PERSONA 5 the Animation
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
PERSONA 5 the Animation ?
Persona 5 the Animation gets into the body of its next story arc by dropping a new main character right into our laps. Yusuke is the pupil of Madarame, an apparently-corrupt artist whom the Phantom Thieves will be targeting. Getting their discovery of him underway like this does come across a bit too convenient, to the point that Sae, whose flash-forwards have been conspicuously absent for the past few episodes, momentarily pops back in to comment on it. It's all in the name of expediently setting up the material this storyline will be covering, however, so I'm willing to give shortcuts like that some leeway.
The build-up of the mystery if the main draw of this episode. Unlike with Kamoshida, it's not made immediately apparent how bad a guy Madarame is, and there are some false leads and hooks thrown out before everything is made clear. Granted, Yusuke's interactions with Ann and some of the information that is put out still makes it relatively easy to guess at what's actually going on. However, as stated, it's meted out in a well-paced way, so there's little of the audience getting annoyed with the characters for missing something obvious. That Madarame is only the second villain our heroes have faced so far also makes it easier to accept his relative lower level of ‘difficulty’ in discerning him.
In fact, if anything, the main problem of the episode is that it explains things too much in an effort to make sure we understand and accept that Madarame is a bad guy after seeing the front he puts up. There are Yusuke's tacit admissions, and then a visit to the Palace where Shadow Maradame just straight-up monologues all his crimes and evil intentions for whoever might be listening. Granted, this type of delivery makes sense in the context of how the Palaces and Shadow versions of people work in the series, as well as the melodramatic old-style villain Shadow Madarame is patterned on. But after that it just comes off as superfluous when Ren and the gang have to interrogate one of Madarame's former pupils (the mini-boss from Mementos in the previous episode, in a nice bit of continuity) just to confirm again that the artist is a bad dude. It's all mostly in service of selling the strengthening of their resolve to help Yusuke even if he won't admit he needs help. Admittedly, this is where the interesting ideas of the story actually come out.
Abusive adults have been singled out as the focal point of the rebellion Persona 5 advises, and with a new villain it begins to show that there are different kinds of abuse and ways victims have in reacting to it. Unlike the powerless schoolkids under the thumb of Kamoshida, it's not that Yusuke can't do anything about his situation, it's that he doesn't want to. We get to see him go back and forth on how he wants to express his situation under his tutor, making excuses for the crimes we know he commits. It's summed up effectively with a line from Ryuji, “Why is he so stubborn? He's the victim.” So Stockholm Syndrome will be among the effects on people this series explores.
Yusuke's character as he's been introduced so far goes along well with this story. At least here, the writing seems to have toned him down somewhat from how he was presented in the game. He's still prone to dramatic outbursts on the subject of art in general and any chance to paint Ann in particular, but the sweeping, dramatic tone he had seems more reeled in at this point. That restraint works well when he does burst into his stronger, Stockholm-style defenses of Madarame. It makes it easier to take him seriously and keeps the pacing and ideas of this episode focused, more on-point. We'll see how that progresses, knowing what other parts of this story are coming. But for now, the restraint is a boon to the storytelling.
As usual, other littler details contribute to the overall feel and function of this episode. Kawakami fans will be happy to see her trademark exhaustion portrayed in a moment here. Makoto gets introduced to the rest of the group, setting up her role that's still something of a ways off. And the show continues to look good through all this talking and casual sleuthing, making particularly good use of the lighting of different times of days throughout the episode. It also ends on a decent note of resolve, with the Phantom Thieves getting clued in that Yusuke does want to be rescued from his situation, and finally unanimously deciding to move forward in doing so. The idea of P5A heading into some more action-based content again does give me pause, given its shaky handling of that element. But at least at this point, they've set the stage to do that quite well.
PERSONA 5 the Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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