Otaku USA Magazine
Honor Among Thieves!

Persona 5: The Animation is one of the funkiest game-to-anime adaptations that you can possibly imagine.

There are good and bad people out there in the world. You probably know a few of the bad ones, and you interact with them on a daily basis. Or maybe you are one. Maybe your heart is enshrouded in darkness and you just don’t know what to do about it. You’ve built up a castle around your innermost feelings and you’re the king or queen there. You’re always right, and no one can best you. But you’re hurting others and you need to bring your selfish ways to an end. What do you do? The Phantom Thieves, a group of unique high school students, steals your heart. And then you change your wicked ways and repent, hopefully becoming a much better person as you learn and grow.

That’s the gist of Persona 5, the excellent video game that inspired Persona 5: The Animation. Like Persona 4 before it, it’s a full-length anime series that adapts the entirety of the video game into digestible episodes that take far less long to complete than playing the RPG itself. Persona 5: The Animation is, in every sense of the word, brilliant. It’s a fantastic companion to the video game, and even if you’ve seen everything its source material has to offer, it’s well worth taking this very special ride once more, even if only to spend a little more time with the Phantom Thieves. Not sure it’s your cup of tea? Sit back, relax, and let the Thieves take your heart.

Lookin’ Cool, Joker!

Persona 5: The Animation begins just like the video game, which is with a bang. As the protagonist, you’re arrested during a certain heist you and your band of Phantom Thieves are pulling off —only you don’t get too far, because you’re hauled off to jail. Instead of a custom name in the series, of course, the protagonist’s name is Ren Amamiya, who goes by the codename “Joker.”

He’s interrogated by an investigator known as Sae Nijima over his actions while leading the Phantom Thieves through a series of crimes committed against individuals who, to be frank, were in dire need of being “corrected.” He relates the events to Nijima, going all the way back to his arrival in Tokyo after being on probation for an entire year, despite the fact that his crime was committed while helping a young woman who was being abused.

Nevertheless, Ren Amamiya must live in Tokyo now and attend school while living with a family friend and owner of a chill little café—Sojiro Sakura. During his probation, Amamiya must attend Shujin Academy, where he meets up with several characters that he’ll form a lifelong bond with—as well as the Phantom Thieves. It’s a complex beginning to an even more complex tale, but it certainly holds your attention, especially if you’re a big fan of police procedurals or mysteries. There’s a lot of them to unravel here.

Amamiya finds himself dipping into a dream world called the Velvet Room, where he meets a strange individual named Igor. Igor warns him that he is indeed a “criminal” and he needs to be rehabilitated if he doesn’t want to yield to further physical and mental decay. Thus, Igor allows him to use a special app that leads him into the Metaverse, a world where bizarre creatures and demons roam—a world you can enter and infiltrate a person’s heart. Amamiya eventually teams up with a ragtag bunch of students and acquaintances to try to fulfill the same goal: changing people’s darkened, tainted hearts and thus changing the world.

All-Out Attack!

Changing the world isn’t accomplished by just snapping your fingers and willing it into being, though. Amamiya and company fight with beings known as Personas, or creatures born from your innermost, truest feelings. Just as you were in the video game, you’ll be locked in combat with these powerful beings for a good part of your time. In the series, Personas look every bit as cool as they do in the game.

Of course, none of this would be possible without some of the most dependable friends a guy could have, and they come in the form of the rest of the Phantom Thieves. Ryuji Sakamoto, codename Skull, is Amamiya’s first fast friend, and he’s got a bit of a punk streak going through him. His Persona is Captain Kidd, which represents the Chariot Arcana.

Morgana, codename Mona, may look like a little cat, but he’s more like a mentor who helps the Phantom Thieves in all their exploits. His persona is Zorro, which isn’t a cat, but a cool-looking Persona that Morgana would like to assume in real life. Morgana himself can transform into a minivan in the game and has all kinds of interesting abilities in the anime as well.

Ann Takamaki, codename Panther, is a model and English-speaking friend who fills the femme fatale role as she comes into her own following an encounter early in the series. Her Persona is Carmen, who represents the Lovers Arcana.

These are just part of the crew, as it’s an ever-expanding group (a family, even) of Persona users united under a common role. As the series wears on you’ll meet even more characters, though we won’t ruin them all for you here—just know you’ll have difficulty choosing a favorite by the end of it all. There are complex relationships at play here that are just as important as the flash and the whimsy of battles between Personas and the whole spectacle that comes with “stealing” others’ hearts and eventually changing the world, even if it comes at a grave cost.

I Am Thou, Thou Art I

Persona 5: The Animation is one of the funkiest video game to anime adaptations you’ll see on the market. From its excellent score (Shoji Meguro, natch) to its transitions, palette, and flash taken straight from the game, it’s nearly as enthralling as strapping up and becoming a Phantom Thief yourself. If you finished Persona 5 recently and just want another romp with this vibrant and bizarre world or don’t have the time for a 100-hour RPG but want a quick primer, consider giving this fantastic adaptation a go.

Persona 5: The Animation is available from Aniplex of America.

This story appears in the October 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.

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