Ever since the release of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 way back in 2006, and being urged by fellow Japan Curiosity founder Fraser Overington to buy it, I have been a massive fan of the Megami Tensei franchise. Persona 3 signalled the rise of this spin-off series’ popularity and has since become a franchise unto itself. Persona 3 remains to this day my favourite of the Persona games as well as the entire Megami Tensei franchise.
Persona 3 the Movie #1: Spring of Birth is the first in a series of four movies that set out to adapt the Persona 3 story. It is actually the first anime review we wrote for Japan Curiosity back in 2013 so if you’d like to read Fraser’s thoughts on the movie after seeing it in Japanese theatres then you can read that here. In this review, however, we will be taking a look at the physical release from All the Anime which has been a long time coming so let’s get stuck in.
Makoto Yuki is a transfer student soon to be attending Gekkoukan High School and while on his way to his new residence at Iwatodai Dorm his train is delayed. Arriving a lot later in the night than planned he walks to the dorm oblivious to his surroundings and the mysterious phenomena that have taken hold of the world. Upon arriving at the dorm he is met by fellow students of Gekkoukan High School Yukari Takeba and Mitsuru Kirijo. Curious of his late arrival especially during what they call the “Dark Hour” they set out to monitor him to see whether he has the potential. The Dark Hour is a period of time where only those with potential are free to roam but there is a great and ever-present danger known as “Shadows”. Most people caught in the Dark Hour tend to fall victim to the Shadows but some hold the power to fight them – “Persona”.
Setting out to adapt one of the best Japanese role-playing games is no small feat and thankfully AIC has started off incredibly strong. Given that this movie adapts the opening section of the game which is essentially an introduction to the world and some of the main characters it was very enjoyable. I was actually surprised by how much of the game the first movie actually adapted but given the length of the game and there only being four movies I feel this was the right move. I felt that AIC has done a better job at representing what a Persona game feels like in this movie than they did with Persona 4: The Animation.
The Persona games feature some well written and memorable characters and it’s great to see them grace our screens once more. Makoto Yuki is a blank canvas in the game serving as a gateway for how the player wishes to forge and pursue relationships. An effort has been made to replicate this in the movie while injecting the bare minimum of personality required making him movie-friendly. I felt that this largely left Makoto an empty shell that didn’t care about the people or goings-on around him. Of course, as the movie progresses so does his personality but that uncaring attitude was not how I felt during my time with the game. How we play and our experience with games like Persona will differ so it makes sense that Makoto would reflect a version of himself different from what I imagine. This is one of the great things about the series and ultimately didn’t negatively impact my enjoyment of the movie, far from it.
I mentioned earlier how I felt AIC did a better job of representing the game within this film then they did with Persona 4: The Animation. Another area that this production shines is in the animation quality. Persona 4: The Animation featured a weird colourisation across the faces of characters that I could never get used to and thankfully that odd style choice is absent here. Characters literally pop on-screen though their respective personas didn’t look as polished as I’d have hope. Overall from a visual standpoint, the movie looks fantastic with some of the highlights being the Dark Hour and the evoking sequence.
It’s no secret that the Persona series exudes style visually but its musical scores are often the talking point among fans. Shoji Meguro’s work in the Megami Tensei series is easily some of the best to grace video games and this movie is no different. Having worked on all three versions of the Persona 3 game previously and much to fans delight we’re treated to a number of recognisable tracks. The new tracks made specifically for the movie add a new layer of depth to the story. I have to say it’s a shame this release doesn’t feature an English dub track as the Persona games have genuinely featured really good English dubs. Interestingly, the western releases of Persona 3 and 4 only featured the English dub with no Japanese audio option. So while it’s nice to be able to finally hear these characters with their native Japanese voices it would have been nice to experience this with voices we’re familiar with.
If you’re planning to pick up the Collector’s Edition of this release then you can expect a rigid case, digipack and a 36-page booklet. The booklet itself appears to feature some interesting contents that should excite fans. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy to look at for this review so I can’t speak to its quality in terms of content and build. Disappointingly, there are no on-disc extras present in this release.