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!
We're more than halfway through P4A now, and they're kicking off the second half with a bang - a super weird bang, but an entertaining bang nonetheless. That alternate opening with the glasses motif was rad! It looked and sounded great, and I'm always thrilled to hear more of this show's distinctly Engrishy music.
All these alternate intros and closing themes have me wishing they'd relegated more of P4A's budget to, you know, the actual animation. Having three separate title and ending themes in 13 episodes is great, but if it's surrounding a frequently ugly show, it's all kind of for naught, isn't it? Considering that this show continues to be troubled by mediocre animation (that montage of still images during the search for Yu? Woof!), I can't help but wish they'd made some better budgetary decisions somewhere along the line.
Anyways, onto the actual contents! After last week's hyper-original episode, I was preparing to settle back into what the show typically is: in-game moments regurgitated anime-style. Instead, what we got was another highly unique, almost self-referential take on the game's events. A big part of Persona 4 is choice: when you choose to hang out with a character in-game, it's always at the expense of a few dozen other activities. Just like in life, time in Persona 4 is a limited resource, and you can only do so many things in each day (and in each playthrough). Each time Yu would come home and just go straight upstairs, I caught myself yelling at him "NO DUDE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO TALK TO NANAKO BEFORE GOING UPSTAIRS IDIOT," before I realized that this is essentially just watching another person play through Persona 4 far differently than I would have.
It's interesting to look at P4A through the lens of a player making in-game decisions. This version of the protagonist is choosing to use his time after school to dig into the secondary social links, at the expense of hanging out with the Investigation Team. To have the cast launch an investigation of their own into what the he's is doing instead of hanging out with them is totally crazy, and actually pretty meta! In the game, the cast are basically a bunch of statues standing around waiting for you to initiate contact with them. To see them get so suspicious of Yu that they leave their posts gives me this weird, almost Toy Story-ish vibe. It's like the characters have come to life!
I'm a little skeeved out by the recent trend of magical girl anime centered around insanely young girls, but the Loveline stuff seemed relatively harmless. It's pretty much an undeniable fact at this point that Nanako is super adorable in this show - my heart melted a little at "Ja ne, Kitsune-san!", and watching her ape Teddie's strange gestures in the Dojima household was extremely cute. It seems like next week is when the S-Link avalanche proper hits, but this episode had enough earnest mystery and comedic relief to satisfy me. What did you think?
Yes, we are finally rolling over the hump with Episode 13. It doesn't seem that it's been that long. Though, I don't believe that this is just another one-shot intro. I was suspecting that this may happen by this point. It's not uncommon for anime series that go beyond twelve episodes to get a new opening and ending themes. This opening will probably last us through the rest of the season.
You're one who's always excited to see new content. We got plenty of that, and they managed to tie it all into the S. Links. The director found a way to take all the job side quests and turn into some great fodder for these sitcom summer episodes. Fans of the game know what's going on from moment one, but I'm sure there is a large enough group who never played the game. They're right along with the team and wondering what's gong on.. They did a masterful job teasing us with all the characters as Nanako-tantei followed Yu around. It all gives us some quality time following around Nanako and get attached to the kid with the rest of the cast.
Some of my best laughs came out of just how rarely we saw Yu. When I saw his "Explosive Fishing" outfit. I almost thought for a second he was going to use actual explosives to fish. Even the Investigation Team's reactions after seeing him with the various women and getting the wrong idea. Then, Yu was in the Teddy suit. It all raises questions for the audience who want to know what's gong on, and we'll get those answers in the next part. This is much better than starting with Yu's side first. I'm hoping for plenty of flirting with Sayoko Uehara.
Holy crap, somehow I totally forgot the "Yu inside Teddie" scene! That was a hilarious moment, and I really appreciate that they didn't overexplain the joke. Does that happen in the game at some point? Also, on reflection, I think you might be right about the alternate opening, although I really doubt that the Loveline closing theme will make it past next week's episode.
As far as what else we can expect from next week: I'm excited to see where they take the introduction of Mysterious Fox. That opening scene with Nanako must've been setting something up, right? I could also stand to see more of Nanako and Teddie teaming up to solve minor mysteries; between her naïvety and Teddie's stupidity, they make a marvelously incompetent team that is super fun to watch. And yeah, I'm interested to see how they handle the Sayoko stuff, too. There were some seriously bold dialogue options at your disposal in the game, and it would be pretty funny to see those uncharacteristic conversations play out in the show. I guess we'll see!
You're totally right: the fact that this week's episode was told from the perspective of everyone but Yu made it a lot more fun. I wouldn't disagree that I like seeing 'new' content in the show, but I think it'd be even more accurate to say that I enjoy seeing them do interesting stuff within the context of Persona 4. As this is pretty much a straight retelling of the game, they obviously don't have a ton of wiggle room, but that makes it all the more satisfying when they manage to wring captivating stories from a story whose primary components we already know by heart. I think that's exactly what they managed to do that this week, and it would take a lot more than an eerily beady-eyed Kanji to prevent me from enjoying that.
(But seriously, what's up with Kanji's beady eyes?)
I'm not sure about every tiny aspect of the game to say for sure if the Person 4 protagonist ever got into the Teddy suit. As to the Loveline closing theme. Yeah, that's certainly a one. I can't imagine the original ending scene changing due to the arcana cards that are filled in.
This coming episode will be more Yu heavy, and it will have little on Nanako. She was the set up to make the audience wonder what's going on. Now, we'll be getting that answer. It's the bold dialog with Sayoko that makes me look forward to that scene in the hospital. She was one of my favorite jobs in the game. (Wow, no matter how that reads, It still sounds kind of dirty.) I've been noticing that whenever the anime approaches the dialog options. They seem to make it a point to select the most awkward one. Yet another reason my anticipation has been building for this episode.
We are enjoying a calm before what feels like a rather large storm on the horizon. Something that I think a lot of cartoons and comics can learn from is that you can't be 100% action. That's how we got Michael Bay. Some call these fillers. In this case, I call it a breather. Every now and again, you need to take a break and let your audience absorb all the information you've been throwing at them. This is what these moments feel like. It's a time to relax, enjoy some laughs, then get ready for the exciting stuff to build up again. That's what I plan to do, and I hope everyone else is along with us.
Just one final reminder. On the chance you missed the article, The Persona 4 schedule is going to be changing for the broadcast on The Anime Network. For the rest of the season, Persona 4 The Animation will be uploaded on Friday 3PM EST (12PM PST).