This Week in Anime
Does Persona 5 Work as an Anime Adaptation?

by Michelle Liu & Steve Jones,

ATLUS's hit JRPG has finally become an anime series with Persona 5 the Animation, but does it offer enough fresh flavor to entice prior fans or make any sense to newcomers? This week, Micchy and Steve find out how P5A holds up.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.





You can read our weekly coverage of Persona 5 the Animation here!

Bad news, Steve. They got me. I'm now guilty of being horny on main because HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BOY?


the fate of being hot for bruised anime boys that is

Full disclosure: Ren Amamiya is half the reason I picked up Persona 5 the Animation. Apparently I have a weakness for beat-up anime boys. OTL

The other reason I picked up the show was director Masashi Ishihama, who pulled out all the stops for the opening sequence (again).

Yep! If I'm being completely honest, I was less excited about getting a Persona 5 anime when it was announced but EXTREMELY excited about getting another Ishihama anime.

The question is, does P5A offer any more to people who haven't played the game (like me) than cute anime characters and nifty credit sequences? So far, I'm not sure.

Yeah, as somebody who did play Persona 5, it was already hugely ambitious and messy in game form. Trying to pare all of that down into an anime was gonna be difficult from the get-go, and the results have been predictably mixed. But I do have to hand it to our boy Ishihama for doing what he can within the limits of a production like this.

The true OP that debuted this week is def the snazzy-as-hell highlight. It's full of all his quirks, and I already watched it on repeat multiple times today.

Same, I can't get over how cool this transition is.

Ishihama is among the best in the OP business, but his work directing/storyboarding the first episode was also really great!

He also understands how to fully dial up the Ren attractiveness meter, even when he's not beaten to a sexy pulp.

Truly a man of culture, that guy. When he goes for aesthetic, boy does he go for aesthetic. The alt-world color palettes and designs are really striking. When we're in full-on dungeon mode, P5A looks damn good.

It also looks WORLDS better than the in-game anime cutscenes, so P5A is far from the worst possible adaptation we could have gotten.

Even without playing the game, I can tell there's some real talent on display here! In terms of visual design, I don't think we could've gotten much better than this.

That said, since you haven't played the game, I'm curious: how have you been following along so far?

I'm not completely lost, but I get the feeling I'm missing a whole lot of context. Structurally, the anime is kind of a hot mess. I have to respect their attempt to compress a non-linear experience into a linear one, but it doesn't seem to have been a smooth transition. For every delightfully cinematic Persona awakening, we have a bunch of scenes weirdly strung together in what I assume is a quick summary of NPC interactions you can have.

Pretty much. It's a strange combination of hitting the important plot points and also digressing into minor character scenes with important in-game confidants that don't have much impact on the main story. I will say that the frame story with Sae was also intrusive in the game, and I'm still not sure why they ever went with that.

(although I'll never complain about seeing more Sae)

And I have even LESS of an idea why they're introducing a SECOND frame story with Akechi within the main frame story, but I guess people wanted more Akechi?

Look, as awkward as the Sae framing device is, I'm just grateful for more excuses to see Ren bruised and vulnerable, because that is an underappreciated anime aesthetic™. As for Akechi, I have no idea who he is or why I'm supposed to care what he's doing. Going through the show for the column, I found several Akechi scenes that had completely slid out of my memory. He shows up, but without context his existence is just extraneous information to me.

The Akechi stuff tells me that the intended audience for this is probably people who have already played the game? Because yeah, Akechi doesn't really become important until the latter half of the game, but the anime has been shoving him into a lot of new scenes early on. So it feels like it's winking at the people who already know about him.

That's what I figured. For fans who like him, that sounds like a great deal! Unfortunately, as an anime-only viewer, I'm sitting here wondering if I should go buy the game instead, after which I remember that I'm a busy boi who doesn't have the free time to sink into yet another hobby.

I spent a good ~120 hours on Persona 5. It's a Commitment. So at the very least, the anime will be good for everyone's temporal economy!

That's twice as many hours as I put into Nier: Automata last year, so uh, that sounds like a hell of a black hole.

At its core, it's a great game with a relevant message about fighting systems of oppression and the people who perpetrate them, so I did like it a lot! Unfortunately, it's held back by some glaring oversights in the writing, and the anime is replicating these issues exactly so far.

The Phantom Thieves' characterization as teen rebels who do what's right despite adults' attempts to enforce bullshit rules and systemic injustice is good. I especially like the idea of Ren's backstory: arrested for standing up to authority, he's now on probation or whatever.

living with Fedora Dad

From that backstory, we get the sense that he's a passionate kid with a strong sense of right and wrong. And when he's moonlighting as Joker, that does come out.

But in the real world, he's such a game protagonist. I mean, he spends a large portion of his screentime staring into space while people talk at him.

I do appreciate the tiny efforts that have been made to give him more character, like him clowning on Ryuji.

Also, can we just bask in the fact that Ryuji knows Ren for less than a week before he gives him the cutest nickname in the world? If that isn't prime boyfriend material, I don't know what is.

They're trying! But scattered moments of personality aren't enough to sell me on this guy as a character. It's really a shame, because oh my god he's such a cute anime boy. I just wish he were a cute story protagonist boy and not a cute player avatar boy.

Yeah, just like in the game, Ren's sole defining feature
is the way the cognitive world changes him
from a bottom to a top.

Oh yeah, Persona 5 also literally has the best UI design in gaming history, and to its credit, the anime has tried to integrate those elements into its own aesthetic, with some degree of success.

Since 90% of my Persona 5 knowledge comes from image manipulations of its combat interface, that was one of the first things I noticed about the show where I was like, "oh this came from the game, didn't it?"

like damn is this snazzy

Even in the kids' LINE clone!

That said, I'm not sure if it works quite as well in the show. The text-and-silhouette design scheme is neat, but that stylized presentation clashes with the show's more cinematic take on other scenes. The cognitive world is also stylized, but there's usually a sense of space and dimension. When the game's finisher sequence happens, it's honestly jarring to suddenly change over to the comic book look.

I think the part of Persona 5 that has best translated over to the anime so far is the crushing disappointment of fusing your strong beautiful Arsene into a smol jar boi.

The tutorial actually forces you to do this! It's one of those things that makes sense as a game mechanic that helps you get stronger, but it doesn't hold any relevance to the story, so keeping it in the anime just comes across as strange and superfluous.

Pretty much. I can see it working in a game, but it's very out of place in a non-interactive linear medium. I keep expecting to see a congratulations message or something pop up on screen. It's strange to see the show lifting elements from the game while Ishihama's also attempting to build the show a unique identity.

That said, the first arc of P5 is one of its strongest, and it still felt satisfying to see the kids force the ultimate scumbag Kamoshida to finally confront his crimes.

Kamoshida is very punchable, I must say. His confession is totally alien as a portrayal of an abuser, (when do people like that ever pull a 180 and honestly apologize for any reason but to save face?) but within the show's conceit of altering people's psyches via cognitive world shenanigans, I'm willing to roll with it.

The whole "changing a person's heart" thing is totally not how real people operate, but as a form of fantasy JRPG wish-fulfillment that sees an abuser both repent and get punished for their behavior, I'm okay with it. Overall, I'm okay with P5's adaptation. It doesn't look the best, and I wish it did more to fix some of the game's mistakes (like, please stop leering at Ann with the camera). But at least it's giving me more footage of my beautiful anime wives.

my exhausted teacher wife

and my hot goth doctor wife

And to be fair, Ann's pretty good herself!

She's great! And her scene with Shiho at the end of Kamoshida's arc got me choked up.

Let them be girlfriends, dammit.

It's canon enough in my heart that she was the only P5 girl I didn't romance.

I can respect that.

Well, as janky and flawed as the anime may get, I'm still gonna be rooting for my boy Ishihama all the way through. At least with him at the helm, I can be confident that things won't turn into a total CATastrophe.

I'm gonna have to arrest you for that.

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