The mystery surrounding the Midnight Channel continues in volume two of Persona 4: The Animation. The action picks up immediately after Yu Narukami and his friends from Yasogami High School traveled inside the TV world to track down and capture the gloating, unrepentant Mitsuo Kubo who, despite his claim, might not be the true killer after all. With the young boy in police custody, Yu and company engage in all sorts of teen-related chicanery during an eventful summer vacation before going back to school and partnering up with Naoto Shirogani, a young detective who becomes a member of the team after being rescued n a foolish attempt to face his own Shadow. The mystery comes to a head when Nanako, Yu’s innocent cousin, is kidnapped by the killer leading towards a dramatic chain of events in which the true face behind the kidnappings and the fog enshrouded world is ultimately revealed, pitting Yu into a battle to save humanity.
The first volume of the series was entertaining, if not a bit flawed. The breakneck speed of its pacing was a result of quickly introducing the key characters and resolving their personal struggles. Now that everyone has found their place at Yu’s side, the second volume feels considerably more relaxed and less hectic. Just as it did in the last volume, the series is at its best when the kids are allowed to act their age and find themselves in ridiculous situations. Collection two offers the most memorable and outrageous standout moments, including the mix up at the Amagi Inn’s bath house, the drag beauty contest, and an accidental drunken revelry at a nightclub (tipsy Yukiko is a sight to behold).
Persona 4: The Animation excels in many different avenues, but none are more prominent than the deft planning involved with adapting the game’s unique scenarios, gameplay elements, and multiple endings. Throughout the game, Yu partners with a fox in the Inaba’s shrine in order to help fulfill “ema” (small, wooden tablets with a written wish or prayer) left behind by various townspeople. For the animated series, this scenario is presented in a two part episode, the first from the point of view of Nanako (who dons the garb of Magical Detective Loveline to find out why her “Big Bro” is running around all over town) while the second is Yu’s elaboration of the events. The video game also had two separate endings, depending on the player’s actions. Both are written into the show and woven together well despite a slight revelatory fumble in the final episode. It’s been days since I finished watching the series and I still find myself admiring with how well a video game as complex as this one has been adapted.
I realize that I am more than a little biased towards Persona 4: The Animation, but my feelings towards it go beyond the sixty plus hours I’ve invested with the 2008 video game. Making the series special are the characters and how well they develop over the course of the twenty five episodes. The strict attention to detail, right down to the designs of the Personas and soundtrack, show a reverence for the source material. It’s also a quality piece of work as the characters, environments and special effects are beautifully detailed and rendered. Persona 4: The Animation should be considered required viewing.