If there’s one thing that’s a universally accepted fact, it’s that video game adaptions, in any shape or form, generally suck. They either try to recreate the game’s original story in the chosen format, or retcon the original story in favor of something entirely new that will hopefully fit the format better while trying to stay true to the original stories’ themes. However with that being said, it never really works out the way fans hope it will. However, somehow Persona 3 The Movie(s), so far at least, has managed to overcome this impossibly high hurdle, and not only become a great adaption, but a great anime in its own right.
How is this, you ask? Well, it’s a combination of a bunch of factors, so I’ll give two generalized sections below, and compare how Persona 4 The Animation (now referred as P4A) handled them to Persona 3 The Movie (now referred as P3M) for good measure:
Makoto working on a Social Link
There is no possible way to implant everything that happens in an average game into a film/show, so almost always something has to be done to the story to make it fit. P3M handled this by using “Adaptation Distillation”. Everything that happens in the game happens in the movie, it’s just that you never get more than a few montage glimpses in between the larger events. This left room to add more content, so Makoto (the main character now given a canon name) was given a solid, growing personality, and the main story events were made a bit meatier.
P4A however, tried to keep all of Narukami’s side interactions in the show by making most of them one-off interactions that somehow blossoms into a powerful friendship. This change makes for a really rickety structure of a reasoning of why he has so many Personas, and didn’t help viewers really understand of why he cares for all these people. Besides that, Yu was given a variable personality that ranged from stone cold to Bromukami which never really developed over the course of the show (at least visibly). Sure, in the midseason and OVA finales it’s shown he doesn’t want the case to end and leave all his friends behind, but besides those cases we never see him grow as a person like we do with Makoto.
Junpei out of SP
While making the adaption, the hardest part most certainly must be keeping game mechanics inside the show, but altering them somewhat to make sense and avoid breaking the suspension of disbelief. P3M does this by making the physical weapons that the crew carries specialized anti-shadow weapons that are irreplaceable instead of (IIRC) what are essentially black-market items that you can get better versions of as the game progresses. Also, the Dark Hour is explained as to enhance physical abilities so feats that’s were once rather difficult in the “regular” world are now easier to perform. Finally, what is probably the best mild adjustment that was made for the movie, is that Makoto outright explains why he was so nonreactive to the sudden appearance of the Dark Hour at the beginning of the game/movies.
P4A went an entirely different route in regards to this issue though. It got rid of the fact the party fought with physical weapons/abilities completely, and just made their Persona fight the entire time instead. This upset the power balance between the generic mobs and bosses, and basically made the former nothing more than mild nuisance, and the latter insanely powerful beings that could only be overcome by pure willpower. Sure, this issue is also sort of present in P3M, but at least there the party uses strategy, and the “midbosses” are shown to exist in Tartarus like in the game.
All in all, the Persona 3 movie series is an insanely good adaption of the game, and all Persona fans should go out there and
pirate the fuck out of them because fuck Aniplex and their $60 standard edition imports buy both movies for $120 minimum because piracy is bad and we here at Ani-TAY don’t support it. ._.