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Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #12

Letting M. Night Shyamalan guest-direct this episode was the best decision they've ever made.

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!

Kristoffer Remmell:

With a new episode of Persona 4, we see someone take a sledge hammer to those cracks in the wall of Yu Narukami that I eluded to last article. I'm really happy that they were able to find a way to explore Yu. Something I was a bit worried about is that Yu wasn't going to get much development for the anime. His stoic nature is superb for the comedy, but it was having an effect on the drama. He's been expressive at times. Everything before had been rather subtle, and now we finally get to show what the hero cares about and his fears. He was worried that his powers and this adventure were the only things that made him special. It's all sort of emblematic of how Yu seems to have to move around a lot due to his parents' work. After conquering his personal demons with the help of his friends. Yu then goes into a freakin' Persona barrage.

I want to add that I thought the transition to that sort of twisted fantasy of Yu was just so abrupt and disorienting that I honestly thought that something had gone wrong with my player. I actually paused to check if it had skipped ahead. I honestly didn't catch on to this being a delusion up until Rise left town. In a twisted way, I sort of liked that. More often, these sort of nightmare-fantasy episodes show some bright light overtaking the protagonists, waking up, then we know from the start this can't be real. This scenario really put me in Yu's place. It's also a nod to how well the episode previews handle things. They give you just enough information about the next episode, but have no sense of continuity,

I think this episode would have more impact as feeling as if this hunt would finally be over if we didn't already know this series is only half way through. That's sort of a struggle I think the series has in it's writing. From the characters' perspective, they have almost every reason to think this adventure is over. It's just your audience already knows this can't be the real killer. There's still enough foreshadowing if you were paying enough attention that proves that Mitsuo Kubo isn't their serial killer. The Investigation just aren't skilled enough detective to pick up on that. It's a bit of detachment in a normally strong series.

Nick Robinson:

Hahahah, I had the exact same reaction! I had left the player open for the better part of a day, so I assumed something was messing up, or, best case scenario, this episode just had really bizarre pacing, or maybe they ran out of time/money to wrap up the Kubo plotline properly. Thank god the answer was "D) none of the above"!

So, yeah, I really loved this episode. After having nothing but by-the-book adaptational episodes, it was refreshing to see them do a lot of original stuff, and delving into this weird alternate reality version of the plot was way, way crazier than I thought this show was willing to get. It was not a twist I saw coming at all, and when Rise left, I was confused, but I still hadn't caught on.

Remember how we both felt we had this show pretty much pegged as a shot-for-shot remake of the game after the first episode? How on earth could we have seen this coming? This episode was something like 90% completely original content, and it handled it all masterfully. It was an immensely creative, totally unique episode, and man, I can't tell you how excited I was to be surprised by this show for once. Add that to the fact that it was an action-heavy, decent-looking episode, not to mention how beautifully it was scored (that orchestral version of the battle music during Yu's Persona avalanche was incredible), and you have what stands out as my favorite episode of P4A to date. Like, by far, no contest. Great stuff!

I'm totally with you on the Kubo, stuff, though. Who exactly do P4A's creators expect to buy this premise that they've caught the real killer and the mystery's totally solved? We're 12 episodes into a 25-episode series! Do I think it's really more obvious than it is in the game? Nah, not really. But you're right - it feels pretty silly in the show, too.

Also: ditto on appreciating how gracefully they've handled the episode previews. I'm a huge spoilerphobe, and in most shows, I skip the previews entirely (no, seriously, I would cover up my eyes during the post-title screen preview roll during Battlestar Galactica), but P4A's whole static-y, deliberately vague, utterly context-free "Next Scent" sections have nailed the balance between being tantalizing and over-revealing, and that's a tough balance to strike. It's something I really appreciate about the show.

Speaking of this week's preview: I'm not mistaken in thinking that it looks like the upcoming two-parter is gonna try to knock out as many S-Links as possible, am I?

Kristoffer Remmell:

I feel the near shot for shot remake for episode one was a smart move. I'm a believer that first you grab your base then build outward. It helped to stem any virulent otaku backlash to see they weren't drastically changing the game's story. Unlike the path that Persona 3 took with "Trinity Soul". It worked well for a prologue. Then as the series goes on, they surprise us with new content. I've given up long ago trying to predict what they wont add from the game. They manage to slip slip it in somewhere.

As the audience we forget that we're outside the fiction at times. You don't even have to play the game to know this can't be the end. You find that sort of issue in any drama that starts off threatening the "destruction of everything", and we are only three episodes into the new season. Having the issue of Kubo as a fall guy is a reasonable act. They've built the plot well enough that the protagonists have enough reason to think they got their killer. They've connected him to nearly all the disappearances, he confessed, and....he's freakin' crazy.

Ohhh, yeah, Next episode is going to be S.Link heavy, but Yu's gone a couple episodes not making any links. I'm really anticipating this new episode. The preview really gives the impression that we are going to get some laughs out of this summer vacation arc. (I also never watched the Battlestar Galactica previews, or the mini montages they would have in the opening theme.) I've been adding characters to the AV wiki on an episode basis, as they appear. After that Episode 13 preview, I just went and added everyone I could find a picture for.

Nick Robinson:

Yeah, you're probably right that episode one's slavish devotion to the source material was a smart move. Like any fandom, the Persona 4 fandom consists largely of crazy people who have played through 100-hour RPG more than a few times, so the fact that they nailed hyperspecific details like the homeroom seating chart probably did a lot to reassure superfans that, yo, they like Persona 4 just as much as we do, and they're setting out to make the most authentic experience possible. Which is great for some people, but pretty boring for those of us who want something new.

What I dig about this show is the chance to hang out with these characters more and the chance to get new perspectives on old events, and this episode had both traits in spades. Even before it becomes apparent that something really messed up is going on, this week was packed with calm, quiet moments, which I think made the twist even more impactful. No matter how perceptive you are as a viewer, I think it's a slow, gradual reveal. True fact: I was pretty tired when I watched this episode, so when the empty stats screen popped up, I started thinking that I had fallen asleep and was dreaming the entire thing. Not only was it surreal, it was masterfully surreal, and it came on the heels of 11 by-the-numbers "here's the game again, but it's an anime now" episodes. It's a bold-ass move from a show that doesn't really make bold-ass moves, and that's something worth commending.

A few broader observations: I think I'm in the minority on this, but man, I really love Teddie in this show. Especially human Teddie. Like, he is SO CUTE and SO WEIRD and the voice is SO ANNOYING, and it all comes together in a way that I find way more endearing than I probably should. Teddie fighting in the dungeon made me realize something else: it's getting pretty crowded in there, isn't it? Instead of just Yu and three other characters going in, it looks like they have no qualms about the entire Investigation Team taking on the dungeon, and that's a pretty interesting divergence from the game's approach.

Either way, I think it's worth noting how great the inside-the-TV stuff has been so far. I mean, maybe it's just the nature of turning it into a TV show, but man, the dungeons are so well-paced compared to their in-game counterparts! Every time they find themselves at a Shadow, my initial reaction is "Whoa, that was fast," but that quickly gives way to relief that there wasn't a few hours of tedious dungeon-crawling before the story could move forward again.

Anyways, yeah. Great episode this week. I'm trying to my expectations for future installments because this is probably the most out-there they're gonna get for the duration of the show, but man, what a winner this one was.

Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for news updates: @ animevice / @ FoxxFireArt

Nick Robinson (Babylonian) is a Whiskey Media intern and a journalism student. Won't you follow him on Twitter at @Babylonian? He'd be ever so appreciative!

advkowon Jan. 4, 2012 at 4:42 p.m.
this episode was great! I think ALL of us thought our players broke at first, it was THAT good.
InfiniteGeasson Jan. 4, 2012 at 5:40 p.m.

Why is it copy and pasted like 3 times?

Bigheart711on Jan. 4, 2012 at 5:46 p.m.

Whoa! You guys posted your article twice over! D:

...But to be on topic, I thought Ep. 12 was quite surprising, even though I beat the entire game. The fact that some of the scenes shocked me to a point where I thought they were giving the viewers the "bad ending" (but didn't) happened just makes me like the series more.

golguinon Jan. 4, 2012 at 6:39 p.m.

I also thought something went wrong with the video during that abrupt change since I saw the P4 Endurance Run.

Username_Undefinedon Jan. 4, 2012 at 6:56 p.m.

said "With a new episode of Persona 4, we see someone take a sledge hammer to those cracks in the wall of Yu Narukami that I eluded to last article."

I think you meant "alluded" instead of "eluded." Alluded means hinted at while eluded means avoided or slipped away from.

I agree with both of y'all when I thought my player broke or I missed something with Yu's fantasy/nightmare bit. I didn't know what exactly was going on until it was over. My confusion was quickly replaced with stary-eyed amazement thanks to Yu's Persona parade (I like the comment Yosuke made "How many Personas does he have?")

Babylonian staff on Jan. 4, 2012 at 7:22 p.m.

@InfiniteGeass: @golguin: Weird! The duplicate article thing happened to me twice while putting together the post in Distillery, so maybe something's awry! I fixed it, but if it happens again, I'll tip off the engineers about it.

@Bigheart711 said:

The fact that some of the scenes shocked me to a point where I thought they were giving the viewers the "bad ending" (but didn't) happened just makes me like the series more.

This crossed my mind too! I thought for a second that maybe they just didn't rescue Kubo in time, and maybe that Yu'd get a bad ending, then Igor would show up and make him reload from his last save (or whatever happens in the game when you fail to save someone).

buhssuhton Jan. 4, 2012 at 7:55 p.m.

i think just about everybody had universal reaction of "what hell is going on here?".

Also i really liked how Yu used various personas to attack. that was amazing

FoxxFireArt moderator is online on Jan. 4, 2012 at 9:31 p.m.

@Babylonian:

Watching this series for fans of the game is akin to the manga fans watching the animated version of series such as One Piece. The manga audience are watching to see their favorite scenes animated. While the anime only audience are enjoying the story fresh. It's nice to add some new material, but I don't see what you stand to gain by altering or adding too much.

I kind of like this repeat, in a way. The repeat sort of mimics the episode.

Hailinelon Jan. 4, 2012 at 9:31 p.m.

I caught on to the twist pretty quickly. It's not unlike twists I've seen in other stories where a character is essentially forced to live out an extended period of time in his mind when in fact a much shorter period of time has passed. It became especially evident from the moment that Yukiko first left the group.

But really, this was an excellent way to handle Mitsuo's Shadow; by allowing it to project the emptiness it represents onto Yu in an attempt to drag him down.

Babylonian staff on Jan. 4, 2012 at 10:02 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

I caught on to the twist pretty quickly. It's not unlike twists I've seen in other stories where a character is essentially forced to live out an extended period of time in his mind when in fact a much shorter period of time has passed. It became especially evident from the moment that Yukiko first left the group.

But really, this was an excellent way to handle Mitsuo's Shadow; by allowing it to project the emptiness it represents onto Yu in an attempt to drag him down.

Totally! It's brilliant, and a surprisingly subtle move from the show that brought us... well, I think mutha3 put it best:

@mutha3 said:

P4A starts out with Yukiko waking up in a room with BIRDCAGES. A broken BIRDCAGE rolls towards her, followed by a taunt that proclaims she will NEVER FLY AWAY. Followed by a Big bird in a BIRDCAGE locking Yukiko up in a BIRDCAGE and starting Yukiko's flashback wherein she finds an injured bird who she takes care of in a BIRDCAGE, but the bird gets the courage to break free and FLY AWAY, thus reminding Yukiko of her own weakness. So she throws away the BIRDCAGE. and breaks free from the BIRDCAGE in the present time by Chie telling her that she can FLY AWAY.

mutha3on Jan. 4, 2012 at 10:08 p.m.

This episode was pretty cool, yeah. The battle scene was probably the most well animated part of P4A so far, and I was genuinely mislead for a moment there with the Kubo stuff. The Persona bumrush was cool, but it does highlight how Yu always seems to steal the show in these shadow battles. I want the others to dish out some damage too!

mutha3on Jan. 4, 2012 at 10:14 p.m.

@Babylonian said:

This crossed my mind too! I thought for a second that maybe they just didn't rescue Kubo in time, and maybe that Yu'd get a bad ending, then Igor would show up and make him reload from his last save (or whatever happens in the game when you fail to save someone).

Close. Igor sends you a week back in time!

He can do that, apparently. Sure would have been useful for saving Saki and that announcer lady. Thanks, Igor.

Hailinelon Jan. 4, 2012 at 10:29 p.m.

@Babylonian: Oh, don't bring that up again. His complaints regarding the episode were absurd.

mutha3on Jan. 4, 2012 at 10:40 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

@Babylonian: Oh, don't bring that up again. His complaints regarding the episode were absurd.

Just checking -- "Absurd" means "I don't agree with mutha3" here, right? If not, tell me which part of my argument isn't directly supported with examples from the show.

Hailinelon Jan. 4, 2012 at 11:02 p.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@Babylonian: Oh, don't bring that up again. His complaints regarding the episode were absurd.

Just checking -- "Absurd" means "I don't agree with mutha3" here, right? If not, tell me which part of my argument isn't directly supported with examples from the show.

Your overemphasis on the symbolism of the birdcage. You act insulted by it to a cartoonish extent; I have a friend who felt that the symbolism resonated with her fairly well. Not that she feels trapped by any means, but she likes how it was depicted.

You, on the other hand, mostly go ARGLE BARGLE any time something in the anime doesn't match your sensibilities, whether it be drops in animation quality, the use of the birdcage, Shadow Kanji's depiction, or what have you. There have honestly been times where I wonder if you're actively looking for reasons to hate the show.

mutha3on Jan. 4, 2012 at 11:24 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

Your overemphasis on the symbolism of the birdcage.You act insulted by it to a cartoonish extent;

pffffffffttttt.

I was laughing my ass off most of that episode. That paragraph of text Babylonian quoted was an example of me trying to be funny.

I have a friend who felt that the symbolism resonated with her fairly well. Not that she feels trapped by any means, but she likes how it was depicted.

Someone disagrees with me!.......Okay?

That aside, still not seeing how my argument is "absurd" I still have to file that little comment of yours under "difference of opinion" rather than lack of analysis on my part.

As for the rest: whatever. I'm not going to argue about my disposition, nor do I care much to convince you otherwise.

Hailinelon Jan. 4, 2012 at 11:51 p.m.

@mutha3: Well, it just didn't come off as being funny, apparently. :P

mutha3on Jan. 4, 2012 at 11:54 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: Well, it just didn't come off as being funny, apparently. :P

I giggled at my own attempts at humor. That is enough for me!

Don't judge

Babylonian staff on Jan. 4, 2012 at 11:58 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: Well, it just didn't come off as being funny, apparently. :P

Uh, bullshit! I thought that comment was hilarious, and it made me embarrassed for not noticing how melodramatic it all was the first time around. Still, yeah, there's probably an argument to be made that the wrecking-ball subtlety that this show typically deals in is probably more a symptom of it being anime, not it being P4A.

mutha3on Jan. 5, 2012 at 12:07 a.m.

@Babylonian said:

Still, yeah, there's probably an argument to be made that the wrecking-ball subtlety that this show typically deals in is probably more a symptom of it being anime, not it being P4A.

Hm.....Don't know if I'd agree with that.

A flaw being prevalent in a medium, doesn't make it less bothersome if it pops up in your story. 'sides, I think there's plenty anime out there that doesn't suffer from that degree of melodrama and heavy-handedness.

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