Persona 5 and The Animation: Thoughts, themes, differences, and reviews (warning: major story spoilers follow)

When we think of Japan, the general population’s first thought usually is anime.  In 2017, we were given a treat, in the form of Persona 5, which is a Japanese Role-Playing Game, which was anticipated for a long time.  One year later, we all received Persona 5: The Animation, which takes the whole entire story of the video game and puts it into a multi-part anime series (with the final episode coming out at the end of 2018).  The anime did not get as much of a great reception as the video game did, which is odd, considering both the anime and the game have the same story.  It could be development issues or something but there are differences between the two to take into consideration.  Overall, this paper will look at differences between the anime and the game, how other people thought of them, two of the many themes, and my personal thoughts on both the game and the anime.

            The story of Persona 5 follows a teenager who got falsely accused of assault and wa sforced to move to a new city for a year while he was on probation.  The day he was supposed to start school, he and a new friend he met, Ryuji Sakamoto, get wrapped up into a person’s distorted desired world, known as a palace. The desires of this world belonged to their gym teacher: Suguru Kamoshida.  There, they learn of his twisted desires and meet with a new friend, Morgana, who helps them out.  As they go through with this, Ann Takamaki,who becomes their friend after her friend tries to commit suicide due to something Kamoshida told her, joins the crew to get revenge.  In the end, they succeed in changing his heart, which in turn destroys the distorted desires he had.  After their victory, they made a pact to change twisted adults’ hearts, thereby forming the group known as the  of Heart.  Throughout the year that the story takes place, they set out into what is known as the metaverse,where the palaces are located, and change peoples’ hearts and desires that were especially terrible.  Such people include a crime syndicate boss named Kaneshiro and an artist who uses his pupils’ works as his own, known as Madarame.  They also picked up new friends who join the group in order to help the cause.  Such people include Futaba Sakura, a teenage computer hacker, and Makoto Niijima, the daughter of a famous prosecutor.  Things come to a head when one of the targets they were taking care of gets killed after that person’s heart was changed.  The phantom thieves were blamed for the incident, which then causes the police to start hunting for them.  This led to the phantom thieves to steal the twisted heart of the aforementioned prosecutor, as she was getting too close to the identity of the group and was willing to have evidence forged to get a manhunt started to have the group arrested. They changed the twisted desires of the prosecutor, but were betrayed from within, as one of their number got the leader arrested.  This led to the interrogation that the leader, hereby referred to as Ren (as that was his name in the anime).  After the interrogation, it turns out that Goro Akechi, who was working with them was a double-crosser and seemingly assassinated him.  Though this was part of the plan, as it was later revealed that the phantom thieves knew of Akechi not being on their side.  This led to the invasion of the twisted desires of the politician that Akechi was working with: Shido, a politician who plans to, after winning the election, turn Japan’s government into a dictatorship.  Once his desires changed, the general public still had not believed in Shido’s confession, or how just the phantom thieves were.  So, the phantom thieves had to go and change the heart of the general public, which was not an easy feat.  In the end, they somehow did it, but then Ren had to turn himself in after the whole ordeal. After the rest of the group, plus the rest of Ren’s friends, was able to get evidence to prove Shido’s guilt, Ren was released and spent the rest of the time relaxing and hanging out with his friends until it was time for him to return home.

            The anime follows the exact same story as the game does, with some minor differentiation. One of the first few notable differences is that the anime did not feature 3-D cinematics; it was full on two dimensional, as it is for most anime.  As for story related content, the game allowed player choice to do a lot of things while not inside the metaverse, such as hanging out with friends whenever the player wanted to, or even starting a relationship with one of the female friends.  The anime had those types of events scripted so that the things Ren did outside the metaverse was scattered within the story.  For example, when Ren is helping Makoto with an investigation of a friend of hers whom she was worried about being taking advantage of, this was done before the change of Kaneshiro’s heart.  The developers of the anime, CloverWorks and A1 Studios, made it so Ren would “friend-zone” every single of his female friends.  It’s the minor difference that can change a story up, but the anime kept the main points of the story from the game.  Without those main points, we would not have an anime based on an awesome game.

            As with most TV series based on video games, Persona 5: The Animation got mixed reviews as of the final episode that aired on September 30, 2018.  Some critics on Crunchyroll have given it horrible reviews and claim that those who want to experience Persona 5 should just play the game, while others have stood their ground and have said that the anime was one of the best series they have seen in 2018(“Persona 5 The Animation – Crunchyroll,” n.d.).  Taking these reviews into account there are things to note that come from both sides. For one, the anime is very fast paced. This is understandable as it goes through an entire year of the protagonist’s events while in Tokyo, but there are points where one scene suddenly jumps to the next without any explanation.  On the other hand, some were saying that the first episode was just like a preview and the real content begins after the beginning.  This, I can agree with, seeing as the beginning episode was introducing Ren and getting everything setup for what is to come in the series.

            When the game came out in 2016 in Japan and 2017 in the rest of the world, it was given lots of positive reviews.  Many gamers were impressed that the game came out as well as it did, since it was in development for a total of eight to nine years. The game was praised for keeping the typical JRPG elements, such as the turn style combat.  Others appreciated the bigger world to explore, seeing as the worlds in the previous games were minimal.  Long-time fans of the Persona series also appreciated the return of some of the enemies in the game, some of which actually can be used against the opponent.  The best part is being able to live the ordinary life of a high school student when not under pressure of trying to change the hearts of the bad guys, as you have freedom to do almost whatever you want, including hanging out with friends, watching movies etc. (Goldfard, 2017).

            There are themes in the anime and the game that are noticeable.  The first of these themes is the idea of rebellion.  The anime follows a group of teens in high school, and teens are usually rebellious.  With this group, they see adults commit horrible acts and they do not want to sit on the sidelines like everyone else does.  They rebelled against the norm and took matters in their own hands to solve the problems the adults were causing.  The other theme to be discussed is the importance of friendship.  Throughout the game and the anime, Ren is told how important it is to have friends and maintain the relationships with said friends. With that mindset, Ren finds time, even in the mess of dealing with a corrupt adult, to spend time with the people he meets and, in the game,strengthening the relationships comes with benefits, such as creating stronger Personas and having additional abilities. In the anime, Ren is able to build trust with his friend that are strong enough to help with the final battle by the end of the series

My personal thoughts on the game and the anime are the exact same.  They are awesome!  To go into detail, startin gwith the game, I like how it has loads of content that can keep a gamer going for more than 60 hours.  The combat in the game is smooth and kept to the style of JRPGs.  I also appreciate how the game offers the ability to start a fresh playthrough with some of the things from a previous playthrough, such as the Personas you had and the social skill rankings.  They can make the game go a lot smoother with friendship ranking and combat.  As far as the anime goes, I like how it follows the story of the game exactly.  Sure, they may not take player-made choices from the game into account, but they kept the main points intact.  Without the main points, the you don’t have Persona 5: The Animation.  The character design is the exact same as the game, which is definitely a plus. Overall, the anime was a success in my opinion.

Persona 5 was a success in both game and anime format.  The story was an emotional one and the setting being in Tokyo makes it feel like a true Japanese game and anime series.  It may not be a hit for everyone, but those who can understand or want to understand Japanese culture,plus those looking for a classic RPG experience will enjoy Persona 5.


Goldfarb, A. (2017). Persona 5 Review. Retrieved from

Ishihama, M. (2018).  Persona 5: The Animation [television series].  Tokyo, Japan: Tokyo MX

P-Studio.  (2017).  Persona 5 .  Japan: Atlus

PERSONA5 the Animation on Crunchyroll! (n.d.). Retrieved from

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