Prior to watching this show, my knowledge of the Persona series has been pretty fringe. I had heard about it from friends and played a bit of P3 before I kinda stopped caring. Since watching this series, I’ve played through P3, perfected P5, and watched a couple of the P3 movies. THAT BEING SAID, I’ve barely played any of P4, I think at most finishing the early Yosuke section, so I have little knowledge of the specific game that this anime is based off of, meaning I have no idea what parts were changed in the transition from game to anime.
For the uninitiated, Persona 4 follows the story of Yu Narukami, a high school student who moves out to a small town in the country to live with his uncle and cousin for the next year. Over the next few days, Yu finds out about the mysterious “Midnight Channel”, a program that appears on TV at midnight during rainy nights. At the same time, a string of murders occur in town, where the victims appear after a foggy day, and their bodies are dangling from television antennas. Upon investigating his TV during a Midnight Channel broadcast, Yu finds that he can reach into the TV and later discovers that he can use that to enter a new world. Yu and his friends enter the Midnight Channel world to try and solve the mysteries within. There, they find that (through personal growth) can summon entities known as Persona, that can fight the dangerous monsters in the Midnight Channel. (That’s about as concise and spoiler free I can make that summary)
The characters in this show are great, and arguably the best part of the game as well. All eight of the main characters have arcs that they go through. They all have flaws and strengths, and seeing the hardships that self-reflection that they have to go through can be really heartwarming. Even the side characters have story arcs, and these get focused because their arc helps Yu grow as a person and gives him more Persona powers.
The only problem I have (and this is consistent in Persona 5 as well) is that the ending seems weird. During the show, Teddy says that the fog recently came over the Midnight Channel, at around the time the murders started happening. The murders were happening because somebody was throwing people into the midnight channel, where they would succumb to their shadow and die. They find the murderer, defeat them, the fog is lifted, and Yu gets on the train to go back home. Good story…… however, there is still one more episode. In it, the day before Yu gets on the train is re-conned, and some godlike entity says that they set up the Midnight Channel as some sort of test for humanity/ Yu has to fight Margaret in order to snap out of whatever funk he was in, and the power of friendship is used to defeat the god. And then Yu gets on the train for real this time. It seems weird: the villain who’s been causing the character’s problems the whole time was defeated… and then there’s another villain afterward. The same thing happens in P5, and to a lesser extent in P3. It seems really tacked on, and maybe it’s presented better in the game, but it kinda irks me how consistent that “twist” is in these games. (honestly it’s kind of a JRPG thing)
Persona 4 (the game) was extremely popular and thus it spawned a lot of spin-offs and branches into other media, and based off of the anime, it’s easy to see why. The concept is interesting, the characters are all very complex and likable, and the story that the characters go through easily translates from the game to the anime, and the shift from the game art style (PS2 era) to an anime allows for changes in the fights to allow for more complexity that may not have been available in the game. If your willing and able to play the game, I’d suggest doing that as there’s likely a lot of complexities that the anime isn’t able to fit in, but if you’re just in the mood to watch the story (and only have about 12 hours to spare and not 120), then “Persona 4: The Animation” is a good sit.