Welcome to Amateur vs. Expert, a new column wherein noted anime layperson Nick Robinson (Babylonian) squares off against anime savant Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt). The goal? To take our two columns, Anime Amateur and Anime Examiner, and combine them for your reading pleasure. Let's get started!
One more to go and the journey of Persona 4 will be coming to a close. The mystery has finally been revealed, and the man behind the curtain was Tohru Adachi. After the reveal, I half expected him to also claim "I am Teddie's father." He's played the part of villain quite excellently. By taking the role of the Japanese version of the keystone cops. He was in the perfect place to manipulate Namatame into his quest to "save people" and stay clear of suspicion. Oh sweet irony, it was then shown that the Investigation Team rescuing people was only fueling Nanatame to kidnap even more victims. Feeding the delusion that he was the hero. That was a devious cycle that was created. All with the villain laughing from the sidelines. That in itself I think is one of the more clever reveals of the story.
I love the moment when they catch Adachi in the hospital. It's a classic technique in mystery novels to get the culprit so flustered and angry that he slips up and reveals too much. It was used in a case from DETECTIVE CONAN where they purposefully left out a part of the trick in a "sealed room murder" reenactment to the suspects. Naturally, the killer couldn't help but point out their flaw by naming the part they left out. A detail he could only have known if he was the killer, because he wasn't with them when they originally found the body. Some may even remember that awesome moment at the end of DEATH NOTE when Near reveals how Light's name was the only one not written down in the real Death Note. These sort of 'gotcha'' moments are my favorite.
Adachi seems to be under the impression that the Midnight Channel world likes him, and that's why the Shadows wont attack. I don't think that's quite true. What I notice is that he doesn't have a Shadow. No opposing self to challenge him. This is more indicative of Adachi being a sociopath, and witnessing his murders in flashback seems to support my theory. Psychologically, he's all Id. There is no internal conflict within him, because he honestly can't understand the emotions of others. On the other hand, Teddie started out as a Shadow but developed a personality. Only once he started to question himself did the Shadows attack him. It's all very, "Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am)". Here's one more interesting question. Are the shadows afraid of Adachi, are they obedient, or do that not even realize he's there?
I loved that Naoto practically paraphrased what you said in last week's column: "If the possibility isn't zero, then we can't rule him out." Actually, the entire process of deducing Adachi's involvement was markedly different than it was in the game. From the way it's edited, it appears that Naoto figures it out even before Yu does, and that's not the only way they altered Persona 4's original storytelling this week. In the game, the Investigation Team is typically always together, at least for major story beats, but here, since the show isn't told exclusively from Yu's perspective, the 'camera' can be in multiple places at once, allowing events to play out a bit differently.
I'm with you: the Adachi confrontation scene was well-handled. Naoto was exactly the shrewd and articulate detective you'd hope she'd be, and it was a blast to watch. Just like with Namatame last week, we got a clearer picture of how exactly the murders transpired, all shown from the strange, pseudoholographic perspective inside the TV. It's actually pretty clever, the way they accomplish it: in the game, Magatsu Inaba barely resembles Inaba at all, but in P4A, the creators have the freedom to portray it as this distorted, dark version of the characters' hometown. By depicting Magatsu Inaba in this way, they're able to communicate a real sense of consequence: if the Investigation Team isn't able to stop the real world from converging with the reality inside the TV, this is what Inaba will end up looking like.
Especially clever is the way they incorporate iconic Inaba scenery into the dungeon. Instead of just showing us Adachi's initial murders through a vanilla flashback, the Investigation Team is able to see them take place in their corresponding Inaba locations as they wander around this alternative world. They're stumbling onto the scenes of the crimes - literally, in Yosuke's case. The bit where he trips over the raised floor in Amagi Inn was a really clever callback and a good segue into the team's discovery that the Inn is where all this began.
I was curious how they were going to handle the flashbacks of the murder, but it was handled extremely well. Further proving that Adachi is one sick bastard, he makes them watch as he murdered both Yamano and Konishi. Forcing the heroes to watch these senseless acts is a much more jarring experience than watching something on a screen. All while they were helpless to do anything. Yosuke especially seemed effected. Making him watch the girl he loved be not only molested but murdered. The impact was only increased by watching it animated and voiced. Adachi has really built himself quickly into a top rate villain in an incredibly short span of time -- sans the hand wringing and mustache twirling. Keyser Söze has nothing on him.
The way Magatsu Inaba was portrayed is leaps above what the game was able to render on the PS2. It's not just darker with a tint of red. My only critique would be that Chie seemed to recognize it all a bit too fast. Everything they've known has been torn asunder before them. You're right that this really shows them the stakes. It's the perfect set up for a climax. All of this makes me a bit curious how the Vita version will handle these scenes. Not that I'm going to get one to find out.
All that's left is the final battle of the protagonist and antagonist. Not many of these episodes have had cliffhangers, but this is the most exciting one. One symbolizes friendship and unity, and the other is the definition of isolation and selfishness. It shows that both of them were given similar powers, but walked different paths. It's making Yu face what he could have become. It reminds me a tad of the Naruto and Gaara dynamic, but I don't see this having as happy an end. I have high hopes for this coming battle. This is the first villain of the series that I really want to see get smacked around, and the consequence of failure are larger than one life.
Chie quickly deducing that they were in a distorted version of Inaba didn't really strike me as weird. What did was the totally bizarre 'punch me' scene in the first half of the episode. I guess I get what they were going for, but it felt extremely awkward and out of place to me. Then again, it struck me as a super weird inclusion in the game, too, so I guess I can't blame them too much for that.
Other than that, though, I thought this was a spectacular penultimate episode of what's been kind of an uneven series. It feels like the creators had some really solid ideas of how to take the last act of Persona 4 and turn it into a good anime drama, and I think they executed on those concepts spectacular both this week and last. Onward to the finale!