32 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Persona 4 The Animation episode 1

My usual little disclaimer here that I have no previous experience with anything Persona related, whether that be the games or that previous Trinity Soul anime that everyone says is rubbish. So keep that in mind and realise that there’s no previous bias when I say Persona 4 has easily the best first episode of the season so far. OK, not exactly stiff competition, given that the previous best was Bakuman, but credit where credit is due.

Persona 4 is almost textbook with its opening episode. Set the scene by introducing the main character, the setting and the various side characters. Establish very early on that there’s something a little bit strange about this new place. Gradually build up the mystery with little events going wrong, rumours being spread, strange news reports and other minor irregularities. Have the weirdness explode in the final act and end on a cool note, proclaiming “this is the story, aint this going to be awesome”. Everything is so deliberate, from the cold open with Igor, to the first headache the main character gets when entering the town. As I said, it’s a textbook way to do an opening episode.

Don’t take this as though that means Persona 4 is generic. It’s simply good storytelling. Steins;Gate started with something similar, establishing the setting, the characters and having small details seem a little bit off. Granted, Persona 4 moves at a much faster pace than Steins;Gate, changing from minor strange things occurring straight into them jumping into a television. Granted, Steins;Gate was a very slow paced show in general, so speeding things up a bit isn’t unwelcome. I can see why the wanted to end the first episode on them being in the Persona world. Without that, it would have simply looked like a slightly off-kilter high school anime with a mystery brewing, and I don’t think Persona 4 has any intention of being a mystery story.

Still, jumping through the story so quickly does have its faults. It’s the usual Seiji Kishi problem of not having a clue about tone. I would have liked a careful build up of the mystery surrounding the television channel, but instead we get characters having a regular chat to suddenly being sucked into a television. This tonal shift works sometimes, such as the scene where the main character nonchalantly putting his hand through the television in Junes and commenting on it matter of fact-ly. Other scenes though, such as the main character sitting in his room, minding his own business, before suddenly getting attacked by his television, were rather less effective. Also the main character has no personality, although I’m hoping that changes now that he’s got himself a fashionable pair of glasses.

Everything else though? I loved it. The show oozes style from every orifice (please do not try to imagine a creature oozing liquid style from its pores. I did, and now I can’t get the image out of my head). The day shifts have this almost Shaft/PenguinDrum like approach. The character designs are great, as are their incredibly fashionable clothes. I don’t talk about clothes too often…in fact, I never talk about clothes, so take this as a sign of how goddam fashionable these guys are. The boy’s uniform has sequins! I wish my uniform had sequins. The characters are fantastically varied, each with distinguishable personalities, and we didn’t have to have another character monologue over describing what their personalities are like. I wish there was slightly more background music. Not that the scenes necessarily needed it, but when the music did actually play, it was funky as hell, so anymore of that would be greatly appreciated.

To sum up my feelings in 5 words: Finally something better than Bakuman!

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  1. eidrag
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Aurgh, now I have the images of creatures oozing green liquid all over its pores. Something I will try to get to watch IF I have time to do so. Thanks for recommendation!

  2. Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    The great Scamp says that P4 anime is better than Bakuman. You just made my day.

  3. Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never played the Persona games either but I totally fell in love with this show. You pretty much said everything I thought so all im going to add is that Chie seems like a very likeable character, she’s not a generic tsundere or the violent sporty type chick but a mixture of both in a very realistic way (if that makes any sense at all) Oh and that scene with the little girl singing along to the ad made me Hnnngh.

  4. Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Hurray! All doubts to watching this show have now vanished! *searches for episode*

  5. Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    “Finally something better than Bakuman!” Best summery ever.
    I doubt the main character is going to have much of a personality he seems pretty bland. All the other character on the other hand are full of life.

  6. Embok
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I have played Persona 4. At least some of it before I lost interest. I still have to agree with you on this episode, it was a lot better than expected.

    Also I imagine the main character being bland is intended – that eyecatch isn’t just for fun.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      I bloody hope so. As he is, he has no interesting features whatsoever. Well, bar the fashionable glasses

      • DrSgtPepper
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 5:01 am | Permalink

        At the beginning, I thought their was a bit of a Bad-ass factor to him. I was kinda hoping for a Natsuno Yuuki (Shiki) type character. Sadly, I was let down. Still, awesome anime!

  7. SuzushinaYuriko
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad that you like Persona 4, although I felt the anime was way too rushed.

    “Also the main char­ac­ter has no per­son­al­ity, although I’m hop­ing that changes now that he’s got him­self a fash­ion­able pair of glasses.”

    That’s kind of the intention since in the game the main character is essentially yourself. You can choose particular choices that shape his personality several ways (and some of the choices make me laugh too, the game has a good sense of humor). You can see his stat chart in the commercial break thing, which represents aspects of his personality you can increase throughout the game. I’m sure that they’ll all be maxed out by the end of the anime.

    • Anna Ki
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      I thought the pacing was perfect, actually. The tonal shifts probably didn’t bother me because I’ve played the game and was more busy squeeing about how they were using all the BGM from the game (oh, the day shifts were ripped straight from the game too btw)… but I thought they did a great job of condensing that huge prologue into something that’s tightly-paced and constantly engaging. I agree with Scamp’s assessment that this was a “textbook” example of how to do a good opening… probably why I came out of it thinking of it as a “perfect” adaptation. It does practically everything right.

      • Suzushina Yuriko
        Posted October 8, 2011 at 4:38 am | Permalink

        I still think the pacing was too fast and that give it a really disjointed feel, and that they could have lengthened the introduction to two episodes. For example, Yosuke’s introduction. Compare:

        Anime: MC meets Chie at school, then they meet Yosuke who returns a scratched DVD. Next day Yosuke crashes into garbage can.

        Seems pretty random, no?

        Game: MC on his way to the school on his first day is almost run over by Yosuke riding on his death trap of a bike, who then crashes into the garbage cans. MC helps Yosuke (more or less, depending on the options you choose), they chat a bit. MC meets Chie at school, Yosuke comes in and returns the DVD, which he damaged in the earlier incident. MC, being new, is embarrassed and leaves with Chie, but feels uncomfortable about leaving Yosuke behind…

        For those who haven’t played the game, if the anime had followed the game here, wouldn’t the MC’s silence seem a lot more meaningful as a new guy, unsure of his surroundings?

        I’m not saying this episode was bad. In fact, I do agree with Scamp that it was the best first episode so far. I just hope that the director learned from his past mistakes with rushing in Angel Beats, that’s all.

      • Anna Ki
        Posted October 9, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

        Those are good points you’re making. I guess that’s always the problem inherent in any adaptation – how much to cater to fans of the original and to newcomers. As a fan of the game itself, stuff like that didn’t bother me because I knew the characters and the storyline already and the changes and tweaks in events gave the whole thing an atmosphere that was perfectly balanced between freshness and familiarity. Whereas for a newcomer, who isn’t acquainted with the characters, I can see how it would appear disjointed (for me, it was more like YAY OMG LOOK HOW THEY CONDENSED THE HOUR LONG PROLOGUE AND STILL HAVE IT MAKE SENSE WHOO!). But then again there are fans who think it’s not faithful enough, and then there are fans who think it’s being way too faithful……

        ……you really can’t please everyone, can you?

        You know what I think they should do next (instead of Persona 5 which I can’t play anyway since I don’t have an XBOX)? Persona 4 the Musical.

        …or maybe an anime adaptation of P3 (What do you mean there’s already one? I have no idea whatcha talking about.)

  8. luffyluffy
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    That feeling when the Horriblesubs Animax rip puts in Teddie’s bearpuns

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Just like Squid Girl!

  9. Lemi
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Also the main char­ac­ter has no per­son­al­ity, although I’m hop­ing that changes now that he’s got him­self a fash­ion­able pair of glasses.


    You’re going to be disappointed.


    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Hush hush, I shall still hold out hope!

  10. a
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure you know this already, but main characters in video games are bound (destined? DESTINYYYYYY~) to lack personality, so as to make projecting yourself into the game that much easier.

  11. Anna Ki
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Hey guys, remember that eyecatch where he’s a cold-hearted, naive, rough, callow coward? That’s basically a huge sign screaming “HEY GUYS GUESS WHAT? IT’S CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT TIME!”

    Yeah. He does start off as rather bland, but that last fight? That last expression? Someone without personality can’t be that badass, damn it!

  12. Anna Ki
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    By the way… are those white lines sequins? I always thought it was some fancy style of stitching.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Isn’t that what sequins are?

      (obviously not a fashion guru)

      • Posted October 8, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        No, they’re like shiny plastic circles.

      • Scamp
        Posted October 9, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        Man, I really need to level up my fashion skills

      • Anna Ki
        Posted October 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

        It’s less fashion skills and more basic vocabulary, actually. :P

  13. superfid2006
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    God, I squeed like a girl when noticing that they used the same opening theme (and a lot of BGM) of the original game.

    They adhered so closely to the original, especially the script, it was like playing the beginning with differing camera angles. This doesn’t have to be negative, however.

    But still, I wonder how long this anime is supposed to go? Would 12 episodes really be sufficient at the pace it currently goes?

    • Anna Ki
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s supposed to have 24 episodes.

  14. fathomlessblue
    Posted October 8, 2011 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    I have mixed feeling on this. I haven’t played Person 4 yet, but I’ve finished P3 which is exactly the same stylistically, down to the funky English rap music, day-shifts, Igor/Velvet room, school days/ shadow realm nights, classmates etc etc etc. It was very much like I was experiencing that game in a different setting.

    On one hand it’s pretty neat, with the anime being pretty distinctive, superficially at least; however, the whole thing felt very rigid and a little too close to its roots. I haven’t experienced P4, but I was very aware throughout that I was watching an adaptation of a game, rather than a unique anime. They seem to sticking a little too close to the source material in the narrative, rather than adapting it in the best way to suit an anime. The lead is a great example of this; in P3 the main character was essentially a silent protagonist who was occasionally given text response choices, and I’m assuming the P4 lead is the same. His occasional Yes/No/Maybe lines certainly felt like something from an old-school rpg rather than from an actually personality. This isn’t a game; at least try a make the guy into an individual character even if he doesn’t talk much.

    I don’t know; I’m hoping things will improve, but at the moment sticking too closely to the game may do more damage than good. I hope I’m wrong on this.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      The main characters lack of personality was the obvious flaw, but I didn’t feel like ragging on that with the scene at the end implying there would be Big Shit happening with him

  15. Kioku
    Posted October 8, 2011 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    I thought the guys uniforms had rivets on them. I’m going to stick with that delusion. It was a fairly pretty episode, but it was also a fairly bland episode to me. (Minimal knowledge of the Persona franchise here.) Went in expecting people to shoot themselves in the head, and was rather disappointed. I think the highlight of the show for me was side character ‘A’ taking a leak in the corner of the TV dimension room. I was quite amused by the other side characters reactions.

    • Posted October 9, 2011 at 12:42 am | Permalink

      That’s Persona 3. They don’t do that in Persona 4. ;)

      • superfid2006
        Posted October 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        Though summoning Personas isn’t nearly as cool in P4 as in P3 :P

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