Persona 4: The Animation – 01 Review
My spidey sense is tingling...
Reviews by M0rg0th and Saranaufogus
This was another disappointing first episode of the season for me.
It is probably not as much of the show’s fault as it is my expectations of the show being somewhat different to what was delivered.
Plot Summary (as taken from Wiki):
Persona 4 takes place in the fictional, rural Japanese town of Inaba, which lies among floodplains and has its own high school and shopping districts. Unexplained murders have taken place in the small town, where bodies are found dangling among television antennas and their cause of death unknown. At the same time, rumor has begun to spread that watching a switched-off television set on rainy midnights will reveal a person’s soulmate.
This opening scene was made in such a way that the characters are speaking to the audience and whilst I can see how that would work well in a RPG, it simply felt odd.
You see, after having read that summary I had expected something eerie, dark and spooky but what we got was none of those. I had hope that with the rural setting and plot of the mysterious deaths we would have a series similar to Shiki in style. I have not played the actual game and I am not sure how true this show is to the game but one could pick up certain RPG “elements” in this show (e.g. the main character being handed special glasses that seem to aid him in his “adventure”, the opening scene of the episode, etc.).
The story of the first episode is similar to the typical introduction episode in the information that we get out of it, we get to learn a bit about the history of the main character, the people surrounding him, the environment/setting of the series and the future co-stars of the series. Since all I know about this show is through what I have seen in the first episode, I can safely say that after the first episode I have learned close to nothing about everything. The plot feels uninspired with regards to the mysterious deaths, and the only thing that might interest me is the alternate reality that is looking like it would be the main point of the show.
There were too many random situations that perhaps were meant to add to the whole “mystery” of the town (like the petrol kiosk dude) but because of how they were executed, I simply brushed it off as a weird occurrence with probably no importance. (Even now I am still unsure if it is meant to mean anything.)
Then we have the crazy characters. The main character, Narukumi Yu, leaves pretty much no impression on me except for the fact that he appears to have some sort of brain damage (or a split personality). Why, you ask? Simple. When he is normal (without a persona), he is like every boring teenage boy but with the difference of having sudden bursts of “fear/sixth sense” (refer to 1st image) and seem to lack a brain (I mean, who runs to school the next day telling his new friends in a new school that his hand went through the TV screen. Any normal human being would have found him crazy especially when you don’t even know if this newcomer is mentally stable). But when he is in control of a persona, he turns into another human being – a cocky brat. Yu’s reaction to the discovery of the Persona was, to put it in short, weird. Who says “this power belongs to me” in such a normal manner and smirks after seeing a huge monster rise from the ground? Most *normal* people would be shocked and slightly afraid instead of being so accepting of such an occurrence. I mean, he was shocked over the fact that his hand went through a TV screen yet he acts so normal when he discovers his ability to control a huge monster? I don’t buy it. There had better be something more to his attitude – like some prior meeting with the Personas or something along those lines.
His teacher is another oddball, he has an unknown prejudice towards people from the “big city” and I am really hoping that this would be explained or have some importance, because if not, this is just a useless character trait. As for Yu’s new friends, they remind me of a typical couple in denial of their relationship which results in their constant bickering and who can blame the girl when the guy acts like a partial retard?
As I had said previously, I was expecting something with more substance with a stronger, darker and creepier atmosphere. One of the reasons why this atmosphere and mood was never achieve is due to the horrible retro soundtrack of the show. There were many animation elements as well as sound clips that made the show dated and tacky. Perhaps this was what the music and style in the game was like but I wouldn’t know anything about that since I have not played the game.
The atmosphere is constantly destroyed by the sudden intrusion of a loud upbeat retro background music and it honestly stands out like a sore thumb when the series itself has another fatal flaw – having no budget for music. The show is plague with constant silence and even in a outback village, such as this, one would think that they would have at the very least used the standard background soundtrack of insects noises just to fill the silence. I think that the show had basically destroyed my expectation the moment the OP music started playing alongside the scene of Yu in the train. Such a “silent/thoughful” scene should be accompanied by a suitable song and not something so upbeat and funky (especially when the song is sung in broken English), I would have rather have absolute silence with the OP being a separate element from that scene.
Then we have the animation. What is with the experimental and poor use of gradients on the character faces? It made it look like they had a hat on while they were suntanning over the weekend. It was odd and pointless and I would have much rather something less experimental and more traditional. But then again, this whole episode was a style shock to me.
Overall, the execution and animation direction was not what I had expected it to be like. The story on the other hand was close to what I had expected but it was nothing great nor interesting and I am already losing my interest in the show. The whole episode plot played out in a very choppy manner and the main character’s sudden change into a smart-ass when he had summoned his persona does not sit well with me. Nothing much about the Personas and Yu’s relation to them is explained in the cryptic opening scene nor through the episode and I would have seriously preferred if the show played up the mystery element instead of the comical element. Also, I would appreciate if the sound director’s taste in music would be slightly less…bold and unique.
Episode Rating: 5.5/10 – Not what I wanted or expected but it is not terrible either. I have no clue where this show will take us, but I hope that the next episode will shed some light on the direction of this series.
The series provides deep wisdom by telling you that SURPRISINGLY a little town isn’t like a big city! I know, a really shocking revelation for everyone – except of course for the main-character. That douche doesn’t have enough brain-cells to react to anything actually…
Game-fans should probably rejoice right now because this series seems to be a faithful adaptation of the Game. Seriously it seemed to me like I was watching someone play the game when I watched this episode. This blank main-character, the strange stilted dialogues that leave the main-character out most of the time, the torrent of repetitively telling the main-character what the current plot-points are and another strange dimension where the main-chara has the chance to fight. Sounds like a description for a J-RPG to me…
Persona 4 is a series that tries to be mysterious but strangely doesn’t quite get there with its atmosphere. It already starts with the strange scene in the train when the main-chara thinks about how silent it is but you can hear in the background the up-beat OP. The style is there in what happens but the story is simply told in such an awkward way that you don’t really feel involved with the story.
Mainly to blame for that is the main-chara since he not only is the sort of blank slate everyone as a player could identify but he’s also a strangely dispassionate character who never shows any reaction to anything. He seems like these giant-stereotypes that are big and powerful but really slow on the uptake. Only that the main-chara isn’t powerful (for now) to make up for that slow-wittedness and it’s painful to follow his perspective as most of the time he has as much influence on the scenes as the audience – practically nothing. Instead he gets just dragged around by his friends that just suddenly pop up after he transfers to a new school. Seemingly his acclaimed “beauty” is his replacement for having no social grace whatsoever.
And his friends is just this boring line-up of stereotypes and you might as well fall asleep hearing them talk since they don’t say anything interesting and it’s just terrible anyway how seemingly the script just copies the dialogues from the game. In a game I can accept this level of story-telling and dialogue-style but in an anime I’d like to see a little bit more. First of all, how often I heard people complain how dull the town is and how often people talked about the “Midnight Channel” was simply abnormal. Can’t they frigging talk about anything else?!
Great deduction, Sherlock, but let’s face it: Of course he’s right under your noses! Where else is he supposed to be?! In a rabbit-hole or something?
As for the story, that one was utterly boring. A strange murder-series, a strange dimension, stepping into a television, whatever… it’s boring! You’d think that with the fourth Persona-game the franchise would stop doing the “Something mysterious and terrible has happened…!” as a plothook for the characters to investigate. And that the main-chara’s uncle is the police-detective who’s concerned with the case is the sort of “weird coincidence” that’s just cheap storytelling. But the storytelling was just so bad that you could feel simply no motivation behind the characters actions. It just seemed strangely detached in the way things developed and some scenes just made no sense (like the main-chara admitting to have a supernatural experience and everyone’s all ‘Cool! Really? That’s spooky…’). And how the tomboyish girl, the stupid male-sidekick and the main-chara assemble as the main-chara reveals that he’s constantly able to step through televisions was just a weird stilted scene. And it got worse when the male-sidekick had to pee all of a sudden but instead of finding a toilet tripped and pushed the trio through the television. As he arrives there all he thinks about is emptying his bladder but the tomboyish girl has to leave the room they landed in because he’s too embarrassed to piss in front of a girl. *facepalm* Unbelievable, simply unbelievable. Is this supposed to be funny? It’s not for gods sake! Who the hell would think otherwise?! And this strange scene would’ve been mood-destroying but the series didn’t succeed in building up any kind of mood to begin with and so it became just another stupid scene.
And then when the action is supposed to start… a robot arrives warning the heroes AND giving the main-chara the power to kill the monsters that will attack them any minute now. In a game it makes sense, in an anime – it’s boring! Where’s the drama in that kind of plot-development?! The game at least had the drama of me as a player having to use the power right to save the day but in an anime it’s ‘Here are the bad guys that will try to kill you… And here’s the weapon with which you can kick their sorry asses before you’re in any sort of danger!’. That’s not exciting!
And the main-chara makes some weird moves even at the end as his reactions to receiving this kind of power is a mixture between getting his Christmas-presents and feeling a faint sense of surprise that one plus one are still two. Like that the main-character went through the whole plot with an air of mild befuddlement while getting his special powers at the end was something of a “Of course it happened to me…”-event for him. I doubt that I will ever have any interest for what happens to this douchebag of a main-character.
It doesn’t matter what people say to him, the main-chara always seems to start with a non-verbal reaction saying “Yeah, whatever, dude…”.
The OP has a nice visual style and it seems that the series tries to be a very faithful adaptation of the game… and with that ends my praise for the first episode. The storytelling was just plain stupid and and the characters were uninteresting stereotypes in a boring story that got in its best moments a yawn from me. This episode is NOT good.