WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the following:
Persona 4: The Animation
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
I know a lot of people weren’t fond of this anime adaptation of one of the most beloved JRPGs ever made, but I personally found it decent. At the very least, I enjoyed just spending time with its cast of characters again. Plus, it certainly had some kick-ass moments of its own, like this one.
They could’ve easily just straight up adapted the fight against Shadow Mitsuo but, instead, they played with it; taking the episode in a direction that really threw me for a loop when I watched it.
Our heroes enter the TV world as usual, they find Mitsuo and his Shadow, the Shadow prepares to attack… and then it immediately cuts to after the battle with the team celebrating their victory. I was so confused; I genuinely thought the episode had bugged out for a second. As an adaptation, some things have to be cut but this was one of the most important battles in the original game so why skip it?
I only got more confused as the weeks pass and turn into months. The group splinters, not because they’ve fallen out – they just no longer see the point in spending time together now that the murder case has been solved. And the only one who takes issue with this is main character Yu.
Up until this point, Yu had been a bit of a blank slate with very little characterisation of his own (which makes sense considering he was just the player’s avatar in the game) but, here, we see him noticeably distressed at the sight of his friends going their seperate ways. Seeing the once flawless protagonist exhibiting genuine but quiet fear only heightens the strangeness of the situation and gives greater insight into Yu as well.
Things finally come to a head when Shadow Mitsuo actually appears in Yu’s room, calling Yu ’empty,’ and, when Yu attempts to summon his Personas to fight, his cards (the things he uses to summon them) are blank. His Personas are proof of the bonds he’s made and being unable to summon them suggests that those bonds no longer exist, reinforcing the Shadow’s words.
Yu can only scream as the Shadow slowly begins to strangle him. But, suddenly, a light from above begins to shine and he hears one of his friends, Yosuke, cry out his name. Next thing we know, Yu is literally pulled out of the Shadow – turns out everything we saw was some sort of hallucination placed on Yu during the fight. Once Yu reassures everyone that he’s fine, we jump to the highlight of the entire episode – Yu singlehandedly kicking Shadow Mitsuo’s ass.
The fight itself is not only visually amazing, with Yu rapidly switching between Personas to counter everything Shadow Mitsuo throws at him, not only does it have an absolute ballin’ remix of the game’s boss battle music, but it’s also awesome from a symbolic standpoint. Yu uses every Persona he’s acquired up until that point. Like I said earlier, they represent the bonds he’s made – he is proving that he is not empty or alone like Mitsuo was and it’s because of his ties to other people and the friendships he’s made. It’s the ‘power of friendship’ trope being embodied by a single person.
This may sound weird but I genuinely think this was the best episode in the whole anime; sometimes I just watch the fight because it’s so much fun and a great way of reinforcing one of the core themes of the game. I know many were disappointed with the anime, but it’s scenes like this that make me glad I watched it regardless.