Minor details from the opening chapter of the Persona 5 game are mentioned in this review. Beware if you’re sensitive to spoilers.
One of my most anticipated anime of this season has started and it seems Persona 5 the Animation has hit the ground running and looks to be a really faithful retelling of the story from the game of the same name.
The first episode kicks off exactly where the game begins. Focussing on the lead protagonist aka Joker during the casino heist. It’s vibrant use of colour really leaps off the screen, so if you have the ability to watch the series in full HD I highly recommend that you do so. The presentation of the Persona series is one of it’s signature charms and much of that has been brought across here into the anime series.
Much like the game, this opening heist sequence provides a good insight into where the story is headed and introduces the group dynamic that is one of the key features of Persona 5. Before leading into the interrogation scene where we learn that the events we’re seeing on screen are happening in the present day but the start of this story begins 6 months prior. So just like in the game the opening episode is presented as a flashback story that will eventually lead back up to the opening events of the episode.
Right before heading back in time we learn that the lead protagonist in the anime will be canonically named Ren Amamiya. This is worth mentioning because in the official manga adaptation of Persona 5 his cannon name is Akira Kurusu and in the game you are given the option to name the protagonist whatever you like.
The following scenes in the opening episode all take place 6 months prior to the opening. We get some minor background information as to why Ren is moving to a new city and attending a new school, which for those that don’t know is pretty much how every Persona game starts out. Ren’s reason for moving aren’t specifically detailed in this episode but are hinted at if you pay enough attention to what some of the other key characters and students mention. This is fully revealed in the opening chapters of the game so it’s a safe bet it will be discussed in an upcoming episode. Make sure you pay close attention during the train scene, fans will notice some cool Easter eggs that reference characters from Persona 4.
The series has adopted the same visual design of the game map to represent transitions between certain key locations. I loved this and ties this adaptation in even further with the game. Much the same way the Persona 4 anime did by replicating the daily transition screen of it’s game. The events of the flashback did take place over two days in this episode but there was no transition screen so it’s currently unclear if they’ll be using it in the Persona 5 anime.
After meeting the incredibly lovable Sojiro, Ren is shown his room he’ll be staying in for the next year, located in the attic of the coffee shop. Players of the game will know that Ren will soon clean up and customise this space and it later becomes his home base.
Soon after while lying down Ren notices a strange app has reappeared on his phone that he had previously deleted. After viewing the app he awakens to find himself inside the Velvet Room, wearing a prison outfit and bound by a ball and chain. We then get our first appearance of, and introduction to Igor. A staple character from the series and one that fans will know is deeply involved in various aspects of the story. He informs Ren that the Velvet Room reflects the state of his own heart and that ruin is awaiting him in the near future, this is why it resembles a prison. The Velvet Room visit is short and sweet and isn’t used for much other than to give you a first look at some characters that will become more important down the line.
The final 7 minutes or so of the episode contains a lot. It moves at such a rapid pace that some of the smaller moments and character development that you find in the game get lost here. In these final moments of the episode Ren goes to his new school, Shujin Academy for the first time where we’re introduced to Ann and Ryuji. Both of these characters go on to have a massive role in the series. We also meet Kamoshida, the main villain for the first arc of the Persona 5 story. Ren and Ryuji then get pulled into the metaverse for the first time where they enter Kamoshida’s palace.
After watching this first episode my main concern for the series is how fast paced the story is so far. This is somewhat understandable as they need to move from major plot point to major plot point fairly quickly to fit in the story of a game that takes over 100 hours to fully beat. What we’ve gotten so far is extremely faithful to the source material, I just worry some of the smaller moments and character development scenes may be missed. It’s a bit too soon to call after only watching one episode if this pacing will have a negative impact on the series so for this review it won’t be listed as a con, but may in my full season review.
The episode ends on a high note with Ren and Ryuji running into some strife inside Kamoshida’s castle and Ren mustering up some courage and awakening his persona Arsene. It was a strong way to finish the episode and definitely has me wanting to tune in next week for episode 2.
Say what you will about A-1 Pictures, Persona 5 the Animation looks great for the most part. I say the most part because for the majority of scenes, especially the key moments the artwork and animation is spectacular. Virtually on par with what we see in the game’s animated cutscenes. But there are times where it suffers from Dragon Ball Super syndrome where characters in non-key scenes and the background characters look like this.
The worst part is that it becomes more noticeable when that scene is book-ended by art that looks as sharp as this.
Besides the amazing story, my favourite aspect of Persona 5 is the music. And thankfully they’ve used the same score pieces that featured in the game here in the anime. And best of all at the end of the episode we get a brand new piece titled ‘Break in to break out’ which will be the series’ opening going forward.
The first episode of Persona 5 the Animation is off to a strong start. The story we’ve seen so far is faithful to the series and the sharp artwork, combined with the stellar soundtrack has me excited to see what’s in store for us in the coming episodes and wanting to jump back in and re-start the game.