It’s finally here, the show I’ve been anticipating the most out of the 2011 Fall anime season. Could it possibly live up to all the expectations and hype I have placed on it in these past weeks? To me at least, it’s a resounding yes.
Your story opens in the Velvet Room, the “realm between dream and reality, mind and matter.” There you meet the mysterious Igor and his beautiful assistant, Margaret. Igor reads your fortune and tells of your unusual destiny. The velvet room is a place where usually only those that have signed a contract may enter. Perhaps this and more lies in store for you. With words of farewell, Margaret hopes that your paths may eventually cross again.
This is how your, or rather, Yu Narukami’s story begins. He’s on his way to Inaba, a small rural town in the country side where he will be living and going to school for the next year while his parents work overseas. When Yu arrives at the trainstation in town, he is met by his uncle Detective Ryotaro Dojima, and his young cousin, Nanako.On their way home, they make a brief stop at a gas station, and Yu is greeted by an attendant. The attendant warns of the boring life of a small rural town, and sends Yu on his way with a handshake. Just as they set to leave, Yu has a sudden dizzy spell, but writes it off as being tired from the trip. When at Dojima residence, Yu falls asleep after unpacking and has a strange dream of a figure shrouded in fog telling him to try and catch the Truth if he can.
The next day is Yu’s first day as a second year student at Yasogami High School. There he meets the energetic Chie Satonaka and her friend Yukiko Amagi. Later on that foggy day, a girl finds a body strung up from a tv antenna. As news of the grisly murder spreads, so does rumors about the Midnight Channel, where if you look into a turned off TV at midnight, your soul mate will appear on screen. The next day life goes on as usual, and Yu runs into his classmate Yosuke Hanamura, stuck in a trash can, on the way to school. After helping him out, Yosuke decides to treat Yu to lunch after school at the local megastore, Junes. Of course, Chie tags along. There, while discussing the murder and the midnight channel, they encounter an upperclassman, Saki Konishi, the girl who discovered the body the previous day.
Later at home Yu decides to check out the Midnight Channel, only to see an image of Saki Konishi appear on screen. Suddenly a voice resounds in his mind claiming “I am thou. Thou art I.” Disoriented he reaches toward the TV only to have his hand go into the TV. The next day, Chie and Yosuke don’t buy Yu’s story, so they go to Junes’ electronics department to try it out. They end up actually falling into the TV. There lies a world covered in thick fog, inhabited by deadly Shadows. A strange, seemingly friendly bear gives Yu a pair of glasses that allow him to see through fog as if it wasn’t there, and then runs off before Yu and the gang are attacked by a group of Shadows.
Unable to escape the Shadows’ pursuit, frozen in place by fear, the same words from the previous night ring in Yu’s ears and a Tarot card of the Fool Arcana appears before him. Saying the single word, “Persona,” Yu grasps the card and Izanagi appears. Using this new found power, he fights off the shadows.
Now, a big part of what made the episode a success in my mind is how closely they are sticking to the original source. The way the date changes, Yu’s personality stats during the eyecatch, the soundtrack, etc. There’s a lot of little things that the studio has done to make this feel as if you are literally playing the game in anime form. Using the theme song from the game with a unique opening for the first episode was a great touch, while what will be the opening theme for the rest of the show was used for the ending credits this week. In terms of how the show looked, it was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the character designs are great and have managed to carry over the look and feel of the show, but the art can be a bit inconsistent. That’s not to say this didn’t look good. It was blatantly clear where the budget went this episode, and it was clearly the summoning of Izanagi and the battle that followed.
With regards to the pacing, from the perspective of someone that’s played the game, it did feel a bit too fast paced. However, that is in part because the opening segments of the game leading up to the first battle as seen in this episode are rather long. A lot happened in the episode, and that’s evident from my summary alone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, at least in my opinion. The show is set to be a two cour series (about 26 episodes) so I feel like they’ll have plenty of time to cover the major points from the game along with a lot of the side elements if they keep the pace up. My only concern is whether it is hard to follow for people that haven’t played the game. With that in mind, I’d love to hear thoughts and opinions from those that did watch the episode and are not familiar with the game. Of the shows I’ve seen from this season, Persona 4 has managed to live up to my hype and it’s my favorite of the season.
The Anime Network is simulcasting Persona 4 only a few hours after it airs in Japan, so I decided to watch it on their site. Other than the site going down shortly before the first episode was set to air, I was pleasantly surprised. Sites like Crunchyroll require a premium account if you want to watch simulcasts as soon as they air. While you can wait a week to watch shows free, if you aren’t a premium member you won’t be watching it in HD and it will be full of ads. The Anime Network’s stream on the hand was HD, with no ads, all for free. It’s a pretty sweet deal, and I had no problems with the stream once the site came up. I guess the only complaint I could mention was the large yellow subtitles, but it’s a relatively small complaint when the quality of the translation was top-notch and it’s a high quality free stream. In any case, if they continue to put out the rest of the series in this quality for free, I see no reason not to watch it on The Anime Network. It even conveniently comes out at a time when I’m killing time in between class on campus where I don’t have my computer with me.
Reach out to the truth.