Talking about Persona 5 the Animation and what I think it does well

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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?

Spring 2018 Grab Bag Week 12: Persona 5

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I definitely didn’t cheat last week with the OWLS post. There’s no way I would have planned that on purpose, right? Of course not! Anyway, let’s talk Persona.

Persona 5 Episode 12

Honestly, this adaptation has been a lot of fun for me. I’ve been throwing a lot of my thoughts up on Twitter, and it’s been a nice experience. This is similar to what I’ve said before, but I think the most interesting part of the series has been the fact that it seems to embrace the game mechanics well. Of course, that makes the series a lot of fun for me, having played the game, but I wonder if that detracts from the experience of those who are seeing the series for the first time.

Specifically with episode 12, my favorite part was the interaction between Ann and Makoto. The two have a similar reconciliation scene in the game, where Ann apologizes for her harsh words towards Makoto when the two were at odds. But in the anime, this scene is framed a little differently. We see an immediate teamwork boost between the two as they get closer, which is pretty much what the Confidant system is in the game. However, Ren is kept out of this scene, so it’s as though the Confidant system is being used to force side characters to interact, which is a cool tweak to a game mechanic.

Of course, the game mechanics don’t always work. I mentioned before that the battles feel too turn-based, and it might just be taking the game mechanics too far. There’s also a scene from episode 11 that I didn’t remember from the game, where Makoto briefly glimpses an advertisement for a motorcycle. In the same episode, she unlocks her Persona, which is also a motorcycle.

The animation in this episode also felt awkward. I felt like I was noticing more weird scenes than usual, including this shot. In a later scene, the exact same appearances are used for Yusuke, Ren, and Makoto.

[OWLS May Blog Tour] Stealing Hearts with the Phantom Thieves in Persona 5

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Okay, first impression time. For those of you who didn’t know, I joined the OWLS group for…reasons which sound worse the more I think about them. Anyway, this means that I’ll be joining in on monthly blog tours discussing whatever random topic everyone else is able to cover without my erratic style. This month’s topic is “Movement”.

We join movements, organizations, and systems that align with our own personal values and beliefs. Sometimes we join these groups because they believe in doing good and making positive changes in society. However, these movements can turn sour when a dictator arises or behind the good intentions, there’s a hidden agenda of oppression. It is in these groups that individuals start to shape their identities by questioning their values and beliefs or conforming to the system. This month, we will be examining “real and/or fictitious” movements, organizations, or systems in anime and other pop culture mediums, and the positive and negative effects they have on individuals and society.

Rather suspicious prompt for someone who’s just joined this OWLS group, don’t you think?

I’ve never been great about joining movements. However, movements tend to center around some form of societal improvement or moral gain, and I do like thinking about morality. So, I’m going to casually hijack this topic to talk about the main characters of Persona 5 and how I felt about their quest to change hearts (because that’s a post I’ve wanted to do for a while). For the record, I mostly plan to talk about overall themes in the story rather than specific events.

If you’re not familiar with Persona 5 (game or anime), the story centers around a group of high school kids who gain access to a “Metaverse” which acts as a supernatural manifestation of human subconscious. In that Metaverse, the main characters fight monsters called Shadows, which are meant to represent the repressed emotions of real people. By defeating these Shadows and stealing “Treasures” from “corrupted” individuals, the main characters can trigger an admission of guilt in the real world.

From a broad perspective, this setup seems alright. Get the bad guys to freely admit what they’ve done and face punishment in the real world. It’s not hard to see the benefit. Of course, there’s the inherent issue of trust and responsible use of power if this power got applied to the real world. However, the question that nagged at me while I was originally playing the game was whether we should condone directly altering a person’s mind.

Before I move on, I want to insert a small caveat. I’m willing to admit that this may not have been the point of the game. The game seemed more focused on how the main character broke free from the shackles of adult society. The story also seemed to skirt around the issue by intentionally making targets of the Phantoms Thieves clearly bad. It’s even explicitly stated that the main targets are those who have become corrupted enough to manifest a special “Palace” for their desires.

In defense of the Phantom Thieves, I would make the case that we, as a society, are generally okay with using antipsychotic drugs to treat the mentally ill. In many cases, this is done against the patient’s wishes (for obvious reasons). So if we could “treat” malevolence, would be similarly okay with doing so?

On the other hand, I think most people would agree that “brainwashing” is morally questionable. I would argue that changing someone’s heart, even with the best intentions, falls under the category of brainwash. It involves directly manipulating the target’s mind to drastically alter beliefs.

I guess my final assessment depends on how much the target is compelled to confess. If the target will just naturally tend to confess because the act of stealing a Treasure is “unclouding” the mind, then it seems much more like treating a mental illness. Otherwise, it seems a lot sketchier.

Anyway, that’s all I had for this one. What was the topic again? I feel like I just went on a tangent. If you’ve made it this far, I’m gonna suggest you check out my neighboring OWLS posts linked below:

On Friday, Carla over at PopCultureLiterary talked about Suisei no Gargantia.

Up next is Marina over at Anime B&B.

Spring 2018 Grab Bag Week 3: Persona 5

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I’m mostly focusing on episode 3, but this post is really a general look at the adaptation so far. As a disclaimer in case you don’t already know, I’ve played the game. Though I had my issues with some aspects of the story, I found the story’s approach to justice fascinating. When it comes to the anime version, I don’t really think it’s bad, but it seems to be going through the story really quickly. I suppose it makes sense given the amount of content, but it really makes me wonder how this series looks to people without my background knowledge.

In episode 3, I was pretty bothered by the investigation phase in the real world. When Ren and Ryuuji were questioning the volleyball team, the scenes were shown as still images while the characters talked in the background like a montage. It just felt strange.

I do appreciate that the adaptation hasn’t been shy about the more grim aspects of the story. Shiho’s suicide attempt and the physical abuse she received from Kamoshida weren’t really shown in the game, but the anime has been pushing them. These things still happened in the game, of course, but they were mostly shown through conversation.

There’s also an awkward time rewind in episode 3 when Morgana is introduced. I’m not sure I get why this presentation makes more sense than chronological order. Morgana’s introduction and Ann’s encounter with Ren are pretty isolated events.

I will say, though, that I’ve really liked the Persona awakening scenes. They’ve looked great and gave me the same kind of chilling sensation that I felt when I saw them in the game.

On the other hand, the fights in this adaptation have felt somewhat disappointing. I think it’s nice that game elements are incorporated as easter eggs, but it feels like it’s taken too far. The combat in the anime actually looks overly “game-like”, as the monsters and humans attack each other one-by-one in sequence. If we’re not constrained to a game system, I would personally prefer a more natural flow to combat.

Persona 4 True Ending

That was quite an interesting way to adapt the true ending. In the game, Yu gets pulled down like everyone else, but instead they had Izanami show him an illusion. Then Margaret had to be the one to break him out by forcing him to actually accept himself. The anime wanted to make Yu more than a voiceless protagonist and I’d say they did a pretty good job. I wasn’t even expecting the Margaret battle to show up at all, so I’m impressed that they were able to find a way to work it into the true ending. And of course, Brosuke is a boss…Yosuke ending is how it is.

Still, I can’t help but be annoyed at how “Endless Eight”-like the illusion was. I understand how it fit with Yu’s personality, but maybe I’m still suffering from some lingering damage from that arc in Haruhi (it was so much suffering…). This show has definitely been a cool experience…even knowing how things turn out as I did. This episode in particular, the ordering of events can really throw you off if you’ve seen this stuff before…I was pretty confused with what they were trying to accomplish at the start of this. Anyways, hope you’ve all enjoyed as well. It’s finally over 😀