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Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #19

Kanji in a dress, you guys. Kanji in a dress.

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!

Nick Robinson:

Well, that was more or less exactly what I expected! Then again, when adapting the game's most shamelessly fanservicey moments, what else would you really want them to do?

I've said before that Yu totally makes this show worth watching, and man, was this episode great evidence! Between his gung-ho attitude about the cross-dressing pageant and how coolly he adopted the lady-Yu role for the group date, P4A's interpretation of the protagonist might be my one of my favorite anime characters, like, ever. It's like watching someone play through the picking only the funniest responses to every situation, but in anime form. As it turns out, that's exactly as great as it sounds!

At the same time, there was a lot of stuff that didn't work about this episode. For instance, while I understand their obligation to fit in every S-Link possible, that's not even something you can really pull off in a 100-hour playthrough of the game, much less in a 25-episode TV series. Straight up: the Ayane Matsunaga stuff really didn't fit here. This is, by all accounts, supposed to be a fun episode, right? So why make it tonally schizophrenic by peppering it with these dramatic scenes about this band kid? I can't deal with this kid crying about being crappy at trombone! My mind is elsewhere! Like on what anime lady Kanji is gonna look like! The rapid-fire switching between wacky hijinks and overwrought melodrama practically gave me whiplash in what should've been a totally silly episode. Likewise, all the Rise's S. Link whining was super boring, and feels like it's been addressed like three times already.

Basically: this episode was fine. For the stuff that didn't fit tonally, it was a totally serviceable cocktail of giving the fans what they want while adding enough tweaks to keep it from being a straight-up Xerox of the game's moments. I'm okay with that.

Kristoffer Remmell:

I found it hard to really gather my thoughts on this particular episode, because there was just so much in the way of comedy, drama, and subplots. Don't take that as a complaint. I had so much fun with some of the goofiness. It also paints such a stark contrasts to the heavy drama from last week. That in itself makes me wonder how this series will play in it's collected format.

I've been seeing it for a while that Yu has come such a long way from the blank and expressionless automaton he started as in episode one. I agree that he's become the protagonist the player could possibly get by selecting the weirdest dialog options. Yu may have been the main icon of the episode, but for me it was all about the Chie. She has been a great character to play the role of the straight man to this band of weirdos. I love how she shot Yu down about not playing the King's Game again. Don't think I didn't missed that she was into the cross-dressed Yu.

While Ayane Matsunaga's S.Link felt tacked on, I thought they found a great spot to expand on Rise's maxed out S.Link story. The way they used the event and outcome of the pageant to show that she really enjoyed the lime light of pop stardom. It does make me notice that the series has touched on the further story of Chie and Rise without ever going into the romance portions on either. Margaret almost gave us a hint in her surprise cameo, but I can certainly understand Yu cutting her off. Fortunetelling can be fun entertainment, but would you honestly want someone to give that answer if you know she has the real answer?

Nick Robinson:

Don't get me wrong, the Rise S. Link stuff fit the context of the pageant well enough - I'm just tired of it at this point. Honestly, it's actually pretty clever that P4A's creators saw the opportunity to turn Inaba's excitement over Rise's pageant entry into an actual plot point. To me, though, Rise's inner turmoil over her fame feels like something this show's dedicated plenty of time to already.

It's funny how much reality was thrown out the window this week. Like, even putting aside all the crazy stuff from the game like Margaret's booth at the cultural festival and, uh, the entire conceit of a high school cross-dressing beauty pageant, can we talk about that giant projector showing what looks like character concept art from a million different angles? For a pageant at a small high school in a rural Japanese town, the production values were pretty insane, weren't they? They certainly weren't afraid to betray the show's internal logic for the sake of making things as over-the-top as possible. Which is fine, by the way! But maybe that's why the dead-serious subplots felt so out of place.

I really did mostly enjoy this one, though! It had all the trimmings that you'd want in one of P4A's goofier episodes. The fact that Ayane's trombone piece was actually one of the game's overworld themes was a lovely touch, and rad little character moments like Naoto doing Teddie's makeup had me feeling mostly satisfied by this episode. Still, I can't shake the feeling that this anime makes Persona 4... stupider, somehow.

I guess what I'm getting at is this: the girls' beauty pageant creeped me out. Like, straight up. I mean, full disclosure: the fact that my laptop's broken and I had to watch this in A PUBLIC PLACE certainly didn't help with the feeling of overwhelming embarrassment, but still. Shamelessly lingering shots panning across the bodies of 16-year-old girls isn't what I'm here for. From start to finish, it felt like the scene was catering straight the pageant's real life audience, not its animated one. The type of fanservice I want from Persona 4 is lighthearted hangout moments, not ephebophile smut.

This show occasionally makes me feel like a creep just for watching it, and sadly, it's not something I expect to stop anytime soon, especially with the Amagi Inn episode next week. Looking past that, though, there was a lot to like here: the reactions Teddie got as Kumata, Chie galactic-punting Yosuke (twice), Yu's...well, everything. Shame about the overtly pervy vibes!

Kristoffer Remmell:

I'm not really sure you can really be surprised that they are working all the game's subplots into the anime at this point. They've done so many thus far. While most of the supporting cast is summed up in a single episode, the Investigation Team has been given extra attention to their Lvl. 10 conclusions. Chie's was done during the school trip. I think Ayane got the appropriate amount of attention for her less than thrilling story. The only thing that bothers me about it's use is how it took up time that could have been spent on more of the pageant scenes, such as the Q & A for both the boys and girls.

I'm just not picking up on this same creepy vibe you keep talking about, Nick. The girls only got thrown into bikini's last minute, because Teddie is a horny ol' bear. The bikinis they're wearing weren't all that revealing. You'd see more risque clothing options in a Sears' catalog. This isn't Strike Witches, where all women just don't seem to wear pants for some unexplained reason. Not that I'd ever try honing in on Margaret's territory, but I'm predicting that if Nick was embarrassed by portions of this episode because of bikinis. He's going to be really going crazy for the next edition. It's about to earn some of that TV-MA rating.

This episode was kind of a strange mix of Simpsons-esque sitcom and drama, but it just has so many different master to serve. They have to work the side quests in somewhere, and I think the director found the right spots for these. You could say it's a tad clunky in it's follow through, but not that it isn't entertaining. With the votes all in and counted, I'm willing to call this episode a winner that's well worth repeated viewing.

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!

Hailinelon Feb. 25, 2012 at 9:50 a.m.

Nick, I'm sorry, but you are incredibly hypersensitive regarding the depictions of the girls. There's very little that's different about them than in the way that they were depicted in the games. It would be absurd not to expect them to give the girls' pageant its time. If you're not personally comfortable with it, that's one thing, but don't go painting it as an affront to morality. About the only thing that was truly different was that the episode offered only the briefest hint of Naoto in her swimsuit, which is something that the game never even touched. She just straight up bolted without a word.

As for the guys' pageant...god damn, that was a thing of beauty. Teddie's amazing entrance is the highlight of the episode right there. They just took the funniest part of the game and cranked it right up.

And really, here's the thing about the treatment of the girls in Persona 4. For every mild bit of fan service that there is, whether it be the swimsuits at the camping trip, or the pageants, or what comes in the Amagi Inn episode (and I predict you'll be losing your shit at that), it's balanced by some pain or humiliation that the guys must endure, whether it be getting booted into a vomit-tainted river, or being forced to cross-dress, or, well, what happens at the inn. (And oh god, do things ever go wrong for them.)

I also didn't have any problem with Ayane's Social Link. Yes, it's a quiet moment amidst the absurdity, but the show has shown itself to be very adept at juggling tones. Also, the series hinted early on that she would be the Sun Social Link, so to see her at this point is not surprising or disappointing. As for Rise's Social Link, they fit in the end of it quite well into the context of the pageant. With the other characters getting their due in recent episodes, it makes sense for Rise's Social Link to see some closure as well, and just as in the game, she's chosen to go back into show business come the following spring.

YukaTAon Feb. 25, 2012 at 10:11 a.m.

I HEARD THE LITTLE GIRL PLAY NEVER MORE ON THE TRUMPET! XD

Neuroticon Feb. 25, 2012 at 10:29 a.m.

I don't remember them fetishising the girl's pageant anymore than the game did (i.e. not really at all). The shots were not lingering at all. Perhaps since you were in a public place, everything seemed slowed down since you were self-concious of people screen watching.

mutha3on Feb. 25, 2012 at 11:44 a.m.
I guess what I'm getting at is this: the girls' beauty pageant creeped me out. Like, straight up. I mean, full disclosure: the fact that my laptop's broken and I had to watch this in A PUBLIC PLACE certainly didn't help with the feeling of overwhelming embarrassment, but still. Shamelessly lingering shots panning across the bodies of 16-year-old girls isn't what I'm here for. From start to finish, it felt like the scene was catering straight the pageant's real life audience, not its animated one. The type of fanservice I want from Persona 4 is lighthearted hangout moments, not ephebophile smut.

Ehhh....I have to side with the rest of the comment section this time, sorry Nick.

The scene was pretty sterile in general. The camera remained pretty zoomed out and only lingered for a couple of seconds, we didn't get any ass/panty/ breast shots, the girls where uncomfortable as hell and the scene was obviously played up for laughs.

It was dumb and unnecessary fanservice, sure, and the game was more tolerable in this case(though, I think that is partially because of the way cutscenes are presented in P4) but you're almost making it sound pornographic in this paragraph. To use an example from a western game: the female character designs in Mass Effect 2 bothered me far more than this beauty pageant scene.

Also: DO NOT WATCH FANSERVICEY ANIME IN PUBLIC.

At the same time, there was a lot of stuff that didn't work about this episode. For instance, while I understand their obligation to fit in every S-Linkpossible, that's not even something you can really pull off in a 100-hour playthrough of the game, much less in a 25-episode TV series. Straight up: the Ayane Matsunaga stuff really didn't fit here. This is, by all accounts, supposed to be a fun episode, right? So why make it tonally schizophrenic by peppering it with these dramatic scenes about this band kid? I can't deal with

This I agree with, however. Yeah, this show can be pretty schizophrenic sometimes. I felt that episode at the club(14?) was way more bizzare, though, with the Chie stuff in the middle.Felt completely disconnected from the wacky highschool shenanigans going on at the first and last part of that episode.

AlKusanagion Feb. 25, 2012 at 1:27 p.m.

Yeah, the hot springs episode from this week is gonna kill the guy, as people here have said. Especially since Nanako's thrown in the mix. You watch that one in public and you're leaving in handcuffs.

Also, after the hot springs episode, I'm thinking that it will ultimately be Yu and Yukiko together. Every few episodes they share some quiet, personal moments together that seem to hint at a deeper connection between them.

Soupnazion Feb. 25, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.

Guys, please. "it's" -- contraction of "it is." "its" -- possessive of "it." Also, no apostrophes on plurals, such as where you use "bikini's..." and then use "bikinis" a sentence later. As an extension of that, no apostrophes for plurals of numbers (in other article's you've used "80's" and the such, when the apostrophe should actually be before the number as it's an abbreviation).

Some proofreading would be appreciated.

ComicMan24on Feb. 25, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.

One of the funniest, if not the funniest episode of the show so far. And I have to agree with other posters here that the bikini scene was quite mild, nothing really that crazy although I suppose I can understand how you felt since you were watching it in public but still I think you overreacted a bit on that one :p

FoxxFireArt moderator on Feb. 25, 2012 at 2:44 p.m.

@Soupnazi:

Yeah, those are my mistakes. I was in a rush to try and get the articles back on schedule, due to the unfortunate fate of Nick's laptop and busy school schedule.

@mutha3 said:

This I agree with, however. Yeah, this show can be pretty schizophrenic sometimes. I felt that episode at the club(14?) was way more bizzare, though, with the Chie stuff in the middle.Felt completely disconnected from the wacky highschool shenanigans going on at the first and last part of that episode.

I thought the Chie stuff worked in the school trip episode. It made that moments when he randomly has her sit on his lap a bit more meaningful.

@ComicMan24:

I don't know about the funniest. The King's Game and inside Kanji's dungeon were really funny.

Norayon Feb. 25, 2012 at 2:47 p.m.

Yeah sorry Nick but you're kind of displaying the most incredibly prude side of American culture. The girls are wearing bikinis, so what? I live near a beach and I can confirm that girls, even below 18, do wear bikinis. The bikinis aren't all that revealing and the camera certainly doesn't do any inappropriate close-ups. Watch it again and tell me that it's at all exploitative or creepy. And it's certainly incredibly mild compared to a lot of other shows in the genre. Your reaction says more about you than the show.

Draxyleon Feb. 25, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.

Yea I don't think the bikini stuff was too much. I watched it with my mother without feeling embarrassed, if that says anything (though next week's episode gets borderline uncomfortable at times, but still not too over the top. Just don't watch it in public)

Fantastic episode, really great moments. But I do have to agree with all the social linking stuff, that has never fit in appropriately except in the episodes dedicated to them. There's just too much stuff to handle in an episode and not enough time to cram little side stories into it. I would prefer if they either add more episodes simply devoted to that social linking, or leave them out entirely.

Still, nitpicky stuff for what is a fantastic adaptation overall. Can't fault them too much for trying to get everything in there.

Babylonian staff on Feb. 25, 2012 at 4:18 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

Nick, I'm sorry, but you are incredibly hypersensitive regarding the depictions of the girls. There's very little that's different about them than in the way that they were depicted in the games. It would be absurd not to expect them to give the girls' pageant its time. If you're not personally comfortable with it, that's one thing, but don't go painting it as an affront to morality.

Check it out: I thought it was distasteful when the game did it, too! The scene exists, undeniably, to give the audience an excuse to see these teenage girls half-naked...again. I think that's gross!

Yeah, anime does the "sexualizing underage girls" thing all the time, and P4A is miles away from being the worst offender, but neither of those change how I feel about it. At the risk of sounding dramatic, they are, in a way, helping perpetuate this borderline pedophilic culture that shows up in anime more often than I'm comfortable with.

@Hailinel said:

As for the guys' pageant...god damn, that was a thing of beauty. Teddie's amazing entrance is the highlight of the episode right there. They just took the funniest part of the game and cranked it right up.

The guys' pageant stuff was awesome - I just wish there'd been more of it. Not counting Teddie, we got one shot and one line of dialogue per character, which felt a little thin compared to what the game gave us, especially considering how much time they spent building up to it.

@mutha3 said:

Ehhh....I have to side with the rest of the comment section this time, sorry Nick.

The scene was pretty sterile in general. The camera remained pretty zoomed out and only lingered for a couple of seconds, we didn't get any ass/panty/ breast shots, the girls where uncomfortable as hell and the scene was obviously played up for laughs.

It was dumb and unnecessary fanservice, sure, and the game was more tolerable in this case(though, I think that is partially because of the way cutscenes are presented in P4) but you're almost making it sound pornographic in this paragraph. To use an example from a western game: the female character designs in Mass Effect 2 bothered me far more than this beauty pageant scene.

Also: DO NOT WATCH FANSERVICEY ANIME IN PUBLIC.

It definitely wasn't egregious, I just... didn't like it. I used some pretty incendiary language in the article, and, yeah, the whole thing was probably exaggerated by the fact that I had to watch it in a computer lab with, you know, other human beings around. But I stand by my description. Scenes like this, mild though they may be, are symptomatic of this aspect of anime I've never been comfortable with: unabashedly sexualizing teenage (or younger) girls.

You know what's weird? Miranda's design in ME2 bugged me, too, until they explained away her absurd hotness in the story. For whatever reason, that made her design far less annoying to me, even if the explanation was totally dumb, sci-fi silliness.

At any rate, Miranda in ME2 is a full-on adult-ass lady, not a high schooler, which is the entire crux of the problem for me. Traditional fanservice is harmless, and at its worst, embarrassing and stupid. It's when you throw kids in the mix that it becomes a problem.

@Noray said:

Yeah sorry Nick but you're kind of displaying the most incredibly prude side of American culture. The girls are wearing bikinis, so what? I live near a beach and I can confirm that girls, even below 18, do wear bikinis. The bikinis aren't all that revealing and the camera certainly doesn't do any inappropriate close-ups. Watch it again and tell me that it's at all exploitative or creepy. And it's certainly incredibly mild compared to a lot of other shows in the genre. Your reaction says more about you than the show.

I live near a high school, and I can confirm that girls, even above 18, don't wear bikinis in high schools. It's a totally insane and unnatural premise used as the means to a pretty creepy end. That the situation set up in the show is 'incredibly mild' says more about the 'genre' than it does me.

If feeling awkward when a show repeatedly strips its teenage protagonists down to their underwear for the sake of titillating the audience means that I'm a prude, then sure, I'm a prude!

Soupnazion Feb. 25, 2012 at 4:18 p.m.

@FoxxFireArt: Glad you're not just ignorant of the English language.

(Aaa I can't say anything without being a jerk. :|)

Hailinelon Feb. 25, 2012 at 4:40 p.m.

@Babylonian: You're sounding very dramatic, indeed. However, instead of trying to play culture warrior, how about you focus more on the discussion at hand; i.e., the pageants. We could get sidetracked talking about the seedier sides of every culture (and the U.S. certainly has its share) but from a basic standpoint, there is nothing overtly sexual about the way that the girls are presented in the episode. If you can point out to me where I'm wrong (beyond the basic, obvious fact that they are wearing two-piece bathing suits, shock and horror that that is), then I will more than happily concede your point. However, you have yet to do that.

Also, if this is how you react to this episode, I expect the Amagi Inn episode will in no uncertain terms give you a coronary.

mutha3on Feb. 25, 2012 at 4:44 p.m.

@Babylonian said:

@mutha3 said:

Ehhh....I have to side with the rest of the comment section this time, sorry Nick.

The scene was pretty sterile in general. The camera remained pretty zoomed out and only lingered for a couple of seconds, we didn't get any ass/panty/ breast shots, the girls where uncomfortable as hell and the scene was obviously played up for laughs.

It was dumb and unnecessary fanservice, sure, and the game was more tolerable in this case(though, I think that is partially because of the way cutscenes are presented in P4) but you're almost making it sound pornographic in this paragraph. To use an example from a western game: the female character designs in Mass Effect 2 bothered me far more than this beauty pageant scene.

Also: DO NOT WATCH FANSERVICEY ANIME IN PUBLIC.

It definitely wasn't egregious, I just... didn't like it. I used some pretty incendiary language in the article, and, yeah, the whole thing was probably exaggerated by the fact that I had to watch it in a computer lab with, you know, other human beings around. But I stand by my description. Scenes like this, mild though they may be, are symptomatic of this aspect of anime I've never been comfortable with: unabashedly sexualizing teenage (or younger) girls.

I don't necessarily disagree, but I think this scene is not the best example you can pick to illustrate that. And calling it "ephebophile smut." is just plain ol' hyperbole.

P4A has been remarkably restrained, when you consider the team working on it usually produces crap like "Heaven's lost property"(search for this at your own discretion!). I'm genuinely amazed how low on fanservice this show has been after reading the credits.

You know what's weird? Miranda's design in ME2 bugged me, too, until they explained away her absurd hotness in the story. For whatever reason, that made her design far less annoying to me, even if the explanation was totally dumb, sci-fi silliness.

Miranda wasn't the most egregious example, actually. Samara was way worse. She is supposed to be a holy figure, a monk-warrior of sorts. Yet she dresses like a stripper.

But the real problem with female designs in ME2 is that all important female characters(Samara, Miranda, Jack, Tali) were ridiculously sexualized. If only one of these characters was bad, it wouldn't have been a big deal(and I'd actually argue that Jack has a great design) but the fact that all the important ladies were? Sad.

At any rate, Miranda in ME2 is a full-on adult-ass lady, not a high schooler, which is the entire crux of the problem for me. Traditional fanservice is harmless, and at its worst, embarrassing and stupid. It's when you throw kids in the mix that it becomes a problem.

Hailinelon Feb. 25, 2012 at 4:53 p.m.

@mutha3: It's not always the personnel that governs how lewd (or not) an anime is; it's also dependent on the target audience and the subject. Would you believe that the same person that directed Weather Report Girl also directed Wedding Peach and Pokemon?

mutha3on Feb. 25, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: It's not always the personnel that governs how lewd (or not) an anime is; it's also dependent on the target audience and the subject. Would you believe that the same person that directed Weather Report Girl also directed Wedding Peach and Pokemon?

I don't think that holds merit when their record shows them working pretty much exclusively on creepy, super-fanservicey stuff.

Not even hyperbole, man. For a lot of those guys, P4A is the first respectable production they've been involved with.
 
EDIT: oh, yeah, I haven't seen anyone bitch about the animation this week! Gotta quickly fill that quota: Jesus, this episode looked rough at spots. Especially the part where Kanji starts yelling at Naoto to enter the pageant.

Norayon Feb. 26, 2012 at 1:11 a.m.

@Babylonian said:

If feeling awkward when a show repeatedly strips its teenage protagonists down to their underwear for the sake of titillating the audience means that I'm a prude, then sure, I'm a prude!

...That was supposed to be titillating? Are you sure about that? Also, twice (let's say three times, counting next episode) isn't really all that often at all, especially when the characters go swimming two of the three times. The game did it, the anime follows. Going so far as to call it smut makes you a giant prude. That's alright, just own to it.

Hailinelon Feb. 26, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: It's not always the personnel that governs how lewd (or not) an anime is; it's also dependent on the target audience and the subject. Would you believe that the same person that directed Weather Report Girl also directed Wedding Peach and Pokemon?

I don't think that holds merit when their record shows them working pretty much exclusively on creepy, super-fanservicey stuff.

Not even hyperbole, man. For a lot of those guys, P4A is the first respectable production they've been involved with.

EDIT: oh, yeah, I haven't seen anyone bitch about the animation this week! Gotta quickly fill that quota: Jesus, this episode looked rough at spots. Especially the part where Kanji starts yelling at Naoto to enter the pageant.

Granted, I'm not really familiar with the staff's previous works, other than the director apparently also being the direct of Angel Beats, which I haven't watched.

ComicMan24on Feb. 27, 2012 at 7:48 a.m.

@FoxxFireArt: True, those were very funny as well.

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