Interview with PERSONA 5’s Director Masashi Ishihama and Producer Kazuki Adachi at Anime Expo 2018

One of the most popular game franchises, Persona, debuts its first glimpse into its anime adaption at Anime Expo 2018. PERSONA 5 stole hearts worldwide with its plot twists and lovable characters. During Anime Expo 2018, director Masashi Ishihama and producer Kazuki Adachi brought their newest project, PERSONA 5: The Animation, to show an American audience. Unlike the game, which took seven months to release in the West, Aniplex simulcast PERSONA 5: The Animation around the world. Fans attended the  PERSONA 5: The Animation panel in droves, making it one of the largest events at this year’s AX.

Both Ishihama and Adachi took some time out of their busy schedule to speak with Asia Pacific Arts about the series that’s got all eyes on it.

APA: This is for Ishihama-san and Adachi-san. Persona 5 is a very popular game; it’s very detailed and very text-heavy. It takes the average player over 120 hours to finish. How do you condense that material into the anime?

Adachi: Because it’s a really popular RPG, first of all, we’re going to have all the staff members actually play the game. They have to clear it. Once they’re done, they go on to look at the script to create it. For anime, time is set as well as how many episodes or seasons and whatnot. We have to pick and choose parts within that time frame. As a player, you understand that there are sub-events and corps, as well as all the little things that fans like. Therefore, we really want to focus on the storyline, but also include fan service to let fans know that we are thinking of them.

APA: Since the staff is very well-versed in Persona, in episode 13, there’s a slight change. There’s an additional scene in the anime with Akechi and Ren trying to figure out a connection to the palace. Why are additional scenes like that in particular added in the anime?

Ishihama: The main theme of episode 13 was Kitagawa Yusuke’s corp situation. Inotsume-san deals with the series and he wanted to include Akechi’s detective character. For us, we know he’s a detective. We wanted to include that in the anime without hindering the original flow or making it seem awkward.

APA: Ishihama-san, as a director, there are sacrifices you have to make when you’re adapting a game into an anime. What is the most important thing to keep in mind while you’re directing?

Ishihama: Bringing out the characters as they are in the game into real life. Not just the characters looking like themselves. We try to keep them in character in the anime.

APA: Adachi-san: Going off of working with the director and working with his directional flow for the anime, what are some of the difficulties of having to work with all these moving parts since you’re in charge of all the voice actors, the music, the direction, and the writing? What’s the most challenging part of being a producer?

Adachi: I’ve been involved in the Persona 3, 4, and 5 animes, including the writing and acting. What I want to focus on is having the uniqueness of the game turn into an anime. We have all these creators who have worked on the game, so we already have all these pieces set with the music and whatnot. But the challenge is making the anime original. In the game, we are the main character, however we need to create a main protagonist in the anime to handle everything. So, that is one thing. Mainly, the writing of the script and the creative side can be challenging.

APA: Ishihama-san, you’ve worked as an animation director for a number of different series before Persona 5 such as Read or Die, Tatami Galaxy, and Garakowa. Both Garakowa and Tatami Galaxy are more abstract and very different from a game adaptation. What do you focus on these different series?

Ishihama: Very interesting question! When I receive a request to create an anime, they will mention the target audience and also the specs of everything. They will tell me what they want, what their budget is, the schedule, and what platforms they want. By the time they chisel it down to that part, I’ve already mentally shifted into the new thing rather than the thing I was working on before. It’s a slow, gradual process, but once I’m there, my mind is already there.

APA: If you could be any of the main characters from the Persona series, who would you be?

Adachi: Amamiya Ren because he’s a perfect human. 

Ishihama: Because I’m so intrigued by the way that this character lives, breathes, and exists, Takemi Tae. I’d love to experience that happy-go-lucky feeling.

APA: This is for both Ishihama-san and Adachi-san. What would you like fans to learn from Persona 5? The original message in the game was to get out there and take action, but is it the same for the anime?

Ishihama and Adachi: Our thoughts haven’t changes. The themes and the messages are the same in both the anime and the game.

Kalai Chik

Pop culture writer focusing on animation, music, and games. Los Angeles native, USC alumni, and contributor for Asia Pacific Arts since 2015. Follow me on Twitter, @kalai_chik.

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