Any Live-Action Persona Adaptation Should Be a New Story

The JRPG series can't be condensed like Sonic.

After the runaway success of the Sonic the Hedgehog live-action movies, it only makes sense that Sega would be looking to spread the adaptation love to other franchises in its catalog. This includes Persona, the JRPG series of games that last dozens to hundreds of hours in length depending on the player’s fortitude. Persona has historically not lent itself to great anime adaptations because it’s condensing a 100-hour-long game to a few dozen episodes. So here’s my plea to you, Sega: if you’re going to make a live-action Persona project, don’t make it a direct adaptation of any of the games.

Speaking to IGN, Sega producer Toru Nakahara said the company wants to use Atlus’ games as a basis for live-action TV and movies. Nothing seems to be explicitly in the works at the moment, but Persona was mentioned by name.

Atlus’ worlds are filled with high drama, cutting-edge style and compelling characters,” says Nakahara told IGN. “Stories like those from the Persona franchise really resonate with our fans and we see an opportunity to expand the lore like no one has seen — or played — before.”

“Together, Sega and Atlus, are working to bring these stories and worlds to life through new mediums and for new audiences.”

That was as specific as Nakahara got in its statement to IGN. But it does get the mind racing about what a potential live-action Persona series or movie could be. As tempting as it might sound to want to see Persona 5’s Joker and the rest of the Phantom Thieves get a movie or a Netflix series, condensing the original game’s story didn’t work out in its favor as an anime, and a live-action retelling wouldn’t overcome that hurdle, either.

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To Sega’s credit, the company already seems to understand that a 1:1 adaptation isn’t always the best route in making a live-action movie. The Sonic the Hedgehog movies (the second, especially) have taken elements from the games, but haven’t tried to portray their stories beat-for-beat. Given the post-credits scene of the second movie, that may change in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. But after the sequel introduced its own spin on characters like Knuckles the Echidna and concepts like the Master Emerald, I have faith that the third movie will know how to toe the line of faithful adaptation and fresh take.

However, unlike Sonic the Hedgehog, the Persona series isn’t about a specific group of people. A live-action movie or series would probably be even better off just moving away from the games’ casts entirely. S.E.E.S., the Investigation Team, and the Phantom Thieves have already had their own stories. It would be more interesting to see these hypothetical projects explore the series’ paranormal slice of high school life without being anchored to any specific game. Nakahara even says as much in his statement: “we see an opportunity to expand the lore like no one has seen — or played — before.”

My kneejerk reaction to the news of a live-action Persona adaptation was to roll my eyes. To some extent, I think I still do, just because not everything needs live-action to make it easier to parse for audiences who don’t want to watch anime or play games that look like it. But in the margins of my cynicism, I see some potential. And based on the movies it’s already put out, I’m reasonably hopeful Sega sees it, too.