Persona 5: The Animation (‘P5A‘ for short) is an anime television series based on the latest installment of the Persona series of video games. It began its broadcast in April 2018, receiving a favorable reception with its high-quality animation by CloverWorks (formally A1 Pictures’ Kouenji studio), who have also worked on previous installments of the Persona animated series.’
In this series, protagonist Ren Amamiya and the members of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts use their awakened Persona abilities to steal the ‘corrupt hearts’ of ‘corrupt adults’. While the Phantom Thieves of Hearts work behind the scenes, bizarre crimes involving mental shutdowns of the perpetrators have been popping up one after another in Tokyo…
We interviewed Kazuki Adachi from Aniplex, producer of the Persona anime adaptations.
I believe the anime adaptation of the series was green-lit quite early. When did you start working on it?
Adachi: When it comes to adaptations of video games, the anime is usually green-lit a year or two after the game’s release and then we can start producing it. For example, the game Persona 4 was released in 2008 and the anime adaptation was released in 2011, so it took 3 years in total. However, with Persona 5, Atlus showed us their plan to make a picaresque novel-style game when the game development had just started. We agreed right then that we absolutely had to animate it. This means that we started making plans for the anime adaptation around the same time that the game development started. However, the actual production of the anime started around when I and the rest of the production team beat the game sometime after the release. The game was released in September 2016, and three of us- a studio producer, main writer Shinichi Inotsume, and I- beat it and got together in November. The director of the anime, Masashi Ishihama, received the job offer after the game was released, so he joined us to work on it while he was playing it.
Did you think of making this series different from previous ones?
Adachi: I always want to bring new blood onto our production team and staff when we move onto the next game adaptation. This time around especially, we have some new members who weren’t involved in Persona 3 or 4, so it feels new and fresh. That said, it’s not like we try to do something specifically different. No matter which series it is, we’ve always been trying to convey the fun of the original games since we adapted Persona 4.
The difficulty of adapting video games into anime.
Fans outside Japan are also curious about anime adaptations of games.
What were some of the major obstacles [Adachi] had to overcome while making the series?
[What was] the hardest part while making the p5 animation???
What’s hard in [the] anime production [process]?
Adachi: While the main playable character is a silent protagonist in the games, we needed to portray him like an anime protagonist. That is one of the common major obstacles in the series. RPGs have a story, so they are relatively easier to adapt into anime compared to fighting games, but we still have to build a new protagonist. It’s hard because we have to make one whose personality and everything else can be accepted by fans.
As for visual qualities, since the anime cut-scenes in the game are well-made by Production I.G., we had to try as much as we could to make sure there were no discrepancies between their work and ours. However, it is quite an obstacle for a television series to do so. It’s possible to spend a very long time creating 30 minutes-worth of animation for a game, but we have to create a 30 minute-long show every week. It’s tough to raise the anime quality to match up with that of video games when we have different budgets and schedules. In this respect, the anime studio is doing a much better job than we expected.
What are responses from the viewers like?
Adachi: We have received positive responses from the fans of the original game, saying it feels like they are playing it. Even viewers who have not played the game have reacted well, but I don’t think we can judge it well at this point as we are just 3 episodes in [at the time of the interview]. However, Persona has a taste of suspense to it, so I hope you can expect more in the later episodes.
Here is a question from overseas.
From Yuki (United States):
How do you come up with the protagonist’s name?
Adachi: Whenever we decide on a protagonist’s name, each of the members of the writing team brings some names they have thought of and we discuss them all before settling on one. I think we agreed on his family name, Amamiya, first. The combination of Ren (蓮, lotus) and Ama (雨, rain) sounds quite poetic and I personally found that they fit quite well. We don’t try to come up with a bizarre name, but we’d rather like a solid one. With the Persona series, we came up with P4A‘s Yu Narukami (鳴上悠 written with ‘cry’, ‘above’ and ‘far’), P3A‘s Makoto Yuki (結城理 written with ‘connect’, ‘castle’ and ‘reasoning’), and P5A’s Ren Amamiya (雨宮蓮 written with ‘rain”palace’ and ‘lotus’). All of them are 3-kanji names with 2 characters for the family name and 1 character for the given name. We didn’t mean to make it a rule, though. Those names were popular and high in rankings when we picked them. Ren is also a recently popular name, I think.
About Ren Amamiya.
What do you like the most about Ren Amamiya?
Adachi: Ren is the most well put-together protagonist in the series up to now. The previous protagonists were pretty much air-headed or somewhat other-worldly, I’m afraid. Ren is more of a normal guy with common-sense. Because he already has a dual nature of a phantom thief and high school student in the plot, we didn’t need any more extra setup for him. He usually spends his life as a student while he acts secretly as a leader of the Phantom Thieves. That’s quite wild. I love this dual nature of his.
I also believe that his character has got a boost with Jun Fukuyama’s voice acting. He expresses the differences in the bilateral character very well, like his smart and majestic voice when in the thief costume. It’s a special strength of the anime to introduce the beauty of the series.
About fitting in the story.
From Clyde Minyem (France):
How do you cram 100 hours of gameplay in limited episodes?
Adachi: I’m not revealing how many episodes the series will have, but we’re doing our best to deliver an equivalent experience of playing the original game from beginning to end. I’m sure you’re grinding for about half of those 100 hours of gameplay, so we’re making the grinding part super fast.
About the perks
What does it feel like producing the anime adaptation of Persona 5?
From Amy-Ann (Glasgow, Scotland):
What was the best part about working on P5A?
Adachi: Developing a scenario, I guess. What producers do at the studio are scenarios, recording, dubbing and such. Then there are final checkups for the post-production. So, the first stage of writing to determine a direction with the staff is tough, but also the most rewarding and fulfilling of all. It’s fun to spend time with many voice actors at the recording studio too. We aren’t always able to have them all together at once in the studio at the same time though because our cast is full of popular actors.
About the Personas and characters.
Which Persona is your favorite?
[Who] is your favorite character out of all the Persona franchises and why?
Adachi: So far in P5A, I think Arsène is the coolest of all. I’m sorry for such a cliché answer. Atlus showed the early design to me and I was sold on it right away. From other games in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, I like Yoshitsune, Alice, Trumpeter, and more.
As for my favorite character in P5A, I like all of them. But if I had to choose one, I would have to go for Futaba. She’s like a younger sister to Ren and very adorable. I think she is bringing out the protective instincts of a man. At the same time, she has something of a genius side to her. And she is somewhat wild and unprecedented. I think Aoi Yuki’s voice acting added to their makes her up to be a distinctive and significant character. If I had to choose from characters of the older series, I would go for Aigis. She too is a rather classic one, I guess.
Persona’s influence on the anime industry.
Is it true that some people are saying that anime in future will not be the same when you released Persona [for the] first time?
Adachi: There are many animators who say they like the Persona series, and our staff is full of those. I believe the works in video games by the creators like Shigenori Soejima of Atlus have a major influence on animators. The Persona series has awesome quality products released every time, and in this respect, I do believe we will have more artists influenced by the series. I’ll be glad to see more and more.
What makes Persona 5 the Animation different.
How Persona 5 differs to the other animations that you have done?
Adachi: It isn’t really different to producing any other series. However, titles of the Persona series always attract attention, and I think people expect a lot and tend to set the bar higher. That means that working on such important titles weighs heavily on my shoulders. There is the determination, attachment, and pressure that I don’t necessarily feel as much with the others. Because I can’t fail.
Your favorite series?
Which Persona animation do you like? Why?
Adachi: I really like all the series including Persona: trinity soul. It’s an exceptional title and different from the other titles in the Persona series, so I have a strong attachment to it. It’s very well-made, and it doesn’t feel old even now- so I hope you can all watch it if you haven’t already.
Would you like to continue working on the series?
Would you like to continue the Persona series and for how long?
Adachi: I don’t know when the next Persona will be released, if ever, but I would love to keep working on the anime adaptation if a new game comes while I’m still working. I’ll look forward to it and see how many years it takes.
From Bryan Sakuri(US):
What’s next after Persona 5A?
Adachi: I think Atlus also has various plans arranged around P5A, and we would like to think about doing something in line with them. It would be a bit too hard to adapt the new Persona 5: Dancing Star Night into an anime, though.
We are now halfway through the cour. What part would you like us not to miss?
Adachi: P5A has a long story, and it takes quite a while until all the members of the Phantom Thieves gather up. I would like you all to be patient and check it out until all the members at least show up. After all the members are introduced, they won’t be just a group of thieves, the detective-side also shows a stronger presence.
There are some cameo appearances from Persona 4 characters.
Adachi: Yes, they are seen here and there. The original games are also connected in that way, so those who loved the previous series would also enjoy these bits of fanservice. We want to adapt that part diligently. Atlus happily supports us in doing so, and most of all, I want fans to be pleased.
Finally, could you please give a brief message to the fans?
Adachi: At the time of this interview, the anime has barely finished introducing the characters, and you will see many charismatic characters one after another from here on. I hope you enjoy the thieves’ efforts to reform unique corrupt adults. I think the Persona series is thought-provoking even in real life after watching it, and that’s the significant part of the series. P5A is about young people fighting wicked and corrupt ‘adults’. If you somehow happen to find wicked guys in real life, it would be great if you could reform them too. I hope you actually gain something from anime like that.
Producer at Aniplex. As well as the Persona anime series, Adachi has produced works such as ReLife, Gunslinger Stratos and Jigoku Shoujo: Yoi no Togi.