PERSONA 5 the Animation
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
PERSONA 5 the Animation ?
I appreciate how these Persona 5 episodes that exist to transition the team from one target to the next use their time to explore some of the meatier ideas behind their actions. Going from Kamoshida to Madarame saw them question why they should continue being Phantom Thieves at all, and now various factors conspire to push them toward going after a predatory crime boss, as The Phantoms figure out what being rebellious thieves of justice actually means fighting for. It's another one of those episodes with a lot of setup that weaves various elements together in a way that feels more cohesive.
Central to this success is Makoto. This character has been skulking around the outskirts of the plot for weeks now, and this week she finally ditches her hilariously half-assed stealth approach and goes right into confronting our heroes about being thieves. Catching them by simply recording a time they stood out in the open loudly discussing being the Phantom Thieves is maybe a little too on-the-nose for what always felt like an irresponsible plot point, and her confrontation with the main characters over Kamoshida seems to escalate too quickly. But it's all necessary to get her character arc and this storyline rolling.
Currently, Makoto's issue seems to be that she has the confidence and will to do what's expected of her, but she gets in over her head without thinking about what's good for herself. Even if you haven't played the game before watching this, the opening and ending themes make it clear she will be joining up with the Phantom Thieves at some point, and it's easy to see how gaining their powers would help her overcome her own obstacles. Persona 5's story has never shied away from the point that the Phantom Thieves derive most of their motives from a degree of self-interest, and casting off some of her imposed selflessness would ease Makoto's issues.
The recurring element of motivation is actually brought up earlier in this episode. Ren, Ann, and Ryuji's trip to the TV station has some fun aside moments like them getting roped into helping out with the production, but it's actually about them literally setting the stage to have a debate with the Detective Prince over the thieves' actions so far. The most interesting component of their argument is that no one yet knows our main characters are the thieves (whether Akechi even has suspicions is not explored), so they're dealing with the consequences of their actions only in hypotheticals. This lets Akechi present some decent arguments, namely that there's no guarantee the thieves' powers won't be used for more malicious purposes. Still, the story makes it easy for us to take the Phantom Thieves' side in the issue anyway; we know who the thieves are, so we're certain they don't pose a threat to ‘good’ people. But we also understand that society has to account for their vigilante disruption.
Akechi disclosure that he's working with the police on the Phantom Thieves case gives us a sense of escalation, as other parties close in on our heroes. The idea that rebels like the thieves need obstacles to overcome in order to affect the change keeps the themes of the story moving along well too. Makoto's task is also giving them a chance to prove that their rebellion has a purpose behind it, which is another important step on their road to becoming heroes of the downtrodden.
That's a lot to chew on in the first two acts of this episode. Persona 5 the game was always juggling many themes, so it's nice to see that this anime adaptation still benefits from that quality, even with its various compression issues. It still looks pretty good too, from little details like Makoto holding her face-hiding magazine upside-down to the terrific sunset-drenched shot of her in the student council room. It perhaps makes it more forgivable when things inevitably shift to a more mechanical style to set up the supernatural heisting for next episode.
If you've already forgotten the reporter Ouya, I don't blame you, but the show at least did well to introduce her a few episodes ago so she can be utilized for information-gathering here. A few other side characters also get checked off during the sojourn to Shinjuku, though the joke about Ryuji getting creeped on by a couple of gay men really could have been left out of this adaptation. At least there is some nice connecting of character threads in Ren using Mishima's information to get what he needs from Ouya, and I have always liked the surprising reveal of how Kaneshiro's Palace works. This last chunk of the episode works fine, but it just isn't as interesting compared to the ideas that came before it. Thankfully, the first half of this episode delivered enough substance to keep us locked in for the action to follow next week.
PERSONA 5 the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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