「Let`s Be Friends, Shall We?」
Of the many events I’ve been anticipating to see in the Persona 5 anime, Makoto’s awakening was one of the early game scenes that I was the most excited to witness in animated format. It was without a doubt, hands-down, the coolest moment in the game yet with how carefully constructed it was to blow the lid off of the game’s roof. As Makoto’s pent-up frustration builds with Akechi mocking her pushover status, her sister Sae verbally choke-slamming her with how she sees her as a useless leech, and Ann reminding her that she’s been conveniently unhelpful in their investigation, it was a long-time coming to finally see her unleash all of her rage. The moment Shadow Kaneshiro was boasting about how he’d force her and her sister into his sex slavery ring, it was the end of the road for Makoto’s patience with all of the thanklessness and trash she’s dealt with up to this point. With one solid expletive, Makoto’s inner voice calls out to her on whether she wishes to enter her contract with her true self.
The way her awakening framed in the game is well-crafted as her fearsome rage contrasts with her fellow Persona users by having her cut off her inner voice to accept its call, smashing a crater into the floor as she pulls off her mask. Sadly, the anime doesn’t have her stomping said crater into the ground, but it does a stellar job at reminding me of how awesome Makoto was once she took on the title of Queen, the shadow-punching strategist who rides her motorcycle persona, Johanna into battle and shouts “FISTS OF JUSTICE!” with every All-Out Attack she finishes. If it weren’t for one more character yet to be formally introduced, she’d be my absolute favorite just based on how awe-inspiring she is in the Metaverse. Johanna also remains as an impressive persona in the anime as Makoto uses its motorcycle form to slam into shadows. It’s disappointing that they didn’t show her slam right through the barricaded entrance of the Bank since it was funny to see her outright mow through the door after asking Ryuji if he wants to get smacked for commenting on her Mad Max-like appearance, but it was satisfying enough to remind me of why Makoto stands out as such a great character once she gets the resolve to challenge her fate by going against the authority figures who kept her down with the false promise of advancement. Rather than being tied down by the principal’s orders or bossed around by her sister or Akechi, she finds her own path through her push to let her aggression against the oppressive people in power out in the Metaverse.
The anime highlights her biggest strengths in this arc as well with how quickly she was to adjust to the situation of seeing Kaneshiro’s palace. After seeing Ryuji, Ann, and Yusuke respond to the Metaverse by needing an explanation, it was refreshing for Makoto to be smart enough to pick up on the mechanics of the universe without having to be pulled aside to explain everything that’s happened up til now. Her experience in aikido lead to a funny moment as well where she gets into a fighting stance in her preparation to face shadows without having awakened to her persona. The anime also added important details to this section such as a flashback about the role Makoto’s dad played in her life, being a supportive father up until his death that shaped her and her sister’s transition into harder people more focused on career goals than personal happiness or growth. This helps set the stage for both Makoto’s development as we dive further into her own personal tale of strife while she handles life without her father who inspired her to pursue justice and Sae’s transition into being an adversarial figure who saw her father’s death as a wake-up call to throw the book at any criminals she’s pursuing with no hesitation or remorse.
In Makoto’s exploration of her flaws, it is also poignant how her and Ann interact as she takes more introspection in wanting to make amends to Ann for not being able to do anything to help in the midst of the Kamoshida case. The reflection that Makoto takes to see her inaction as something that hit Ann personally back when she was blackmailing them into finding more on Kaneshiro was a strong point of Makoto and Ann’s maturation as they are able to empathize with one another about where each of them stood in relation to the case, and with Makoto acknowledging her flaws and Ann giving her credit for doing the best she could have done in the situation she was in, it gives us a reason to be compelled to feel for the struggle that both characters had to face to be able to come together. Where the two are able to address that they had used each other to deflect from the lack of control they had over the injustice that happened directly in front of them gave them the chance to make up for it by putting their best foot forward in sharing their mutual interest in pursuing justice together.
The episode also elaborated on what happened when Makoto entered Kaneshiro’s club, which I found to be awkward since she was shown pinned to the floor when the Phantom Thieves arrived, but leaves little time for them to take a picture of Makoto uncomfortably sitting next to a guy chugging booze. The latter part was written out, but it makes more sense for them to pin her down right away than to take an intermission to get a phone shot of her with the guy drinking. Kaneshiro was the oddest target as very little of him is shown or elaborated on within the game itself, but the combination of how goofy his personality is for such a horrible person and his design in the real world & Metaverse that resembles how abstract the fat characters from the Danganronpa games look made him far more interesting than anything the story has to say about his life. His blueberry form in the Metaverse is bound to take center stage in the next episode, so maybe with how much adaptation expansion that the other characters have had in the anime so far, we’ll see a little more depth from Kaneshiro to have us see how he got to where he is and why he should be an intimidating figure as an imposing mafia boss with his influence across Shibuya.