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!
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.
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?
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!
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.