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Review: Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream

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Despite its pacing problems and general lack of an overarching story, I enjoyed Persona 3 The Movie: #1 Spring of Birth. As far as animated film adaptations of long games go, I think it did a novel job of compressing hours of gameplay and story into about 90 minutes. The first film had the unlucky task of handling the least interesting part of Persona 3's tale, the intro hours, but director Noriaki Akitaya and the production team managed to shift the focus enough that it totally worked. Fortunately for new director Tomohisa Taguchi and for us viewers, the next chunk of Persona 3 is far more intriguing.

Picking up after the end of Spring of Birth, Midsummer Knight's Dream begins with the crew taking down yet another large Shadow, only now with the help of Mitsuru and her powerful ice Persona. With all the hard work they've put into their after school monster hunting activities, it's about time for some R&R. Summer vacation is in full swing, which means its time for an all expenses paid island trip Yuki, Junpei, and Aikhiko go on an adventure to pick up girls, things go poorly, and the three young men are left to soak in their own self-pity. This doesn't last too long, as Yuki notices a beautiful blonde-haired girl staring off into the ocean, dress flowing in the wind. Who is she, and where did she come from...?

Persona 3 The Movie #2: Midsummer Knight's Dream
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Distributed by: Aniplex
Release Date: June 7, 2014

Much like Movie #1, Midsummer Knight's Dream cuts off a lot of the fat from the Persona 3 story so that it can make its way to the end goal within the allotted run-time. What this means is that there are zero social link side stories, and ultimately very little of the school-life portions that help to make the game's so endearing. That being said, I think in the name of letting the full Persona 3 narrative breathe, these were necessary cuts. The film already suffers from how chopped up the original storytelling was, and bringing in the optional content would have only made the pacing suffer more.

Unlike Spring of Birth however, the portion of the game that Movie #2 covers is both eventful and ties into the larger plot at large. The film essentially kicks off with Aigis' entrance, and it ends on a huge story beat that also happens to serve as a strong cliffhanger. In my Persona 3 The Movie: #1 piece, I noted that in order to give the narrative a proper through-line, Yuki was given an extremely apathetic personality. The goal was to show his gradually growth into a person who could depend and care about others by the end of the movie, and it works. This time around, the underlying theme becomes “do we really want to go back to everyday life?” The notion of a fear of normality is shared across most of the cast: Yuki is afraid of losing his place, Fuka wants to be useful to the people she cares about, Ken has finally found a new family. The list goes on, but ultimately the heroes now have a true objective (destroying all the large Shadows), and are unsure as to whether they actually want to see it through or not. The seeds of confusion are planted by the primary antagonists, the Persona-users that comprise Strega, who would see the Dark Hour continue eternally if they had their way.

Much of the film's focus is on Aigis and her super powers, but the emotional core rests in Ken and Shinji's laps. If you despised Ken in the original game, this isn't going to change your opinion, but I for one never had much of a problem with his character. He's an emotional elementary school kid who has no family to turn to, is given a powerful weapon, and is jarringly made aware of the tragic truth behind his mother's death. After barely appearing in Spring of Birth, Shinji gets plenty of screen time here and happens to have one of the funniest moments across both films thus far.

My biggest complaint yet again is the general disjointedness of the movie. Often times the characters will go from hanging out at a restaurant to fighting a main boss Shadow back to back with only a calendar transition to let the audience know that time has passed. On the one hand, the film series has finally introduced its main antagonists and end goal, so it actually feels as though the characters are working toward something. On the other hand, that hasn't erased the fact that due to the nature of the source material, lots of time gets skipped over frequently. That being said, I understand that this is a unique problem that's present when adapting the Persona franchise for TV or film, and I'm willing to accept that these films aren't going to try and find an alternative. It's just something that bares mentioning regardless.

On the technical side of things, A-1 Productions has taken over animation duties for AIC ASTA, and it certainly shows. Aigis gets the brunt of the great animation cuts, with her introductory action sequence being a real showstopper. There's still some off-model wackiness that goes on here and there, but on the whole it's solid across the board, and a decent enough step up from the first movie. It's certainly leaps and bounds better than the original animated cutscenes in the Persona 3 game. Shoji Meguro's soundtrack is an electric mix of music from the game and new themes which blend together nicely. His work is rarely ever anything less than great, and I'm looking forward to grabbing the soundtrack CD whenever it's made available. I also want to give a quick shout-out to the best use of the Persona 3 battle theme ever: you'll know it when you see it.

Persona 3 The Movie: #2 had the monumental task of not only introducing the core story for the remaining films, but also its primary villains and the rest of the cast. Despite thr brief run time of 93 minutes, it manages to do that as well as impress with some great action sequences and some drama to boot. I wasn't sure what to expect with the studio switch from AIC ASTA to A-1 Pictures, but clearly it was the right move.

I had my doubts about trying to adapt Persona 3 into a series of films. It's a huge game with a massive cast, lots of various subplots, and way too much content to tackle in such a short time span. To my surprise however, the movies have been doing a noble job of it. While nothing can replace the experience of actually playing the original source material, Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream is a great watch for fans of the game. If you have friends who have always wanted to dip their toes into the franchise without the time investment, you can do a hell of a lot worse than sitting them down with the films.

8.0 – Great. A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.


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Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream reviewed by Elliot Gay

8

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Elliot Gay
Elliot GayContributor   gamer profile

Elliot is an associate editor for Japanator and can be found contributing to Destructoid on occasion. He lives in Japan and can be found on Twitter @RyougaSaotome. more + disclosures


 



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