Directed by Seiji Kishi
Starring Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, and Erin Fitzgerald
Can this adaptation of the popular video game hold up in a non-interactive format, or will the lack of player immersion take away all the fun?
When high school student Yu Narukami transfers to a small country town, he finds it not as peaceful as he expected as a spur of murders and kidnappings plague his detective uncle and the police. But Yu and his growing list of friends unravel the mystery as they discover a strange dimension and unlock strange summoning powers to combat whatever evil is plaguing their home.
The show is an adaptation of the same-named game of the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona game series. The game is a mix of high-school relationship simulation and fantasy role playing, with some monster catching thrown in by the constant discovery of “persona” summon creatures. Basically high school Pokémon, and the show plays out the same. It doesn’t require prior knowledge of the game or the previous games though, so you can jump in fresh.
The main character Yu, who is the player character from the game, feels just like it. He’s devoid of personality and emotion at the beginning of the show, until he starts interacting with the world and gets in the swing of things. He’s there for the audience to supplant their personality over, which works in the game better than in a television show. Once he actually progresses to the point of emotional reactions, he’s a more captivating lead, charismatic in forming new friendships and courageous in facing combat head on. It just takes a bit.
The other characters have various different levels of mileage. Some have a bit more depth and interest, such as the best friend Yosuke, the tough guy Kanji, and the idol Rise. Others fall flat. And then there’s the television dimension bear Teddy, whose bearability depends entirely on how much you can stand bear puns (pun maybe intended).
The biggest drawback is the show’s repetitiveness. Almost every couple of episodes is a new character arc that basically plays the same: Yu and friends meet new character; said character gets kidnapped into the mysterious television dimension; Yu and friends fight shadow creature with their persona summons; new character accepts aspects of their self they previously denied; new friend in the group. Repeat. Almost line-for-line, no less, causing my eyes to roll by the third time.
On that note, every episode opens with a segment in “the Velvet Room,” which is an aspect of the game but has no impact on the show other than providing unnecessarily cryptic recaps and hints. It gets old fast.
The show also really lacks a feeling of suspense. A side effect of the repetitive nature, the characters overcome the same threat so much that it feels like they’re simply going through the motions, and that this murderer they’re chasing down poses no threat to them.
The show is a passable action murder mystery, with some intriguing characters, neat stylistic character and creature designs, and a catchy opening theme. It looks and sounds fine, but its slow build and repetitive clichéd structure keeps it from being trilling or immersive.
The Video and Audio
The series is presented in 16:9 widescreen, in English and Japanese stereo audio. All of which are average in general. The video has a couple instances of digital artifacting, but the action and special effects scenes are passable.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The three-disc set comes in a single standard case. In addition to the standard bonuses of clean opening/ending animation and trailers, this set impressively includes Japanese commentary for every episode, as well as televised and uncut versions of the first episodes.
The Japanese commentary does a good job mixing the cast and crew of the show, and while the portions I sampled weren’t particularly informational, they were still interesting to read the banter. The one problem I found is a commentary subtitling issue, which would occasionally start playing video dialog subtitles mixed together, which can be a tad confusing.
Overall (Not an Average)
The collection is a decent set, putting together a complete story arc, and the inclusion of Japanese commentary is a good touch. The repetition may unfortunately bog down the audience, especially newcomers to the franchise, from following along all the way.
The Series 6.5/10
The Video and Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10