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Review: ‘Persona 5,’ Volumes 1-2

Review: Persona 5 Volume 1-2
By Hisato Murasaki, Original Concept by Atlus
Older Teen (15+)
Viz Media, January, April 2020; ISBN: 9781974711758, 9781974711970
206, 190 pgs. $9.99 USD

Persona 5 is based on the video game of the same name. It is part of a larger universe that spun off from the Shin Megami Tensei series. While the main series didn’t reach as large an audience, the Persona series has found quite a bit of popularity in the west. Manga based on Persona 3 and 4 have previously been released by other companies, as have its own spinoffs. This manga is based on the latest installment of the video game series.

Akira Kurusu, after being arrested and expelled from his old school, has transferred to Shujin Academy, a prestigious private high school in Tokyo. He is on probation for a year and is warned by all the adults around him to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. But on the first day, he meets Ryuji Sakamoto, also rumored to be a trouble maker, and they accidentally stumble into the castle of teacher Kamoshida. This castle or “palace” is in the metaworld, an alternate reality where a shadow of Kamoshida enacts his deepest, darkest desires. In order to stop Kamoshida and bring him to justice in the real world, Akira and Ryuji must go to the metaworld and discover their will to rebel against the role they are being forced to play. Only by awakening the inner power of their Personas will they be able to find Kamoshida’s treasure and change his heart.

Akira Kurusu is the main character of this series. He is quiet and polite, the opposite of what the rumors about him say. He was arrested after helping a woman who was assaulted and the assaulter turned the accusation on him. Everyone in his new school has heard the rumors and believes him to be violent and a troublemaker. While Akira doesn’t go looking for trouble, he won’t turn a blind eye when someone is in trouble. Wanting to right the injustices done not just to him, but to those around him, awakens his Persona.

Ryuji Sakamoto is the first friend Akira makes at Shujin. Like Akira, he has been treated unjustly by the teacher Kamoshida and his classmates. Ryuji awakens his Persona when he decides not to run away, but to stand and help Akira in a battle against shadow Kamoshida. Ann Takamaki is a three-quarter-Japanese girl in Akira’s class. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, making those around her treat her like a foreigner. She follows the boys into the metaworld. She awakens her Persona in the big battle against shadow Kamoshida when she chooses to not to take any more abuse from anyone. Rounding out the team is Morgana, an anthropomorphic cat in the metaworld and a real cat in the real world. And he talks in both forms. Morgana also has a Persona. He acts as a mentor to Akira and his friends, explaining about Personas and the metaworld.

The Personas themselves are manifestations of each of the character’s inner powers. Because the goal of the characters is to “steal” the treasure of the person’s heart they are trying to change, each one is based on a well known thief. Akira’s Persona is Arsene, referencing Arsene Lupin, a famous French thief of fiction who was also a master of disguise. Ann’s Persona also comes from French literature. Carmen was a gypsy that used her feminine wiles to her advantage. Also known as a fictional character is Morgana’s Persona of Zorro, the “Robin Hood of the Southwest.” Ryuji’s Persona is Captain Kidd, a pirate who was betrayed by those he believed were friends. Each of these Personas connects to their wielder’s back story in some way, and they can interact with them, though we don’t see much of that in these two volumes.

The story jumps right into the action, throwing Akira and Ryuji into Kamoshida’s palace with no idea what is going on. It moves at a steady pace, both developing the quartet’s friendship and escalating the story into a final battle that takes up almost half of volume 2. These first two volumes act as an origin story for the Phantom Thieves. They bring the characters together and show them getting their powers and working together to defeat their first baddie. They decide to become a team and use their powers to help others in need. There is even a fan website where they can go to find their next heist.

The art captures the characters and their Personas really well. Murasaki brings the characters and story to the printed page, though there are some differences from the video game. The video game relies on a lot of input from the player, which isn’t possible in a manga. The protagonist from the video game doesn’t speak or even have a name beyond his code name of Joker. For the manga to tell the story, these elements had to change. Murasaki does a good job of making Akira his own character and weaving the story around him.

I really enjoyed these first two volumes of Persona 5. I’ve been familiar with the Persona series for a while, since my oldest daughter is a big fan, but this is the first time I’ve really gotten into the story of one of them. This series presents a theme of teenagers rebelling against a world that wants them to conform and play the role it has picked out for them. They refuse to let anyone else, especially adults, decide who they are and decide instead to change the world. And I think that is a really good message for young people.

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Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

Comments

  1. Fabulous review, thank you Lori. I’ll definitely look out for this one for our school library.

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