Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth Review
It’s been a while, probably a year, since I’ve last written an anime review, and it took a massive blast from the past to finally get me off my butt and shake the creative cobwebs off to get to write again. To those who bother to care, this website started out as a place where I dumped my anime reviews, as I was such an avid anime fan who had watched 300+ anime series besides films. Then I got engrossed in cosplay and things got really complicated and got really busy really quick so each time I do maintenance on the site I feel sad when I see my reviews section lonely and neglected.
And then I got my hands on a copy of Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth and it flooded me with so much nostalgia that I couldn’t help but want to share this feeling with everyone. This movie is based on the well-received, award winning video game by Atlus, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, what I consider one of the best RPG games ever on any console. I had spent literally more than 100 hours battling monsters, watching the story unfold, and on occasions, just letting go of the controller so I can just enjoy listening to its awesome soundtrack.
I had a blissful time watching all 1 hour, 38 minutes, 32 seconds of it. So what’s my verdict? I give it a score of 4 out of 5 full moons, because it’s sure to give long-time fans like me or anyone new to the franchise something to howl about. Read on to know more.
Set in fictional Iwatodai City, the movie begins when Makoto Yuki, an orphaned teenager with a hazy past, transfers to Gekkoukan High School. There he inadvertently discovers the supernatural entities called Shadows which roam freely and attack people during the mysterious Dark Hour at the stroke of midnight. In an encounter with one such creature, he releases an ability within himself called Persona, and Yuki finds himself caught up in an ongoing struggle against the Shadows with his new schoolmates. In the process, Makoto and his friends discover the horrifying reality which was to unfold in Iwatodai City, still unaware of the fate waiting for them.
Directed by Noriaki Akitaya and written by Jun Kumagai, Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth is a Japanese animated film released as the first installment in a series based on the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 video game by Atlus. Production was done by AIC ASTA and was distributed by Aniplex. It was released in a special screening in Japan on November 16, 2013 at Shinjuku Wald 9 with the general Japanese release on November 23, 2013.
One of the aspects I consider as essential to this movie adaptation of the game is the inclusion of the main staff who were directly involved in the original game. Directed by Noriaki Akitaya and written by Jun Kumagai, along with the same people behind the also successful Persona 4: The Animation series, the story was made as faithfully close to the game as possible, so long-time fans will feel right at home and appreciate the meticulous work done to get the mood and atmosphere as dark and mysterious as the game. At almost every scene those who have played the game will be pointing and shouting at the screen saying “I know that!” seeing nostalgic places and people.
Also, as most the original people involved in the game were brought in, the quality of the overall work was quite high and very polished. The character designs were distinct and pleasant and lovingly nostalgic. The voice acting department was more than sufficient as they were also part of the original game. Probably the most impressive aspect of the movie was the animation. The visual style was in a league of its own: sharp, flashy, dynamic, it reflected the exciting action the original game provided particularly in the fight scenes. Scenes essential to the story were done quite dramatically as well, accentuating the dark, mysterious nature of the game. Visually stunning, watching the movie from start to end is pleasant, enthralling experience.
Another strength of the movie is its edgy, modern soundtrack. Fans of the original game would pose no objection when I say the soundtrack from the original game is one of the best ever composed for a game in any era or console or platform. It’s even great listening to the songs on their own. All songs were composed by Shōji Meguro with help from sound director Satoki Iida in the track arrangement and selection. As his 12th work for the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, Meguro said that Persona 3’s fancy atmosphere compelled him to create its unique pop-like soundtrack with some changes due to the movie’s darker nature. For me, the music is as enjoyable as it is memorable, and definitely helped with the overall mood of the movie.
Although the story from the game from which this movie is based was engaging and eventful, the narrative strength for the movie was lacking. It is understandable that adapting a 50 to 80 hour RPG into a 90-minute film would be a challenge, so the movie only gets to cover only the very beginning of the Persona 3 story. Because of this, many of the other protagonists, antagonists and side characters fro the game have not been introduced yet (though some have some nice cameos at the beginning of the film)and it’s safe to say that the real action has yet to begin. So what we get to see is a prologue of what is to come, or, in another perspective, a simple story of the supernatural kind. This thus lessens the effect the movie aims to project onto the audience despite in all other aspects, this movie is a masterpiece all on its own.
So my verdict: a score of 4 out of 5 full moons, because it’s sure to give long-time fans like me or anyone new to the franchise something to howl about. For those who have played and enjoyed the game, expect nostalgia at almost every frame. For those who have long been curious about the Persona or Shin Megami Tensei series, this movie might be just what you need to get you interested. For those who are just looking for great anime to watch, I’m sure this title won’t disappoint.
Almost perfect as anime feature film, it’s certainly an enjoyable watch, and most likely well worth the hour and a half you’ll spend watching it. Guess we’ll all have to wait for the next installment, Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 2, Midsummer Knight’s Dream, coming real soon.
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