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Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #17

It's been a while since I played it, but I don't remember Persona 4 having an "Age 60 Years" status ailment.

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!

(Embedding from Hulu currently seems to be busted - in the meantime, here's a link right to the episode!)

Nick Robinson:

Man, they covered a lot of ground this week, huh? The Detective Prince got her Persona, the team's back in school, everyone's had their Naoto-required medical examinations, and like five other things happened. Once again, though, what excited me about this episode wasn't the retold game moments, but the original stuff: the 'body transformations,' the conversation between Kanji and Yu, Naoto being brought in as a consultant on the Beef Bowl Challenge. To me, that's where this show really shines.

I mean, I think we can agree that the bit where old-man-Teddie feebly attempts to summon his Persona was the funniest in the episode, right? And that Yu and Kanji's conversation about their friendship and Naoto was just about as "d'awwww" as this show gets? P4A's creators clearly have a great bead on these characters, because these moments we never saw in the game are also the moments that feel the most authentic. They're good at their job, I guess is what I'm saying.

Still, I was a little disappointed that we never got to see old-Yu or old-Yosuke's faces. Am I imagining things, or did the aged version of Yu have a super long beard going on? I really wish we could've seen that! Also, while I'm sure it was written with the best intentions, Yukiko's insistence that Naoto "[doesn't] really want to be a man" came across as a tad transphobic to me. While I'm complaining: there were parts of this episode that were just lazily animated as hell. Still, this is mostly nitpicking, and I think this was a perfectly competent installment of P4A. Your thoughts, Kris?

Kristoffer Remmell:

I know that you are more interested in the original content of the series, Nick; but I always get excited to see how they find a way to incorporate the game details into the narrative. From Rise's scanner warnings, using Energy Shower to remove status effects, the variety of Persona used by Yu, and lest we forget -- Six Point Fusions!! I also find it remarkable that we are now seventeen episodes into a twenty five episode series, and the Investigation Team is only just now complete. If series like this had been produced in the West, the team would have been pushed together unnaturally by episode three.

Yukiko did seem to have her "Yosuke-eque" problems in this episode, but I don't think it was as malicious. Naoto is actually pretty cute the more we get to know her. A touch we get to see in the Japanese version is how she dropped the artificial gruffness to her voice to try and sound more masculine. I remember Susan Dalian keeping her tone consistent in the game through it's run, but I never saw how she changes due to the optional side quest choice -- if you know what I mean. As you suggested, they depict Naoto very well by the new content. The touch with finding the love letter was nice. She really came across as embracing her detective life. Less interested in romance and more looking to the next case. It's very Sherlockian.

Back when Jeff and Vinny were doing their Endurance Run, and they came to the medical inspection section. They pointed out a rather interesting plot hole. If doctors took an x-ray and saw there were no bones or anything inside of Teddie. I don't think they'd need to be House to be more than curious as to why. Maybe keep him in for observation. Still, the bigger mystery that came out of that was also Naoto's sizes. Yosuke was right that the way Rise phrased that it could mean a variety of things.

Nick Robinson:

Whoa, I didn't even notice the Energy Shower thing. Their attention to detail with this show continues to be staggering! And yeah, I don't think the Yukiko stuff was intended to be cruel - it just rubbed me the wrong way, is all. I don't know enough to say whether it's a reflection on her character, on the show's producers or on Japanese culture as a whole, but it does make me uncomfortable that when Naoto expresses her feeling that she was born into the wrong body, the resolution is that - whoops - she was just wrong about it. That's not the only solution!

One thing I've been thinking about lately is whether or not this show's combat is totally confusing to anyone else. My experience with Persona 4 was through the Endurance Run, so I've never experienced the combat firsthand. As a result, I find myself feeling pretty much totally lost as to what exactly's happening during the anime's combat sequences. I somehow totally missed the six-point fusion stuff, for example. And I've seen the game played for hundreds of hours! It's hard to imagine how baffling this show's action scenes must be to those who are coming into it with no knowledge of the original.

At any rate, I'm still enjoying P4A quite a bit, and maintain my position that the show's quality has been on a definite uphill slope since it began. Kris, closing thoughts?

Kristoffer Remmell:

I don't feel that the issues Naoto has is about her own personal demons as much as it's a reflection on the male driven culture. Naoto was a victim of her own insecurities because of how she felt from witnessing the male dominated culture of the police. She knew she would eventually grow up, but she was scared that if they knew she was a girl that she would still be dismissed. As I pointed out previously, when you look at the most famous literary detectives. They're all male. After overcoming her shadow, she realized she needed to stop trying to live up to those characters and be her own detective. The fact she still dresses and talks like a boy (using "boku" as a possessive) is what she's used to and comfortable with. Yukiko was just asking the question that the audience would have. It sets up for Naoto to then explain her motivations.

I think the anime has explained the combat perfectly well. Having some sort of long winded exposition tutorial would be heavy handed. If anything, they changed aspects from the game. Ever since episode one, they have demonstrated that anything that happens to the Persona will directly effect the user. We've seen examples of that throughout the series. I do think they tend to linger a tad too much on how it effect the heroes, such as in that scene of Kanji flailing around from the shock blast. Also, fusions were never performed in battles, but from the safety of the Velvet Room. Putting them in the fight just makes them more dramatic.

The Investigation Team has been completed and there are less than ten episodes left. We are finally beginning the path to the final act. Our heroes are now the only ones who know that the real killer is out there. We now get to watch as our protagonists are solo in this hunt for the culprit. The ride's about to get dark, but there are sure to be a few more laughs along the way. I hope people are enjoying it.

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!

YotaruVegetaon Feb. 11, 2012 at 3:12 p.m.

I was picturing the image of each persona before they appeared in the anime! Oh, I'm such a Persona geek!

They never have some fan service in P4 where we see how Naoto does her "Boys Don't Cry" routine.

I don't think that Kanji was being transphobic. It would not make not sense for him to be. He is meant to be the one member of the group who understands how it is to look one way on the outside, but to feel differently on the inside.

Even though Naoto dresses like a boy for two reasons (to be accepted by men and to emulate her detective heroes) think that without the pressures of gender politics, she would still dress as a boy would, but not completely hide her femininity.

I think Kanji was saying that Naoto should not have to dress as a boy to be respected as a detective

TheFakePsychicon Feb. 11, 2012 at 4:19 p.m.

For the record, about the "age 60 years" status ailment, there was actually going to be something similar, because there are voice samples talking about it. Then they weren't used, and the ailment essentially got turned into enervation.

Also, the attack, or something that looks incredibly similar is actually in game as Galgalim Eyes, which causes enervation, and reduces the target to 1 HP.

Hailinelon Feb. 11, 2012 at 4:21 p.m.

You guys don't remember Enervation? Because that's what the guys got hit with. :P

Regarding Yukiko's comment, you need to remember that the Shadows cannot be taken at their literal word. Shadow Naoto thinks that the solution to Naoto's problem is to become a male not just in manner, but in gender. But the truth is that she doesn't want to be a man. She only wants to be accepted as a competent detective. Dressing and behaving as a boy helped perpetuate an illusion, but she did these things in order to further her goals as a detective; not because she actually wants to be a he. That she has come to prefer dressing in masculine clothing is also not a trait indicative of wishing to become male. It's not a matter of gender identity on that level; it's a matter of lifestyle choice.

Also, given Naoto's reaction to the initial threat of being turned into a guy (she was not happy with this idea in the least), it's not hard to believe that Yukiko picked up on that.

Also, the comedy highlight of the episode for me was Rise's reaction to an aged Yu. Who knew she'd be into (much) older guys? :P

mutha3on Feb. 12, 2012 at 1:20 a.m.

@Hailinel said:

You guys don't remember Enervation? Because that's what the guys got hit with. :P

Regarding Yukiko's comment, you need to remember that the Shadows cannot be taken at their literal word. Shadow Naoto thinks that the solution to Naoto's problem is to become a male not just in manner, but in gender. But the truth is that she doesn't want to be a man.

That's the thing, though-- in the game, this was never confirmed with any degree of certainty. Whenever the developers were asked for comment, on every turn they said "it was meant to be ambiguous".

Little disappointing, not gonna lie, that the anime producers went down the road they did :/ That line wasn't outright transphobic or anything, but it sure did feel like they were telling the audience "hey guys, its okay, you can like Naoto: she is not a tranny!"

I played P4 obsessively, twice(and with a 60-70 hour game.....that's a lot of time!I'm even one of those weirdos who can explain every gameplay mechanic to you) and I assure you -- understanding the gameplay mechanics will not really do much to help you follow these Persona battles.

I strongly disagree with on the Persona thing. It wasn't explained well at all. So far, not a single restriction or limitation seems to be imposed on Yu. The Personae he can make are completely arbitrary, the things they can do are completely arbitrary, the conditions in which they can be summoned are completely arbitrary. Yu's abilties in combat are what the writers need him to be at the time. Any tension in this show feels completely artificial. Why didn't Yu just summon Beelzebub to stomp Naoto's shadow from the start?

The Persona battles are dumb and boring and dumb in general :/ I like this show a lot more when it isn't about Persona battles.

Other things:

  • this anime's final episode airs on march 22 2011. Same date as the game's ending!
  • And the cool thing about Energy Shower: it doesn't cure all status effects, it cures enervation. Amrita is the cure-all.
Babylonian staff on Feb. 12, 2012 at 6:37 a.m.

@TheFakePsychic said:

For the record, about the "age 60 years" status ailment, there was actually going to be something similar, because there are voice samples talking about it. Then they weren't used, and the ailment essentially got turned into enervation.

Also, the attack, or something that looks incredibly similar is actually in game as Galgalim Eyes, which causes enervation, and reduces the target to 1 HP.

That is a totally crazy tidbit, and further evidence that the people behind this show will often go for the deepest cuts imaginable when mining for P4 minutae to stick in the game. So awesome!

AlKusanagion Feb. 12, 2012 at 9:01 a.m.

Recently there are several transgendered celebrities in Japan, both male and female, so while I won't say it's been "accepted," it's definitely becoming something more people are aware of. If anything, I think Yukiko's reaction was more that she's the most feminine and conservative of the group.

Also, the next episode is the saddest thing ever. But the episode after that is the SCHOOL BEAUTY CONTEST!!!

Hailinelon Feb. 12, 2012 at 9:16 a.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

You guys don't remember Enervation? Because that's what the guys got hit with. :P

Regarding Yukiko's comment, you need to remember that the Shadows cannot be taken at their literal word. Shadow Naoto thinks that the solution to Naoto's problem is to become a male not just in manner, but in gender. But the truth is that she doesn't want to be a man.

That's the thing, though-- in the game, this was never confirmed with any degree of certainty. Whenever the developers were asked for comment, on every turn they said "it was meant to be ambiguous".

Little disappointing, not gonna lie, that the anime producers went down the road they did :/ That line wasn't outright transphobic or anything, but it sure did feel like they were telling the audience "hey guys, its okay, you can like Naoto: she is not a tranny!"

I think you're putting a stronger spin on this than it really deserves. It's not that the staff was saying "It's okay to like her because she's not a tranny." It's, "In this adaptation of the story, she isn't a tranny." Would you have preferred it if the producers had gone down the other path and said, "Hey guys, there's totally a tranny in this show!"? Doing such would have been as equally straying from the source material in removing ambiguity.

But you're right in that Yukiko's not being transphobic. People that are phobic of something don't tend to deny the existence of something. They tend to react out of fear or hostility toward it. Yukiko simply stated that Naoto doesn't want to be a guy.

@AlKusanagi said:

Recently there are several transgendered celebrities in Japan, both male and female, so while I won't say it's been "accepted," it's definitely becoming something more people are aware of. If anything, I think Yukiko's reaction was more that she's the most feminine and conservative of the group.

Also, this. Yukiko is not only among the more feminine characters in the group, but also likely the most conservative. She was raised in a traditional home in a countryside podunk, after all.

YotaruVegetaon Feb. 13, 2012 at 8:34 a.m.

Oh, I totally misread who was being called transphobic. I still don't think that Yukiko is transphobic.

zaldaron Feb. 16, 2012 at 4:26 p.m.

@TheFakePsychic: shoot enervation was the first thing I thought of when I saw that scene and here I was hoping everyone else missed it. Heh yeah I think that was what they were going for as energy shower removes that status effect specifically if I remember correctly.

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