OP: 「Burn My Dread -Spring of Birth Ver.-」 by 川村ゆみ (Kawamura Yumi)
「劇場版「ペルソナ3」第１章」 (Gekijo ban Perusona 3 Dai Ichi Sho)
“Persona 3 The Movie #1: Spring of Birth”
“I am thou… Thou art I… From the sea of thy soul, I come…”
Critically acclaimed, winner of numerous RPG of the year awards, and listed as one of the best RPGs of all time by some, Persona 3 arrived on the big screen amid quite a bit of hype. Needless to say, I’ve been eagerly waiting for the BD to come out since it was first announced a while back, and why not? The PS2 game was hands down one of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve ever had, and there’s a measure of awesomeness seeing the story unfold once again with upgraded visuals and new songs by Shoji Meguro and Lotus Juice (BURN MY DREAD! Or was it bread?)—even if it’s going to be a pretty hefty wait for the second and third movies respectively.
Before getting started on the movie though, it must be said that there’s a lot of give and take when it comes to game adaptations. Some games are naturally more conducive towards being adapted into another medium, and there’s much that can be said about the difficulties of maintaining the narrative while trying to keep true to the source material. In particular, the transfer of game mechanics aren’t exactly things that tend to work out, and it requires quite a bit of creativity to keep things such as battles and player choice when you’re trying to tell something on the big screen. This goes double when you get into Persona, which revolved a lot on creating and fusing new Persona with different abilities depending on their respective levels and your preferences. All things considered though, I felt like this adaptation did a great job in balancing the aforementioned factors, but it needs to be emphasized that not everyone will feel the same, especially if you’ve played the game before.
That said, perhaps the greatest thing this adaptation accomplishes is how it manages to stay generally true to the game without much narrative alteration. Much of the events that happen within the movie are quite similar to what happened in the game itself, and I found myself loving how this adaptation manages to make it so that first time viewers are really able to get a feel for the universe. There’s an atmospheric feeling here that all our characters (and the world itself) seems to have a darker side to them all, and considering its thematic importance to the series, it’s definitely a plus to succeed in this regard. The inclusion of the quote about how:
“Time never waits. It delivers all equally to the same end.”
is yet another example of this, and the occasional calendar (with its visual demonstration of time progression) does a good job giving the series that “grounded in reality” feel, as it clearly shows how our cast needs to balance their nightly excursions into Tartarus with their own social obligations.
Ultimately, the fact remains that Persona 3 is an RPG with roots in reality and an emphasis on human nature, and it’s a story that focuses much on the bonds our protagonist establishes over time. In particular, it demonstrates the change he undergoes as a result of them, and as it’s meant to be a story where he embodies the player, it can be said that this is essentially “your story” playing out on a set stage. Toward this end, I feel like the “blank slate” personality they give our protagonist here does well in emphasizing that notion. For the most part, he’s supposed to be generally emotionless—after all, you’re supposed to be filling his shoes and forming bonds with him as your “avatar” so to speak—until the story develops further, and this adaptation really takes this to heart.
Arguably though, the movie might just take that too much to heart, as Makoto generally doesn’t develop much throughout the story at all, and there’s a notable absence of interaction with characters outside of the SEES members in Mitsuru, Junpei, Akihiko, Yukari, and Fuuka. There are some glimpses of some of the other characters that one could form social links with throughout the game, but they’re fleeting moments to say the least, and it’s here where many fans of the original game will find fault with this adaptation. Considering the importance of these interactions in the game and in context of the thematic notion of developing and strengthening one’s bonds, these omissions loom somewhat large in the shadows (no pun intended), and it can be argued that they could have and should have done more in this regard.
One must however consider the fact that there’s so much interaction within the game that it’d be impossible to implement most of it without stretching this trilogy to something more of a heptalogy instead. There’s clearly a limitation here imparted upon this movie due to the nature of the medium, and it could be said that adding in multiple social links and all the individual stories they’d entail might actually detract from the overall narrative (in movie form) before it’s all said and done. As such—even if I may end up in the minority for thinking this—I feel like the strategy taken here is for all intents and purposes the right one given the circumstances.
Essentially, they’ve cut out the social links aspect in order to put a firm focus on the main Persona-wielding cast and the stories behind them and Tartarus, and I feel like they definitely made the right decision in this regard. The result is admittedly far from the “definitive Persona 3 experience”, but aside from playing the game itself, it’s questionable whether that’s even possible in a medium different from the original source. I feel like this could very well be the closest we’d be able to get to it given the constraints of the medium, which makes it très bien in my book. At the very least, those entering the series for the first time won’t be found wanting from this iteration of Persona 3, and it’s a great nostalgia trip for those who’ve already experienced it before. It’s just too bad it’ll be another year before the second movie’s out on BD, although one can enjoy the second movie’s main theme until then… (wait till the piano comes in a minute in. Phew*).
Full-length images: 138.
ED: 「More Than One Heart」 by 川村ゆみ (Kawamura Yumi)