When Persona 5 came out last year in Japan, an animted short called The Day Breakers was released to help promote the game. It’s only 20-minutes long, but is definitely worth watching if you’re a fan of the game.
While Persona 5 itself has around an hour’s worth of excellent anime cutscenes, made by Ghost in the Shell and Attack on Titan’s Production I.G., The Day Breakers was made by A-1 Pictures, which explains why the art and animation you see here is slightly different from that you see in Persona 5.
Not that this is a problem. A-1 have a lot of experience with the series, having handled both Persona 4's animated series and the last three of Persona 3's full-length movies, and for what it is, The Day Breakers looks fine.
Just know that this isn’t a thorough re-telling of the game’s stories like the last two Persona games have received. Instead, this is a short designed to copy the flow of one of the game’s Mementos side-missions, dealing with a bite-sized quest to change the heart of a single bad guy.
That man is the lock-picking thief Kazuya Makigami, who people far enough into the game will know is an actual Mementos target; this is a long-winded re-telling of his story from the game, albeit one with a much more dramatic fight than he can muster in Persona 5.
The story doesn’t really have much room to move in only 20 minutes, so after a quick introduction to Makigami and some cursory nods to the other characters and context of Persona 5, we jump into the quest to change his heart.
Things move pretty fast from there, with the final battle set up with a twist that had to be rushed through with the barest of detective movie reveals, and were this a standalone film you’d probably get 2/3 of the way through and be scratching your head, wondering what the hell was going on with the trains and the phone apps and the cat than sits in a bag but can talk.
But that’s not the point here. The point here was to sell the game by giving folks a taste of what they’d be up to in Persona 5 without really spoiling anything, while at the same time giving people who had already played enough nods to the jokes and characters in the game that they’d sit there looking at every frame going “THAT’S LE BLANC” and “THAT’S THE AIRSOFT SHOP GUY” and “I KNOW THAT PERSONA”.
Going by that admittedly soft criteria, The Day Breakers is a success. Those are some things I said to myself while watching (and liking ) it, albeit not IN CAPS, and I enjoyed seeing Personas wreck shit in Mementos without waiting for everyone to take turns. This is not a masterpiece of the medium, nor is is trying to be, but as a cute little cash-in released on the side, it’s just fine.
The Day Breakers is only available with Japanese audio, which in some ways is a shame (because we’re all associating the English voice actors with the Phantom Thieves by now), but is in other ways fascinating, because it provides us with some very different interpretations of some of the main cast.
Ryuji, a walking 311 music video in the game, here seems...totally fine. Brash, perhaps, but far more productive and less disruptive than he is in Persona 5. And Yusuke, the English version’s flamboyant sociopath, is in this anime a cool, calm and calculated guy, displaying as much leadership and common sense as the protagonist. If only Ann had been...well, anything except the target of some lingering pauses on her trademark catsuit.
You can watch The Day Breakers on Crunchyroll now (or buy it on Blu-Ray here), but if you’ve only just started playing the game, you might want to exercise some caution; the story is set between the second and third palaces, and leads directly to the team’s infiltration of the latter, so if you’re super strict about spoilers you might want to hold off until you clear that stage of the game.