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!
If you had told me upon starting this show that my favorite character would be one who wasn't in Persona 4, I wouldn't have believed you. But gradually, I'm beginning to realize that, yes, that is the case, and no, Aika isn't the character I'm talking about.
It's Yu. I mean, what they've done with him is kind of brilliant, right? Making choices about how to handle the game's player-controlled, virtually-silent protagonist is basically the one part of P4A where they've been free to get creative, without the stigma of altering the core cast or events from the source material. I'm growing to realize that P4A's entire appeal pivots around the decisions they've made with Yu as a character, and they've pulled it off with an undeniable deftness. It's genius!
I've definitely touched before on why Yu may very well be the best part of P4A, but man, this episode really hit that point home. His ability to say "love hotel" without skeezing anyone out, the way he coolly sits back in that chair and just lets everyone else embarrass themselves in the hotel room, the bit with the cellphone picture - it's all perfect. I love who he's become.
I mean, let's look back for a second: in only a handful of episodes, he's grown from that quiet creep with no personality to speak of to an unflappable, dryly witty social demigod. As those stats on his status screen have started max out, Yu's begun to reminding me of the modern interpretations of characters like Tony Stark (as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr.) or Sherlock Holmes (...also as portrayed by RDJ) in that he's quick, clever and perfectly equipped to handle pretty much any situation. He's immaculate, but in a way that's supremely entertaining. It's a fantastically unpredictable direction for them to have taken the character to, and it makes the show a hell of a lot more fun to watch.
Regardless of what Mel Gibson would have you believe, there are a lot of times that alcohol can give you an insight on a person's character. Though, we already got that with the Investigation Team through their Shadows and Persona. Rise is the mood swing drunk, going from crying to angry in a second, Chie is the flushed but rational drunk, Teddie is the overly affectation drunk, Yukiko is the funny/unrepressed drunk, and Yu is the stripping drunk. Though they're all such light weights that you don't even need alcohol to get them drunk, and that's the only way this scene could've existed with Japan's laws against underage drinking. Having Naoto call them imbeciles at the end was just putting the bow on it. I loved in this scene how Yosuke and Kanji were constantly asking Yu if he was actually drunk. No one was quite sure if he was just being himself. It's even funny how he pulls out the glasses when he does pretty much anything he takes seriously.
The entire episode felt like a set up for the King's Game scene, and I don't have a problem with that. You know, there is a shocking lack of information on the internet about this game. I already had an understanding of the game, but wanted to check out the vintage as I was making the page for Anime Vice. It's all about drinking and building on the next dare, and getting people back for making you do embarrassing things. The girl's here just began talking about doing things that were more intimate than a kiss, but they seemed to go backward. Where is it that piggyback rides are all the rage?
I had a brief Twitter conversation with a representative of The Anime Network. This person explained that they had to go through the King's Game section several times while working on the episode, because they got such a laugh out of it. They also seemed to agree with me on an issue involving the coming dub. I'm normally a stickler for translations. Things shouldn't be too wildly different than the original content, but I'll be very disappointed if Yu's response to Yosuke about taking all the girls isn't "It's good to be the king." in the English version (see Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1). Sentai owes me that after that awful Sarah Palin joke they put in HOTD.
While the King's Game was a big part, we can't ignore the Chie heavy scenes we got in this episode. Since Yu has acquired nearly all the game's Arcana, Margaret already raised the idea how these powers will change as he interacts with the people they are based upon. Rise had her S. Link scenes upon her introduction, but we've now seen development with Chie. The scene was very tender and cute. It showcases why Chie is my favorite among the female cast.
Yeah, the club scene was bananas, and you can tell from how long it was that it was definitely intended as the centerpiece of the episode. Like in the game, they smartly danced around whether or not they actually ever ingested alcohol, which is still probably the best way to handle it. If you decide your show needs a scene with a bunch of 16-year-olds getting drunk, you had better build in an 'out' clause. As bizarre as that scene was, it was all worth it to hear Yukiko drunkenly slur "PERSHHHONA!"
Actually, there was a lot to like about that scene. Yu's steely reactions to, well, every single thing that happened in the VIP room was as funny as ever. And we'll have to agree to disagree about his "It's..it's because I'm the King" response - it's one of the parts I actually laughed out loud at. While we're talking specific lines of dialogue: no, I didn't get the "I hear piggyback rides are all the rage!" bit, either. I guess some things just don't translate.
Like always, this week's episode was essentially another 25 minutes of unbridled fanservice, but it felt like the prescription was especially potent this week. Between the cameo appearance by Persona 3's Chihiro Fushimi and the fact that the lecture Yosuke was so bored by was about Izanagi (the god Yu's Persona is based on), there was really no shortage of in-jokes. If I'm not mistaken, this is the second episode in a row they've built a joke around Yu putting on his glasses and faux-summoning something, but whatever, it was funny.
For lack of a better word, I tend to be pretty scrutinous of this show, but the upshot is that when I'm pleasantly surprised by an episode, I couldn't be happier. That applies this week. The club scene was great, human Teddie continues to be hilarious and they seem to establish Yu as a singularly unique protagonist at every available opportunity. As the show's gone on, they've gotten more and more comfortable experimenting with these characters. I worry that my affection for this show is growing in direct proportion to that.
I think the piggyback issue had less to do with translation, and more to do with the ramblings of someone that was intoxicated. Yukiko was talking about the King's orders needed to get more intimate, but was going backward in the level of intimacy. Resting your head in someone's lap seems much more intimate than sitting there. What is an actual translation issue is Teddie's "Great Kanjecture" joke. What he actually said was "iikanji", which means "pleasant feelings". I foresee many a doujinshi coming out of this episode.
While there was plenty of game-service to be had, the episode dropped in some plot points if you were paying more attention in class than Yosuke. If you dosed off, I highly recommend you go back and listen again to what Mr. Edogawa said. This will be on the test later. We also got to know more about Naoto, and it appears that the Social Linking with the Investigation Team isn't over just yet.
At this point, they are putting in so much from the game. Whenever someone asks me if something is going to be in this anime. The simple answer is "Yeah, probably at some point.". That's an intriguing issue I've been having with this anime. Despite my already knowing the outcome of the story, it never stops surprising me how much they fit in. This is an episode that showcases that, and a great example of why it's worth watching. After seeing the preview, our fun break appears to be over. It's time to get back on the case, and head into the Midnight Channel once again.