OP2: 「Break In to Break Out」 by Lyn
「Steal It, If You Can」
Persona 5‘s anime adaptation has used the last episode with the game’s first target to make some amends with the corners cut in the animation process. For instance, there’s a new opening sequence that is sleek, modern, and shows off the entire cast instead of recycling episode clips and promo material. They also made better use of dispensing information as they explain more clearly the circumstances behind making treasure appear, what stealing treasure amounts to, and how they are able to affect Kamoshida without giving him a mental shutdown that would have resulted in him becoming brain-dead. It was also interesting how they came up with all of the names through a voiceover sequence as opposed to doling them out one at a time like in the game, though they could’ve gave Ren his new codename Joker without it being a reveal at the end of the episode.
For the most part, Kamoshida’s calling card, fight, and confession were adapted relatively faithfully. It is missing the creepy room that the party encounters with Shiho’s pictures, but I give them props for including that fetch quest at the end where you’re grabbing jewels from the golden guards to stop the axes (doing that final part all in one day on the first playthough with barely any health, SP, or items left was notably painful). As wonky as the CGI model for Kamoshida’s shadow form Asmodeus was, it is faithful to the in-game model and is an improvement from last episode’s Belphegor.
The one element from this section that needed to be 100% right was Ann’s resolve, and that was done rather well in this episode. For her to stand up to Kamoshida, remind him of how his fearful reaction to the balcony as his only way out is the same feeling he subjected to his students and especially Shiho, and the growth she went through to not incinerate him right then and there was all on display. Same with her anger at Kamoshida’s confession when he thought suicide would make up for his crimes instead of paying off his debts through imprisonment. The ending scene where she visits Shiho as she regains consciousness was a powerful addition as it gave us some hope for Shiho’s recovery and potentially allow us to see her road to recovery through Ann’s assistance.
There were some questionable changes to the formula, however, with the new episode. While it is nice that the Velvet Room has better use in this adaptation with Ren using it to gather and fuse personas, it does feel a little underwhelming that they introduced the Hold-Up game mechanic on a whim and replaced Arsene with Agathion. It makes sense with how Arsene promises to return a few times in the narrative despite the player obviously needing to fuse Arsene, but going through the next dungeon with Agathion would be like if Satoshi/Ash from Pokemon benched Pikachu in the beginning to make way for Metapod clearing through his first couple gyms.
As for our new real-world character introductions, arms dealer Iwai’s intro was different, but worked decently enough with the narrative by introducing why Morgana would find airsoft guns useful within the Metaverse where the palaces manifest. On the flipside, Tae Takemi’s introduction was a bit strange because it went against how we initially met her. In the game, she refers you to her clinic, but you have to go out of your way to convince her that you need her experimental drugs for studying to gain access to her healing item selection in exchange for becoming her guinea pig. In the anime, however, she just hands Ren a bag of pills in front of Sojiro on a whim to scout for the ideal guinea pig. The game’s labeling of Takemi as a “shady doctor” is merely based on her experimentation to find the perfect medicine through the use of experimental drugs untested on anyone except Ren, yet she still retains her ethics and is reluctant to offer Ren anything if his reasoning is ill-intended. For this anime adaptation, the pacing’s issues make Takemi shady because of her willingness to go against her ethical code as a doctor to just hand out her drugs to anyone like it’s a free sample. It might seem nitpicky, but because Takemi’s confidant story was an engaging one at that as a misunderstood underdog, it does feel like it diminished her role by having her throw drugs at Ren.
There’s also a strange precedence for how the anime uses Akechi. Other than a brief conversation Sae, he has no other appearances in the game up until the second palace is complete. But with the anime, he’s been in every episode so far, and the last scene of this one uses a flash-forward of Akechi meeting the Phantom Thieves to foreshadow their next target. The anime’s obsession with Akechi hasn’t been an issue with the past episodes, but here it comes off as needlessly unnecessary and hazardous to the plot. We already have Sae’s interrogation as a built-in, in-game foreshadow of every new target, so we’re just piling on future jumps on top of future jumps because causality has no meaning in the name of fan service. It’s not too much of a secret that Yusuke, Makoto, Haru, and Futaba join your party, but the anime shows you all of its cards right away to announce that they’re all in the party, and Akechi comes in too so he can meet with them some time before Ren is arrested. And for what purpose? So we can see a foreshadow that Sae was going to tell us anyways? So that we can get more screen time for Akechi for fans of him to clamor over? In the grand scheme of things, the interrogations defeat the purpose of anything else alluding to the events prior to Ren’s arrest, so it feels pointless for them to jump to an earlier period when Akechi confronts the party.for any reason other than because every episode needed to meet a quota of one Akechi appearance.
The good news about Episode 5 is that they’re improving some of the story-telling woes that come from trying to fit enough information to satisfy viewers. This episode introduced the mechanics for mementos and the materialized treasure well within the space of 24 minutes. It also delves into how the Phantom Thieves were born as their resolve from realizing the disgust they have with the corrupt social elite that they encounter at a celebratory lunch buffet should be channeled into taking the “hearts” from other rotten people in society. This resolve is one of the few instances of the anime improving on the game’s formula as it gives Ann a reason to side with Ryuji and Ren when she is singled out by a rich woman who bumped into her only to shift the blame on her for being younger. It doesn’t link Ren to the bald man with the orange shades as closely as the game did, but it does the story wonders for the characters to have personally experienced their own motive for making sure the Phantom Thieves weren’t just a one-off.
Although it is grating to see so much of Akechi this early, this is the first instance where I thought his early appearance was warranted. Him encountering Ren, face-to-face, at this point in the series makes a little more sense in that it gives Akechi a reason to become acquainted with him after the second palace for reasons beyond it being intuition for him to try to befriend Ren. It also gives Morgana something to work with as his suspicion of Akechi is brought upon much earlier as it connects the dots early that Morgana doesn’t quite trust him for reasons. They merged it rather well with Sojiro’s confidant as well with him and Sae showing up for a cup of coffee while Sojiro teaches him how to properly make the perfect coffee and curry. And they even give you a nice little bonus of having Akechi maintain a food blog.
On top of this, the way they handled some of the confidants and in-universe characters were pretty nice this time around. They set the plans in motion for Makoto to begin her investigation on the Phantom Thieves after being pressured by the principal to bring justice to the thieves. There is also some confidant development with Takemi having Ren be her guinea pig for new drugs she’s experimenting on, and Mishima pledging his undying loyalty to the Phantom Thieves by being the founder and sole admin of the “Phansite”. Also included are some of the really fun appearances of little things within the universe like the chalk having a message promoting the Phantom Thieves and the guitarist near Shibuya Station that dedicates songs to them. That’s not to mention the cameo from Yoshida Toranosuke, one of the coolest old guys in the game aside from Sojiro. Even though the All Out Attack still looks garish, we’re getting closer to the anime getting details and new scenes correct.