By: Nicholas Eskey
Writers: Shuji Sogabe/Atlus Games
Artist: Shuji Sogabe
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Checking into the realm of manga, I’m very excited to talk about Shuji Sogabe’s Persona 4: Volume 1. For those who’ve never played the video game series, here’s a little back story about:
The Persona series first started as a video game spin off, from another series called Megami Tensei published by Atlus games. The first Persona role-playing game was also the first Megami Tensei game to see a Western release. Currently Persona 5 is in the works. The Persona games storyline revolves around a group of Japanese high school students that find themselves inheriting strange abilities that let themselves control what are called “personas,” and they use them to fight their way through super natural forces and events that begin to surround them. With the game’s entertaining fighting style and often-adult subject matter in regards to the overall storyline, it made sense for it to make the jump to print.
The Persona 4 manga has been out in Japan since 2008, only finishing its 7 year run just this last year. It wasn’t until February of this year that publisher Udon Entertainment treated us to a North American release of this Japanese favorite. Much like the video game it is based off of by Atlus games, this manga is surely not meant for kids, but rather teens and above. The language isn’t anywhere near vulgar, nor is it childish in nature. The visuals however, such as fighting and dead bodies, would suggest an older audience should enjoy it.
Shuji Sogabe, artist and storywriter for the Persona 3 manga, had been offered the opportunity to take the creative helm of Persona 4 as well. Sogabe’s art style is what someone in the west would expect a manga to look like, and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. He has a complete eye for detail that crosses the gamut of characters, settings, and action. His work always shines with a polished finish; Even the traditional black–and-white coloring doesn’t take anything away from its richness. The setting for Atlus’ video game centers around a “world within a world,” which Sogabe does well to translate into print.
Much of the manga follows the video game’s original story, with Shuji Sogabe taking artistic liberties with certain parts that he felt wouldn’t translate well from game to print. For fans of the game, you’ll notice quickly that the normally nameless protagonist (the one played by you) is finally assigned a name. Shuji Sogabe explains in between chapters some of the decisions he had to make regarding the character and story changes. Don’t worry; the changes do work.
Sogabe does well to develop each character’s background as the story goes along. It may feel slow at times with the pace of the action, but overall this does well to create a sense of relationship between the reader and the characters. You’ll find yourself rooting for their survival during intense fight scenes soon enough. As for the story itself, it would definitely benefit you to read through the manga a couple times to fully understand certain parts. You won’t help but get a “Twinpeaks” vibe. If you don’t get the reference, look up the show. It’ll mess with your head.
For fans of the Persona or Megami Tensei series, or for those that enjoy Japanese manga, this book is a good addition to your reading pile. If you’re more of the traditional comic book reader, or stay strictly to video games and not the works based off of them, well then maybe not. I for one enjoyed this book, especially its adult themes likes speculation into the real nature of the human psyche. Udon Entertainment’s Persona 4 Vol 2 is due to hit shelves on March 8th. Find it at your local book store or online.
Aaron Halls has been collecting comics since he was nine years old and has developed a great love for all things super heroes. He’s an arts journalist with a passion for film, television, and video games. You’ll find him crying tears of joy as he sits down to play Kingdom Hearts III.