PERSONA 5 the Animation
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
PERSONA 5 the Animation ?
Persona 5's ongoing length has become an asset at this point. The earlier episodes, which had to set up multiple concepts and characters at once, came off as overstuffed almost out of necessity. Now, enough time has been devoted to developing the Phantom Thieves and those around them that a new character like Makoto had multiple episodes to be gradually worked into the plot and team dynamic. So when everything comes to a head in this episode, it feels like a well-earned climax.
Makoto does benefit from even more character development that is fast-tracked on the way to her Persona awakening this week. We get a flashback portion to her (and Sae's) childhood that explores her perception of her police officer father and how it shaped her worldview in a more concrete and cinematic way than the original game portrayed at this point. This scene and her minor confrontation with Akechi work because while they feel like necessary elements for the sake of the storytelling, they don't come off as being inserted simply out of obligation to the way the game did things. It lets the more linear medium of anime be used in a way that works out, where it might not have come off as well in interactive video game form. These last few episodes of Persona 5 the Animation have particularly leaned into this strength, suggesting that the production is finally finding its feet as an adaptation of the source material.
The non-Makoto elements around this story benefit from that quality as well. The Thieves' investigation of Kaneshiro's shadow-world money dealings feels more tightly directed than the more rote manner in which similar past aspects were handled, and it presents a unique challenge for the characters thus far, as they're not even able to get to a Palace for the first time. The video game structure of Persona is still visible in its escalating level difficulties, but thankfully that also makes sense in the type of story that's being told at the base here. As Ryuji remarks, this is another step on the way to the Phantom Thieves making a bigger name for themselves, so ever-increasing obstacles are a sensible expectation.
The pointedly increased threat-level that Kaneshiro presents definitely becomes clear in the major real-world portion of this episode's story, which also forms the first half of Makoto's pivotal development this week. Makoto isn't as outspoken or dramatic as the likes of Ryuji or Yusuke, but her flaws and struggles make themselves clear in her actions anyway. We already knew she was getting in over her head, but her immediately reckless behavior might outstrip even our original expectations. More importantly, her decision to charge in is shown to have dire consequences for her, and the darkly criminal implications of Kaneshiro's manipulations of the team make it clear that despite his more plain motivations and methods, he's no less dangerous a grown-up than the ones they've already faced.
Kaneshiro's easy manipulation of the Thieves and Makoto's stunned reaction do well to get across the point that was hinted at in her earlier confrontation with Sae. Makoto may have been comfortable carrying out authoritative missions as a student council president, but going too far outside of school grounds has thrust her into the unforgiving ‘real world’ her sister referenced. It's an interesting point of how far put-upon kids in society can actually go in avenging themselves; the Phantom Thieves are unique in that they've been afforded the means to rebel against that society. It's what marks the ‘fantasy’ part of Persona 5's story, and Makoto's final awakening to her persona is the most clear that catharsis has been in a while.
And of course, the other big draw is going to be Makoto's awakening scene itself. Persona 5 isn't a perfect game, but when it worked, it really worked, and this moment was one of the greatest in the story. I get the impression that all the clear build-up for Makoto in this episode was to make absolutely certain this moment landed, and I'd say they pulled it off. The character acting of the Shadow Kaneshiro she confronts is quite good, selling the difference in mannerisms between his real and perceived self perhaps better than the game did. He's a good opposite enemy for her to play off and finally come to terms with how she's going to develop herself. The shift in her personality as she finally stands up for herself is worth the wait, all accompanied by cool effects that sell what a big deal we're seeing.
The big weak link of this episode is, predictably, the Persona fight at the end. Makoto's Pope-cycle Persona at least adds a little dynamism to the scene, but the rest is the same stiff exchanges we've been dealing with thus far. Thankfully the big moment for the episode was right before the actual fighting started, but it continues to be a shame that one of the key components of this story is still the least impressive. Pretty much everything else about the episode worked, perhaps not being as strong as the source material, but doing quite well in terms of translating into a solid anime presentation.
PERSONA 5 the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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