Writing a follow-up review for the remainder of the first half of Persona 4 feels rather odd - my notes taken watching the rest of the show to date look shockingly similar to those taken during the first three episodes. Thankfully, this is an overwhelmingly positive thing.
Persona 4 follows the adventure of a rag-tag group of high-school students (like most JRPGs) as they investigate a series of spooky murders that are occurring in the sleepy countryside town of Inaba. Said investigations take them into a parallel world within televisions; a nightmarish landscape full of monsters that the killer has been throwing his victims into to do the dirty work. In between all this, main character and former silent protagonist Yu Narukami spends his time trying to make friends and acclimatise to his new home.
Frankly, there is not much to say beyond what I wrote for the three episode review in November - all that I wrote then still applies. The most certain thing I can honestly say is that the show has not slipped in quality, maintaining its good pace and giving both fans of the original game and newcomers something to enjoy. In particular the show has a good eye for sifting the wheat from the chaff and prioritising what it animates, cutting down a very time consuming and at times long-winded series of events in the game and presenting it to you in a nice concise package. This is especially true of the many side stories that the game presented - instead of taking around a dozen discrete and content-thin events you only see the pertinent information as it relates to the main character and the ongoing mystery. The series even manages to poke fun at its roots a little, which is all in good fun.
Also a welcome treat is the show's willingness to create events that are not in the original game, while still maintaining the same spirit and sense of humour. Episode thirteen is probably the king of this, as it pulls out the rare and powerful tactic of creating a fake anime within itself and using that as a catalyst for events. The pacing of the show is still brisk, not dwelling too long on any one event and so preventing the storyline from becoming languid. This is especially welcome given the volume of source material that is to be covered, as mentioned previously. Characters, of which there are quite a few, are introduced and built out in a rapid-fire manner, which has the effect of making you pay attention as you know the show is not going to put the brakes on just to clue you in to the fact that Character X likes melons or something equally inconsequential. The main group of characters are always active and playing off of one another, helping to let you get to know them in double-quick time. They all still sport the bizarre shaving rash in their art that I mentioned in my previous review, and it still looks weird, but perhaps this is a personal issue.
The art and aesthetic of the show, borrowed directly from the game's user interface, is still present and works damn well, tying events together into a coherent whole even when the chronology is fragmented. The animation sometimes makes a dip into low-detail land, particularly when character's faces fall off-model and end up looking like melting ice cream, but such events are thankfully few and far between. The fight scenes, much like I mentioned previously, are well animated but can have a bizarre slow tempo to them, as if they were being drawn out to fill time. They still look bloody impressive however, and it's nice to see the creators of he show have thought of many different ways to make the events that happen in a strictly turn based battle system exciting in a TV format.
So there you go - Persona 4: The Animation is still worth watching. It's not the second coming of anime Jesus but it is well worth your time, both as a nice addition to the original video game and as it's own standalone series. I would honestly endorse the series if you wanted to get a comprehensive overview of the high points of the game, but didn't fancy going on an eighty-hour PlayStation 2 gaming spree.
You can currently watch Persona 4: The Animation in streaming form via Anime on Demand.
Japanese audio with English subtitles. Video is available in SD and HD resolutions for paid subscribers.
A thoroughly competent execution of a video game adaptation, with something for both die-hard super fans and newbies.