「I`ll Guide You to Victory」
It’s shocking to say, but the anime did something better than the game; the beach trip. The initial reveal of the towel Futaba wrapped around her head did pale in comparison to the game’s animated segment as it was missing Ren and Yusuke’s shoujo-style shocked expression, but the sequence in itself felt like far more of a fun adventure on the beach. There was beach volleyball, sand-castle building, inflatable boats, and fun to be had all around. It actually did a service by improving on one of the game’s weak points with how its side excursions lacked the comradery or enjoyment they did in Persona 4. The game’s beach scene made the mistake of not having the cast react to your standard beach activities, resulting in an unmemorable short vacation where the and girls split up only for both groups to be hit on by creepy guys. While it did have the moment where Yusuke spent all of the money he had on-hand to purchase a pair of lobsters he enjoyed for their aesthetic, it was one of the only parts of the trip that felt like it had any of the fun you would expect friends to have on a beach trip. Meanwhile, the anime brings together a combination of making the Phantom Thieves feel like a group of friends and the efforts Ren made to fund the trip with his part-time work with the Underground Mall’s florist to improve on what should’ve been a relaxing, cute, and amusing time at the beach.
The game made it hard to feel like these are friends bonding together, but the anime’s attempt to make it look like they were all mingling together during the trip made much better sense within the context of getting Futaba acquainted with the outside world again. They did fast-forward through the days where she was getting used to the Phantom Thieves giving her objectives, but the parts of the game’s summer they kept in worked together well in making Futaba and Sojiro pivotal to the growth and attachment Ren has with the friends he’s made along the way. Sojiro especially felt like he’s built a larger trust in Ren since he’s been working to help Futaba as they are both getting comfortable with the idea of telling one another how they feel about getting to the bottom of what or who killed Wakaba. Seeing Sojiro teach Ren how to make curry was exciting on my end because of how much I enjoyed the small parts of the game where you can learn about curry and coffee the more you make them. As the guy who recorded the curry and coffee trivia on Reddit, I appreciate any opportunity the anime has to incorporate these aspects into the show. Even if Ren’s first efforts at making curry were to “go with his heart” to make overly spicy curry, he also has some growth to undergo before he can make anything on-par with Wakaba’s recipe.
This juxtaposed with Futaba’s motivation to stay by the Phantom Thieves as a means of uncovering the mystery behind the discoveries she’s made and track down the people responsible for her mom’s death helped to give them a clear presence within the narrative itself. Although she still has a ways to go with how she froze up in Akihabara, the episode takes measures to ensure that Futaba’s journey towards conquering her anxiety is only beginning, and she’s making great strides to build her confidence with the beach trip and her first venture into Mementos. There’s only so much the anime can cover, but with the game’s measures to take her battle with anxiety and agoraphobia seriously, the anime at the very least has been able to do justice to the growth she undergoes as she takes one step after another towards progress.
Because time is of the essence, the anime has had its work cut out for it as if moves briskly through trying to capture as much as it can of the game without feeling like they missed any beats that would undo any of the efforts they did with the anime’s narrative. From the framework of this episode, however, it does feel like there was a good amount of planning put into which confidant stories work alongside each other. As the upcoming arc where the Phantom Thieves become a cultural phenomenon and Okumura Kunikazu emerges as a target encroaches closer on the anime, they would have to show the group having to grapple with their role in changing the hearts of corrupt individuals. There are sections of levity like Ryuji and Ren catching Kawakami fishing during her downtime, but for the most part, we should expect to see some of the characters’ personal ethos be questioned like Mishima using the Phansite as a means to splurge on expensive meals and try to hook up with girls.
This episode also marks the point where it dives into Morgana’s burgeoning insecurities. With his role as a navigator being phased out with Futaba’s skills, his magic falling in the wayside in comparison to the others, and his nightmares giving him conflicting thoughts on whether he’d be able to become a human and sweep Ann off her feet, Morgana’s emotions become more erratic during this segment of the game, and it meshes naturally to have Morgana’s motivations be the center of attention for this section. They weaved other confidants relatively well with Morgana’s sadness arc as Ann’s confidant merged well into it. The discouragement she got from modeling after Mika sabotages her shoot causes her to question her own interests and whether she was really as passionate about modeling. And yet when Morgana offers to help, she is fine the way he is, feeding further into the lack of help he can really offer to the group. The sensitivity he has about how much worth humans have and whether he’d ever be able to parallel any of this with his own actions come out further with how little he can offer in his cat form in comparison to Ren or Ann herself as she sorts through her own personal matters of tackling whether she enjoys modeling. It would be great if they go further into Ann’s confidant, but with the Okumura arc coming at a quick pace, we’ll be looking into the Hawaii trip and Morgana getting deeper into his depressive state.