Project #102: Persona 3 the Movie: Spring of Birth

Hello and welcome to Project Nitsuj. Well guys its December you know what that means? Persona 5 has been announced in Japan (//, and//! The Shin Megami Tensei Persona games particularly 3 and 4 are my all-time favorite RPG games, everyone can argue which FF game they like or think is the best but for me the Persona series trumps those games. The Persona games much like the rest of the Shin Megami Tensei games are well known for their dark but philosophical storylines that pull you in along with its excellent fighting mechanics, music, animation, and all around good characters that the player can relate to. That’s why in honor of Persona 5 coming out in Japan this month with a US release set to come in 2015 I am dedicating the month of December to Persona games 3 and 4. Welcome to a little something I like call Persona-mas. Let’s start Persona-mas off right by taking a look at Persona 3. Persona 3 was originally released in 2006 exclusively for the PS2 followed by the release of an updated version of the game titled FES with more features, personas, and an epilogue in 2007 exclusively for the PS2 again and a version of the game came out for the PSP in 2010 giving players more personas to choose from, a better battling system, and giving the player the option to play as a girl instead of a boy. The game was developed and published by Atlus and directed by Katsura Hashino. In the game you play as a high-school boy who just moved to the city and through a series of events gets roped into a battle that will decide the fate of the world. Since the game’s release it went on to receive many positive reviews even winning RPG of the year by Gamespot, Famitsu, and GameSpy with RPGamer calling it the RPG of the decade. With such positivity and hype surrounding this series you would think the people of Japan would turn this series into an anime. But instead they decided to turn it into a movie series. Yeah I was quite shocked to hear Persona 3 being turned into a movie but at the same time happy to see it finally get animated. Persona 3 the movie is a 3 part series that takes us through the game of Persona 3 one season at a time developed by the studio AIC (Data A Live). The first movie titled Spring of Birth came out in 2013 and takes us all the way to the first 2 bosses. Let’s grab our evokers and burn our dreads. This is Persona 3: Spring of Birth.

So the movie opens up with one of the most terrifying ways to start a movie. A guy walks out in front of a train and gets hit killing himself (like I said dark stories that pulls you in and never let’s go). We then cut to our main character Minato Aristo voiced by Akira Ishida (Gaara from the Naruto series) an orphan boy riding on a train to reach Tatsumi Port Island where he’ll be attending high school at the prestigious Gekkoukan High School (yes, I know his official name is Makoto Yuki but fuck it Minato sounds better, cooler, and it’s my review so I’ll call him whatever I want. Moving on, but first, we gotta have a cool opening: // After getting off the train he heads towards the student dorms he’ll be staying at and as he’s walking to the dorms he begins to experience a strange phenomenon happening around him such as all electrical devices stopping, blood being splatter on windows and buildings, and coffins all over the place (and yet Minato couldn’t care less. Either he is high as Mt. Everest or possibly the coolest emo kid I’ve ever seen in my life). He arrives at the dorm where a kid tells him to sign a contract which simply says that he’ll take responsibility for his decisions from here on out (scene here: //, now sign this contract saying that I can use your body in my human centipede experiment. What? South Park did it why can’t I do it?). After signing the contract the boy vanishes and Minato meets one of the female leads of the game Yukari a popular cute girl who’s in the same grade as him and in the archery club voiced by Megumi Toyoguchi (Winry from FMA) and Mitsuru a 3rd year student whose beauty surpasses girl’s her age and is president of the student council voiced by Rie Tanaka (Neptune from Hyperdimension Neptunia the Animation). The two greet him and welcome him to the dorm where Yukari shows him to his room (while you’re at it you can show him your room Yukari). The next day in school he meets Junpei a classmate of his who many consider to be the class clown and is hands down the one character I hated the most in this entire game (why? As the series goes you’ll see. Scene here: // He’s voiced by Kousuke Toriumi (Kiba from the Naruto series). Yukari is told by Mitsuru and Shuji the school’s chairman to keep an eye on Minato because they believe that he is special (we talking good special or bad special here). Later that night Minato takes a visit to the Velvet room where he meets fan favorites Igor voiced by the recording of the late Isamu Tanonaka (basically the animators took his recording from the game and added it into the movie. That’s pretty cool and respectful of them to use the original voice actor in the movie. This also explains why he doesn’t have too many lines in the movie) and his lovely assistant Elizabeth voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro (Saeko from H.O.T.D. Now this is a character that suits Miyuki’s voice. Scene here: //, by God Elizabeth looks and sounds just as hot as I imagined she be).

The next (next) day at school Minato meets Fuuka a shy girl being bullied by some other girls (sluts) voiced by Mamiko Noto (Felicita from Arcana Famiglia). A lot of people found Fuuka annoying in the game but in my opinion she really didn’t bother me all that much. She wasn’t great but she was all right. That night a full moon is out and the dark creatures that we come to know as shadows have attacked the dorm. Akihiko another 3rd year student who is part of the boxing club and straight up athletic junkie voiced by Hikaru Midorikawa (Ayato from Diabolik Lovers) comes in and tells them that a big one is coming. Yukari wakes up Minato (is this a booty call Yukari?) where she drags him to the roof where the large shadow corners them and we get probably the most epic scene in this movie (scene here: //, wow. This scene was so epic that Minato actually fainted from his own epicness. Also, I love how the shadow just swats Yukari away to get to Minato but then just turns his attention towards Yukari seconds later. It’s as if the shadow just realized Minato was a dude and decided to settle for Yukari after coming to this realization. (Shadow): Bitch I ain’t time for you *swats Yukari out of the way*! I want the blue-hair bitch. Oh shit you’re a dude. Hey pink bitch, let me get some). After fainting he arrives back in the Velvet room where Igor tells him that the thing he summoned was Orpheus a persona of the Fool arcana, his alter ego, basically a coat of armor he puts on to face the hardships of the world (you know I bet there are a lot of preteens out there who could use a persona right now). Elizabeth goes on to tell him that even though his power is weak right now he has the power to gain new ones (all of different sizes, shapes, genders, and mythology) as he continues to grow and become stronger. He wakes up in the hospital with Yukari by his bedside after a week (and people say I’m a heavy sleeper) where Yukari tells him that just like he lost his parents in an explosion that happened on the island 10 years ago she too lost her father in that explosion (it was Michael Bay’s fault wasn’t it? I told Hollywood having him direct Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a bad idea). After being released from the hospital Shuji tells him about the Dark Hour an hour that comes between the previous day and the next day where these beings known as shadows come out and attack people. Normally, people are asleep in coffins so they don’t feel the effects of the Dark Hour but there are some who wake up from their coffins and get killed by shadows. Only those who have the potential to summon personas like Minato and the other students there can fight shadows and they want him to join them in their fight to eliminate the Dark Hour once and for all. Naturally he accepts (might as well do some school activity) and he’s not the only member joining the team, Junpei is also joining because it turns out he too has the potential to summon a person (oh joy he gets to join us). With a stable team now Akihiko decides it’s time to show them the place for investigating, Tartarus (the best way to describe this place is imagine if Tim Burton was asked by Miyazaki to redesign Howl’s Moving Castle. You get as closed to scary and morbid as you can imagine), which serves as the nest for shadows and is actually their school (so this is what a school building turns into at night. I knew it). Akihiko and Mitsuru believe that the key to solving the Dark Hour is located within this tower and they want the group to investigate it (words of advice. Attack from behind to gain the advantage, if you see a gold shadow kill it no matter what, and don’t stay on one floor too long unless you wish to die at the hands of The Reaper). Akihiko sends Minato (appointing him leader), Yukari, and Junpei into Tartarus while Mitsuru provides support from the outside and the group gets their first taste of fighting with shadows (scene here: //, and here’s where Junpei starts to become a major pain in the ass. He is constantly jealous of Minato’s skills and tries his best to outdo him every chance he gets but fails each time. Rather than strengthen his own skills or ask Minato for tips on how to fight better he instead belittles and mocks Minato every chance he gets and it’s annoying as hell). A few days past and the next full moon comes where Mitsuru senses a large shadow presence in the city on a train. The group is called to investigate it where they board the train (// and the shadow begins to accelerate the train forward where it will collide with another train only a few minutes ahead killing everyone on board (well looks like this train is on fast track puts on sunglasses to death, // So the group has to pull together and overcome this life or death ordeal and reach the front of the train before it’s too late. Junpei wanting to show off goes by himself ahead of the group and faces the strong shadow which is too much for him (move aside idiot and make way for the hero). Minato and Yukari catch up to Junpei where Minato shows off his wild card skill which allows Minato to use all kinds of different personas. This is a pretty big deal seeing as how everyone else can only use one persona but Minato on the hand can use an infinite number of personas and control them all (scene here: //, alright Jack Frost one of my favorite personas. Also, what’s with the shadow having a B and a J on her boobs? If that’s not an innuendo I don’t know what is). Even though they defeated the shadow the train is still moving so Minato takes the controls and stops the train himself. How you ask, by remembering the controls he used in a train stimulation game he played at the arcade (finally, video games being shown to help you in a real life situation).

After their victory they move on to a more dangerous enemy. Midterms (// After that more days go by and we see that Akihiko has recovered from his injuries and is now able to join the group when they explore Tartarus (good, he’s one of the best party members in the game), Minato joins the kendo club, and two female students are rushed to the hospital after being found outside the school gate unconscious (who cares they were bitches). Mitsuru believes that the shadows are behind this (oh you always think it’s them Mitsuru) so the group does some investigation around the school where they find out that the girls who were hospitalized were bullying Fuuka who’s been out sick for a week. Yukari overhears that the girls who were hospitalized hanged out in an ally with the wrong crowd so she has Minato and Junpei accompany her to ask them questions. They arrive there in their school uniforms (okay first rule when going to talk to a bad crowd. Always wear street clothes to blend in, you wear a school uniform and those guys are gonna eat you alive) where Minato gets into a fight with the crowd and he gets saved by Shinjiro an old friend of Akihiro and a retired persona user. He’s voiced by the always badass man himself Kazuya Nakai (Zoro from One Piece). Shinjiro tells them that Fuuka isn’t really sick and has in fact been missing for about a week from school (well that’s not a good sign). This information matches up with Mitsuru’s investigation who interrogated a girl named Moriyama who was a friend of the girls hospitalized and the one who bullies Fuuka the most (damn ganguro bitch). She confesses that she and her friends locked Fuuka in the school at night and left her there but when she came to release her after seeing what happened to her friends Fuuka was gone without a trace (//, haven’t used this in a while). The group comes to the conclusion that Fuuka has been stuck in Tartarus this whole time so they make plans to rescue her by entering Tartarus through the gym the same way she did. Everyone goes except for Minato who stays behind to guard Moriyama because Yukari can’t stand the side of him that doesn’t care what happens to anyone around him and tells him to stay behind (yeah I’m gonna have side with her, that side of him is a bit annoyig. Also this is a nice twist to the movie having Minato stay behind while everyone goes on the mission. Let see how it plays out). Back at the school Junpei and Akihiko enter Tartarus through the gym and find Fuuka (I imagine half of you out there are saying yay while the other half is saying boo). As Akihiko, Junpei, and Fuuka are trying to leave they notice the full moon and get a message from Mitsuru saying that they’ve been attacked and everyone pieces together that the big shadows only come out on the full moon. Back at the dorm that little boy approaches Minato again and tells him that his friends are in trouble and now Minato has to decide does he want to be friends with them or will he stick to his emo prick ways and watch them die (scene here: //, well I have to admit I like the way this played out better than the actual game. Pretty impressive. Also, Minato must like Orpheus a lot. I stopped using him after the first boss fight). After their victory a few days past and Fuuka decides to move into the dorms with them, Moriyama forgets everything about the Dark Hour but she begins acting like a true friend instead of a bitch, and Minato cracks a smile near the end to show that he’s happy he saved his friends (so you aren’t empty after all). We end the movie with Minato becoming friends with the mysterious little boy whose name is Pharos, a look at a familiar character, and the creators promising a second movie which came out earlier this year (scene here: //
Final Thoughts

So that was the first part of the Persona 3 movie series and it started off very good. They follow the story of the game accordingly while also adding in new scenes and scenarios which in my opinion actually work out better and play out better. The part of Minato staying behind in the dorms and coming to the conclusion that he truly cared about his friends and their well-being was good character development on his part and really makes the character standout as being a character who can stand on his own. He starts off kind of empty and emo not really expressing himself all that much and just going with the flow of things but as time goes on you do see him change and start developing a bond with everyone around him. The rest of the characters maintain their personalities they had the games. Yukari is a strong girl who’s independent and strong but has her fears that she refuses to show people. Junpei is still annoying unfortunately with his need to prove he’s better than the others. The good news here is that they do make him quick to realize the mistakes he’s made but still in my opinion he’s annoying. Mitsuru comes across as the one who’s in control of everything but puts up a wall around herself and others, has a secret she’s hiding, and tries to take on the burden by herself without relying on others. Akihiko is the cool senpai who loves to fight and even though Shinjiro has a brief appearance he shows all of us that he’s someone not to mess with and carries a guilt from the past. Fuuka also had a brief part in the movie but the scenes with her getting bullied and interacting with Minato before the whole shadow incident are interesting and a good take on the series that probably would have worked in the games. She still plays the quiet shy girl who wants to help others and it’s too soon to speak on her worth in the movie so for now I’ll just say she’s alright.

Animation is good. The shadows and angles are great, character designs look good, and animation used to summon personas are cool. Action scenes play out like the game with characters fighting alongside their personas so I’m glad they stayed true to the source material and not have them depend too much on their personas. Music comes directly from the game which has an amazing soundtrack so you won’t be disappointed there and the new songs they add in are beautiful and a welcome addition to the series. The only downside to this movie is that it rushes pass a lot of events such as social links which play a major role in the game and they skip over all of the Tartarus fights. The movie would have benefitted greatly if they showed more fights with the shadows in Tartarus showing how the team worked off each other as well as showing Minato understanding and mastering his wild card skill. They also could of showed Minato interacting with a few of his social links showing how they’re shaping him and his world and I can’t believe they left out the Elizabeth side quests. Okay they didn’t really need them but I would have loved to see the quests where Minato brings her out of the Velvet Room and into our world. Those were my favorite side quests in the game. I’m sure the most likely reason for them not adding this stuff in there is time constraints, money, and the fact that the movie is covering quite a lot in its 90 minute run time but still I would have liked to see these events and quests in the movie and they would have been a great addition to the story.

Final Score
Spring of Birth earns a well-deserve score of 7.5/10. The first part of the Persona 3 movie series starts off well staying true to the story of the game, adding in new scenes which are good but unfortunately rushing or leaving out scenes that everyone would have liked to see. Overall the movie is great to watch and if you haven’t seen it, it is must watch for Persona fans out there and fans of RPGs and animes. The first part of Persona 3 the movie started off good and hopefully in the next two additions they’ll add in more events and social link events from the game as well as add in new events that help the movie standout more from the game. All I can say is I’m excited and looking forward to the next two movies and seeing what they do. Thanks for reading, see you next time on Project Nitsuj, and look forward to more Persona-mas throughout the month of December.

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