PERSONA 5 the Animation
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 19 of
PERSONA 5 the Animation ?
There's a flicker of concern at the beginning of this week's episode of Persona 5 the Animation, with the ‘Aloha’ title and knowledge of where we are in the story indicating another downtime episode for the team's class trip to Hawaii. Thankfully, though a decent chunk of the episode is set on the island, it functions more as setup for all the plot that picks up steam this week. This is definitely the first episode in the next story arc, with all the shake-ups that entails.
Things are still slow, however, as the Phantom Thieves discuss what to do next and remain unsure as to who their next target will be. How their newfound popularity figures into this is a major point of the episode, with the Phan-Site rankings of potential targets moving rapidly due to increased traffic. After the more unorthodox Futaba case, it's interesting to see the Thieves come back to a more standard routine (coinciding with their return to school from summer break) while the situation around them becomes more complex.
The new context of the Thieves' popularity helps keep things fresh, but Futaba's presence is another factor. The show had previously only hinted at the potential inherent in Makoto rooming with her police investigator sister, but this one actually does something with that element when Futaba has Makoto hack into Sae's laptop. As I mentioned a couple episodes back, there's a sense of all the show's conspiracies interacting in more interesting ways now, and this is a good example of that. There's a momentary sense of excitement in Makoto doing the digital deed, then Futaba's trawling of the information gives her something to do while the others are vacationing in the foreground. So even when this episode does seem to be just chilling out, there's still some sense of forward momentum.
That's not to say that there aren't parts of the episode that feel frivolous, and despite its comparatively short nature, most of those do take place during the Hawaii portion. Some of these, like Hifumi's formal introduction, seem to come out of necessary fealty to the game, while others like Ryuji's worries over picking up girls and subsequent barrage of complaints just come off as needlessly annoying. There is at least a momentary montage of swimsuits from Kawakami that should please her fans (and further confirm that the staff of this adaptation are among them). Honestly there were some funnier parts of this storyline that might have done better for the anime treatment, but overall it's at least given the appropriate amount of gloss-over.
Everything else about the episode definitely works right though. It begins and ends with the Principal's conflict over his apparent governmental superiors and subsequent death. Besides pointing the audience in the direction of the actual source of the mental shutdown cases, this point primarily functions as the other shoe dropping on the Phantom Thieves' popularity. Now that they're well known to the world, it's expected that society would suspect and blame them for such an incident, resulting in the team being more conflicted than usual over how they should proceed in their activities.
This divide is a good new wrinkle for the show to include in this new arc. The whole ‘must agree unanimously’ point to the team's missions has always been present, but they've never done anything strong with it until now. The Principal's death and the complications stemming from their own fad prove to be the wedge that drives between them, especially in the face of not knowing much about their next target. Within the context of the story, a corrupt corporate CEO should be an obvious choice for the Phantom Thieves' particular brand of social justice, but he's presented as such an outside issue so far that even the audience is less invested in this potential takedown and more struggling alongside the group with how the world sees them now. Of course, this leads to the episode's cliffhanger, with Morgana leaving the team.
Morgana's departure is a sticking point in the original version of the story, but the genesis of it here feels like some effort is being made to smooth out its issues. The scenario has a few slight dialogue tweaks, making it more explicit that Morgana is dissatisfied with his crew's lack of motivation and toning down his personal conflict with Ryuji. Obviously his major issue is feeling less useful lately compared to the other party members, so at this point his frustrations and hasty storm-off do make more sense. It will be interesting to see how the show progresses to resolve this conflict. As it stands, Morgana leaving doesn't have quite the impact that a big shake-up should have in the story, but at least it doesn't feel too forced.
All this setup gave the episode a distinct feeling of momentum, but maybe not enough has happened to pick us back up after the drag of the previous episode. The current plot is definitely interesting, but the juicier parts of it haven't yet come to light. I hope the next episodes keep this upswing in momentum going.
PERSONA 5 the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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