Review: Persona 3: The Movie #4 Winter of Rebirth
The Persona 3 movies are collectively a real treat for fans, retelling its engaging story in a compelling new format. Split into four parts, Winter of Rebirth covers the final section of the narrative, and ties up the series with a competent adaptation of the game’s most fiddly section.
More so than with the previous entries, the fourth and last Persona 3 movie is strictly a continuation of the events that have preceded it. It’s perhaps the weakest of the four movies, but this can be attributed to the way that game’s story splits into four. Winter of Rebirth follows directly on from Falling Down – the time for developing the supporting characters is over, it’s the end of the world (as we know it) and all that’s left is for the characters to wallow in misery and wait for the final battle against a giant demon.
And whilst the sombre tone sort-of works during this downbeat section of the game, it makes for a surprisingly depressing movie. Most of the first half is spent watching the characters trying to decide if they should take Ryoji up on his odd offer to wipe their memories so they can spend their last month alive unaware of the impending apocalypse. Because y’know, aside from summoning the demon that will bring about said apocalypse, Ryoji is a kind-of-alright guy.
His proposition is the catalyst that sets in motion the game’s final section, but the timeline he lays out for the protagonist relies heavily on the calendar system mechanic through which the story unfolds. Translating this into a compelling movie narrative is the film’s biggest challenge, and although the result is a valiant effort, consolidating the game’s plot into key scenes and skipping a bunch of days in between them means that the entire set-up barely makes sense and isn’t particularly compelling.
The decision itself is placed solely in the hands of Makoto, which again makes sense in the game – where you can sign up for the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ending – but now the feeling is predominantly a complete loss of purpose for the supporting cast. They’ve already learned about the importance of friendship, everyone from the last two movies is still dead, and there’s nothing they can do but anticipate the final battle in which they will offer moderate assistance. Junpei starts fighting and Yukari stops eating, reducing their characters to little more than gender stereotypes. Meanwhile Apathy Syndrome has now taken over almost the entire NPC population, and people who all look the same parade the streets like the persona-less zombies that they have become. As you can probably guess, the film chooses the path of the true ending, in which the cast wait out a second month of misery in anticipation of the apocalypse, but the fun times they would have had living in ignorance are also covered in a ‘flash sideways’, not dissimilar to those found in the 6th series of LOST.
Aside from this there’s another interlude to the bleakness when Elisabeth leaves the Velvet Room and is given the tour of Port Island by Makoto. This light-hearted scene stands out as one of the movie’s most enjoyable, not only because of its contrast, but also because it gives some much needed exposure to one of the series’ most underrated characters. Otherwise this is truly a movie about Makoto, and to be fair there’s a whole bunch of reasons why this works. As a blank slate in the game, this is the one area in which the movies have been able to expand on the source material in a satisfying way, and here is where the pay-off is most evident.
Ultimately, Winter of Rebirth is more-or-less of the same standard as the previous three films. Now the series has concluded it’s perhaps most relevant to view the entity as a whole, and in this regard it’s a fantastic tetralogy that I’d highly recommend to Persona 3 fans. The final movie has the same impressive production, stunning visuals, and loving attention to detail that’s defined the adaptation, but there’s simply no escaping the fact that when spitting the narrative into four this is the part that comes up short.
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