PERSONA 5 the Animation
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 22 of
PERSONA 5 the Animation ?
Ah, the classic fallout episode! It's a staple of epic stories like Persona 5, and it's quite possibly the pick-me-up this show needed after weeks of languid pacing. Those familiar with the game will be aware that this point is where Persona 5's plot goes absolutely nuts, so with multiple plot threads left to cover, the anime adaptation may be overworking itself to cover all its bases. The result is an episode that has plenty going on, but some of those goings-on aren't as strong as the others.
The sheer amount of things happening at this point in the story is rejuvenating, at least. This episode seems to occupy the same place in the show's structure as other post-heist ‘wind down’ episodes, with the next heart-stealing target not revealed until the very end. But the stakes faced by the Thieves are more elevated than ever given the unexpected result of their previous crime. The death of Haru's father is smoothed over somewhat in that we hear about him going into cardiac arrest, and his subsequent death is only hinted at before being passively confirmed later in the episode. You might think this would serve to chill out the tone of everything that happens (especially since Haru already got her big reaction at the end of last week), but in practice it feels like the staff trying to call less attention to that event so we can focus on the other ripples in the plot it generates.
This episode forces the Thieves to move on from their shock and grief at Okumura's death to become aware of the conspiracy that caused it. It makes the plotting in general feel tighter and more cohesive than it was in the previous arc, as the kids realize that they got played like a fiddle by manipulators we've only seen snippets of until now. But those elements get their due from the audience's viewpoint as well, since we get to see the government office involved with the conspiracy move Sae into position against the Thieves, which lines up with what we already knew about the show's future from the beginning.
But that's all fodder for the upcoming storyline, while this episode is decidedly more reflective. That fall of the Thieves' popularity was inevitable, and seeing how they deal with it is the main draw now. Of course there's the ever-popular idea that society will turn on any ‘hero’ the moment they see an opportunity for them to fall, and this episode includes generous commentary on the Phan-Site and how it reflects that sinking social opinion. There's a mild hinting at some internal strife between the Thieves over it, particularly with Haru and how the relatively short amount of time she's spent with the team leaves her unsure if she can continue trusting them or not. That is an interesting angle, but at the same time, all the drama that went down with Morgana in the previous arc gave us enough inter-team turmoil, so maybe it's for the best that this is only briefly touched upon.
Instead the Thieves, particularly Ren, work through their issues via outside influences. These turn out to be some of the Confidant routes from the game that the show hadn't found time for yet, and if that sounds a bit forced to depict at this juncture, you'd be right. Even though she's been teased previously, dropping Hifumi the shogi prodigy in just to have the right words to cheer Ren up when he's at his lowest comes across as too convenient, even if the character is entertaining. Similarly, Mishima's plotline feels even less necessary given how ancillary the character has been treated in this adaptation, especially when the end-result is only interesting in how it affects our main characters. It doesn't help that Mishima has never been a terribly likable or interesting character, mostly reaching for ‘pitiable’ in his little detour this week.
The episode at least reaches stronger material with the back-end of Ann's social link. It's good that the show hasn't forgotten Shiho after her pivotal actions that effectively kicked off everything in this story, and she's treated well for her sendoff this week. More than the other disparate outside forces that visit Ren and the others in this episode, the segment with Ann and Shiho worked best at helping the team get their groove back.
So the segments making up this episode were all over the place, and the animation didn't look terribly great either. But after the miasma of events Persona 5 the Animation has been through in the past few episodes, all this stuff happening is welcome, even if it didn't all work well. It does a good job of reminding us why this plot is so interesting and surges our endearment of the characters on the eve of some major storyline events. It's an episode that's mostly here to tie up some loose ends and reset the story structure, but it does so enjoyably enough.
PERSONA 5 the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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