Full disclosure: Persona 5 is one of my favorite video games in recent years. Also, I do not read manga regularly. And when I say regularly, I mean ever. But when the opportunity to review a manga adaptation about what is possibly my favorite PlayStation 4 game came about, I didn’t have to think too hard. I have all sorts of P5 merchandise. Adding a comic that retells its excellent story was a no brainer.
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P5 is the story of Joker. Also knows as Protagonist, Joker has recently transferred to Tokyo’s Shujin Academy. He was falsely accused of assault and is sentenced a one year probation. Along the way he meets a group of friends who are able to unlock powers they have within. The new comrades from a vigilante gang called the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. They aim to save Tokyo from greed, corruption, and adults.
The manga is a very faithful adaptation of the source material. Some panels from the book almost look like screenshots lifted from the actual game. The interesting story is also very easy to get into. In a complete reversal from the game, the manga actually moves at a brisk pace. What is great about P5 is no character development is sacrificed despite the increased pace. The game allowed players to play out social interactions. In the comic, the Thieves’ personalities are built up over the course of the story. It’s a nice change that works very well.
Joker is also well done as a silent hero in the game who only makes decisions based on the gamer’s decisions. An adaptation runs the risk of ruining the character for fans of the game. This is solved by giving the protagonist very little dialogue. Instead, the story is told through the action and comments of others. It sounds like it should fail, but it works as well as it does in the game.
The art of P5 is very important. If anything, how the original game looks can even be seen as a knock against it — the argument can be made that it can be too stylish at times. There is always something moving on the screen and the little quirks that impressed me at first can become very annoying. Meanwhile, the anime cutscenes leave a lot to be desired. They’re never bad; they just tend to be nondescript at best.
The manga does not have to deal with any of these issues. The majority of the art in the book is actually better than the cutscenes found in the game. There is also never an issue with too much going on. Even the busiest pages never lose the reader. There are some great action scenes and the exaggerated qualities seen in many manga is not a problem in P5. There are some scenes were female characters are needlessly sexualized, unfortunately.
The Persona 5 manga adaptation stays faithful to the video game while making changes that may actually improve the experience. The characters are still interesting and fun despite the removal of the social interaction aspect. Even a minor change like giving a Joker a name adds to the experience. P5 is an enjoyable manga everyone will enjoy.