「Put an End to All This and Use Your Own Artwork for Once.」
This anime deserves a round of applause for not entirely butchering up the Madarame arc! They did speed through the painting heist, but did justice to the drama, action, and story behind the second palace’s events. Animation particularly does service to the emotional weight of the dialogue as the horror, joy, and disgust on Yusuke’s face is in much clearer detail as he hears Madarame openly admit he let his mother die of a seizure to steal “Sayuri” from her and pass it off as his own work. Yusuke looks far cooler in the anime thanks to how the medium gives him a chance to be expressive, and the lines Sugita Tomokazu is able to work with packs a heavier punch as he takes on his former mentor and father figure.
In addition, the action has been far better in this section of the anime. The sloppy All Out Attacks or cut corners are non-existent in Cloverworks’ version of the Madarame arc as they nixed those in favor of creating some fun sequences where the characters bash, slash, and summon everything they can at Shadow Madarame’s Azazel form. Those who have played this part can attest to how much of a pain in the rear this boss battle was, and can attribute his paintings and ink as a source of frustration, but in the anime, it turns into a unique puzzle as Yusuke throws paint in its face while Ann unleashes some impressive explosions from Carmen. Joker acquiring Leanan Sidhe was never mentioned, but it was interesting to see how his arsenal of personas has been expanding off-screen as they navigate dungeons.
It is missing the most important detail of Shadow Madarame’s defeat where he assumes that the Phantom Thieves are linked up with a threatening man in a black mask who can navigate through the palaces as they do. It’s the first mention of a figure who will be relevant in the other palaces and even if they cut to it at a later point, it is a highly plot-relevant detail that was left out. While it can definitely be brought back up at some points in the anime where it’d be relevant to hear about him, and the next arc explains the man in the black mask in better detail, it’s a small kernel that Madarame left players with that provides food for thought on just how deep the Phantom Thieves are in all of this, and if moving further with their heart-thievery will attract attention from far scarier adversaries.
After Madarame’s confession, the anime takes great strides to develop the cast while they tell Yusuke about themselves. Ryuji gets the most backstory as we learn why he befriended Ann in middle school and how much his mother means to him. As the child of a single mother who had dealt with years of having an abusive father, it means a lot to see him reflect on the responsibility he feels for making his mother proud, and how terrible he felt when his own anger reflected poorly on her. Despite his notorious behavior as a boisterous blabbermouth, there are countless numbers of times where Ryuji pulls through as a great friend, a proud son, and a misunderstood kid with a good head on his shoulders. Same thing with Ann where her role as the Phantom Thieves’ pathos solidifies the motivation she brings herself and others to charge forward and save others from the adults they target. Although Ryuji fits the same bill in a more hot-headed manner, it’s Ann’s understanding of situations and her reactions to injustice that capture why the Phantom Thieves continue pushing forward. Much of Yusuke’s development came from his confrontation of Madarame and his newfound bond with the Phantom Thieves, but his decision to move into his school’s dorm and the impact leaving “Sayuri” with Leblanc has on Sojiro helps display the shift in his personality as he takes his life back.