Interview: PERSONA5 the ANIMATION Director & Producer (Anime Expo 2018)

PERSONA5 the Animation swiped into Anime Expo after its first twelve episodes simulcast during the Spring 2018 anime season. We had the fortunate chance to sit down with Director Masashi Ishihama and Producer Kazuki Adachi of PERSONA5 the ANIMATION.

Anime Trending: Thank you for sitting down with us today. What were some of the challenges with adapting this video game into an anime series?

Masashi Ishihama: From a production standpoint, as the ones that make it into an anime, the biggest challenge was taking the game’s character illustrations, putting them on a cel and making them move. I admit we thought about dropping the quality and making it easier to draw, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. So the biggest challenge was to have Soejima-san’s (Character Designer of Persona 5) style moving within the anime.


In addition to the game being very stylized there are also a lot of player options. How a player makes choices in the game can affect the outcome. When it came to that, how did you decide to approach player choice in the anime, as you can only tell the story once?

via Aniplex of America

Kazuki Adachi: Within the game, yes there are many choices a player can choose from, but there is a main storyline that’s linear. And there are times within the anime where we chose one of the three options available in the game. In deciding which one to choose, we took into consideration which outcome was the most memorable to the users or the most popular choice. Often times, the route chosen in the anime were the ones that we thought most players selected as well. In doing so, we wanted as many people to be able to enjoy the show and relate to the anime.


This is not the first animation for the franchise. With that in mind, what did you want fans to get out of this when they watch the PERSONA5 the ANIMATION, as opposed to the other Persona titles such as Persona 3 and 4?

Adachi: Each variation of the Persona series has a message or a theme that is conveyed to the audience. Persona 3 has its own, which is unique from Persona 4’s and the same goes with Persona 5. People who have played the game understand that theme, so we wanted to make sure to carry that message to the anime, so that regardless of if you played the game or not, everyone has the same experience.


That is great to hear, because Adachi-san, you have worked on the Persona 3 and 4 anime as well.  How was it coming back to work on PERSONA5 the Animation?

via Aniplex of America

Adachi: For Persona 3 and 4, the game was released, people played the game, and then a few years after that we started the anime.  However for PERSONA5 the Animation, the discussion about making the anime series happened around the same time Atlus was making the game. So as a result when the game was released, we were able to also release the OVA PERSONA5 the Animation – THE DAYBREAKERS – at the same time. Because we were working closely together from the beginning, PERSONA5 the Animation was the closest we got to feeling like we were creating something from zero much like the game developpers.


Since the game was developed along with the animation, was the adaptation a challenge since you couldn’t actually play the game while making the anime?

via Aniplex of America

Adachi: Yes. At the same time we were working on PERSONA5 the Animation – THE DAYBREAKERS-, Atlus was busy working on the game, so we were going in to the project pretty blind. Because we couldn’t play the game, it was a lot of asking Atlus “Are we doing this right?” and “Is this OK?”.  We had to rely a lot on the Sound Director who was working with the voice actors for the game as well.  Because we don’t know how the scenes are playing out within the game, we would constantly be confirming things with the Sound Director. The whole process was a lot of confirmations as well as trial and error. With that being said, having a game that is already done and then working on the anime is definitely much simpler.


Ishihama-san has directed other titles such as From the New World and Night Raid 1931. Can you tell us how directing PERSONA5 the Animation differs from directing these other shows?  Have these past shows had any influence on PERSONA5 the Animation?

Ishihama: I guess I could say these past experiences have been a good influence in that they have expanded my field of vision in terms of how to show something or portray things in an anime; however, each project is very different and unique, so if I’m asked if I am influenced by past works, I would say no.


With the second-cour of the anime coming out, what should fans look forward to when they continue to watch the anime series?

via Aniplex of America

Adachi: At last all of the members of the Phantoms will come together (laughs) the cases will become bigger, and their biggest rival, Akechi the detective, will start playing a bigger role as he starts putting the pressure on the Phantoms. How the Phantoms react and deal with these problems is something I’d love everyone to look forward.


Ishihama: In the second cour, we have a big and somewhat shocking plot twist, so please look forward to that.

Special thanks to Aniplex of America for the amazing opportunity to talk to the director and producer of PERSONA5 the Animation. Look forward to the second half of the series! The anime is simulcasting on Hulu and Crunchyroll.

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