OP: 「Break In to Break Out」 by Lyn
「Let`s Take Back What’s Dear to You.」
With Ren’s persona Arsene awakening, the anime mercifully doesn’t have a lengthy tutorial section. Instead, Ren and Ryuji’s escape is followed up with the editing structure of the episode booting them out of Kamoshida’s palace. The editing so far has been a prevalent issue as some of the game mechanics that are portrayed in the anime are left in with little to no explanation on how they work. From having to leave palaces outside to the Safe Rooms that are safe spaces to offer players the chance to save, heal, and regroup, it’s all thrown in so quickly that there’s hardly any time to understand how the mechanics of a palace work. It’s understandable given how it isn’t supposed to be as gratuitously video gamey (animating the use of save points would be overkill), but within the context of the universe the anime paints, it needs to have some cohesion that doesn’t require playing the game to understand. There aren’t as many of these moments outside of the palace other than how mismanaged the Velvet Room and interrogation transitions have been, but the palace scenes could have benefited more with a little bone thrown towards newbies like explaining that shadows can’t get them through the Safe Room’s barrier or show them leaving the castle before making it back to the real world. And it especially would be in the best interest of the anime to not do anything like that fight scene in the future. The replication of the All Out Attack mechanic looked outright horrifying, and they would’ve been better off just putting the sequence from the video game. The poor animation comes out in full force during this fight sequence, but it is something I expected with how awkward the faces and actions in the P4 anime looked.
Now that we have the negatives out of the way, the anime’s depiction of Shujin Academy is still relatively faithful. One thing that made the initial playthrough of P5 a fun experience was how much it seemed like the world was against you. Here you are just this meek new transfer student, and not only does everyone know you have a criminal rap sheet, but they’ve already painted you as a sociopathic thug. You can’t go into the library and rent a book without students acting shocked a criminal like you can read, and treat you like you’re never going to return any of your books. And then when you return to the dusty old attic you call your room, Sojiro regularly threatens to send you to juvie or kick you out until you get to know him more. They got the oppressive nature of the game’s introduction constantly kicking you in the face down to a T with how quickly rumors spread of Ren’s probation, how startled everyone is when he walks down the hall, and how students are quick to try to build rumors around Ren and Ann.There are some minor liberties taken such as introducing Okumura Haru and Niijima Makoto earlier on (though you can still meet Makoto studying in the library during this point in the game), and Kawakami seems less burdened by the idea of being your supervisor, but it’s nice to see all three of these confidants get some screen time in this episode, as well as the small cameo from Kanami Mashita from P4 Dancing All Night.
Now onto the main target of the game’s first arc, Suguru Kamoshida. This first arc in particular is effective not just because of the treatment that Ren gets from his fellow students and Sojiro, but because Kamoshida is easily one of the more realistic and frightening video game villains to have popped up in recent years. He appears to be a down-to-earth gym teacher on the surface, but a culture of fear and secrecy covers for him as he mercilessly beats and abuses his team, abuse other teams, and use his leverage to abuse other students as well. The game drip-feeds us his worst aspects in the real world the further into this arc we get, but as soon as we enter his palace and explore around, we see his desires manifest from the metaphorical to the figurative as he has torture chambers dedicated to the students he loves to exact his abuse on. It was unique for the anime to have included his abuse of Shiho in the real world as it intercuts Ren seeing the volleyball team trapped in his palace’s torture chamber with him throwing punches at the poor girl in his office. One anime exclusive moment that didn’t work so well as Kamoshida spiking Ren in the face with the volleyball during gym class. Having him outright boast about abusing his students by spiking Ren does give him a personal vendetta with Kamoshida, but it was more effective when you only got subtle hints of him being horrid before encountering the torture chamber rather than outright having him wrong Ren right off the bat. In a similar way, showing Shiho’s abuse might’ve also gave too much away by not having you truly confirming your suspicions of Kamoshida until you see how he acts around Ann shortly after Ryuji’s awakening. It might not be 100% accurate, but the depiction of Kamoshida in the anime has been on-point so far, and the palace’s events matches with it’s in-game moments with Ann appearing as the scantily clad queen of his palace and how he taunts Ryuji with how he broke his leg during Ryuji’s awakening scene.
And speaking of Ryuji, the his first fight with Captain Kidd might not have been impressive, but the anime is handling his own story very well. The scene with them gathering for lunch was a solid addition as it gives him a shot to bond greatly with Ren, and share their wrongful public persecution in common. He even came up with the nickname “Renren” for him after he is mutually outraged by his probation circumstances. Having a short segment of Ryuji meeting with the old Running team also sets up his confidant events to be told at a sooner or later date. Similarly, the introduction of Morgana (Ootani Ikue) was cute as Ryuji fights off the temptation to pet him while Ren ruffles up his fur. They also didn’t have him deliberately single out Ryuji for criticism, so it gives some good leeway of having Morgana be a little more mellow around him. Although the animation, editing, and the OP/ED sequence could have been way better, the anime so far is depicting almost everything it’s touched upon properly, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here, how they’ll continue with the Kamoshida arc as we gear up to tear him a new one, and what other changes or additions they’ll make throughout the adaptation.
ED: 「Infinity」 by Lyn
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