PERSONA 5 the Animation
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 25 of
PERSONA 5 the Animation ?
The previous episode of Persona 5 worked out due to the way it used the backdrop of going through Sae's Palace to enact some development for the characters. It was able to make multiple plotlines and elements mesh together in a way that took advantage of its anime nature, compared to the structure of the game. This next episode tries to do something similar, but with more focus on showing the actual progression through the Palace. But its priorities aren't quite as balanced this time, so the whole exercise ends up shortchanging both its action and its characters.
The team going through the casino's various high-level challenges could be an opportunity to show off more pure action or spectacle after the more emotional efforts of the previous one. Unfortunately, in practice, what we get is mostly a glorified montage scene, with just snippets of these deadly games played out intercut with the characters' actions in the real world. Some aspects, like the Thieves having to duck out of the Palace to attend a court session to change Sae's perception, at least work well in selling the multiple levels they operate on and how these missions can take multiple days to complete. But other sections, like the bit where they fight monsters in a darkened maze, are presented almost devoid of context, meaning you either get the gameplay bit it's referencing because you played it, or are left wanting.
They try to balance this out in the montage with quick hits of Ren visiting his confidants and deepening their bonds. Shinya, the video-game kid is properly introduced to Ren, shown as a way the hero upped his ability with firearms, which is a neat detail. But the others all feel barely like lip-service, with Hifumi getting one short scene that barely indicates progress has been made in her issues, and Tora the politician just getting to exchange pep-talks with Ren. The problem is that none of these characters have been spared much time for the audience to really get to know them, so they basically feel like morale-boost devices for our main character. They add a little flavor to this overt montage, but command no investment, barely any interest.
So the time spent on those characters, and the action they're framing, feels like a waste in places. It particularly stands out because the time they take up could have been put to better use, particularly in this same episode. The show tries to add weight to the Sae situation by tying her to characters we actually have been endeared to, the obvious connective choices of Makoto and Akechi. This is partially Akechi's arc, so it expectedly feels like we get a little more on his character each episode. He gets the most clever part this week, with his surprise reveal of the bonus points on the extra club card bringing an unexpected save. Most pointedly, the way he went about that scheme, keeping his subterfuge secret from his team until the last minute, offers an interesting characterization clue as to how he does things. That point is strengthened by him reiterating towards the end of this episode that his alliance with the Thieves is only temporary at this point, and he's driving them to disband as soon as it's all over.
Makoto unfortunately doesn't get the same attention paid to her involvement in this. The writing acknowledges how her complicated relationship with her sister is coming to a head as the theft draws near; it's a good choice to have her there when Sae reads her calling card. But other than those allusions and a couple of platitudes she repeats, I felt like the emotional aspect between these two sisters wound up lacking. It's a case of the episode trying to do too much, as I said, since they put all their effort into focusing on Akechi and spent extra time on irrelevant skits and montages. At the very least, I appreciated Makoto early on getting a moment to voice some criticism of the seemingly-unfair Japanese justice system. The social commentary angles are another element I wish Persona 5 the Animation would make more time for.
Surprisingly, the actual boss fight with Sae winds up being one of the stronger parts of this otherwise limp episode. The actual animation's still as relatively flat as the show's looked for the past few weeks, but the structure and flow of the fight shows just a bit more creativity than I've come to expect from these big battles. We get to see the team pulling interesting maneuvers and cool team-up attacks. And if Makoto's emotional connection to Sae wasn't as fleshed-out as I'd wanted, her participation in the fight helps to sell how major her involvement is.
Of course, the most interesting part of this plot is the recontextualization of this whole setup now that we've looped back around to the flash-forward from the beginning of the show. That should obviously set the stage for some major shake-ups in how the story even progresses, and while it makes sense for that to be properly kicked off next week, cutting off where it does still feels like this episode ending just as it actually started to get good. As-is, it's a dutiful march to get that big deal set up, seemingly barely interested in the story it's telling on the way there.
PERSONA 5 the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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