「I Found the Place Where I Belong」
At breakneck speed, Persona 5 the Animation mows through Kaneshiro’s palace and wraps up the section where we see Makoto on the battlefield. For better or worse, many of the details and nods surrounding this section of the game took far a majority of the spotlight in comparison to the palace itself. Most notably was how Makoto’s personality had been fleshed out more so here than within the game. As someone who chose Makoto on the first playthrough, one thing I couldn’t help but shake was how she spent most of her time with Ren still being methodical, calculated, and logical with the exception of a few key moments where she’s flustered or excited. Makoto starts out as a straight-A student that has been groomed to fit the mold of a future workaholic like her sister Sae, but the progression towards being liberated, care-free, or open to unwind is only touched upon on occasion like when you go see a film with her based on the game Yakuza or playing the light-gun game during the first rank of her confidant. Aside from those casual hang-outs, it’s hard to feel like Makoto really got an opportunity to relax when most of her decisions and actions in the main narrative and her confidant were based on strategy.
With the anime, however, the change that Makoto’s awakening has on her is more apparent as its addressed clearly that she wants to try out average high-schooler hobbies to catch up on lost time. Where her emphasis on getting invested in fun activities as merely a means of researching what students would do isn’t as heavily pressed here as it is in the game, allowing Makoto to be humanized in a way that makes her far more appealing. Framing the shooting game at the arcade as a way to blow off steam instead of as a way to learn tactics in the dungeon helps to show that she enjoys the activities she’s missed out on and that her new outlook on life is offering her the chance to relax and feel not so trapped within the confines of the mental prison that chasing after the highest honors under the principal’s supervision placed her in. It’s still great to see her as the smartest person and the room and it isn’t a detriment to her character that she is methodical, but the anime at least aimed to remedy the game’s issue of making her overly about seeing everything as a research project, leisure included.
It also shows Makoto being personable and understanding towards her friends as well. As she becomes acquainted with her new friends, she gets comfortable with talking to them about personal matters. She quickly grows fond of Ann as she levels with her on sharing the blame for being unable to reach out to Shiho before matters got worse, and the building blocks that came from their interactions through the past two episodes come to fruition with their friendship being solidified. One fun inclusion the show makes is how their bond is exemplified through the game’s Baton Pass feature that boosts attacks when a character that hits an enemy’s weakness can follow up by giving another character an extra return. After Makoto and Ann patch up any of the hard feelings they had about the past, the anime switches right into a scene in the Metaverse where the pair tag teams their enemies with a one-two punch.
The Baton Pass function makes a nice re-appearance as a key mechanic to defeating Kaneshiro as they each get a turn in getting a crack at his shadow. While it does streamline the fight by getting each of the members of the slowly growing Phantom Thieves time to shine, it also lends itself to how the anime wants to involve the party in the story’s events or side-events. For instance, the cheap TV that the player would ordinarily be able to buy from the thrift store by LeBlanc ended up being something Yusuke and Ryuji decided to install in his room to give the attic pizzazz. The added scene where Caroline and Justine were given some development akin to their confidant was a welcome surprise as well that made Igor’s prerequisite lecture easily more tolerable.
The crux of the anime’s issues has always came back to the animation quality, and this episode takes a huge dive in the hang-out scenes where any time that camera goes far enough to show most of their body, their faces are lopsided and weird. While it is easy to spot the off-model mistakes in slower scenes that can be polished up for the Blu-ray release, it becomes an issue that’s hard to overlook with the fights. The wonkier animation works a little in Shadow Kaneshiro’s favor since the messiness of his movements gives his new fly form unsettling spontaneity, but for the rest of the Phantom Thieves, the crooked eyes, floating bodies, and off-model faces aren’t a good look. Kaneshiro rapping out his plans to decimate everyone was also awkward, but he is a flying purple fly-man who dances on a giant metal pig he calls the Piggytron, so him spitting bars at the party is the least strangest thing about this fight.
The anime’s efforts to give the cast additional qualities to work with come at the cost of having to adapt the gameplay. They thankfully skipped through the tedious sections of Kaneshiro’s palace, as cool as the song “Price” is (the bass and funky high-pitched instrument gave the bank heist a smooth yet sleazy feel to it that fits well with what Kaneshiro’s subconscious would sound like), but they were definitely trying to wrap up the bank as quickly as possible and fast-forward to the calling card and fight. Even if it isn’t the most eventful part, it is disappointing that much of the pacing went into making the build-up to Kaneshiro longer while the actual hunt for his treasure was fast-forwarded through. There were further hints of the illusive black masked individual that is spying on everyone and working behind the scenes to use the Metaverse in less wholesome ways, so that’ll be interesting to see be a possible part of the next episode.