Thursday, February 27, 2020

#IReadsYou Review: PERSONA 5: Volume 1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

MANGAKA: Hisato Murasaki
TRANSLATION: Adrienne Beck
LETTERS: Annaliese Christman
EDITOR: Marlene First
ISBN: 978-1-9747-1175-8; paperback (January 2020); Rated “T+” for “Teen Plus”
216pp, B&W, $9.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN, £6.99 U.K.

Persona 5 is a role-playing video game that is an installment in the Persona video game series, which is itself part of the larger Japanese media franchise, Megami Tensei.  In 2016, manga artist Hisato Murasaki began producing a manga adaptation and spin-off of Persona 5.  It is published on the Web comic site, Ura Sunday, and (apparently) on the app, “Manga One.”  VIZ Media is publishing an English language edition of Persona 5 as a series of graphic novels, beginning this month (January 2020).

Persona 5, Vol. 1 (Chapter 1 to 6) introduces high school student, Akira Kurusu.  An act of bravery got Kurusu in serious legal trouble (showing, once again, that no good deed goes unpunished).  Now, banished to Shibuya (a ward in Tokyo), Akira lives in a back room of “Cafe LeBlanc,” owned by his caretaker (of sorts), Sojiro Sakura.

Living with very little room for error or for mistakes, Kurusu is now enrolled in Shujin Academy, a prestigious private college preparatory high school.  On his first day, he meets an eccentric cast of characters, including a fellow “delinquent,” Ryujin Sakamoto.  Shortly afterwards, a mysterious app on Kurusu's smart phone seemingly transports him and Sakamoto to a strange place called, “the Palace.”  Now, Kurusu finds himself thrust into the world of “Personas” and also discovering that he has a “very rare and unique power.”

[This volume includes an afterword and “An Extra Bonus.”]

Until my VIZ Media rep sent me a copy of the first volume of the Persona 5 manga, I had never heard of the video game of the same title.  I don't play video games, but I must admit to being a fan of several manga adaptations of various video games, such as Resident Evil and The Legend of Zelda.

Persona 5 Graphic Novel Volume 1 introduces a lot of characters, settings, and plot lines – enough for three volumes of graphic novels.  However, I am intrigued.  Right now, Akira Kurusu isn't a particularly interesting character, as far as his personality goes, but I want to know more about his powers and his past.  There, on the other hand, are some interesting personalities among the supporting cast.  I would say that Hisato Murasaki writes in a manner to constantly and consistently intrigue his readers into wanting to keep reading.  That's a good thing.

Murasaki's illustrative style is pretty and also nicely shadowy and mysterious.  In fact, the graphical storytelling relies on a sense of mystery and on making the reader wonder what hides in the shadows of the unknown and in the characters' dreams.

Adrienne Beck's translation is edgy and captures all the tension in these first chapters.  Annaliese Christman's lettering is very good at helping readers understand the meanings and moods in the dialogue.  Her sound effects totally sell the moody, mysterious, and darkly magical atmosphere of this manga.  I can't imagine that I would let everyone's efforts here go to waste by reading only this first volume.  Heaven forbid it.

8 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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