Persona 5 The Animation – Dark Sun: This game just never ends

I guess this is one way to start off a new year. 

— So in case you somehow forgot or didn’t even watch the adaptation that aired earlier this year — but are still interested in this post for some reason — Persona 5 The Animation ended its original run with the game’s worst ending. Ren gets caught, beaten and drugged up by the police, and finally shot in the head by Goro Akechi, his foil. Not rival, just foil. Oh, the story totally wants you to believe that Akechi is his rival, but nah. I love Persona 5, but there are a lot of things it doesn’t do well. Akechi’s entire arc within the game is one of them. He’s supposed to be the ace detective who engages the Phantom Thieves in a cat-and-mouse game, but this never really materialized. The adaptation tries to rectify this weakness by having Ren and Akechi engage in various chess matches throughout the series, but it isn’t really enough. Moreover, there’s a revelation later about Akechi that has never sat well with me, but I’ll talk about it when the time comes.

— The SIU Director is also eliminated in order to cover up the bad guys’ tracks. That’s right, we only know him as the SIU Director. It’s really odd to me that they never even bothered to name the guy. It’s not like we just met the guy. He’s been a presence since the very start of the story.

— For those who have played the game, this part is probably odd: we immediately see Sae supporting a battered Ren back to Leblanc. In the game, after Ren’s friends see the news report about his supposed death, Ryuji smiles and goes, “We got ’em.” Why leave that out in the adaptation?

— So in Japan, do major politicians really go out into the city and give speeches to maybe a hundred people at best? No huge organized rallies? I’m asking ’cause I don’t actually know.

— Here comes the long and perhaps tortured explanation for how Ren and his friends managed to pull a fast one on the bad guys. On the one hand, I like Persona 5 enough that listening to the explanation doesn’t bother me. On the other hand, I can also see how this sequence would be a hot mess to someone who isn’t emotionally invested. It just keeps going and going and going…

— But hey, maybe the adaptation will shorten it somehow. Either way, I don’t think I’ll have much to say about it unless there are any major deviations from the game.

— Interestingly enough, when Morgana tries to pipe up, the characters tell him that explaining his involvement would only overcomplicate things. That’s weird. Why? Because in the game, they straight up tell both Sae and Sojima that not only can Morgana talk, he’s one of the Phantom Thieves. Why leave that out this time?

— So everything that we’ve seen so far — or played so far — is from the perspective of Ren’s working memories. That’s why you didn’t know that the team had cased out Sae’s palace beforehand. You can hand-wave this off by claiming that the drugs had screwed with the guy’s memories, and as a result, he couldn’t tell Sae about every single little detail. But in the game, if you end up romancing Kawakami, it’s just weird that you would tell a prosecutor all about how you’ve been soliciting the services of your homeroom teacher. Sure, I guess we can pretend that it’s strictly a maid service and she isn’t totally a prostitute. Alas, we don’t see any of this in the adaptation, because y’know, no romance options for anime Ren. Well, there’s the possibility that he could just plain withhold some details. Y’know, maybe he did smash Sae’s sister, but anime Ren’s just smart enough not to bring it up.

— “A short time,” she says.

— Makoto does all of the explaining, Futaba plays a key role in the whole plan, and Yusuke pipes in from time to time. Ann, Ryuji, and Haru may as well just twiddle their thumbs. It’s kinda silly.

— Plus, they got such a well-known voice actor for Ren, but he barely says anything. Even in this scene full of talking, he stays mostly mute. I know he doesn’t talk much in the game, but this is the adaptation! If you’re going to change anything, change that! Let Lelouch speak!

— They have Akechi on tape not only mentioning Shido but admitting to a conspiracy to commit murder. But for some odd reason, the team just can’t go public with this tape because…?

— This is somewhat spoilers for later, but if I don’t mention it now, I’ll forget. Shido mentions that Akechi has been working with him for the past two years. Ren didn’t show up until just last April (roughly eight months ago). That’s curious, isn’t it? There are two individuals in this game with the wild card ability. Akechi was picked a long time ago. He had no one to oppose him until Ren came along. The good guys kinda stacked the deck against themselves.

— You kids need to read the news sometimes to learn how politicians act. I dunno, Ann’s line (seen in the screenshot below) is just hilarious to me. We need not look only at the current crop of dirtbags. There have been shady politicians since the start of written history.

— Then again, Ann is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Which is sad, honestly. During the Kamoshida arc, she came across as thoughtful and caring. And I guess none of that has changed, but at some point, the writers decided that since she’s an attractive blonde, they may as well throw in the ditzy airhead stereotype. I can’t remember if Lisa from Persona 2 is the same way. Man, I need to replay that duology, but PSX JRPGs are often just so clunky. When you’re a kid, you have all the patience in the world to deal with old school jank. Not so much as an adult.

— So Shido’s palace is a ship. huuuuuuuuuge ship. It is the longest dungeon in the game, and it’s clearly meant to be tackled in multiple sessions. But you know how gamers are. I gotta clear this in one day so I can reserve all my free time for my waifus! And because the dungeon is so long, I gotta whine about it! It’s like shooting yourself in the foot but blaming others for your mistake.

— Of course, that doesn’t mean that I had no complaints about the dungeon. I hate any stealth section in non-stealth games. Nothing aggravated me more than being forced to turn into a mouse and sneak past the guards.

— I also think it’s pretty underappreciated that all of the dungeons take place in cool locations that you would never normally associate with, well, JRPG dungeons. A ship? A museum? A bank? I then go and play something like Octopath Traveler where all of the dungeons are boring caves or ridiculous mansions.

Public opinion is in the gutters. It’s this easy to sway people’s hearts and get them to believe whatever you want them to believe. Persona 5 kinda half-hearts this idea of revolution and change. On the one hand, adults have become complacent and lazy. Their inaction and inability to critically think are the reasons why evil, corrupt individuals can exert so much negative influence over society. But on the other hand, all we’re going to do is take out a single corrupt politician. After that, we can totally trust the adults again!

— Becky, please, I’m trying to save the country.

— Wait, so Haru’s dad is dead again? I thought the adaptation changed it so that he would still be clinging to life in intensive care. Oh well, it doesn’t matter.

— The anime has a short scene to show that both Kaneshiro and Madarame are linked to Shido. I guess the odd man out is Kamoshida. Kinda hard to squeeze in a horny, depraved PE volleyball coach, I guess. But that’s what makes Kamoshida special in a way. After him, the rest of the villains are a bit of a letdown because they’re all motivated by greed. Sure, they’re evil, but with Kamoshida, it was personal. He abused and sexually harassed students. You wanted him dead. With Madarame and Kaneshiro, it’s like eh…

— I guess Haru’s dad comes close. After all, he exploited his workers and probably worked a few of them to death. But with Kamoshida, you saw and dealt with his victims in person. You saw how Shiho was driven to commit suicide. With Okumura, you only saw silly-looking robots short-circuiting in some silly space-themed palace, so it’s hard to take in the full weight of the workers’ plight. This is a mistake on the story’s part, I believe.

— Oh lord, here comes Akechi’s pity party. Sure, he had a painful childhood. Sure, his mom died when he was young, and his father never wanted anything to do with him. But at the end of the day, we are responsible for the actions we take. No amount of tragic backstory can cover up the fact that he’s a remorseless serial killer. Not just a killer, but a serial one. He’s been killing people for two years, man. Two goddamn years! And yet, we have Akechi-stans going boohoo all over the internet, because oh my god the kid just had it so hard. What happened to your moral compass?

— Still, this does remind me of another missed opportunity. Ren should’ve had an equally tragic backstory so that by choosing to be good anyways — choosing to be moral in spite of his difficult circumstances — he’d become living proof that you can’t blame everything on external factors. At some point, you have to assume some responsibility for your life. Sure, others are more privileged than us. Sure, others have it easier than us. But we are ultimately in control of our own destinies. I wish the writers had chosen to hammer this point home instead of allowing idiots to fall in love with a serial killer.

— And yeah, Ren has it tough in his own ways. He was betrayed by the very person he was trying to save. Nevertheless, for all we know, he had a good life before that incident with Shido.

This part isn’t consistent. Just earlier, we saw that Sae couldn’t understand Morgana at all. But in order to save Ren, she needed to have gone into her own palace. Funnily enough, all they had to do was go a bit further to cover up this mistake. For example, in order to understand Morgana, you need to have heard the cat speak in the Metaverse. Since Akechi had been following the Phantom Thieves all throughout the story, it is easy enough to assume that he’s listened in on the team’s conversations. On the other hand, Sae has never had the opportunity to hear Morgana speak.

— Finally, Akechi realizes that Ren has pulled a fast one on him, so it’s time for a proper boss fight in the Metaverse. I wasn’t a big fan of this part in the game namely for the fact that you face Akechi immediately after a boss fight. There are no opportunities to save your game. Am I salty that I lost to Akechi and had to redo the previous fight? Nah, it’s actually the opposite. Because the game doesn’t give you the chance to take a breather, it means that the Akechi fight can’t be very hard. Otherwise, it would be unfair to the player. For such an important character, I really wanted Akechi to be more of a challenge. Unfortunately, the developers kinda shot themselves in the foot.

— So yeah, Shido is Akechi’s father. The pity party continues. This lost boy just wants his daddy’s approval. If there’s ever a complete version of Persona 5, I would be so pissed if Akechi ends up being an extra party member. It would be such a slap to Haru’s face too. After all, the kid murdered her father.

— It’s nice that every boss fight always takes place in a giant arena big enough to fit all these Personas (especially Makoto’s bike). It’d be a shame if we had to tussle in a hallway or something.

Uh, not murdering people?

— So Akechi has the wildcard ability, but unfortunately, it seems as though he really only has two Personas. As a result, he only uses Loki for this fight. Robin Hood may as well no longer exist. I’m still waiting for a foil to actually go toe-to-toe with the main character. Maybe in Persona 6

— Also, the Japanese VA for Akechi isn’t doing it for me. I was impressed with Robbie Daymond’s performance. This? Not so much.

— To answer Akechi’s question, try making friends, treating animals with respect, and not murdering people. It’s literally not that hard, dude.

— The funny thing is that Akechi is wildly popular. He wouldn’t even have trouble making friends. Hell, you could even argue that he had a friendly working relationship with Sae. And someone as smart as him would easily be able to sift out the fakesters. He really has no excuse. Again, if you’re going to sit here and try to blame it all on your horrible dad, I just find that really pathetic.

— So this is probably my least favorite moment in the entire story. After you’ve defeated the serial killer, he starts pitying himself even harder. So one by one, you and your teammates take turns cheering him up. Oh Akechi, you’re so smart! You’re so great! Why don’t you join us! It’ll be like old times! Even Haru is forced to say something nice. Then to really seal the deal, Akechi has to sacrifice himself in order for the party to escape a bad situation. Everyone is sad that Akechi had to go, but I’m just like, “Good riddance.”

— It also stretches credulity a bit, because I’m not sure Akechi really had to sacrifice himself. C’mon, the party could’ve taken out these shadow bois. If you’re going to take down Shido, you really want me to believe that you can’t beat some trash mobs? If they’re so strong, why wouldn’t Shido just surround himself with trash mobs?

— Oh well, time to face Shido.

Shido’s first form is pretty neat. He’s literally riding on the backs of the masses. But then after you beat this form, you just face some roided out freak. Then when you beat this form, he just turns red. In an action game, it’s cool to have a one-on-one duel against the bad guy. The best fights in the Soulsborne games are almost always against someone your own size. But for Persona 5, eh…

— Shido also isn’t very difficult as far as SMT endgame bosses are concerned, but that’s fine. Despite all his bluster, he’s the equivalent to the giant eyeball in P4.

— But here comes “Rivers in a Desert,” one of the best boss themes of all time.

— Oh hey, Ren has Yoshitsune, the most broken Persona in both P4 and P5. The only reason to have any other Persona in your pocket is if you run into an enemy that nulls or reflects physical damage. And in that case, I always use Alice, ’cause she’s kind of an SMT mainstay.

Speaking of the devil…

— “You’re not even in my league?” Is that really something Ren would say? I guess so…

— Unlike the previous baddies, Shido won’t go down peacefully. As a result, we get a scene where Ryuji finally makes himself useful. The boat blows up with Ryuji hanging onto it, so we’re led to think that the idiot has died. Ann and Futaba are in tears (Ann especially) until he shows up back in the real world. This scene is fine by itself. The only problem is that they shouldn’t have tried to pull this same trick twice, but we’ll get to that later…

— So is that it? Not quite. After the credits, Ren has a chat with Igor. Out of nowhere, the world is suddenly too deeply flaw to be fixed. Even though Shido is confessing to his crimes, his cult of personality is too strong. The masses don’t want to believe that he’s unqualified to run the country. I guess this isn’t too far-fetched. There’s a current sitting president who has been implicated over and over, and yet he still has a significant amount of support from his base.

— Welp, one more special to go. They really should’ve just made this a 3- or 4-cour series. Well, I would’ve liked that. Despite all my complaints, I would’ve watched every second of it.

2 thoughts on “Persona 5 The Animation – Dark Sun: This game just never ends

  1. ndqanhvn

    During the election period, sometimes politician would go out of the street to give a speech in the middle of the road. I have never seen such a big crowd like in the movie, but I did see, say, the Communist party candidate giving a speech in the crossroads Hyakkumanben of Kyoto University, where a lot of students gathered.

    I agree that the rivalry between Akechi and Main character isn’t executed very well. They probably want a relationship like Conan and Phantom Kid in Detective Conan (I am not sure you know that series, but it’s the closest example I could think of.) The thing is, in Detective Conan, the catch-me-if-you-can dynamic is played very well: Conan is there in all Kid’s stealing mission to help with the preparation, he usually got tricked or surprised by the Master Thief’s trick at first but quickly realized the trick and think of a counterattack very fast. It usually ends with Conan, the detective, successful in exposing Kid’s trick and bring the jewelry/treasure back, but he could not capture Kid and sometimes Kid “win” in some other aspects, like achieving his true purpose behind the heist. It does seem formulaic, and Detective Conan is a very formulaic show, but Conan-Kid showdowns have never been boring and you could feel they’re equally smart and cunning, and they both enjoy the game.

    Whether it is the game or the adaption, I could not feel that from Akechi and MC’s relationship. They have a bit more interaction this time around, but most of them are personal level. They have never directly face off each other like Conan and Kid…So the rivalry aspect of their relationship does seem weak.

    1. Sean Post author

      I think Persona 5 is yet another victim of development hell. The fact that it still turned out relatively well is a testament to the team (unlike, say, FFXV), but its execution is nevertheless very half-baked in a lot of key areas. I sincerely hope that P5R is a director’s cut of some sort that will rectify some of the narrative issues, but I fear it’s probably a silly fighting game. I could be wrong on this, but I get the feeling that P4 was a lot more well-loved than either P3 or P5. As a result, the fact that it spawned countless spinoffs makes sense to me even if I didn’t care for them. As much as I love P5, however, I think Atlus is trying too hard to capitalize on something that didn’t even match its predecessor. But again, I could be wrong on that.


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