Persona 4 – The Animation Volume 2 (Episodes 10-17) (Cert 12)
1 Disc BluRay / 2 Disc DVD (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 195 minutes approx.
Resuming the action where we left it, popular idol Rise “Risette” Kujikawa is the latest victim of the supernatural Midnight Channel, where a person’s “other self” is shown before they are brutally murdered. Here the young singer is struggling with her public and private persona, bemoaning how people cannot see the “real” Rise and her debut on the Midnight Channel will be quite the revealing spectacle if Yu Narukami and the rest of the Investigation Team don’t get there in time to save Rise.
If you thought the first volume of this series based on a popular video game franchise was erratic then you ain’t seen nothing yet. In fact “erratic” may be too weak a word for this follow-up release. Perhaps “Schizophrenic” maybe more appropriate. Some episodes are strictly focused on the dark side of the Midnight Channel fulfilling the supernatural mystery drama remit of the show while others are frivolous bits of humorous fluff, often not having a single bearing on the main plot at all. One double episode shot in particular in which Yu becomes a hero to a group of disparate people over the summer holidays would no doubt make a neat one off OVA for another character but within the context of this show, it means diddly squat – even with the presence of a charitable fox.
By now the pattern has been cemented for introducing new characters and this is adhered in these latest episodes. After Rise is rescued the team meet up with Naoto Shirogane, a junior detective of some repute who arrives in town to help the police with their investigation. Naoto offers to work with Yu and friends after their homeroom teacher is found dead – only he did not appear on the Midnight Channel first as per the usual form. Despite having no love for their late teacher – they nicknamed him “Moron” – the group enter the TV to find answers, followed swiftly by Naoto. Naturally, Naoto falls victim to the other world’s bizarre effects to reveal Naoto’s true personality fears that need confronting. And this one has quite the outcome.
One regular cast member also has a big surprise for the team. Teddy, the large rotund comic figure finally defeats his Shadow during the clash with Rise’s Shadows and takes on a human form for when in the real world. His appearance is that of a cute young boy with blonde hair who like to flirt with the ladies, winning an army of female fans in the process. He’s still an annoying little twerp though but a valuable member of the team as far as the world of the Midnight Channel is concerned.
For a show that is supposedly based around solving a spate of gruesome murders, there is a lot of levity and scatty humour present, sometimes making up the basis of an entire episode. For instance, after Naoto joins both the team and enlists at the school, they are whisked off on a school trip where they end up in a night club, get intoxicated after a few bevvies and play silly games. Other than showing another side to our heroes without the unsolicited ignominy of being paraded on TV, this has little relevance to the main story, similar to the aforementioned saga of Yu’s summer holiday.
Aside from the Investigation Team gaining two new members (and themselves earning their own Persona) there seems to be very little story progression within these eight episodes. Occasionally Yu’s police detective uncle Ryotaro Dojima and his bumbling sidekick Tohru Adachi show up to moan about the case, making some inroads by arresting an ostracised classmate of Yu’s, Mitsuo Kubo, a chief suspect of the murders in the wake of Moron’s death. Admittedly significant, events like these occur every two or three episodes, followed up by more unrelated nonsense, making for some very uneven pacing of what should be a gripping murder mystery story.
Thankfully the visuals are top notch to offer consolation while sitting through the weaker episodes and the action scenes are again well executed. One major niggle about the presentation is on the subtitle front regarding to signs and notices. In one scene at the end of the final episode in this set, someone is shown typing something on a computer screen – but what this is remains unknown as this wasn’t translated for us. Just how important is this text to the main story? Vital? A red herring perhaps? Who knows? An egregious error there which leaves us non-Japanese speakers (and readers) at quite an infuriating handicap unless it is explained in the next volume.
While there is always something happening in this second release of Persona 4 it is not always congruent to the plot and certainly doesn’t maintain any consistency in tone or narrative, making for quite the confused viewing experience. Perhaps one needs to have some prior knowledge of the video games to “get” this but after the promising start, this middle section is a largely bloated affair. Hopefully this will be resolved in the final instalment.
Mister Jikken (Drama 2)
Magical Jikken (Drama 3)
Ratings – ***
Man In Black