The gang enters the TV world after Mitsuo, which takes on the look of a video game. But shortly after confronting him and his shadow, time jumps forward to a time after he is defeated. The gang promises to hang out more, but as months pass, they all drift further apart until Yu is alone. After nearly four months, he is attacked by the shadow, and pulled back into the battle with him by Yosuke. Yu fires off a string of Personas until the shadow is bested, and Mitsuo is arrested. The group celebrates, and vows to stick together moving forward.
Meh. Perhaps it’s because we just finished up one of the best anime series – mystery or otherwise – we’ve ever seen in Penguindrum, but we can’t help but be a little disappointed in how this series turned out. The mystery was comparatively quite lame, and its resolution anticlimatic. The cast got far too big for a half-length series, and as a result, no one really got enough development. Subpar characters like Kuma got too much screen time, particularly this week, while Yu, who we’ve seen since the beginning, still possesses barely more personality than wallpaper paste.
This week, Yu descends into some kind of persistant illusion that makes him think all his friends are flaking out and abandoning him after the killer is found. What’s with his sudden insecurity? While a taciturn dude, his behavior thus far never struck us as socially awkward or anxious. It was nice to futz with time and reality, but the sudden transition was jarring to the point we thought it might be a mistake. As a regular episode, this is probably a 3, but the finish to a series-long mystery coulda, shoulda been better.
Another victim is killed, but never appeared on television, vexing the gang. Kuma comes through the TV into the real world with a new human form beneath his mascot suit. The detective, Naoto, reports the killer is in police custody, but doesn’t know who he is. Mitsuo, a loner who is stalking Yukiko, is suspicious, but then he shows up on the Midnight Channel.
Not a lot happened this week. There’s another victim, more half-hearted investigation by the gang, a belated introduction of Naoto the detective, and a couple appearances of a really creepy guy with blank eyes. And Kuma has a ridiculous human form now, which is…interesting. Oh yeah, the gang is treated to huge bowls of noodles and meat on the house, only to be charged afterward. In other words, this was an episodeloaf.
It was made from real episode parts, chopped and formed, but lacking a designated binder; an egg. But the loaf wasn’t completely devoid of nutrition. We at least now finally know who that detective kid is, even if he’s still pretty tight-lipped. What we don’t know is if the introvert Mitsuo is a genuine threat, or just another victim of whomever is throwing people into the TV and killing them. I’m sure we’ll find out though. And Naoto still needs a persona.
Yukiko goes missing after appearing on the Midnight Channel very much out of character. Chie races into the otherworld after her, followed close behind by Yu and Yosuke. Once there, Chie is confronted by her doppleganger, who is full of jealosy and resentment for Yukiko, and is content to use her as a doormat. After a battle, the foe morphs into Chie’s first persona, but Yukiko remains at large.
So, we kinda knew this episode would be about Chie gaining her Persona, and we kinda knew that her relationship with Yukiko was not all smiles and sunshine beneath the surface. Chie is a bit of a tomboy, and Yukiko is far more popular with the lads, it would seem. There’s a dark side to us all, and even strong, kind Chie has hers. Unfortunately, her entire battle with that dark side and the monster it turned into was a bit of a dawdle. It was strangling Yosuke far longer than was needed to kill him, for instance, and once Yu summoned the right Persona, dispatching her was, well, really easy.
But then, Persona is a game-based anime, and things start out easy, so it’s understandable. The execution of Chie’s confrontation with herself was fine, although the dopplegangers come off as petty, arrogant assholes more than dire threats to one’s self. And as always, the chemistry between Chie, Yu and Yosuke remains strong; they’re gelling well as both friends and comrades in battle, and are fun to watch. And there’s still a Yukiko to be saved, though lord knows where she is. Her performance on the Midnight Channel was downright bizarre, and we couldn’t make heads nor tails about it. Ah well, next week. Till then, don’t brandish swords in public places!
Another girl dies, and this time it’s Yosuke’s crush Konishi, after he sees her on the Midnight Channel. Yosuke and Yuu go back to the otherworld in the TV at Junes, where Yosuke meets a doppelganger containing a side of him he’s been trying to suppress, who he then defeats with help from Yuu and Izanagi. Yosuke then gains a persona ability, and the two promise to solve the murders and find the culprit responsible.
We’ll be frank: we’re not big fans of the crazy-ass bear thing who’s always including bear puns with his lines. He had too much to say this week, and we hope to see him as little as possible in the future. Why would an otherwise classy-and-cool looking series decide to design something so…silly? We would have preferred a more lifelike talking bear to him. Like Gentle Ben.
Other than the bear-thing, this was a great episode, following up the developments of last week by making the week’s victim not only everyone is familiar with, but someone Yosuke’s in love with, making him face his inner turmoil. Death is very quiet and sudden in this show; there’s no blood or gore to announce it, it happens off-screen, in the shadows, which while less viseral, makes it more mysterious. Naturally, we can’t have Yuu the only one who can wield power, so Yosuke gets his own persona, and Chie probably isn’t far off from getting hers.
Narukami Yu arrives in a new town to attend school while his parents are working abroad and live with his uncle, a local detective. He meets his new classmates, Chie, Yosuke and Yukiko, who go on about the “midnight channel”, in which staring at a TV on a rainy midnight will reveal one’s soul mate. Yu tries it and is nearly sucked in. He does it again with Chie and Yosuke watching, and all three enter an alternate plane where they’re met by a frekish bear thing and foes called shadows. Yu then beseeches the voice that had been in his head all along and releases a persona to fight off the baddies.
Our only previous exposure to the Persona franchise was the Trinity Soul video game for PS2, which we’ve never played, but have watched a friend play. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to know anything ahead of time to enjoy this series, which we did, quite a bit. It lulled a bit from the cryptic teaser to the introductions of the cast, but as the episode progressed it got far more interesting, dense and entertaining. It had a lot of video game-like qualities, is kinda scored like one, and features transitions of the date and weather whenever the day changes. The alternate plane has a nice slick whimsy, with just a touch of peril so it isn’t just silly.
This series is being directed by Seiji Kishi, who was also at the helm of Angel Beats! and Kamisama Dolls, while Yui Horie (Yuki-onna) lends her lively, expressive voice to Chie. A word on uniforms: they’re pretty off-the-wall. Black with contrast stitching resembling tailor’s marks and houndstooth collars and skirts. The character design is simple but has a nice edge to it, to go with the certain je nais sais qoui appeal of the overall aesthetic of the show. The opening and ending sequences also rock, there’s great budding chemistry amongst the lead cast and a sense of impending adventure afoot. Let’s see where this goes, shall we?