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Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1(TV) (2011-2012)
No synopsis for Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1.
For more about Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1 and the Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1 Blu-ray release, see Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1 Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 15, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, Sam Riegel, Laura Bailey
Director: Seiji Kishi
» See full cast & crew
Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1 Blu-ray Review
Mom always said standing too close to the television was dangerous.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 15, 2012
Do you have memories of books you read when you were a kid that no one else has seemingly ever heard of? I got a lot of hand me down Scholastic titles from my elder sisters, and for some reason two volumes I read when I was quite young have stuck with me for years. One is a book called Dorp Dead which I only have the vaguest memory of other than its intentionally misspelled title. The other one was a little mystery novel called The Velvet Room which was written by the euphoniously named Zilpha Keatley Snyder (could you forget a name like that?) and involved a young girl who discovered a secret room in her San Francisco home, a discovery which coincides with the disastrous San Francisco earthquake that devastated the city in the early years of the 20th century. (I should add that I am writing this entirely from memory, and you Zilpha Keatley Snyder fans—should you exist—may take issue with my summation of the book.)
I couldn't help but think of The Velvet Room when Persona 4: The Animation started up, for every episode begins with a bizarre little opening sequence featuring two odd characters addressing an unseen individual who is evidently existing from the point of view of the camera, because these two strange people identify their locale as—yep, you guessed it—the velvet room, even if it more aptly should be described as the back of a luxurious limousine. That little synchronicity was enough to initially hook me into Persona 4, but once the first episode really got underway, I confess I was wondering what exactly this show was going to be about. There was Yu, evidently the central character of the piece, a young man who has perhaps been exiled to the country to live with his uncle, a police detective named Ryotara Dojima, and Dojima's daughter Nanako. School starts up and Yu has a conflict with his teacher. Was this going to be another interminable quasi- shōnen outing with Yu interacting with a coterie of high school outcasts?
And then something rather unexpected happened: about halfway through the first episode, Yu turns on the television at midnight and discovers a bizarre show seemingly being broadcast and, strangest of all, he discovers he can reach into the television. Not to put too fine a point on it, that obviously freaks the young guy out, and he babbles incoherently about this phenomenon the next day to his new friends. They, of course, are not buying it, at least that is until they make him go to the local home electronics superstar to prove it to them, at which point all three of them fall into an alternate universe within the telly.
Those familiar with the Persona 4 universe will no doubt already know the Persona 4: The Animation was culled from a videogame franchise which featured a first person role playing game, so its transference to a third person narrative might initially seem to be ill advised. The first person aspect is obviously maintained through the introductory segments in The Velvet Room, but perhaps surprisingly crafting Yu as a visible hero actually strengthens the enterprise and anchors both the spooky elements as well as the comedy in something approaching reality. That said, Yu remains something of a cipher throughout the series, perhaps a recognition that the viewer has to imprint something of his own personality on the character much in the same way a gamer imparts something of his own when he plays a first person videogame.
Once Yu and his cohorts begin regularly visiting this alternate world reached via the portal of the television, strange murders in the "real" world seem to be linked to goings-on in this weird, interior universe. The mystery actually takes several episodes—perhaps too many episodes—to evolve, but Persona 4: The Animation manages to fill the time with some wonderful character beats as well as some genial if sometimes patently goofy humor.
Persona 4: The Animation wants to trade some intentional obfuscation for actual well conceived mystery in at least a couple of salient ways. The opening segments feature our two Velvet Room hosts, Igor (who resembles a cross between Nosferatu and Gollum) and Margaret, seemingly schooling their "guest" in various powers that are often linked to iconic Tarot cards like The Hermit or The Magician. Occult symbols are profligate in these sequences, though their meaning is often not very well explicated. The "persona" of the series' title refers to various powers that Yu is able to access in each episode, and while those perhaps expectedly aide him in defeating whatever nemesis he may be up against, once again the actual reason for the personas and how in fact they may relate to the opening sequences' cards is not ever very clearly explained.
This first two disc volume of Persona 4: The Animation gets the story a little less than halfway through the series' 26 episode arc. The connections between the exterior world murders and the mysterious goings-on inside the world accessed through the television have received a cursory explanation, but one has the feeling it may not be the ultimate answer. In fact this set of episodes ends (perhaps wisely, from a marketing standpoint anyway) with several questions about just what exactly it is Yu has been experiencing and why suddenly his Personas don't seem to be as instantly available as they once were. As any good television cliffhanger does, it's an incipient invitation to "tune in next week" (or next volume, as the case may be) to see how it all plays out.
Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Persona 4: The Animation is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is a very sharp and well detailed high definition presentation that also offers some intriguing design elements along the way. Part of the mystery of the murders and the overall ambience of the interior world have to do with a sickly yellow-green fog that overhangs everything, and that thin veil of "pea soup" casts a lot of the anime in a kind of ghastly palette, but rarely if ever sacrifices detail as a result. Line detail in fact is extremely sharp throughout this anime, and though colors are often intentionally subdued (some of the anime is almost in black and white at times), when colors are present, they pop extremely well. Persona 4: The Animation has the tendency to be kind of generic looking in establishing shots and some midrange shots, when facial features go completely missing and backgrounds look a bit slapdash, but overall this is an extremely appealing looking show that benefits from a superior high definition presentation.
Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Persona 4: The Animation features only an English language version, presented via a nicely rendered lossless DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 track. The inclusion of only an English language version actually made a few headlines in the somewhat insular world of anime, for the original Japanese language track featured many of the same voice actors who had done the videogame series. The Japanese licensors evidently did not want the Japanese language track appearing on this Blu-ray (though strangely they allowed its use on the DVD). Such are the vagaries of licensing agreements, which frequently make little sense to outsiders (and probably even insiders). The series has its fair share of neat sound effects, and those are presented with excellent fidelity and some nicely varied dynamic range. Dialogue is clean and clear at all times, and the series' themes and underscore are also presented with excellent fidelity. A surround track probably would have considerably opened up the hallucinogenic aural quality of some of the goings on in the interior world, but otherwise this DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track suffices quite nicely.
Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Persona 4 The Animation: Collection 1 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I have to admit I was kind of sighing impatiently through the first fifteen minutes or so of the premiere episode of Persona 4: The Animation. Reviewing as much anime as I do, and having weathered a few too many high school- centric anime that have little new to offer this subgenre, I was frankly trepidatious that I had wandered into yet another show detailing the slow, steady accretion of bonds between disparate (and often pretty geeky) kids. Thankfully, that complete misapprehension was changed dramatically once Yu started watching the so-called Midnight Channel and figured out he could actually transport to an alternate world. I'm still not quite certain Persona 4: The Animation is going to be able to tie the two worlds together coherently, and though I think I know what the preludes featuring Igor and Margaret in The Velvet Room may be alluding to, I'm equally uncertain whether their connection to the main storyline is ultimately going to pan out. But these are relatively minor qualms in what is otherwise a really interesting, well written and extremely well designed anime. Though this Sentai Filmworks release is a bit light on the supplements, its video and audio are excellent (though the exclusion of the original Japanese language track may well be a deal killer for rabid fans of the franchise), and this release comes Recommended.
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