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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Persona 5: The Daybreakers.


Persona 5: The Day Breakers.



I swear this isn't 'video game tie-in anime' month. Really. It's entirely a coincidence that this is the third video game tie-in I've covered this month. This time, however, it isn't coming from Square-Enix, but from Atlus. Atlus' anime offerings have always been a bit hit and miss (more miss than hit, if we're all being completely frank), so going into The Daybreakers, the thirty minute OVA to hype up Persona 5, I wasn't expecting a huge amount.

It makes sense that Atlus might want to big up Persona 5 a little: Competition is pretty stiff, with it competing with not only Final Fantasy XV but also with Tales of Berseria and the European and US release of Digimon World Next 0rder, thus placing it squarely against two other big name releases in long-running worldwide franchises, and one smaller game with cult appeal in, again, a long-running worldwide franchise.

Set at an undisclosed time during the events of the game, the OVA follows the Phantom Thieves of Hearts as they follow up a request left on their website, and execute a heist against a gang of small-time crooks, culminating in a battle between the Thieves, accompanied by their Personas, and the Shadow of one of the thieves.

That's a pretty light plot summary, but as far as half hour OVAs go, this one has a heavy -- and very intentional -- emphasis on style over substance. Much like Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, this OVA is animated by A-1 Pictures (who seem to be the go-to group for these kinds of things, possibly because they will just take any project regardless of how grotesquely overworked their staff are), but the studio seems oddly in their element this time around, with colourful, bright, and stylish animation that manages to convey a distinct character.

Oddly, Morgana has a code name, despite being literally a cat who doesn't need a secret
identity.

A lot of that is probably down to the fact that this is only thirty minutes, and some of that is probably down to budget, but it's probably mostly down to the fact that Persona 5 already has a very strong and distinctive art style, and a heavy focus on a particular aesthetic. It's a lot easier to create something that looks sharp, visually interesting, and stylish if you have clear direction on exactly how you're meant to do that, and if there's one thing we can definitely say about the nigh-endless dripfeed of Persona 5 trailers, teasers, and screenshots we've gotten over the past I'm-not-even-sure-how-long, it's that they could practically function as a manual on Persona 5's artistic direction.

As far as the voice acting goes, it's all fine, in that it's all basically what you would expect from the voice actors involved. You've got Jun Fukuyama as Joker, doing his Lelouch voice (as opposed to his Shinra voice); Tomokazu Sugita as Yusuke, doing the same voice he does for basically every role; Mamoru Miyano, easily the voice actor on cast with the biggest range, playing Ryuuji with a fairly standard hot-blooded idiot turn; and Ikue Otani as Morgana, being Ikue Otani in every role she's ever done that isn't Pikachu; and so on, and so forth.

(I thought I heard Yoshimasa Hosoya at one point, but no, no, he's not in this, it's just that the past year of him showing up in everything has left me hearing him even when he's not around.)

The thieves. Well, the ones that appear in this OVA, at least.

All of which is to say that the voice acting is all pretty good, but not exactly daring -- every voice actor is well and truly in their comfort zone, which is, you know, fine. I'm perfectly content with those comfort zones. Not every product has to push its voice actors' boundaries.

Musical direction is fine, but as with Brotherhood, it's from the game's soundtrack, so that's not really the anime's achievement.

The plot, meanwhile, progresses in pretty predictable fashion. There's a twist at the end, but that was hardly a surprise, since it's practically mandated by law now that every piece of fiction revolving around a gang of master thieves should end with a twist that frames everything prior to it in a new and triumphant light. The whole thing is really meant to build to the big fight scene at the end, and all the drama, flair, and theatricality associated with it -- and in that regard, it does a pretty good job, with an actually pretty stunningly good fight scene to cap it all off.

Arsene, the most stylish Persona.

Ultimately, much like Brotherhood, this is a thirty minute commercial. I don't think anyone was ever pretending it wasn't, so that's probably a fairly uncontroversial view on my part. It was a fun enough commercial, though: I can't say it really made me any more excited for Persona 5 (although I'm pretty excited already), but I still enjoyed myself watching it.

Persona 5 was released in Japan last month, and will be released in Europe, Australia, and North America on the 14th of February 2017, so keep an eye out for that.

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