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DVD Review

DVD cover

Persona 4
The Animation
Box 3/3 (Blu-Ray & DVD combo set)


Starring (voice): Daisuke Namikawa, Ami Koshimizu and Showtaro Morikubo
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 22 July 2013

Final collection of episodes from the anime series based on the role-playing video game. The series follows Yu Narukami, a high school student who is sent to the countryside to live with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, and cousin, Nanako Dojima, when his parents' work takes them abroad. Yu quickly discovers that the countryside of Inaba is no ordinary place as he develops mysterious powers known as ‘Persona’ and embarks on adventures in a realm known as the ‘TV World’.

Collecting episodes 18-25 of the TV anime based on the bestselling RPG (plus the 'True End' episode 26), this set of Persona 4 episodes begins with the focus on the main character Yu's surrogate family, workaholic police detective Dojima and his lonely young daughter Nanako, as they confront their feelings stemming from the unsolved hit-and-run murder of Nanako's mother years before. The soapy denouement to their storyline results, as usual in this adaptation, in Yu's acquiring of further Personas, Tarot-themed mythological entities that allow him to fight against the monsters dwelling in the Jungian 'TV World' secretly threatening the town's inhabitants. The odd hybrid of emotional melodrama, awkward psychological symbolism and Pokémon-like creature collecting that results is a key feature of the Persona game series, but as a TV series without the player's control over the minimal narrative choices involved, it's seldom engaging.

With the Dojima's storyline concluded, it's time for a high school festival and all manner of hijinks involving the secondary cast members as they fail to stage a group-dating café and run afoul of fortune tellers, with the Lothario-like Yu's numerous relationships with girls causing their own share of mishaps. The culmination of this rather lacklustre comedy is the high school beauty pageant, one of the original game's most embarrassing moments reproduced in full: the male characters being entered as cross-dressers doesn't offset the objectifying treatment weighed out to the girls, especially when at least two characters' established gender identity issues are handled so awkwardly, and an overweight student and older female teacher are made the butt of some predictable gags.

Mercifully, after this and the next episode the comedy is largely dispensed with as the series moves into its home strait as the murders plaguing the town come into focus again. The convoluted plot revolving around a disgraced local politician, with various blind alleys and red herrings along the way, results in a threat to a main character that in the original game at least, was one of the more affecting scenes, as the suspect's madness collides with Yu's home life; the surreal scenarios of the TV World, which bring forth its victim's innermost desires, verge on the unsettling here. It's not long before the true perpetrator is revealed and the various threads of the plot, which have made little sense up to this point, come together in a final showdown that combines a killer's confession of his motives with a typically RPG-esque last battle.

This isn't the end, however, as the TV series' determined faithfulness to its source material requires the 'True End' of the story – only revealed in the game after dogged attentiveness on the player's part – to be set forth in a bonus episode, where the mythological themes of the protagonist's journey and his bonds with the other characters reach fruition and the true antagonist behind everything is confronted. While this denouement is effectively handled within the confines of Persona 4's story, the themes of confronting the truth, accepting reality and not embracing fantasy are spelled out so literally that any hope of subtlety or real emotional resonance is lost, an inevitable effect of the weak writing from which the game suffered, reproduced here.

As a TV anime Persona 4 has relatively little to commend it, with some animation mistakes and ill-drawn facial expressions becoming glaringly obvious, and the few moments of tension or comedy that don't fall flat aren't really enough to sustain it. One for completist fans of the game, but beyond that, it's of little appeal.


Richard Hunt

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