What Is It:
A 24-minute anime special based on the Persona 5 RPG due out in Japan later this month and in the US next February. It follows a “story-of-the-week” format to introduce the “Phantom Thieves of Hearts”, who investigate an online tip to bring down the leader of a gang of cat burglars who also beats his little brother.
They do so by dropping him in the “perceived world”, summoning their Personas (powerful allies) to defeat his, and purging his heart of arrogance, so back in the real world he rats himself and his gang out to the police, and they’re promptly arrested.
Why You Should Watch:
If you’re a fan of the franchise and have been eagerly awaiting its 20th anniversary offering, this special may well pump you up for the games’ upcoming release. Sadly, I’m only a tourist in the world of Persona, having only caught the first 14 eps Persona 4 when it aired 2011 before I sorta lost interest (Reviews here).
I was actually surprised how similar the style of 5 is to 4. The jazzy, jaunty score, slick fashion, rich, lived-in Tokyo setting (a little Drrr!esque), and the seiyu Horie Yui are what drew me to 5’s predecessor. But that was a full-length anime; this is just a special that serves as an appetizer to the RPG main course, which I won’t be playing.
Why You Shouldn’t Watch:
If you’ve played or watched Persona and weren’t impressed, The Day Breakers special likely won’t be changing your opinion. For all the detail in their outfits and surroundings, the characters are painted with only the broadest of strokes. The protagonist is a nameless cipher by design, and because no one else distinguishes themselves, it’s hard to get emotionally invested in anything.
I was also, ironically, less enamored of the “perceived world” than the actual world, which was dominated by goofy carnival and masquerade imagery that frankly isn’t all that interesting. It’s like it’s trying to be darker and edgier than it’s actually willing to be; very PG-13.
Similarly, while he’s only one of many baddies to come, the guy they chose to be the villain in this special was trying too hard. The sudden shift in his character from something that might’ve been more gray (and interesting) to all-out evil was laughably jarring, more appropriate for Scooby-Doo. Finally, while it sounds better in Japanese, “Phantom Thieves of Hearts” is a painfully lame name for the party.
Watchable and mildly diverting, but all surface. I can imagine myself spending dozens of hours as the bespectacled protagonist in the P5 RPG; I could even probably watch a good portion of its anime adaptation, should it get a full cour or two down the road. I’m just…not sure I either need or want to.