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The Persona 3 Movie Will Leave You Wanting More

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Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

This last weekend saw the release of Persona 3: Birth of Spring, the first movie based on the excellent JRPG Persona 3. But while it is an excellent adaptation of the game, its limited scope keeps it away from much of what made the game so great.

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Good – Overcoming Ambivalence

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Makoto Yuki (the official name of the P3 protagonist) begins the film as a broken character. He is ambivalent to everything in life—even his own death. But being ambivalent doesn't mean he is evil. Instead, it simply means he is as likely to help a person as not (and likely to do anything he is asked to do by another as he has no reason to refuse). His character growth—his gradual movement towards making true friends—is at the heart of this film and is what gives the film a suitable sense of completion even though it’s obvious the P3 story is far from over.

Good – Makes Persona 3 Look Great

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As much of the story—and especially the action—of Birth of Spring takes place at night, this could have been a very dark, difficult-to-see movie. However, thanks to the clever use of moonlight, the action in the film is easy-to-see while the lighting still manages to keep the setting looking ominous. Moreover, the contrast of light and shadow not only fits the film thematically but also gives it a visual style all its own.

Good – Return of an Amazing Soundtrack

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One of the best aspects of the Persona 3 game is its crazy techno/hip-hop soundtrack. It set the game apart from its contemporary RPGs and created a unique tone. The game's soundtrack is largely reused in the movie and fits just as well. And for me, as a fan of the music, the best part of the film was the opening credits with a remixed version of “Burn My Dread”—complete with an added strings section.

Mixed – The Beginning Is the Most Boring Part

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Birth of Spring does not cover the entire game—much less the events of FES. Rather, it only covers the very beginning of the story—the first three full moons. This has the unfortunate side effect of a good chunk of the main cast (Aegis, Ken, Koromaru) and the majority of the antagonists not even being in the movie. More than that, none of the game's plot twists are reached, making for a very simple, straight-forward movie: There are monsters that appear at midnight and they need to be defeated.

The movie is therefore heavily reliant on its characters to keep the simple plot interesting and, largely thanks to Yuki's aforementioned character arc, it does a passable job. Among the rest of the heroes, Junpei and Fuka get their own little character arcs, but both are rather cliché—though enjoyable despite that.

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Mixed – More Images of Teen Suicide than You Can Shake a Stick At

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As those who are familiar with the game no doubt know, Persona 3 is full of teens putting gun-like objects to their heads and pulling the trigger. Of course, these are not actually guns but rather devices made to summon magical creatures called “Personas.” However, it still looks like they are blowing their brains out—often complete with spiritual brain and skull fragments. So if images of suicide of this type affect you, be warned. You'll be seeing them a lot.

Final Thoughts

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Persona 3: Birth of Spring is a decent adaptation of the game—and much of it is line for line the same. It's nice to hear everything fully voiced, and the animation never ceases to look great. However, this is a movie that doesn't quite stand on its own as very little is wrapped up, and it feels like the main plot never really gets started. If you are a fan of Persona 3, by all means watch it. You will no doubt have a great time. However, if you have not played the game, it is unlikely that after watching this film, you will be able to understand what all of the fuss is about.

Persona 3: Birth of Spring was released in Japanese theaters on November 23. 2013. There is currently no word on a Western release.

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Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

To contact the author of this post, write to BiggestinJapan@gmail.com or find him on Twitter @BiggestinJapan.

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DISCUSSION

Could someone elaborate for me why Persona three is considered a good game? I played it a few years ago for about fifteen hours (if i remember rightly, i got as far as the beach scene where you try to pick up girls and end up acquiring a female robot character (Aegis i think)) and remember being bored rigid. Normally i'd dismiss the game as just not being for me and figured it just appeals better to the interests of others (and this is probably the conclusion we'll reach here, even though i'm a big anime and rpg nut) but normally when i dislike a game and others love it i can usually see the reason behind other people's interests.

In my head, Persona 3 was mundane and trivial at best. Cliche characters with nothing unique about them (with the main hook being that you go around meeting up with other cliche characters in order to get more battle skills). A boring, simplistic battle system and a plot that centered round wandering around not really knowing what you were doing.

The main thing that got me about it was, although the appearance of suicide is a visual image within the game, the theme of suicide appears to be non-existent (the only scene i recall that relate to actual suicide is Yukari breathing heavily at the start as she puts the gun to her head during an anime cutscene as if she was considering suicide). You could replace the act of pointing a gun at your head in order to summon your Persona into one where the character taps a cane on the ground and it wouldn't have changed a thing. It gave the game the appearance that it was trying to be shocking, without actually bringing anything to the game.

I respect people's enjoyment of the game. It clearly has a large fanbase and i doubt it's just because people love anime stuff that they'll eat up anything they're given. I just don't understand the appeal of the game. To me, it was a schedule simulator with a battle system and cool looking characters tacked on.