The Storyboards of PERSONA 5 The Animation Episode 5: What Works and What Doesn’t
So far, the Persona 5 anime has been about what you’d expect from an anime adaptation of a video game, which is to say that it’s not very good. This is kind of a shame since the series director, Masashi Ishihama, has quite a reputation for directing stylistically interesting anime (From the New World, Garakowa: Restore the World). At first glance, he seemed like the perfect guy for a Persona 5 adaptation, given that the game oozes with style despite its PS3-era graphics.
It’s not that Ishihama’s involvement hasn’t done good for the P5 anime. The OP and the first episode, which Ishihama storyboarded and directed himself, are easily the most stylish parts of the anime so far. But the rest of the anime hasn’t lived up to those standards at all. The all-out attack animations look like they’re missing key frames and overall the show just looks flat.
But I don’t want to dwell on the bad stuff. Episode 5 is the best episode since the first one; it gives a glimpse of what other people besides Ishihama envision for the anime. That doesn’t mean that I like or agree with all the directorial choices, but it’s definitely the most interesting the anime has been in a while. So let’s take a closer look at Tatsuma Minamikawa’s storyboards for episode 5.
Let’s start with the best scene from the episode: the encounter between Goro Akechi and Ren. The episode plays with objects that form a dividing line between characters as a way of putting them on opposite sides, even in a friendly situation. Even if Goro wasn’t sitting in a cafe across from a phantom thief while reading, Arsène Lupin vs. Herlock Sholmes by Maurice Leblanc, the parallels would still be obvious.
I also like the way Minamikawa’s storyboards zoom in on the eyes in this scene. It’s a common way for the game to express sudden bouts of emotions, and the anime uses that here without slavishly copying the game’s style. (Previous episodes have done so, and looked somewhat tacky in context for it.)
Another motif in this episode is “trains passing in the background”, giving the impression of ordinary life passing the characters by as they become engrossed in a world that only they can see.
The abbreviated nature of the adaptation means that not all the characters get their time to shine, but this episode uses its storyboards well to convey their character traits succinctly.
The clever use of low angles here to convey strength and an intimidating aura makes this my favourite shot of the episode. The unusual perspective in this shot works out well here, as the viewer is positioned almost literally beneath Iwai’s feet, making Ren and Ryuji seem so small and insignificant in comparison.
The encounter with the arrogant man in the hotel buffet is also drawn well and makes an impact, despite its brevity. This scene is a key motivator for our heroes to continue sticking it up to the rotten adults – does that get across?
I didn’t like all the shots Minamikawa uses, though. For example, the episode uses a lot of aerial shots to convey something unusual with the backdrop, like the Shibuya crowd vanishing as our heroes enter Mementos or Morgana’s tail waggling around under Ren’s desk as he sits in class. Not all these shots feel appropriate, however. The episode opens with two aerial shots of Goro Akechi that seem awkward and out-of-place, especially when the main point of the scene is to establish how Akechi plays up his character for the cameras.
There’s also this panning shot showing Ren, Ryuji, and Ann in a building chatting about the unfairness of adults. The visuals don’t complement the dialogue and all; there’s really no reason why the characters have to look so indistinct when they are just in the regular world, talking about a mundane thing. The lighting only serves to distract the viewer, especially as the same shot is held during the entire conversation.
I should also mention that the animation itself still isn’t very good overall, although the stalker’s transformation scene inside Mementos was pretty well done. So while this episode was an improvement over the last ones, I doubt that it will change the minds of any naysayers.
In the end, I still liked this episode, and I enjoy looking for these bits of visual creativity in what would otherwise be a cut-and-dry video game adaptation. I also think that the series composition is very good in terms of what scenes the writers chose to cut and expand, given the restraints. I find Persona 5 very watchable as a show in its own right, and I think it could have been a lot worse than what we got.
I’ll end this post with my second favourite shot from the episode. Someone give poor Kawakami a break (and also more screentime!).