fun to watch them just interact. Their friendship is probably the biggest thing that draws me to this group rather than who they are individually. Going through what they did creates a bond between people and that’s what happens here. They have to grow as people and they aren’t doing it alone. Whether they are bickering, discussing the case, or supporting each other during a trying time they are the reason you will watch Persona 4.
I think the style of the series helped make the cast more believable as people. One advantage I’d give to the anime over the game is that by compressing social links they could have characters grow and retain what they gained from their friendship with Narukami. Everything was part of a main story, which just made it easier to write it however they wanted.
In the end the cast and their development is almost the point of the series. As much as the mystery is paramount these characters are all drawn into it and you get to see where they are to start off and how they turn out by the end. As much as a cast of characters normally makes up a series, I think they are just as important as the story they have gotten into.
Visually the series was just alright. I liked the effects for the Personas and the action was pretty fluid. Maybe it was because they didn’t have to fight every episode, but they managed to bring out a good level of quality there. The effects when they took damage or their attacks all looked good. Of course, because they were in a rush they had to really push the pace and almost completely focus on just major battles. There is no time for grunts when you need to fit this much material into a short amount of time. The characters themselves sometimes looked a bit plain though. There were some scenes when they didn’t have much detail to them. Honestly, there were times when it felt like they just didn’t have the budget to make it look great.
I would say the music was one of the best parts of the series for me. It might have been the nostalgia talking, but it took so many tracks from the game itself and used them in the anime. It just made the series feel more legitimate. Whether it was the battle soundtrack, or even just a song to set a mysterious mood, it makes sense to take advantage of the great material already available. One might call it saving time of having to get new music made, but it was still a really nice touch.
The voice work was actually pretty good in this. It was interesting going from the dub cast to this one and thinking about which I liked more. I think both do a good job and I don’t really dislike any of the voices used in this anime.
Of course, when you are talking about nice touches, this series was full of them. They took a lot out of the games and threw it right into the anime. The calendar system to show the passage of time was nicely put into use, which made it easier to keep track of things. Heck, they even used the opening from the original game in the first episode in place of the OP. Of course, they changed it up to their own OP/ED combo later, but I thought that was a nice move on their part.
It’s a good thing sometimes to not just write a review based on those initial feelings. I wasn’t a fan of how they chose to change things that made some events more complicated than they had to be. The True Ending wasn’t as good as it could have been considering they had the extra time to actually make it. But, as an overall experience Persona 4 was still a solid anime. It might have more appeal to those who have played the game, but I think it can still appeal to those who haven’t. I would still recommend this to people who like some action in their series and like an entertaining cast. The mystery might not be the most complicated out there, but I think people who like a little mystery in their anime will enjoy it as well.
There were some up and downs with this anime there’s no doubt about it. The action was solid and the characters are a fun bunch. It does give the feeling of being rushed at times and I do think it would have been better off as a longer series. I would also say regardless people should play the game, it is by far the superior experience. Even still, I’d say it is a solid B level series. It’s not the best out there, but the story and characters do carry it well.