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!
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?
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.
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?
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.