Persona 4: The Animation - "You're Myself, I'm Yourself" Episode 1 Recap
Persona 4: The Animation is
based on the popular “Persona” series of games, which is a spin-off to the Megami Tensei video
game series created by Atlus. The Persona series as
whole is generally about a group of teenagers (usually school students)
who end up gaining special psyche abilities known as “Persona” and fight
the mysterious “shadows”, who belong to a completely different realm.
Persona is the ability to summon particular manifested spirits based on
different characters of Japanese Mythology who symbolize their user’s
regrets, wishes and other attributes, depending on who they are. In most
of the games that have been currently released, the plots usually
revolve around the main characters fighting life’s most cruelest
elements. The games can focus on things like facing death, who you
are on the inside, the truth about the world itself, the truth on how
people really feel about you, and the things you never wanted to know. The series uses these realistic
ideas while portraying different mythological elements in order to deliver a big slice-of-life adventure, a learning lesson that may even inspire you. In short, the Persona series is meant to be mysterious with way out there and yet give players plenty of things to relate to at the same time. This is one of the things that the director of
Persona 4, Katsura Hashin and the
other Persona game developers try to strive for when creating this
series. The series tends to be dark
during it’s most critical plot moments, but there are also a lot of fun characters and light moments to balance things and keep you smiling. This is particularly true for the game this anime is based on, which is actually full of very light elements while taking a lot of dark twists that will grow as the plot takes root throughout the show. One challenge that often rears its head when translation happens across mediums is the necessity of making the material accessible to new audiences within the span of a single episode. Sadly, while this first episode might please those who know what the game is all about, it might be more confusing to first-time watchers.
The episode begins with the main character, Yu Narukami, awakening in a limousine that is being driven through a very dense fog. He is suddenly introduced to the limousine’s residents, Igor and Margaret. Igor welcomes Yu to, as he calls the limousine, “The Velvet Room”. Igor uses arcana cards to read Yu’s future, saying that “A great mystery will soon be imposed upon you”, before allowing him to wake up from what turns out to be a dream. Yu finds himself on the train from Tokyo to Inaba. His parents live abroad and he is traveling to begin his stay with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, as well as his daughter Nanako. After stopping at a gas station for a break, Yu talks to the attendant about Inaba in hopes he might get a job there. After shaking hands with the attendant, Yu begins to feel fatigue and sick for a little while.
Yu’s new start at Yasogami High School begins on April 21st. He ends up meeting Chie Satonaka and Yukiko Amagi in his new homeroom, in addition to his foul-mouthed teacher Mr. Morooka (also known as “King Moron” by his students). Meanwhile, a girl named Saki Konishi ends up finding the dead body of a TV announcer named “Mayumi Yamano” hanging on a roof antenna.
On Yu’s second day he meets Yosuke Hanamura, who treats him to some beefsteak as a welcome to the town. Chie barges in as she feels like Yosuke owes her for breaking her DVD the day before. While at Junes, the local department store, Chie tells Yu and Yosuke about “The Midnight Channel”, a mysterious program that appears only on rainy midnights when you stare into your TV; where you will see your “soul mate”. The group decides to try it out for fun and Yu is surprised to see Saki there. After a split second, he begins to hear a strange voice inside of his head that says “I am thou… thou art me” which causes him a lot of sudden pain in his head. As Yu grabs the television for support, his hand ends up slipping through the screen and he is almost pulled inside. Luckily, Yu’s TV set is small, so he is able to push himself out. He wonders what in the world just happened.
The following day, Yu tells the others that his TV literally almost ate him, but Yosuke and Chie don’t believe him at all. Chie lightly suggests that the trio try to go inside the larger TV in a store’s electronics section. Yu ends up sticking his hand inside the TV again, shocking Chie and Yosuke.
The three end up falling into the TV, which transports them to a mysterious, foggy world. The group is attacked by monster creatures called “shadows” and during the chase to survive, Chie falls unconscious when she is struck by one of the monsters. When their situation is at its worst, Yu ends up unlocking a strange power within himself. He hears the voice inside himself again, and summons forth what he suddenly calls his Persona, “Izanagi” who belongs to what is called “The Fool Arcana”. With it, he easily destroys the shadows chasing them.
As we’ve seen this episode introduces Yu Narukami, who ends up moving into what it seemed to be a normal country town, but many weird things happen in the progress. He has his weird dreams, a murder occurs, his TV almost eats him, and when he and his friends are attacked by monsters he summons a giant sword warrior named “Izanagi”, who is based on a deity of Japanese mythology. With the video game, this material was presented via a very long tutorial to introduce everything to the player and help him or her understand what’s going on. Here in the anime though, the story is crammed together and this makes things confusing for first-time watchers. To be fair, it could possibly have exact opposite effect as well. Some viewers might find this mysterious and want to keep watching to find out more.
This episode is delicious fan service for all those who love anything that has to do with Persona, especially its fourth title. The quality animation, music, and characters are certainly all here, so even if you are new to this series I would still give it a good chance. The ride is worth it and the series becomes less confusing as it progresses. Yosuke and Chie are good examples of the great characters this show has to offer; they are both very lively and make things fun with their goofy attitudes in every scene.
As I mentioned with Izanagi, most “Persona” are all based on Japanese mythology and the mysterious arcana cards that Igor always uses in the Persona series link with that as well. These things demonstrate the deep effort put into the Persona series and its many details. The Arcana cards are different classes of a Tarot card series that separate into twenty-two Major Arcana cards and four Minor Arcana cards. While the Minor cards appear in Persona 2, these have no relation to Persona 4 at all. The Major cards that have a big element in this anime in particular are named as follows: Fool, Magician, Priestess, Empress, Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Justice, Hermit, Fortune, Strength, Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, Devil, Tower , Star, Moon, Sun, Judgement, and World. All of these cards relate to different Persona species that the main character can summon. But, in order for Yu in particular to earn these different cards to become stronger and fight more fierce shadows, he has to befriend people who relate to these cards. The cards are all based on different personalities and have their own unique stories; which would take too long to explain in detail. All you need to know is that each card relates to somebody Yu will meet in the series, and when Yu befriends one of these people he will form a “Social Link” which gives him the power to use the corresponding Arcana card to that person the Persona associated with it. For example, Yu himself is the Fool Arcana, so he has access to it and Izanagi by default. He can use other arcana as well due to a special ability known as “The Wild Card” that he somehow gained.
My favorite aspect of this series is that while in the game the protagonist is silent and you choose what he says, here in the animation we get to really see what he would have said and done in certain situations, making it a new experience for people who have been through the game and know what’s coming. So, here Persona 4 the Animation gets off to a rocky start but not a bad one. While the story can be confusing, it makes up for it later when more aspects and plot points are introduced that put the puzzle pieces of this story together with it’s memorable cast of characters who will keep things fun no matter what happens. So sit down, lean back, and get ready to say “Persona!”