The end of Persona 4: The Animation

Andrew Osmond on the final part of Persona 4: The Animation

Persona 4: The Animation

The third and last volume of Persona 4 The Animation – released like its predecessors as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack – shows the full spectrum of the series. The first volume was adventure-heavy, as hero Yu and his growing circle of friends sought the serial killer dispatching victims in the country town of Inaba; a mystery linked to a foggy fantasy world behind the TV screen. The second volume tied up – well, seemed to tie up – that arc early on, then told lighter-hearted stories tying into the show’s theme of friendship. However, Volume 2 ended with another action-heavy story confirming that the serial-killer mystery wasn’t solved, and recruiting the last warrior in Yu’s band of heroes – the cross-dressing “boy” detective Naoto, voiced by Japanese actress Romi Park (Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood).

Volume 3 picks up the serial-killer thread again, though not immediately. The first episode focuses on Yu’s surrogate family in Inaba – his policeman uncle Ryotaro and Ryotaro’s young daughter Nanako – and how the tragic death of Ryotaro’s wife still hurts the relationship between parent and child. The episode has some interesting comparisons with a plotline in this month’s volume of Tiger & Bunny, about “Tiger” Kotetsu’s difficult relationship with his own daughter. After that rather serious tale, there are a couple of much lighter stories, involving beauty pageants, hot springs and girls and boys in bikinis.

But then everything suddenly takes a very serious turn. Yu receives a message that to punish him for his past meddling, the next serial-killer victim will be someone dear to him. In what follows, Yu and his friends are plunged into a nightmare that will test their friendship, and their sense of ethics, more than any of their fantasy battles. We’ll draw a curtain over what happens, except to say the solution to the serial-killer mystery is – of course – twisty. Death Note fans will enjoy trying to work it out in advance; and in Death Note’s spirit, remember that some “villains” believe that they’re actually the heroes of their story…

Action fans, fear not – the titanic battles return in force at the finale, taking on apocalyptic dimensions and witty visual ideas. Given that Persona 4 has revolved so much around television, what do you think the ultimate Big Bad would look like? There’s also room for each of Yu’s friends to reflect on what he or she has achieved and learned, and where to go to from here. They may survive the adventure, but has it taught them how to live?

This volume contains the final eight TV episodes of the series (18 to 25), but it also has a bonus – a final, 26th episode that was released to DVD in Japan. While such extra parts aren’t unusual in anime, it’s a rather stylish example of its kind. Some critics might accuse it of redundancy – the episode restates messages that were clear enough in the main series, while finding an excuse for an even bigger Final Battle. Yet as an epilogue, it puts the teenagers’ battles into a grander, more rounded high fantasy context, which fits very well with the mythic imagery beloved by anime actioners. Moreover, like the ingenious ‘fake future’ episode midway through the series, the bonus story forces Yu to confront his own greatest weakness. What good is it for him to be a hero, if he must finally say goodbye to everyone he loves?

The final volume of Persona 4 is out now on UK DVD and Blu-ray.

Persona 4 The Animation – Box 3 Trailer

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