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Second collection of episodes from the anime series based on the role-playing video game. The series follows Yu Narukami, a high school student who is sent to the countryside to live with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, and cousin, Nanako Dojima, when his parents' work takes them abroad. Yu quickly discovers that the countryside of Inaba is no ordinary place as he develops mysterious powers known as ‘Persona’ and embarks on adventures in a realm known as the ‘TV World’...
Continuing the adventures of transfer student Yu and his small-town friends as they investigate the bizarre murders linked to the collective-unconscious realm of the Midnight Channel, volume 2 of Persona 4: The Animation resumes the story of ex-media idol Rise Kujikawa. Having retired (at the venerable age of 15) and returned to her home town of Inaba, Rise's traumatic experiences in the idol business have left her prey to the mysterious serial killer haunting the town, whose unexplained access to the other-dimensional 'TV World' allows him to cast his victims into a surreal landscape generated by their own worst fears. Yu and his friends, having faced and overcome their fears, are able to use the power of 'Persona' - summoning up abstract phantasms with superhuman powers - to brave the terrors of the TV World and rescue the killer's intended victims, usually leading to the target's own awakening of their Persona and a new recruit for the team.
The Persona videogames, an outgrowth of the sprawling Shin Megami Tensei franchise, with their blend of role-playing dungeon combat, Pokémon-esque creature raising, breezy anime storytelling and hefty doses of occult and psychological symbolism, are an unsurprisingly huge phenomenon with both Japanese and Western audiences and so an anime adaptation for this, the latest in the series, was likely inevitable. (The preceding Persona 3, after an inauspicious and tenuously related animated sequel, is due to be adapted into a series of movies beginning this year .) The bright and sunny environment of Inaba, with its population of winsome high-schoolers and colourful locals, was arguably the best feature of Persona 4 and has largely survived intact here; much of the game's incidental comedy is present and correct too, most notably Yu's knack of capturing the heart of every member of the opposite sex he meets, a gameplay feature that the game itself lampooned well enough already.
It's regrettable that Persona 4: The Animation can't overcome the limitations of the game's storyline, which never escapes its linear framework, plodding from victim to victim with generally predictable results. The game's unappealing sexual politics have carried over into the anime too: a major character's struggle with his gender identity, the focus of several episodes in this set, is treated in a trivializing and objectifying fashion, while a substitute teacher is roundly mocked for her age and overt sexuality. These aren't Persona 4's only flaws but they're among the most glaring, and leave a nasty taste in the mouth amid all the light-hearted anime frolics.
The show's production is of average quality, with indifferent, sometimes weak animation, and while Shiro Sagisu's poppy musical score elevates many scenes, so much of it is a straight lift from the game as to feel cheap. The voice cast on both Japanese and English tracks perform admirably, yet it's a shame the English voice cast from the game couldn't be reassembled in their entirety for this adaptation; as it is, the decision to have the same performer voice two key roles leaves the show with some rather awkward moments.
Persona 4: The Animation may appeal to fans of the game, but it preserves many of its faults and, lacking the interactive element to bridge the gap with the viewer, comes off overall feeling like a plain tie-in exercise. If you're not already a fan, there are plenty of high school fantasy anime series of better quality out there.