First Impressions: Persona 4 the Golden Animation


Welcome to the... well, you know.

Persona 4 is among the most addictive and stubborn video game properties of the past 4 years -- you couldn't get rid of it if you wanted to! A lightning in a bottle that continues to hook us in with spin-offs and now, a second anime retelling. But this time, we're going full-on New Game Plus.


The first few minutes are all too familiar for those who have played the game or watched the 25-episode AIC Rasta's anime rendition in 2011: Aria of the Soul, cryptic words of fate, a promise of adventure. The opening song rolls out, the tune unchanged from the Playstation Vita game, devoid of any production or staff credits -- only giant names of the characters flash on screen. The studio knows what you want; they know why you're here. 

I can already tell: this isn't going to follow in the footsteps of the previous Persona 4: The Animation. The first adaptation was a earnest effort to cater to newcomers as well as existing fans, sticking closely to the source material with some new side content to pad the story. Persona 4 the Golden Animation however, plays out like a "greatest hits" compilation.

Remember when I said the opening credits only feature character names? That turned out to be the only introduction viewers will get. Nanako, Chie, Yukiko, Yosuke: all our familiar cast members that have proper and unique introductions in the game don't even have scenes where they exchange names. They're just there and ready to get the story going. 

Newcomers beware, this is a show that will leave you in the dust in favor of getting all the new P4G content into this new adaptation that will only last 12 episodes -- less than half the length of the original anime. This is a show that is very clearly aimed that those who played the game or watched the previous anime, so this is where I'll start getting weirdly specific about the anime and source material.

This P4G Animation features a different Yu Narukami. This is a bonafide, max-stats Yu who possesses heroic courage, sagely knowledge, enthralling expression, saintly understanding and rock solid diligence. This Yu goes down the spicier path of life, being about as outgoing as his character can be in the game via dialogue choices. Not only that, but I swear I see a vague twinkle in his eye when he does all these things, as if HE KNOWS. He knows that's he's done all this before. 

The way he instigates conversations, talks to people who should be complete strangers as if he's known them his whole life, the way he extends his hand first, that damn vague expression of satisfaction he wears. I swear, this is some kind of bizarre meta-Yu, and it's messing with my mind! 

But my dumb theories aside, something else this adaptation starts to do is take some steps in creative liberty. Those who played the game multiple times and have the sequence of events burned into your mind will see a myriad of small differences, many I would assume, in the interest of time. The initial entry into to the TV world is probably the biggest example as it consolidates multiple events into this one trip, and makes some giant omissions as well. These may be small ripples, but the more I feel like these could be the catalyst for bigger waves of changes to come. 

The final nail into the coffin that this isn't your typical Persona 4 is the final action sequence in the TV world where literally thousands of shadow enemies appear onscreen, swarming our heroes. In Yu's very first Persona summon, he not only manages to annihilate every last one of them, he does it with what looks like the Megidolaon attack from the video game, a skill acquired late-game which decimates every living enemy in a blinding flash of light. Not quite your typical skill set for a beginner Persona.

Both directors listed as working on this adaptation have histories with this universe, as Seiji Kishi is the returning director of Persona 4: The Animation, and Tomohisa Taguchi who is directing the second Persona 3 film Midsummer Knight's Dream. The character look and design feel still seems very similar to the previous adaptation, despite being a A-1 Pictures production this time around. The higher production values are apparent in a few very beautiful scenes, but some of the awkward wonky character drawings that plagued the first series still persists to a lesser extent in this new production.

This is definitely not meant for the uninitiated, and is more of an act of fan service for those in the know. This is a heavily abridged version of the story that cuts out much of the character development and subtler story points, highlighting the bare minimum and focusing on adapting the new content from the game. The new face of the series, Marie, seems to be the only one who gets the full character treatment with a proper introduction and decent screen time.

None of the character-specific dungeons are to be found, or even alluded to, making me think that many of them may be omitted, if not altogether. Next week's episode preview already features Kanji, who doesn't appear until 1/4 into the original narrative, meaning the break-neck pace will not let up anytime soon. 

It's hard to say how I feel about this. The visual upgrade is noticeable, but I was hoping for something even more of a departure from the original animation. And while I'm enjoying the nods to the original material and the interesting ways it tries to condense the narrative, I can't help but feel the twinge of shame that this series is completely guilty of the typical, "If you're a hardcore fan, you'll feel right at home; if you're not, then there's very little to like here" phrase. 

Like everything related to Persona 4, this is a quirky weird show that seems like it'll have some interesting tricks up its sleeve that will cater to fans whether you played the Playstation Vita remake or not. It does practically require you to at least know the original storyline to really appreciate what it's doing here, but it genuinely has my attention despite knowing this song and dance like the back of my hand.

[Watch Persona the Golden Animation on Crunchyroll!]

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Dae Lee
Dae LeeContributor   gamer profile

I can't stop watching anime, listening to idol music, and playing video games. It's a wonder I'm still alive. Do the twitter thing @NewSchoolDae more + disclosures



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