Tag Archives: Persona Series

Anime-Breakdown: Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream (2014) Movie Review

Persona 3 The Movie: No. 1, Spring of Birth was done by AIC A.S.T.A. studio which despite not being a good film I would have preferred if they continued making the films over A-1 Pictures studio. A-1 Pictures had their chance at the Persona franchise with Persona 4: The Golden Animation. Instead of refining Lerche’s earlier anime adaptation, titled Persona 4: The Animation, on the same game A-1 Picture created what is best described as a cash grab. Now they’re in charge of creating a sequel to an average video game movie adaptation. Like with Persona 4: The Golden Animation, A-1 Picture doesn’t seek out to make improvements, and instead makes sure you know it’s an A-1 Pictures product. What I find funny is during the opening sequence, Makoto says “I don’t know why, but I feel really good” looking up into the sky revealing director Tomohisa Taguchi name. Almost as a way to reassure viewers this sequel in good hands. It might seem unimportant, but this is the same director behind Persona 4: The Golden Animation. Persona fans, let that sink in as I delve into this bad sequel.

Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream continues the story of Makoto Yuki from the first film leading a group of Persona users to eliminate “The Dark Hour”. This movie opens with a shower scene in a motel room. The film is gracious enough not to provide viewers with a recap of the previous film to pad the running time, but not smart enough to provide context as to why two teenagers are in a motel seemingly about to have sex. I know what happened since I played the game, but even with that said I’m watching a movie not playing it. External knowledge should not be required to understand the first scene of a movie. Once Yukari Takeba finishes showering, putting on a towel while Makoto takes off accessories around his neck. Yukari, and Makoto stare at each other in the middle of the room for a bit before Yukari blushed from embarrassment. The opening scene ends when Yukari slaps Makoto in the face then cue in title card. No scene, can better express what it felt like to see the film. It was, in every metaphorical sense, a slap to the face as a fan of the Person 3 video game.

A-1 Pictures: We care about plot!

Now, I want to emphasize this is an A-1 Picture production because it takes 17 minutes before anything significant like story actually appears in the movie. Yes, it takes that long before anything story wise actually starts moving forward in a film that’s around an hour, and forty minutes long. The most important thing relating to story that happens within those first 17 minutes is introducing the passive villains Strega. Everything else is spend on fan service like a scene at a beach involving Junpei Iori describing the swimwear of the female characters as the camera shows them off. Granted, this also happened in the video game, but at least they (the female characters) received some characterization at that point in the video game. Since the last movie didn’t develop the cast into dynamic characters it’ll make you shake your head as this is most of the female characters’ biggest contribution in the film. Another aspect it failed to do within those 17 minutes was introduced anything meaningful to use later on in the film story. After an opening action scene, the characters are next seen on a boat heading to an island, then proceeds for around 10 minutes on the beach on non-story related activity.

Now pass those first 17 minutes the film finally provides explanations for questions that should have been answered in the first film. So now you’ll finally get an answer for why Gekkoukan High School transform into Tartarus in “The Dark Hour”, why the Shadows were released into the world, how to possibly eliminate “The Dark Hour”, and how many of the powerful Shadows that appear during a full moon need to be defeated. All of this information would have been useful in the first film! This is basically damage control for the insane decision for characters to withhold information for no good reason. Narratively it leaves the viewers with no exposure to Persona 3 wandering in the dark when information needed to understand how the film world function gets addressed in the sequel. Thankfully, the one good decision from the story was explaining the concept of artificial Personas. Explaining what makes them different from regular Personas, and the consequences they hold. It’s not a focal point in the film, but at least some attention is given to it.

Welcome to the Pointless Room. A place between padding, and filler.

Out all the material that could have been cut from the film it’s beyond comprehension why the one, and only scene in “The Velvet Room” was left in when all that was said in it was enjoy life to the fullest, and beware of Shadows. This added absolutely nothing of value to the story. The inhabitants of “The Velvet Room” don’t appear again the film besides this one scene. The film was also in need of direction, and main goal to accomplish in the story. There’s a moment in the film where Shinji cooks for a dog while wearing pink cooking apparels. Then, the camera turns around to show an expressionless Aegis staring at Shinji. This causes Shinji to sweat with hip hop music (Mass Destruction by Lotus Juice) playing in the background repeating “Baby, baby, baby”. I just described a pointless moment in the film that the creators of the film approved to animate in the film, even though the first 17 minutes does nothing to move the story forward. Choices like these are the reasons why these Persona 3 films fail to tell a story properly.  

While still discussing the first thirty minutes of the film I should get across this sequel ruined one of my favorite scene from the video game. It’s after Yukari sees footage of her father dying (plus a revelation discerning Shadows too), and Makoto goes to the beach at night attempting to make Yukari feel better. I very much like this scene allot in the video game besides being a tender moment gave Yukari more depth as a character. It also ended with a humorous note showing the group strong friendship in hard times. So, when I saw the altered scene play out it was for a different purpose. What should have been a character defining moment for Yukari ends up being the set up to an introductory action scene to show off Aegis capabilities as an Anti-Shadow Suppression Weapon killing a dozen or so shadows. I wouldn’t have mind the action scene if A.) Cell Phones were working even though the first film establishes technology doesn’t work during “The Dark Hour”, B.) The action scene happens after Yukari sees footage of her father dying which dramatically voids Yukari of a meaningful moment, and finally C.) If in the previous film a single character had no trouble fending off a powerful Shadow in his first time of combat in Tartarus what makes you think I’m going to believe two unarmed characters will be in danger from an encounter where they are surrounded by a dozen weak Shadows.

Okay, with the first 1/3 of the film problems already written about there’s the rest of the film. With newly introduce Cyborg Girl Aegis now part of the main cast the film makes sure to tell audience she has an infatuation with protagonist Makoto Yuki. A love triangle would have benefited the story if done right. Makoto pays more attention towards Aegis in the film than Yukari even though they have known each other longer. Yukari is shown being jealous whenever Aegis says her purpose in life is to be next to Makoto Yuki side. If competently written this would be used to develop Yukari instead of just being used for humor. To add insult to injury Aegis proves to be more powerful, and useful in combat than Yukari who has been fighting Shadows for a far longer time. This romance aspect of the story doesn’t go far beyond Aegis stating she wants to be next to Makoto. Our protagonist shows no interest in either of them, but spends more time with Aegis in the film.

“I can’t believe believe this goes nowhere plot point”. Now with everything you hate without the cholesterol.

Continuing what was the point of the first film if Makoto didn’t learn to be more open with his emotions! It’s like he reset as a character to learn the same thing in the sequel. However, this film ends on a tragic note which would have made sense for Makoto to be emotionless if that tragic event happened earlier, or if the film was longer. It’s headache inducing attempting to figure out why the filmmakers thought this was a good direction to take Makoto character in.

When it comes to characters instead of developing the already large cast this sequel decides to increase its number instead. With the exception of Makoto, all the characters from the previous film are delegated into the background. Including Yukari, and Junpei whom were important in the previous film don’t grow as characters in the sequel. Junpei for instance doesn’t know what he would do after “The Dark Hour” is dealt with, but there’s no exploration on it. Other characters who also pondered this same question in one scene. Beside Makoto Yuki, everyone else’s thoughts on the question feel unimportant. A negative that detracts from the whole group dynamic when its tries to get across SEES is made up of close friends. Any character that was in the sideline in the first film don’t receive better treatment except for Akihiko who receives some characterization. Unlike the first film where the climax allowed him to contribute to the story. In this entry, Akihiko ends up short as his connection with Shinjiro has to be rushed, nor is the idea that they (Shinjiro and Akihiko) are good friends is done convincingly.

A total of seven characters get added to the cast. One of them is Ken Amada who turns out the best developed of the new characters. He has a simple backstory that eventually turns into a sub-plot of revenge. This leads to Ken being more developed as a character since the reasons behind his negative feelings on living are addressed. Koromaru is a dog that can use a Persona who has no backstory to him. Ken says a single line that Koromaru got left behind, but that could mean anything from an owner who forgot his dog to a street dog with no owner. A single line won’t make me care Koromaru, even if he’s a cute dog who can use a Cerberus like Persona. Finally, there is Shinjiro Aragaki who joins SEES fifty minute into the film. Anybody who has played the game (minus maxing out Shinjiro social link in Persona 3 Portable female route) knows Shinjiro fate in the story. His late addition to SEES makes Shinjiro character be rushed, and his impact on the story overall weak. Without much time spend with him, along with other characters, there’s no reason to be invested in their story. He’s also a plot convenience in the film when he goes to the rescue of SEES.

I pronounce you Mr. and Ms. Sue.

If you complained about Makoto Yuki being overpowered in the first film; this film offers a solution by providing another overpowered character. This time in the form of Aegis who also just as powerful as Makoto. In this film, Aegis is responsible for doing most of the fighting while Makoto is given a handicapped depending on the context. The climatic fight in particular has Makoto pondering his purpose after eliminating “The Dark Hour” for most it. While on the climax, it does a disservice to Junpei, and Yukari characters as they get beaten quickly showing they had not grown stronger since the first film. As a character, Aegis is simply a robot that doesn’t blend well with other human with how she acts. Unfortunately, she doesn’t learn, or wants to seek out what it means to be human in the film. Though, given the archetype of Aegis it’s bound to happen. Her defining trait in this film is being overpowered, and being attached to Makoto Yuki allot.

Lastly for the characters there are the members of Strega. A group that only has one character who has anything to do in the story. His name is Takaya Sakaki who states his intentions, and make the heroes ponder the questions of their purpose without “The Dark Hour”. Takaya is only in this film to kill off a certain character whose death has not much impact because that specific character short screen time. The other members of Strega don’t do much beside exist. Finally, there’s the character of Pharos who also has little to do in the film. Much like the one scene in “The Velvet Room”, Pharos appearance could have been cut out since he basically states the obvious of something bad is about to happen.

I might hate this movie, but A-1 Pictures usually delivers in animation.

A-1 Pictures is in charge with the production, and thankfully at least that is carried over from previous film. A-1 Pictures doesn’t improve on the animation aspect, but there is not a decrease in quality either from film to film. There’s more variety in the settings. The majority of the movie takes place at night time with the presence of with lots of heavy shadows. Like in the previous film, it’s reliance on lighting to create an eerie atmosphere. When in “The Dark Hour” blacks into dark greens and the blues into reds. This carries in the film insistent on color saturation be it making day scenes intensely bright, or making night scenes really dark. Almost as if it’s unable to trust viewers with the time of day a scene takes place in. Particle effects are amped in the battles from the previous film as members in SEES equals to more Persona on screen using magic attack, or the characters killing shadows. When Aegis is killing a group of Shadows in her first action scene the animation is fluid as she quickly moves around the environment, the framing of shot making it clear to see what’s going on, and the effects to add to the impact of an attack be it heavy flames, or bullet piercing. There is some bad 3D animation during a major action scene that doesn’t blend with 2D animation. Besides this the 3D in the film is not jarringly noticeable through its duration.

Shoji Muguro continues to provide music for the Persona 3 films. This time around the film offers new music to listen that wasn’t in the original Persona 3 games. The hip hop track “Fate Is In Our Hands” by rapper Lotus Juice plays in the opening sequence during a battle scene. Due to the bad audio mixing the sound effect drown out the music being played, but the song itself is rather good. It’s more progressive than the actual film discussing the hardships of life, and the persistence to overcome them. There’s a stanza in the song where Lotus Juice tries to understand his foes, and quickly goes into how his actual worse enemy is himself. Subjects that are brought up in the film, but not expanded upon like in this track. Yumi Kawamura provides her vocal for the film ending theme titled “One Hand, One Heartbeat”. This melancholic, piano ballad track perfectly closes the film on a somber note. Unlike the film writing, Yumi Kawamura provide emotional vocals that can make the viewer feel something in the scene after it’s over. By itself Yumi Kawamura song is a heartfelt piano ballad about losing someone special. In general, the music itself tells a far better, and compelling story than the film writing does on its own.

Voice acting is satisfactory once again. With too many characters, and unequal screen time the majority of the main voice cast from the first film get sideline without being offered single a scene to display their talent. Giving more half of its talent the equivalent of thankless roles. New addition Kazuya Nakai who plays Shinjirou Aragaki gets the most ranged in a rush amount of time. His performance is noteworthy as despite the speed his character changes tone Kazyua Nakai always sound natural. He makes the swift change in his character easier to accept. Megumi Ogata plays Ken Amada has a more steady change in her performance. Going from uncertain scare kid, too optimistic, to gloomy is handle well through her performance. I might not like the character Ken Amada, but she makes the character convincing. Then there’s Maaya Sakamoto who plays Aegis who has plenty of screen time. Unfortunately, her character is a cyborg trying to learn emotion archetype. However, since Aegis hasn’t gotten philosophical of what it means to be human Maaya Sakamoto is monotone for the whole film. It goes with the character in this instance, but it ends up being a forgettable performance. Sakamoto monotone delivery of her lines does provide hint of a complex character making Aegis seem hollow than she might actually be.

Makoto Yuki: “I could be dynamic, but I’ll prefer to be static”

What really bothers me the most about the performances is voice actor Akira Ishida doesn’t get to expand on his character Makoto Yuki. So he once again has to play the same emotionless, broken leading character from the first film. Ishida is not allowed to be more emotional, more expressive in his portrayal of Makoto Yuki. This film does the biggest disservice to him since by not allowing Akira Ishida to gradually transition his emotionless character to a more expressive one. The film rejects Akira Ishida the opportunity to expand Makoto Yuki beyond what was presented in the first film. It feels like a retread of his performance from the first film. While his retread performance is not bad it doesn’t quite the same effect the second time around.

Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream is a bad film continuing being inaccessible for newcomers, and infuriating for Persona 3 fans for not making the appropriate changes for the material to function as a movie. None of the character are develop to care about, there’s no tension because of two overpowered characters, a large cast most of whom don’t contribute to the story, and is predictably boring for anyone who played Persona 3 as it does nothing to fans off guard. It looks, and sounds like Persona 3, but by the time the credits roll it won’t be the same emotional roller coaster the video game was.


Anime-Breakdown: Persona 3 The Movie: No. 1, Spring of Birth (2013) Movie Review

I played Persona 3 FES at a time when I started losing interest in gaming. From the opening intro, right till the end of its short post credit scene Persona 3 rejuvenated my interest in video games. While Persona 2: Eternal Punishment made me a fan of the Persona series it was Persona 3 that made me into a Shin Megami Tensei addict. Persona 3 FES was heavy on the exploration of death, the lore setup in the world was fascinating, the music was good, and finally the gameplay (while repetitive in design) kept me hooked for around the 84 hours it took me to beat it. Regardless if it’s in film, or in a tv series format anything based around video games generally end up being down right awful at worst, and just barely average at best. The amount of watchable video game adaptation can be counted on a single hand. Now, you think the film adaptation of Persona 3 would easily please a fan of the video game. Sadly, that is not the case as certain choices make the film a hindrance to see. The video game storyline was not adapted into film format properly, nor were the necessary changes made in order to create a good film. Even with my single-minded love of the video game this film ended up being average at best, and boring at it worst.

Persona 3 The Movie: No. 1, Spring of Birth follows Makoto Yuki, a transfer student at Gekkoukan High School, suddenly awakened with the powers to control a Persona (a demon like manifestation of one’s personality). First order of business if you have never played any incarnation of the video game Persona 3, or know anything associated with the game you’re completely out of luck with this film. Not only does it required multiple films to solve its main course of conflict, but doesn’t offer a story that can stand alone without supplementary material to understand it. Like the fact there is no film adaptation of the first, or second Persona games in the series, nor are all the games within the series connected together to weave a single narrative. With the inclusion of No. 1 in the title should give the uninitiated an idea of what to expect. If not, the short version is a main conflict that doesn’t get resolved, characters that are underdeveloped, story elements that are underused or lack explanation, and a series of questions that serve to bait viewers instead of intrigue. Newcomers will be left in the dark on anything going on in the film.

In general, the writing ranges in good decisions, and delivery as it introduces characters, and certain story elements, but does very little with them. For example, in the film you get a random scene in what’s called “The Velvet Room”. An elegant blue colored elevator constantly going up where our protagonist, Makoto Yuki, is told by long nose proprietor Igor the power of friendship by building bonds will unlock more Persona/Demons. Within the film context, this is a pretty cheap plot device since it basically means our protagonist can be given any Persona/Demon simply through the film loose definition on the power of friendship if the plot demands it. Before that though, you’ll be wondering how in the world did Makoto Yuki entered “The Velvet Room” since the first time he enters “The Velvet Room” we last see Makoto riding on a train. The next time Makoto goes into “The Velvet Room” it’s after he fights demons referred to as Shadows on a roof top. The next time is when he’s on a train, with two of his friends fighting a powerful demon. It is explained that “The Velvet Room” is a place between mind, and matter. A place within dream, and reality. Between WTF, and helpful explanation for how Makoto enters “The Velvet Room”. Every time Makoto enters “The Velvet Room” what happened in the previous scene is different. When witnessing Igor give Makoto Yuki a key it’s natural to assume it would come into play in the film somehow. If something as minor as this key was not properly used for anything than the chances of it actually succeeding where it counts have been lowered.

Pacing is episodic like treating each act in the film as a mini-arc. The first half hour attempts to set up a normal life routine with some element of something otherworldly. Its intention is nice setting up a mystery, but when one of the first things you see is Makoto Yuki walking on a sidewalk with coffins just outside it fails immediately. This odd scene it chooses to open with only begins the series of unanswered questions. For instance, there’s a mention of Makoto Yuki parents being dead, and a couple of flashes of Makoto past that hints at a tragedy. That’s about as far as it goes in exploring his backstory.

Another is the creation of Tartarus (a giant tower filled with demons/shadows), and why Gekkoukan High School transforms into it is skipped over. At most, there’s a reference to a specific event that might have caused it, but the film doesn’t go into that detail either. Withholding information in this case makes no sense since the characters whom participate in stopping the shadows/demons should question their cause for fighting for SEES (Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad) who are against these creatures. The heroes never do which seems odd when one of the main characters, Yukari Takeba, states her dislike for the protagonist fighting on missions just because, but not question herself for the cause she fights for.

Aspects in the world like “The Dark Hour” is explained by continuing a theme of vagueness in its creation which is also only referenced. One example of vague explanations being within the same scene establishing technology doesn’t work in “The Dark Hour” viewers will be shown Mitsuru Kirijo (a member of SEES) riding on a motorcycle during “The Dark Hour”, and the only explanation for it functioning is “It’s specially made”. Also in this scene, it makes sense for the newcomers who are Junpei, and Makoto not to know this fact, but Yukari who has been in SEES longer barely learning vehicles don’t work in “The Dark Hour” is questionable on character consistency.

One aspect that is done away with quickly is our main three characters Yukari, Junpei, and Makoto learning to use their abilities for the first time. Even though it’s their first time fighting, and the audience is told it has a toll on their psyche the action on screen goes against the information given. Makoto in his first time fighting against a powerful shadow in Tartarus beats it virtually by himself. Action scenes are animated nicely, but the context, and the plot armor prevents them from being exciting. The only real consequence in these battle is shown the first time Makoto fights against the Shadows resulting in him losing consciousness for several days. It shows Makoto waking up from a hospital bed which sets up the idea there is actual consequences to using your Persona. Afterwards the physical, and mental toll that can result in using a Persona become absent for the rest of the film.

This film adaptation only adapts the first three full moon incidents, which in the game is three months’ worth of story material to work with which probably equals around 20 hours of gameplay. To further highlight this problem, progression of time is shown through a calendar that goes through dates in linear fashion showing stills, or animation without dialogue of what occurred on those days. What this doesn’t get across is the characters are bonding like it wanted since every time it cuts back into telling a story there’s something upsetting the group of characters the film follows. With so much on it plate the struggle between balancing saving the world, and having a school life is ignored. During the opening sequence several characters are shown most of whom don’t make an appearance in the film. Serving as foreshadowing for the answers you’re not going to receive in the film.

Protagonist Makoto Yuki characterization in the film is a transfer student loner who learns the value of friendship, and showing more emotion. Beside the typical dead parents background, Makoto expressions is limited to being uninterested through the entire film. The journey leads up to a smile, and in terms of interaction the film decides to end before seeing the result his journey had on him. So throughout the film Makoto doesn’t have a personality, and his past is only briefly discussed. While Makoto arc is written in a typical way without surprises it’s handle competently. His lacked of any distinguishable trait from an overpowered emotionless lead makes him uninteresting as a protagonist, but his transformation is steadily done not falling victim to being an unnatural one-eighty change.

Yukari Takeba fares the best of the supporting cast. She gets developed, has an arc that gets completed, and contributes to the story. Having scenes interacting with Makoto helps develop Makoto, and herself. Her inability to trust Makoto with her life because of his lack emotion is touched on. However, she tells the strongest member of the group she doesn’t want him to go on a rescue mission because he doesn’t have an emotional input in it. If Makoto wasn’t overpowered Yukari outburst wouldn’t be idiotic. That’s not the case so Yukari looks like an idiot in this scene by being fully aware of this fact, and voicing her opinion to make SEES rescue operation more dangerous. Aside from this very plot point, Yukari develops competently as well.

Junpei Iori is delegated to being comedic relief without doing much comedy. Why the film made this decision is up in the air for debate. In the film, maybe Junpei class-clown attitude could have been used as a way for him to hide his discontent self-image, but it’s not. Junpei develops an inferiority complex at one point in the movie out of nowhere, and gets resolved minutes later. Then later on in the film, Junpei wants to redeem himself for acting irresponsibly on one of the team’s operation. What exactly his arc was trying to accomplish is sketchy. Fuuka Yamagishi who has less screen time then Junpei has a simple arc of being bullied by one of her friends, but not letting that get in the way of her friendship. Or Fuuka just has low self-esteem too. She’s not developed much as a character beyond what’s introduced about her, but her arc also gets completed even if Fuuka remain largely unchanged.

Then finally leaves the remainder of the underutilize cast. Mitsuru Kirijo has little to do in the film. Her small contribution is feeding the team information on the environment during operations. In a routine setting, she is simply in the background. It’s hinted Yukari doesn’t like Mitsuru, but that goes nowhere. Shinjiro Aragaki is only used to deliver exposition in two scenes, and helping the main cast out of trouble in one scene. Akihiko Sanada is just in the film. He’s a fodder character regardless if the film attempts to paint him as an important member of SEES. Then the oldest character in the film being Shuji Ikutsuki who is only important in one scene where he explains “The Dark Hour”, and the purpose of SEES. Beside that one scene he’s in the background not doing much either. There’s Natsuki Moriyama who is the bully/friend of Fuuka whose change is telegraphed by this description. That’s a lot of wasted room for characters who mostly do nothing in the film, and that’s not including three supernatural characters that serve as deus ex machina, and info dumping on an impending catastrophe.

Persona 3 The Movie: No. 1, Spring of Birth was animated by AIC A.S.T.A. Art direction captures the game’s dark atmosphere perfectly. The usage of lighting is key since most of the film takes place in the dark. Thanks to the clever usage of moonlight, the action in the film is easy to see while the lighting still manages to keep the setting looking ominous. Locations from the game are brought to life, and given a vibrant new look, whilst also retaining the same details that any fan of the game will remember fondly. Plenty of foreboding compositions, oppressive shots, and generally solid direction help to keep things aesthetically impressive. Animations such as the school turning into Tartarus are rendered beautifully (even if the 3D in the scene is weak), and many elements of movement and action that were previously left to the imagination are now visually stunning. Action scenes while lacking excitement are nice eye candy. One thing the film fixed about the characters’ designs were the long necks from the games. All the characters look more natural in the film with some minor touches like adding more line details to the hair to update the game arts style.

Shoji Meguro returns in his role to produce the soundtrack, and as usual his work is stellar.  Crazy techno/hip-hop soundtrack creates a unique tone. The game’s soundtrack is largely reused in the movie, and fits perfectly well. If anything, the movie does a special service to the soundtrack by not playing the same tracks for several hours like in the video game. As a fan of Shoji Meguro in general, the best part of the film was the opening credits with a remixed version of “Burn My Dread”—complete with an added strings section. This film does not provide many new materials worth looking into in terms of music, but the rearrangement of familiar tracks makes it a nostalgic trip for fans. The original Japanese voice cast from the video game returns to reprise their role, and are just solid in the film adaptation. In particular Akira Ishida gets allot more to say besides some grunts and demon names. While limited in dialogue, Akira Ishida grim voice fits the broken character of Makoto. Unfortunately, with the sloppy writing grants no one else the opportunity to deliver much of a noteworthy performance from the character they play. As of this moment, there’s no English dub even though it’s licensed for North America distribution by Aniplex of America. Take that as you will if you liked the English cast from the video game.

Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth is a movie that I wouldn’t recommend seeing, including fans of the video games. The production side of things capture the aesthetic of Persona 3, but the writing doesn’t emulate what made fans hold the video game in their heart so dearly in the first place. For newcomers, it’ll leave them in the dark with too many unanswered questions, and the inability to work as a stand-alone feature film weakens the narrative when divided in segments. Fans of the video game might be able to enjoy it as whatever doesn’t get explained they’ll still know what’s going on. However, I would just rather say replay the video-game for a better experience. As an adaptation it’s not a train wreck since the story is interesting, and some character arc are handle well, but not enough was changed to make it work in a different medium.


Cinema-Maniac: Persona 3 The Movie: #1 Spring of Birth (2013) Review

Operhus! Kikuri-hime! Pyro Jack! Scathach! Leanan Sidhe! Skadi! Mother Harlot! Thor! Thanatos! Lucifer! Jack Frost! Are all the name of demons I used the most in the video game Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES. A game that restored my faith in video games and made me hold them to a higher standard. While I’m a fan of Shin Megami Tensei in general. For my money worth Persona 3 is the best game in both SMT and its own franchise. I’m pretty biased when it comes to my love of the video game even with some design decisions that irks others (most common one being unable to control your whole team during battles) I actually appreciate. However, not even my single minded love for one of my favorite video games can make me see “Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth” as anything more than a disjointed disappointment.

Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth follows Makoto Yuki, a transfer student at Gekkoukan High School, suddenly awakened with the powers to control a Persona. Episodic pacing serves to highlight the script flaws that tackle allot more than it knows how to handle. A film that has teenagers aiming Evokers (guns basically/deep symbolism) at their heads and shooting to summon their PERSONA picks a dark tone without consistency in characters. Junpei Iori is introduced as comic relief who reverts between being a clown to being envious of Makoto abilities. This change occurs immediately, although the rest of the cast go unscathed. With the exception of Makoto Yuki mostly muted transformation the cast of characters remain wholly the same. Personally I hated how Makoto Yuki was adapted, but in the film he has a subtle progression in letting in emotions. Yet despite Makoto being the only character who has progression not even he can escape one dimensionality. He’s the orphan loner who learns the meaning of friendship, but not gaining much of a personality by the end.

The film only adapts the first three full moon incidents which in the game is three months worth of story. To further highlight this, the progression of time is shown through a calendar that says a lot time has pass which also means there’s lot that is being left out. There’s hardly any progression to be seen both in character growth and in conflict. Thematically the whole driving force is strengthening one’s bond which is hardly showcased among Makoto friends. There’s Yukari Takeba who’s angry at Makoto for leading the group as just a job he’s told to do. Next is Junpei like earlier said goes from hating Makoto guts to being envious of his abilities. Mitsuru Kirijo is the oldest among the high school students which seems to all goes into her character in the film. Akihiko Sanada likes to fight…that’s all really. Then there’s Shuji Ikutsuki who is the only adult character in the film with any influence in the story, but gets sideline leaving to question of how he could be active during the dark hour without a Persona. Finally, Fuuka Yamagishi is the damsel in distress who gets bullied, though compare to the main cast her little screen time has a complete arc.

Still going the film leaves many blanks like the incident that killed Makoto parents, why Gekkoukan High School turns into Tartarus (a giant tower filled with demons), how the Dark Hour came to be, and did I just see a promotional plug in the post credit sequence that said its sequel is coming soon. Granted being a fan I know the answers. However, it ideas while interesting are left underdeveloped that is vague rather than mysterious. The set up with this film is deliberately to be seen with the whole series together, but as a stand alone title doesn’t complete everything that it set up. For starter, it explanations are not absolute in giving the audience (specifically newcomers) an exact understanding of how it world or powers functions. Leading to instances of Deus Ex Machina that eliminates the difficulty of a scenario for the characters down to a easy victory. Sadly one of those deus ex machina named is Jack Frost (my favorite persona) who becomes an ace in easy victory. No steady world building to get suck into this odd world. It’s thrown in resulting in the story basically being “there’s monster, let kill them” and finished. What exactly Tatarus gets under explained; how it came to be and it purpose are not explained. Too many characters that prevent growth leaving many to disappear or sit in the sideline until further needed. Withholding information for easy solutions in difficult conflict eliminating tension. Finally it feels incomplete. Just because the credit rolled doesn’t mean the story has entirely been wrapped up.

Shoji Meguro returns in his role to produce the soundtrack and as usual his work is stellar. Crazy techno/hip-hop soundtrack creates a unique tone. The game’s soundtrack is largely reused in the movie and fits just as well. As a fan of Shoji Meguro in general, the best part of the film was the opening credits with a remixed version of “Burn My Dread”-complete with an added strings section. The film does not provide many new material worth looking into, but the rearrangement of familiar tracks makes it a nostalgic trip for fans and improve on the tunes found in the game. Art direction captures the game’s dark atmosphere perfectly. The usage of lightning is key since most of the film takes place in the dark. It looks stunning thanks to the clever use of moonlight, the action in the film is easy-to-see while the lighting still manages to keep the setting looking ominous. Locations from the game are brought to life and given a vibrant new look, whilst also retaining the same details that any fan of the game will remember fondly. Plenty of foreboding compositions, oppressive shots, and generally solid direction help to keep things interesting. Animations such as the school turning into Tartarus are rendered beautifully, and many elements of movement and action that were previously left to the imagination are now visually stunning and exciting. The original Japanese voice cast returns to reprise their role and are just solid in the film adaptation. In particular Akira Ishida gets allot more to say besides some grunts and demon names. While limited in dialogue, Akira Ishida grim voice fits the broken character of Makoto.

Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth feels incomplete as a standalone film. Characters are one dimensional, several questions are left unanwered, and ends with a direct promotion for the sequel. Not since Max Payne have I been disappointed in lost potential for a good film adaptation of a video game. As a fanboy all it does is make me want to play the video game because of the film incessant it is to cram everything into a single film without time for it to be fleshed out. As a movie watcher it feels incomplete with it story withholding information, having no clear ending, a disjointed story with underdeveloped characters, and the last image shown promotes a sequel that might be worth skipping if it’s more of the same. It’s in the middle ground that while it’s no insult to both audiences like “Mortal Kombat Annihilation”, it’s sadly neither an easily accessible live action “Ace Attorney”.


Persona 3’s Suicide Imagery:

So in order to summon a Persona you need the gun-like Evoker and shoot yourself in the head. In the game and film it’s explain it’s not an actual gun, though how it works is rather vague. Like even though it’s said not to be a gun everytime the trigger is pulled it makes a gun shot sound. However, it’s used to simulate fear in order to simulate extreme stress to make it possible to summon a Persona. While they’re not killing themselves the image looks like they are blowing their brains out-often complete with spiritual brain and skull fragments. If you can’t handle fictional characters or the sight of teen suicide. I’m saying this nicely, if that kind of thing upsets you just quit watching any video media. There’s allot teen suicide imagery in the film and also hundreds of years worth films that also go for darker, more unsettling images than what this film goes into.