PERSONA 5 the Animation
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 17 of
PERSONA 5 the Animation ?
Persona 5 the Animation has been on a pretty good roll lately, but as it approached the old problem area of the Palace's final boss fight, it seemed to be sliding into some of its bad habits. Namely, the pace was just moving too quickly. The revelation that the massive monster haunting Futaba's palace was actually a demonic apparition of her own mother was dropped rather abruptly, especially in light of the gravitas and implications of that information. However, this all turns out to be in the name of getting the episode to a certain point so it can progress through the other important stuff normally.
As I mentioned last week, this Futaba storyline owes a lot of its ideas and resolutions to Persona 4. The concept of our own perceptions of things becoming literal inner demons, with our self-images acting as super-powered defense mechanisms, are as compelling concepts here as they were back in that previous game. Getting to see Persona's particular brand of percussive psychology in action also continues to provide an interesting break from the established P5 formula. Shaking things up even more for this last episode of her arc is Futaba herself getting properly involved in the party.
Where the previous episode did a great job tying Futaba's issues and developments into giving Ann more to do, this one is specifically focused on Futaba herself, where big developmental conversations happen between her and her Metaverse Shadow-self. It's all along the same expedient but effective pacing track we're used to from this series, so the existential examinations don't overstay their welcome, instead giving us the remaining insight we need. Futaba's internalized issues over her mother are resolved in a satisfying way, bringing in the idea of suppressed or distorted memories we create for ourselves post-trauma. Even more of a shake-up is how Futaba's Palace still represents the trauma inflicted by manipulative adults, despite not belonging to an adult or even being prompted by any adults we specifically see in the story. Futaba was the victim of a whole system of greedy grown-ups, and it appears the Thieves will be dealing with aspects of their cruelty moving forward.
The visual representations of Futaba's growth are strong, intercut well with the fight against the mom-monster. It's an emotionally layered boss fight that brings a lot of intensity in snippets, and this ultimately manages to be one of the more solid Persona fights in this anime! It might be that the monster in question is limited to physical attacks rather than spewing magic against the spells of our heroes, but even their actions are rendered with more dynamism than usual. It's another aspect that's improved in this noticeably stronger second half of the show.
This all leads into seeing Futaba actually join the party of Thieves in battle. If you're familiar with the Persona games in general and particularly P5, you know that Futaba is a ‘Navigation’ character, who doesn't directly participate in the fights but provides information and support to active party members. The show integrates that role in a way that works for its format, though I do wonder how things might go in later episodes when she's not in her own Palace that she can ‘hack’ in more interesting ways. Anyway, the most appreciable element for me was Futaba's awakening scene, getting to hear her voice actress make her trademark Aoi Yuuki noises.
Futaba having an active role after all this and getting to cut loose as a character is a nice finish for this episode. This is another case of the P5 anime subverting its own formula for this arc, as the post-boss-battle outing for the Thieves happens as a quick coda instead. Seeing Soujirou and Futaba interact with Ren on a more improved personal level is also very cute. It's all relatively low-key, considering the mindscape drama that led up to it, and there's an interesting effect to small-scale elements like Futaba's recovery being demonstrated by something as simple as her leaving the house and walking to the cafe by herself. Her hacker prowess being shown off via simple phone-tap and the accompanying benign backstory is similar small-scale silliness.
Overall, the Futaba storyline proved to be a strong lead-in for Persona 5 the Animation's second half. After being such a problem area in the past, I'm grateful that the show's woes with finishing an arc were sidestepped this time. It might be a result of how distinct from the rest of this show's setup this arc has been, but it provides a solid resolution that makes me excited for the rest of the series. There are some issues with this wrap-up, the aforementioned pacing issues in the opening minutes as well as a point in Futaba's metaphysical meditations where it seems the wrong hieroglyphic slide was displayed, but overall it keeps up the engagement factor and delivers some magic-battle action that's more well-executed than we'd seen before.
PERSONA 5 the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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