I had known about this program for well over a decade, but didn’t get to watch it until recently – and even now it’s a hard 1 to find. It received a limited release in the west, and at this point we can argue that this is a show lost in the shuffles of time, as it isn’t given the same platform as the video game in which it spun-off from. But no matter, we’ll still talk about it with as few spoilers as possible. This is Persona Trinity Soul.
So what’s the show about? Okay…I’ll start by explaining, very briefly what ‘Persona’ is…it is a mask that a person wears in order to overcome hardship, and in these stories they are presented as spiritual entities that fight each other or against ‘shadows’. They aren’t like Pokemon, and yet they are like Pokemon. Anyway, with that out of way here goes; Our story is set about 10 years after the events of the Playstation 2 video game Persona 3, and revolves around the 3 Kanzato brothers; Shin, the middle brother, is the lead protagonist, and is a 17 year old 2nd year in High School. His older brother Ryō is, at 28, the youngest superintendent in the Police, and then there’s Jun, the youngest brother at 14, and a 2nd year in Middle School. When our story begins, we experience 1 of the most apathetic family reunions you’ll ever see, as both Shin and Jun return to their childhood home, which was being lived in by Ryō after their parents died in an accident. Meanwhile, the police are investigating some strange cases; people being turned inside out, and there appears to be a return of Apathy Syndrome – a condition that was part of Persona 3’s backdrop. Is this a series of straight-forward murders (obviously not)? Or are Persona Users causing crimes? The kind of crimes that can only be counterattacked by…other persona users? Either way it’s enough to bring Persona 3’s Akihiko Sanada into the picture as a detective in the second half of the show.
Now to look at the building blocks:
The Art style is very good. It borrows from Shigenori Soejima’s style of character design without actually being him, and the use of cold colours is prevalent in the series (it does start off in winter after all). The backgrounds are also nicely done without stealing the show in a way that Laid Back Camp does.
The Animation is good. From time to time you’ll notice a little bit of CGI, in particular from travelling cars and the Personas when they’re battling, but they’re presented well enough to not create a fuss. Although to be fair, the Persona Battles aren’t that spectacular.
The Voice Acting is good. Although it is hard to make comparisons. What do I mean? I mean there was only ever a Japanese VoiceOver made. No english. Just subtitles. & as someone who played Persona 3 in english and remembered Liam O’Brien’s performance as Akihiko Sanada very well, I was not used to hearing the character in Japanese. The voices suited their designs…and that’s all that can be said.
The Characters are…at best, they’re okay. You can tell which supporting characters are meant to somehow be compared to other persona 3 characters. Takurō Sakakiba (Afro guy) is basically Junpei Iori. Megumi Kayano (red hair) is basically Yukari Takeba. Kanaru Morimoto (blue hair) is more or less Fuuka Yamagishi. The eldest Kanzato brother Ryō is probably the closest representative of Mitsuru Kuijo (other than maybe Ayane, but I said no spoilers so I won’t delve there) – which makes sense when you consider how Persona 3’s Akihiko Sanada also happens to be a detective in this show (despite no longer having use of Polydeuces or Caesar, his personas). Meanwhile, it has been suggested that Shin is closest to Aigis in role, which is interesting. A harsh reality though, is that there are too many characters, and I don’t care about 80% of them in the slightest. I honestly don’t care about the villains enough to know their names. Seriously, there are characters that move the plot forward and I still don’t know who they are…it’s quite criminal.
The Story…It’s good. Engaging to a point, but not overly interesting. The mysteries are there, but a part of me feels like they pack too much stuff into it, while at the same time, leave a lot of developments undercooked or too obscure for too long that you forget why certain clues and details were meant to be a revelation of some kind. It’s nowhere near as engaging as Persona 3. I know I keep referring back to this – but the 40+ hour video game is much better than this. Much of the show conveys sadness, and at times is prone to depress. The tone is dark, however I had difficulty caring for too long.
The Music by Taku Iwasaki is easily the best thing about Trinity Soul, to the point that it is much easier to find the soundtrack than the actual show itself. It borrows significantly from Persona 3’s composer Shoji Meguro and at times I’m reminded of the J-Pop singer MISIA, in particular her song Color Of Life. Yumi Kawamura (who sings the song ‘Mellow Dream’ in this show) has also sung several songs in Persona 3, 4, Q and 1-remastered – so the familiarity is there. I found this soundtrack to be both eclectic and very enjoyable, and out of everything that this show is meant to be, this is the aspect that captures the heart of the series the most and strings it with its parents.
Themes focus primarily on identity, aspirations, facing ourselves, and sacrifice. But the problem is that the flow of the story and the development of the character were enough to the point that the themes weren’t not as fully realised as they could have been. There was 1 scene that maybe did it for me, but it happens much later in the show.
Would I recommend Persona Trinity Soul?…Compared to other Persona stories, I will say ‘not exactly’. If you played Persona 3 specifically and liked it without allowing Persona 4 and 5 to build on that series’ universe, then it’s nice to see some old faces pop up in a spin-off series while maintaining some of the world-building characteristics that the game had. However, compared to Persona 3, this show is nowhere near as engaging or charming. Its main characters are a bit on the bland side, and despite a lot of episodes that were designed to replicate the day-to-day of the games that are meant to develop characters and get us interested in them…it doesn’t really work here. The plot’s not terribly straight-forward to follow, and the character-driven aspects are a bit of a mess. On top of this, the show lacks a sense of humour that Persona 3 had. To put it simply, if the Persona label wasn’t slapped onto this show, it could pass off as a stand alone complex. Not the best stand alone. But 1 none the less. If you ever watch this and enjoy it, all the power to you!
Art style: ****1/4
Voice Acting: ***3/4