One of the anime series I've been watching via Hulu recently is Persona 4. It is an adaptation of the hit PS2 game, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, released by Atlus back in 2008. I love that game, only slightly less than Persona 3. The anime closely follows the game's story, opening with high schooler Yu Narukami moving to Inaba to live with his uncle and young cousin after his parents go to work overseas. His first day at his new school, a dead body is found near campus, left displayed in a gruesome and unusual fashion. The victim appeared on a phantom TV channel, the Midnight Channel, the night before. Together with classmates Chie, Yosuke, and Yukiko, Narukami discovers a secret world inside TVs that they are able to enter. There they meet Teddie, who explains that someone is throwing people into the TV to be killed. While battling the Shadows that infest the TV world, the gang must confront their own inner demons to save themselves and future victims, while searching for the serial killer throwing people into Teddie's world.
The opening of the series is fairly straight forward from the game, with the introduction of Narukami, his new family, and his new school. I thought the way they handled the personas was well done, and I really liked that they kept Narukami's unique aspect of being able to use multiple personas as well as combo them into attacks. While many of the scenes are basically animations of the games, for me the story is so good that I'm glad the show didn't muck around with it too much and risk ruining a good thing.
The anime, of course, lacks some of the more annoying elements of the game (like the 5 million battles, 100+ hours of game play, and side quests with the school and relationships, etc). However, it does manage to honor some of those elements in nice ways, such as the school trip and the mysterious bowl of unfinishable noodles they characters share in one scene. The addition of the ramen that can be delivered anywhere is hilarious and helps add a light hearted side to a series that could easily get drowned in the darkness of its general story.
The animation is great, a perfect blend to the game imagery with some nice touch up. Not surprising as the art director from the game also did this series. The same voice actors from the game also stepped back into their roles, which explains why it all sounds good. :-) On the whole I'm quite enjoying this series and look forward to watching more. The series is still running in Japan, with Sentai Filmworks doing the Hulu simulcast for those of us in North America. As of this writing, 13 episodes are available, with new ones being released every week or so. The first DVD releases are expected sometime this year, but no definitive date has been set yet.
If you're a fan of the game and the story, then the anime is a great way to revisit the story without the 100+ hours of game play required to get through the game. If you've never played the game, there are some parts of the series that may seem confusing, as it really is a fairly straight adaption, just without as many battles with shadows. The Velvet Room scenes, for example, and the whole thing with the Arcana make more sense if you're familiar with the game. However, the story as a whole is still compelling, so its worth giving it a shot.
P.S. If you watch it, make sure to watch the bits after the end credits or sometimes the start of the next episode will make no sense!!