The second of four movies, adapting the brilliant Persona 3 game, Persona 3: Movie #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream marks the departure of Studio AIC ASTA for A-1 Pictures, though most of the staff remain unchanged. How does this change in studio affect the ongoing story and overall quality of the movies? We take a look at the Collector’s Edition releases of both Persona 3: Movie #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream and Movie #3 Falling Down in this combined review. Also for those that haven’t seen this far, I will be keeping spoilers to a very strict minimum.
The first movie #1 Spring of Birth I felt did a great job of introducing us to the core SEES team and laying the foundation of the world setting. Movie two builds upon that and introduces us to new characters that play a very important role over the course of this movie. We also get introduced to a rival group of sorts that also serve as a catalyst for things to come. Not to mention we learn some very important backstory on how the ‘Dark Hour’ and ‘Shadows’ came to be and why. Forewarning for #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream – it touches on some very mature and emotional themes; if you’re familiar with the Persona series then you know these can be shocking and powerful.
Following on from the events of the previous movie, tensions with the aforementioned rival group comes to a head and we bear witness to a brilliant opening action sequence. Aggressions are far from settled in this encounter though and continued conflicts arise throughout the movie. Makoto’s blank and emotionless nature is the subject of some discovery in this movie as he learns what it means to fight for beloved friends and family. A mysterious transfer student, Makoto, enters the SEES team’s lives and while things appear to be unsettlingly friendly as time progresses it’s clear not all is what it seems leading to a kicker of a cliffhanger.
I mentioned in my previous review that I was surprised by how much of the game was adapted in that first movie but also felt that it was right to do. I have the same thoughts about movies two and three, although, in the case of these two, the pacing was not perfect when compared to the first movie. There will always be trade-offs though and you wouldn’t want to put down a movie that moves along the plot but it’s largely void of action. The way it has been done so far is probably as natural and well-paced as we can get.
In terms of visuals the change of studio is noticeable; too often did I notice scenes where the animation quality drops. This particularly affects characters faces when there’s a group and is especially distracting when the focus shifts from close up to a mid or long shot. It’s a shame that this change is so noticeable as it really pulled me out of the immersion on multiple occasions. I also have to mention that while the overall visuals are very nice and in keeping with the first movie’s style, the two subsequent movies felt downgraded somewhat. Perhaps there is a compression issue with the master or it is a side effect of the change in the studio, I don’t know, but I definitely have noticed a difference in quality, it’s not major but noticeable.
It’s great to listen to some of the newer audio tracks composed for the movie but having some of the originals return especially in the third movie was great and gave me a wave of nostalgia. Again, the Persona series is known for having fantastic soundtracks and these two movies certainly live up to that accolade.
When it comes to the physical extras on these Collector’s Edition release, much like the first you can’t complain about what you’re getting for the entry price. Both come packed in a rigid case with a digipack to hold the discs and booklets containing lots of cool goodies like production art, cast comments and even 4-panel comics plus much more that any Persona fan will want to have as part of their collection. The on-disc extras are still a little disappointing with these two movies as, while they do include some this time around, they are very standard being just trailers and promo videos.
The change of studio from AIC ASTA to A-1 Pictures was a noticeable one and while I felt the animation quality is overall lower it's still a great-looking couple of movies. There are some pacing issues but given the nature of the adaptation, I think these are probably as good as we're going to get. Persona 3: Movie #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream and Persona 3: Movie #3 Falling Down certainly deliver when it comes to showcasing what the Persona 3 game was all about and with the story nearing a conclusion I eagerly await the fourth and final instalment.