Persona 3 Movie 02: Midsummer Knight’s Dream – Review
You would think that Junpei’s reaction is supposed to be humorous due to how exaggerated it us but that’s indeed what the movie seems to hope everyone’s reaction will be. After all, there’s nothing else Ken has to offer as a character besides being a kid and wanting to avenge his dead mother.
Persona 3 Movie 2: Summertime Is Bummertime
I fear there’ll be always a likely chance that a certain Persona-adaptation will end up being directed by Tomohisa Taguchi and because of that it will suck. That guy has directed two Persona-related things and both of them have sucked. This has become for me one of those directors that’s a warning signal more than anything else.
Running Time: 98 minutes
After realizing the value of life and the importance of his own allies, Makoto finally got his smile back. As spring turns into summer, he finds himself learning more about those comrades and getting closer to them. He even meets new friends, including Aegis, an anti-Shadow android, Ken, a grade-schooler who seeks to get revenge for his late mother, and Koromaru, a dog who can use a Persona. Makoto wishes that everything will continue just as they are. However, little by little, the pieces and people in Makoto’s new, happy life begin to fall apart, and he is forced to suffer the loss that comes with it.
Uhm… They couldn’t have found maybe a… better picture of him? Y’know, maybe a picture where he didn’t look like a pretentious thug?
The second movie in this series ends up being even duller than its predecessor. Midsummer Knigh’s Dreams is nothing more than a hollowed-out husk of inane slice-of-live-scenes mixed with some cheesy story-developments. This movie tries to do a lot of things, some of them trivial, others are only there to deliver build-up for future movies and a very tiny part of the movie actually tries to tell a story with a conclusion that comes up as fast as it goes. And it all happens with the bluntness of throwing bricks at the audience in the hopes that they understand what’s going on. However what should be engaging just ends up being dull.
It won’t surprise anyone who has followed the various anime-adaptations of the Persona-franchise that this movie’s director Tomohisa Taguchi is the same guy who directed Persona 4: The Golden Animation, another lifeless meandering series that was as pointless as it was boring. And I’m really starting to wonder whether he should stop working on series like Persona where one needs to balance humor and emotional drama. Not only did the Persona-4-Golden-series and this movie lack a nice sense of balance but both the drama and humor on their own didn’t work either. The direction-style that is present in both works just seems tone-deaf.
You can clearly see how the director also approached the movie’s structure with an episodic sensibility. This movie just doesn’t have the flow that would connect one scene to the next while trying to establish a dramatic arc for the movie. There’s never a momentum carrying this movie forward as it’s impossible to actually grasp where the movie wants to go. The movie covers multiple months of plot (the whole summer right until the beginning of autumn) and while the calendar may offer some context as to how much time has passed, the time-jumps simply disrupt any hope of having a sense of continuity. In the middle of the movie one of the two big themes of the movie gets introduced and then weeks pass as we only see trivial montages and characters pondering said theme on a superficial level because the characters only have one little scene and then the movie already jumps forward in time again. I assume this is happening because the videogame used the same timetable which might make it okay there but in this movie that time-table is ill-suited for its storytelling-needs.
Because nice thoughts can’t cure an illness? Because due to his illness Shinjiro was a danger to everyone around him? And because he was ashamed of how he had already found out the cost of his lack of control? Yeah, I think, if there’s a question to be asked in that scene it isn’t that one.
In general, the movie has four things on its mind beside the inane slice-of-life-stuff. First, it introduces three new characters. Second, during the first half’s visit on an island Mitsuru’s dad delivers an infodump of the “what’s really going on”-sort. Third, there’s a group in town that actually profit from being Persona-Users and they raise the question whether life would suck after the Dark Hour has ceased to exist. And fourth, there’s the drama between Shinjiro and Ken.
Those are all the dramatic topics and themes for this movie but in general a lot of drama in this movie is already hampered by the script. Scenes that should be emotional and tense oftentimes lead to characters just stating their positions without any meaningful interaction. For example, early on when the team arrives on the island Mitsuru talks with her dad in his office. He’s like “You bringing them here means that you want to tell them the truth, right?” and she admits that this is the case – but then the dad is lecturing her about how important teamwork is and how she should trust others more. Except isn’t that exactly what Mitsuru has done already by bringing her teammates to the island? Instead of engaging with each other, this dialogue has the awkwardness of a near-miss confrontation. It feels more like they talk at each other but not with each other. And maybe this could be subtext for the scene except this movie has multiple examples of dialogues with this awkward dynamic. Later when Makoto and Yukari have a heart-to-hear-talk at the beach, Yukari talks about how she always had been fighting to prove her father’s innocence but now she found out that he’s indeed guilty and to that Makoto muses “But aren’t we having a great time being friends and fighting the good fight?”. And Yukari agrees which ends the dialogue as something else happens. The final confrontation between Shinjiro and Ken heightens this problem to a laughable degree where two characters fail to communicate to such a degree that when a third characters enters and explains each of the two’s intentions both are shocked by what the other one’s true intentions are. In more capable hands these all would be dialogue-scenes that are more concerned with what isn’t said than what is said but this movie rushes through these dialogues so quickly that it feels more like the movie is avoiding the psychological depths of the characters to come out in subtle ways. Instead the real feelings of the characters seem to only matter when they blurt them out suddenly (or when someone bluntly explains those feelings) and until then they’ll keep being miserable and superficial. The substance is there to make this a psychological drama but this movie just doesn’t seem to care about what’s going on inside the characters’ heads.
A lot of that has also to do with the bad timing of the movie. Scenes that are too long, scenes that are too short, scenes that appear without any context or build-up (like when Junpei meets the red-haired girl of the bad guys and falls in love) and then there’s the silent treatment. This movie has it all. There are so many moments in this movie where it seems to think it creates tension by having no BGM present and let the silence drag on. But it never works. Instead of creating tension, it just becomes obvious how the moment is lacking a nice, atmospheric tune. Except in battle-sequences where the decent animation of this movie takes over, the atmosphere never seems to heighten as the tension rises. It’s all just this murky morass of different emotions that blend into one another without making an impression on their own.
And the movie also does the stupid thing of starting story-arcs that don’t get finished in this movie. The whole question of whether ending the Dark Hour is even a good thing (because the somewhat stupid fear is that everyone will stop being friends after the Dark Hour has ceased to exist) gets raised in this movie but it doesn’t get a satisfying conclusion in this movie. And the whole thing comes up during the ambush in the middle of the movie where everybody is fighting for his live and doesn’t seem to care at all about that question. But then for the rest of the movie a lot of characters will wonder aloud whether those evil guys had been right with this concern and… that’s it. No discussion, no arguments, we just see various characters doubt themselves (Makoto has a somewhat introspective moment when he’s talking to his personal invisible friend but that scene is stupid). Also little stuff like the possible romance between Yukari and Makoto doesn’t get a satisfying conclusion. As Aegis appears she comes with an obsession to be close to the main-character (for a reason nobody cares to question) and Yukari is doing the whole tsundere-routine of getting jealous and whatnot which is supposed to be funny, I guess – and that’s all this movie has to say about that.
A lot of the stuff in this movie which should have consequences doesn’t have any in this movie. The big infodump of the first half that is supposed to be a big secret ends up being one of the most tepid moments in a movie that is already tepid in general. We find out that Yukari’s father is involved and that some lab exploded ten years ago and in its place a school had been built (for some reason…). Sure, it makes you wonder how exactly that accident has happened, how the scientists had found the shadows in the first place and whether those people are still conducting the same research on that island – but of course nobody asks that. The basic reaction to this revelation is essentially a shrug and a non-plussed “Yeah, so we just have to keep killing shadows, right?”. The only character who has a problem is Yukari and she gets over it REALLY quickly. She doesn’t even have a problem with the fact that Mitsuru had hidden this information about her father from her. And the rest of the movie doesn’t do anything with this infodump either! Most of the first half has literally nothing to do with the second half!
In the end, one shouldn’t forget also: We’re talking here about a movie that’s nearly 100 minutes long. This is the length of a movie that supposedly has a lot of stuff to talk about but this movie doesn’t. It’s meandering, it’s dull and literally two-thirds of it is just build-up for future movies. Two-thirds of a 100-minute-movie! There’s a ton of unnecessary crap in this movie where the movie indulges in lengthy slice-of-life-humor-sequences that are just boring and the battle-sequences just sort-of happen without any build-up. As a TV-series it would’ve been better but it wouldn’t have been good either because a lack of time isn’t this movie’s problem. Its direction is, though.
- The best thing about this movie-series is still the artistic rendition of the Dark Hour and the animation during battle-sequences is good as well.
- The dialogue Makoto had with his special friend was just frustrating in how it was cut short and lacked an interesting interaction. The kid talks about how change is inevitable and how that maybe won’t be a change for the better and all Makoto has to say is “Then maybe it’s better to not change at all.”. What about hope? Just because the dialogue is supposed to end with Makoto thinking one thing doesn’t mean that the alternative shouldn’t be mentioned. In the end, this is just another instance of this series failing to create a compelling dialogue-scene.
- Reading the synopsis for this movie reminded me… wasn’t the point of the first movie that Makoto had learned to enjoy being with his friends more? But despite the many slice-of-life-moments in this movie, there isn’t one scene where it seems like Makoto is having fun. A good movie would’ve at least shown Makoto laughing and having fun after which another character would’ve remarked that he has changed. And a great movie would’ve simply developed his character that would’ve led to a kind of behavior the Makoto from the first movie wouldn’t have shown but could’ve shown. That this movie just lets him be angsty and otherwise emotionless again just shows how little this movie’s interested in exploring the characters’ motivations.
- The opening-scene of this movie was just plain weird. It’s one of those scenes that’s WAY too long and the moment when Yukari steps out of the shower naked and Makoto with an unbuttoned shirt (for some reason) stare at each other is SO long. And then she just slaps him as if that’s supposed to be some sort of punchline.