2017 is full of major game releases, but few have been as anticipated by its fans as Persona 5. The Japanese role-playing game has been in development for years, delayed multiple times while fans patiently waited. Many gamers are happy it’s finally here, but Persona 5 has appeal for folks beyond its growing cult audience – the game is essential for anyone who loves anime. You could almost call Persona 5 anime you control with a PlayStation 4 controller.
Not only does it have the look and feel of a top class anime series, but Persona 5 has some surprising ties to some popular anime hits. As our Persona 5 review explains, it's a great game even if you've never played a Persona title before. Or if you've never really been grabbed by role-playing games before. First off, Persona 5 begins with an intriguing connection to 2016's breakout hit anime, Yuri!!! On Ice.
Persona 5's Secret Connection to Yuri!!! On Ice
What connects this massive dungeon crawler to a story of two ice skaters falling in love during competition? Well, take a look at the opening theme of Persona 5:
If you were watching closely at the end of that opening cinematic, it looks like the stars of the game are skating down the road at top speed. For a game where the protagonists aren't professional ice skaters, they've got some pretty sick moves.
When watched next to any of the performances on Yuri!!! On Ice, it's easy to notice the similarities. Compare that bit in Persona 5's opening to Yuri's:
The elegant skating movements in both those animations are largely thanks to the work of Sayo Yamamoto. She's one of the top talents in Japanese animation right now. She spent years working on series like Samurai Champloo and Death Note before directing her own shows, like The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and Michiko and Hatchin before launching Yuri. In-between all that series work, Sayo Yamamoto has crafted some of the best anime opening and ending sequences of the last decade.
Atlus smartly tapped Yamamoto to do her thing with Persona 5's intro animation, and it's a typically stellar job. And she obviously incorporated some of her Yuri!!! On Ice inspiration into the work, as Sayo was likely working on around the same time. And that's just the first of the anime connections for Persona 5.
Like Playing a Great, 100 Episode-Long Anime Series
The Persona franchise has always had some shared appeal with the most popular Japanese animation in the west. Like much classic anime, the games follow a group of troubled high schoolers who discover they have fantastical powers. They navigate a Shadow world of demons while also trying to balance their adventures with living an everyday school life. It's a challenging balance that lets you experience the long form kind of storytelling you'll see in a lengthy anime series. By the time it's over you'll feel like you watched a saga that was longer than most One Piece or Naruto arcs.
Though the tone and subject matter of Persona 5 is a bit more mature than that. It's much more similar to works like Paranoia Agent, Gantz or Serial Experiment Lain -- delving deep into the angsty lives of young people stuck in challenging, grounded situations they're trying their best to control. Persona 5 still has time for light comic relief, usually in the form of the team's cute mascot, Morgana, though even he has some personal pain to work through.
All of this is interspersed, occasional anime cutscenes by the world-renowned team at Production I.G. Their animation appears during some of the most important scenes in the game, adding extra gravitas to nearly every moment. Multiple times I kept playing long after I planned on stopping, just in hopes of seeing the next anime cutscene.
Now, previous Persona games were adapted into quality anime series, and Persona 5 probably will as well. But 13 episodes just isn't enough time for you to soak in all the substance and details of all the characters and the world around them. Admittedly the game is much longer than a single season of anime, but trust me that all that time pays off in a truly fulfilling story.