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Spoilers for Persona 5 boss and character identities.
Persona 5 the Animation as an adaptation certainly has its share of issues. The series has the typical pacing problem that comes with condensing a long game into a TV adaptation, but it goes a bit further than that. The animation quality looks generally disappointing, and the series is missing a lot of the flair that the game had. That being said, the purpose of this post is to focus on the part that I think the adaptation gets right, more so than what I remember from Persona 4 the Animation: a respect for the game’s mechanics.
The simplest example of this idea lies in the ending themes. In the first ending, the animation started by showing the victory animation from the game. In the game, it would show you character experience point gain, but the anime instead uses it as a preview for the next episode. In the second ending, we see the animation used in the game when you sleep. The calendar shifts to the next day of the month, and a knife stabs the new date. The anime instead uses the knife to stab the next episode’s number. These are small things, but they’re great easter eggs for people who played the game.
I made many jokes in the first few episodes about the use of turn-based combat in the adaptation, and how it didn’t make sense in that context. I somewhat stand by that statement, but I also think that it contributes to the idea of incorporating aspects of the game. In Ryuuji’s first fight after awakening Captain Kidd, the three characters face three different Shadows. Ryuuji, Ren, and Morgana each take turns attacking these Shadows, and the scene ends with an All-Out Attack to defeat the enemies.
In the game, All-Out Attacks are triggered when all enemies are “downed”, which happens when a Shadow is hit with an element they are weak against. As it so happens, that’s what we’re seeing in this scene. Each character hits with the appropriate advantaged element from the game, and the All-Out Attack triggers once they all land.
That example may have been too simple, so I’ll give another example. Let’s turn our attention to Madarame’s boss fight. In this fight, the main characters face off against floating paintings of facial features. We start out by seeing the initial mechanic from the game. When a magic spell is cast on the eye painting, it gets drained. The same happens when a physical attack is used against the mouth painting. It’s a basic mechanic from the game’s boss fight.
However, the adaptation takes it a step further. In the game, the paintings have a skill that covers a party member with black paint, making that party member vulnerable to all forms of damage. This mechanic isn’t used in the anime in this way. Instead, the main characters use the black paint themselves to cover the paintings. When they do that, they’re able to cast magic spells on all of the paintings. So, the anime creatively takes a mechanic of the game’s boss fight and uses it in a unique way.
Still not convinced? I’ve got one more example, then. In the game, the protagonist can interact with his allies in the real world, building trust and gaining “Confidant” levels to earn bonuses in the Metaverse. We see most of the non-playable Confidants making brief cameos throughout the anime version. In the game, this mechanic is largely reserved for the protagonist, but we see a different version in the anime.
In the anime, Makoto and Ann reconcile in the real world after Ann accuses Makoto of doing nothing during the Kamoshida incident. It’s a scene that exists in the game, but it’s used for a different purpose in the anime. Immediately after that interaction, the anime shifts back to the Metaverse, and the female pair is shown working together to defeat a Shadow. Real world relationship-building is used to increase their power within the Metaverse. In the game, this type of bonus was restricted to the protagonist, but the anime achieves the same effect without involving Ren at all.
With that all said, I’ll end on this. Persona 5 might be an awkward adaptation, but I suspect that these elements are meant to allow the series to appeal to game veterans in addition to people new to the story. It’s a feeling I didn’t get as much from the Persona 4 adaptation because it was more of a straightforward piece.
Since I played the game, I’m not sure I can speak to whether the series appropriately accounts for viewers who aren’t familiar with the game. For me, these scenes along with the random side character cameos are what make the series more fun to watch. So for the people who didn’t play the game, how have you felt about the series?