PERSONA 5 the Animation
Episode 13

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 13 of
PERSONA 5 the Animation ?

Along Persona 5 the Animation's established structure, we find ourselves once again in downtime after the team has beaten a bad guy and finished their heist. Where previous episodes of this type saw the whole group hanging out, discussing what to do next, and exploring some of the ideas behind their unconventional hobby, this one takes a more focused look at just a few players. Granted, there is still room for philosophizing; it's brought up early on that they can't allow themselves to become too drunk on their own success, lest they slip and get themselves caught. More pertinently, there is time partway through for a short discussion of how desire, despite being the driving factor behind most of the villains they've defeated so far, isn't inherently a good or bad thing. This understanding of desire and the other emotions that follow it ties into Ren and Yusuke's endeavor that forms the bulk of the episode.

Since so much time went into recruiting Makoto and dealing with her story, Yusuke's character arc has been put on the back-burner since his debut, so seeing him get more to do this week is appreciated. The idea of an artist character going through a slump seems like a natural arc to pursue, though that struggle mostly just forms the background of what happens in this episode. The various scenes of Ren helping Yusuke seek out inspiration are rather glossed over, covered via montage that happens late in the episode. Some of these little scenes might have been amusing to watch as longer segments, but P5A's ambitions seem to have grown beyond delivering cute vignettes.

Instead, Yusuke's character is explored in depth. He's always had a flair for the dramatic, but the range of that drama takes him through a series of highs and lows. He describes his issues in a quiet-yet-abstract manner befitting his more self-aware artistic ambitions, while his acting becomes more passionate and outlandish during the scenes where he's feeling artistically inspired. Kudos to the talented Tomokazu Sugita for the voice acting here, as he handles the various extremes to bring just the right amount of eccentricity to the character.

Learning about what makes Yusuke tick as an artist makes him feel more complete despite all the silliness. It's interesting that he understands the value of financial backing and is willing to accept it from the art director who approaches him, but when the benefactor's principles don't align with his own, Yusuke turns him down instead. It's a detail that presents Yusuke as the archetypical ‘pure’ artist without forcing him into a position where he feels he needs to suffer for his creation. As the episode discusses, having desires and even seeking resources to fulfill them aren't inherently bad; it's the motivation behind them and the limits we choose to push that can edge us out of dreams and into greed.

Yusuke's character development aside, what really elevates this episode is Ren's growing rivalry with Akechi. This anime adaptation has already been putting more emphasis on Akechi than he got in the games, and as the dynamic between the thief leader and the detective becomes more complex, it seems clear why this decision was made. Giving the main character someone to interact with who isn't a member of his clandestine group is a good way to reinforce the tension of his pointedly criminal situation. The scenes of the two playing chess while having thinly veiled discussions about the morality of the Phantom Thieves feel downright cozy in spite of the implied animosity. And this episode throws another unique hook into their connection by actually having Ren and Akechi team up as they investigate the shadier wrinkles around Yusuke's newfound artistic supporters.

That investigation angle is probably the most interesting hook the episode throws out, tying all the other elements together under its umbrella. After so much time lauding his talents, it's neat to actually see how Akechi works. Despite his necessarily antagonistic role to the thieves, Akechi endears himself well in this episode, and I hope we continue to see snippets of his dynamic with Ren going forward. Ren, still reserved as ever, does find time for some development of his own, but we don't yet learn anything about him we didn't already know. He does steal the best moment of the episode in a cheeky little maneuver that exposes the true culprit behind the art agency's shady dealings. The sheer nonchalance of Ren's pointed question that gives Akechi the edge he needs brings all the elements of the episode together wonderfully.

Not everything about this episode works perfectly. That montage scene still feels out of place, almost like they couldn't figure out how to communicate the story otherwise. And the art director's character feels inconsistent at points, like he acted in whatever way the episode needed him to at any given moment. But those issues are swept aside by the parts that tie together well, as everything wraps on a genuinely hopeful note when it comes to the power of desire. It makes for another strong downtime episode that explores the complexities of the Thieves' lives, even when they aren't committing their characteristic crimes.

Rating: B+

PERSONA 5 the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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