To me, every anime adaptation of a game has felt like they took a game and tried to shoehorn an anime out of it. It’s always been obvious to me. Will Persona 4 be different?
The problem with a lot (if not all) game to anime adaptations is that there’s been game elements that don’t transfer over very well. Things like…
- Overly diverse band of characters – any of the Tales of… adaptations is probably the perfect example here. When your roving gang ranges in age from 8 to 35, well… it’s hard to take very seriously.
- The scope is too big – who’s guilty? Basically every single game adaptation to date. So many worlds, and just the right number of teenagers to save those world.
- Unrealistic band of heroes – This is somewhat related to the point above. Ok, nobody wants to root for goliath, but sometimes the Davids need a little more credibility. One of the better adaptations was Valkyria Chronicles, it had one of the more “believable” settings – yeah I could see a youth group militia doing some damage, winning some inspiring battles. No, I don’t see them and and their one tank defeating the faux-Nazi empire though. And yeah, while I enjoyed the eye candy, a militia with over 50% women recruits? Really stretching it there.
- Crappy battles – anime has rarely captured the intensity of the RPG battle. The action scenes have usually been one of the major weak parts, because while giving out spell commands and whatnot in a video game is fun and exciting, it doesn’t work as well when you’re just watching it on screen.
Persona 4 is going to be different because the game itself was different. For one, Protagonist and friends aren’t going to save the world (still have a tough time not calling the main guy Protagonist). It’s a very self-contained story that’s built around a murder mystery. It’s a cool, much more accessible story that could feel at home within a manga or light novel. Also, the people that come together, they come together because they go to school together and they’re friends. Not because they randomly met hobos during a long journey. One of the coolest part of the game was building social links. While I don’t think we’re going to see them in play much in the anime (maybe some of the side quests?), it let you get more immersed in the world and the “friends” around you.
What’s been good so far:
- I have a lot of respect for director Seiji Kishi, he directed Seto no Hanayome which is hands down my favorite comedy of all time. Unfortunately his dramatic work has been mixed – Angel Beats, solid; Kamisama Dolls, less so. The biggest problem has been a schizophrenic tone. It’s great for an off the wall comedy like Seto no Hanayome. It’s a mood killer if done poorly within a more dramatic series. Persona has a great sense of humor – but it’s not zany. So far though, I think Kishi has shown much more restraint than he’s done in the past and it’s paid off as I’m not getting the whiplash I got from his previous dramas.
- Love the seiyuu. I knew they had an all star cast, what with Ami Koshimizu, Yui Horie, Rie Kugimiya, Romi Paku and many more, but I actually played P4 with the English voices – I can’t remember if there even was a Japanese option in the game, but even if they did, I thought the English VOs did a great job as well. So hearing the original Japanese cast is like being reintroduced to the characters all over again.
- Shoji Meguro soundtrack. If Engrish was as cool and hip as it sounds in Shoji’s work, it’d be the number one language in the world. Seriously though, hearing the P4 soundtrack in the silver screen is awesome.
- The battles have been surprisingly good. I was pretty curious about how they’d handle them, but giving the Personas a fighting consciousness of their own seems to be working out ok. It gives the battles a mecha-battle-like feel.
- It’s a little weird hearing the Protagonist’s voice. It’s not bad, but it’s sort of like if you heard Link from Legend of Zelda talk one day. It just takes some getting used to considering “he” used to be “me”
I haven’t gotten around to watching Mirai Nikki yet, but Persona 4 has been a solid #2 this season for me (behind the awesome Fate/Zero). P4 is very faithful to the game, but if it stays strong, there’s a good chance that eventually I’ll start thinking of it as anime first and game second.