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Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #2

The second episode of Persona 4 The Animation is upon us, and we've got not one, but two perspectives on it!

Welcome to the first installment of 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!

Kristoffer Remmell:

I've seen some criticism that this series is such a direct adaptation of the original game. I hear where they're coming from, but I push against that idea. If they had done a sequel, you would of had to play through this large game to understand the character relationships. That's expecting far too much. I feel that the narrative behind this story is strong enough as a mystery to stand on it's own. That's not going to make for a quicker pace, but a satisfying experience. This is also great for viewers that wanted to enjoy the story without hours of dungeon crawling. This series will have to make cuts, but a twenty-five episode run is going to be a lot of time to tell a story.

Getting our initial look at the first humanized Shadow and the confrontation that follows oddly enough reminds me of some of the issues we covered in my Psych Class. The Shadows are the embodiment of the character's Id, taunting a person with their dark desires. Narukami is playing the role of the emotionally removed logic to Yosuke. He calms Yosuke down to tell him that the outcome wasn't important as long as his feelings were true. It's only when we accept our dark half do we complete our 'Persona'. This episode seems to mimic tying the same themes of mixing the real world events with the fantastic. That's my interpretation.

I'm curious about one thing, Nick. As a person who isn't as deep into anime or the Japanese language, have you caught any significance behind the name Yu Narukami? I have a theory, but it took me a second to catch something.

Nick Robinson:

Yeah, like you, I'm beginning to adjust to how direct of an adaptation this really is. While I'm not convinced that making a 1:1 recreation of the game is the most interesting route they could've gone, it's hard to deny that they've nailed what they set out to do. Great example: their stunning commitment to recreating environments from the game. The shadow world liquor store, the street-level view of Junes, the floodplains: they're all exactly as I remember them. Nailed it!

That interpretation of Yosuke's encounter with his Shadow sounds pretty on-point to me. I actually really liked that whole scene - I think this show has suffered a bit from shoehorning these characters into stereotypical anime archetypes, but that bit was the first time the show did anything interesting with a member of the group. Up until the end of this episode, it felt like Yosuke had been reduced to this embarrassing, anime-trope-y cartoon character who's never not peeing, but seeing him acknowledge that he tries way too hard kinda makes up for that. Kind of. I guess it has me feeling surprised the same way I was surprised when the game started tackling heavier subjects.

Oh, also: this is the first episode that we've been able to see the show's full opening, which I absolutely love. All the static and artifacting and weird computery digitalness - I thought it was great! Those responsible for this show has a fantastic sense of cool. What'd you think of it?

And what's your observation about Yu's name? Is there some elaborate Japanese pun I'm missing?

Kristoffer Remmell:

Time wise, I don't expect a 1:1 ratio, but close to a 75% scaling. This isn't the Evangelion Rebuild Project. The strength in a murder mystery is found in it's early story foreshadowing. I'm completely with you on the environments. When this was a game we were stuck with one static viewpoint of everything. Now, it's dynamic and so much detail. They took the setting of a liquor store, and they made it dark and foreboding. That's why I say this show will look amazing on Blu-ray. We're seeing that more and more out of anime series.

I don't think you can really blame an anime for having anime stereotypes. It's not so much about having them, but how you use them. This cast originally was making up for a protagonist who was never really emoting. We're only two episodes in. They first establish the character's personality to the audience, then we get to see how they grow. That's what I believe we are seeing literally in Yu's character chart in that commercial break image. Chie gave my funny moment of the episode with the cost of her forgiveness.

I both really like the new opening for the series, but I also find it annoying for how spoilerific it is. It puts on display the entire cast of characters. Something I liked about some of the NARUTO opening themes is that they would at times silhouette a character until their actual appearance in the series. Past that critique, I agree that it's very cool.

Back when Persona 4 was adapted into a manga series. They named the protagonist Souji Seta. It struck me as odd that they wouldn't keep that theme just for consistency sake. One of the hardest points of a series such as this is naming your lead role. Everyone had their own name. It was your choice. Even Igor is always talking as if he's speaking to the viewer. After about an episode, it struck me. This is just a theory, but I think the name is an English pun using Japanese. Yu is actually "You", get it? You are the protagonist. This series doesn't happen in a cultural bubble. The lyrics in the music are all sung in English, and the same for the title card for each episode.

Nick Robinson:

Yeah, I buy that! It certainly makes a lot more sense than arbitrarily naming him Souji. Still, that dude will forever be Charlie Tunoku to me, and I'm not convinced there's a force on this Earth strong enough to change that. Also, as clever as the "Yu" thing is, that might be the one piece of non-nonsensical English in this entire show. The lyrics to the opening and closing theme are literally meaningless. Also, the non-subtitled bits of English are almost always erroneious - the end-of-episode preview inexplicably says "Next Scent and "to be Next" at the beginning and the end. It's a little bit hilarious.

The title screen is spoilery, I guess, but at the same time, this is a show that at the end of the day is for Persona 4 fans. I reckon most of the people watching this are already pretty familiar with the Investigation Team's full roster. Still, I see your point. While the intro for the original game was somewhere between your silhouetting idea and P4A's intro in terms of spoileriness, it only showed up once over the course of the game, so it was a little less blatant with the whole "HERE'S EVERY CHARACTER, SO GET READY" bit.

While we're talking about the stuff at the periphery of the show, I've got a couple thoughts about how this episode ended. Maybe this is a common anime thing, but I'm pretty sure it isn't: there was a whole scene after the credits featuring Nanako and Yu, and I think that's bonkers. What if someone stopped watching after the closing theme because they assumed, reasonably, that the show was over? Not cool, P4A.

However, I love that when they get around to the "Next time on Persona 4" preview, it's all fuzzy and staticy. As a spoilerphobe, I'm not usually a fan of the whole "here are some things that happen in the next episode" thing, but hiding it behind a Midnight Channel-esque haze is both tantalisingly teasery and thematically perfect for the show. Excellently done, I thought.

I guess to wrap this up: I'm warming up to this show a bit. Going into episode one, nobody was really sure quite what to expect from this show, but now that we know that it is pretty much just a revisiting of the game's story, it's easier to kick back and enjoy the ride. Onward to episode three!

Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for news updates: @ animevice / @ FoxxFireArt

Nick Robinson is a Whiskey Media intern and a journalism student. Won't you follow him on Twitter at @Babylonian? He'd be ever so appreciative!

metalsnakezeroon Oct. 18, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.

So far people are warming up to the show now. Think that first episode may just had been a bad first impression for some.

Little_Socrateson Oct. 18, 2011 at 8:52 p.m.

I'm glad you guys both enjoyed it. The first time I watched it, I wasn't sure if it was my screen/stream, but I was getting some artifacting on the fight sequence and I couldn't see a THING. I wasn't sure if it simply wasn't lit well at points or if it was just the stream, but something seemed wrong the first time. I haven't reviewed it yet, but I still enjoyed it.

Punching Yosuke was great, it gave that first transformation a lot more emotional impact. Also, Chie's steak bit is another step on the long road to making Chie more likable early on than she was in the game.

Hailinelon Oct. 18, 2011 at 9:25 p.m.

Episode 2 was definitely an improvement over the first, and I'm just enjoying the hell out of everything about it. As someone that's played P4 to completion, I appreciate the level of detail that they're taking in referencing the game, from the details in the setting to the quirks of the characters.

I don't really see the complaint about stereotypes, though. At this point in the story, we know about as much about the characters as was revealed by the same point in the game. Yosuke spent a lot of those early game hours acting like a putz and didn't start straightening up until after the confrontation with his Shadow.

Edit: You guys both missed out on the more noteworthy part of the protagonist's name however. "Narukami" can be taken to mean "become a god." i.e.: You become a god.

ComicMan24on Oct. 19, 2011 at 12:20 a.m.

Nice article. As for the show, I watched the second episode a few days ago, it is an interesting show but I am not sure I like it a lot yet. Plus as someone who knows nothing about Persona 4, I have no idea where the show is heading unlike most people who have played the game.

Petiewon Oct. 19, 2011 at 2:43 a.m.
Pretty sure the "Next Scent" thing is a reference to how Teddie was able to sniff people out in the TV world. Its a bt more unique than simply saying next episode.
mutha3on Oct. 19, 2011 at 4:30 a.m.

This is a cool idea for a feature! As for the praise for the visual aspects of the series.....the show looks fine, honestly, but that's mostly because the source material has incredibly strong visual design. The animation is "okay" at best and they are really not doing anything interesting with the excellent, moody environments given to them(the liqour store turning into the boss stage being the only exception, more stuff like that please!!). So far the game is probably the more aesthetically pleasing experience.

The character designs, while being a valiant effort, aren't nearly as strong as Soejima's work. I appreciate them trying to emulate his shading style(GRADIENTS GRADIENTS GRADIENTS) but they really aren't good at it and it ends up looking rather awkward most of the time. The production has a low-budget feel to it, and I can't help but feel that Atlus kinda cheaped out on this.

I also don't like the director working on this. Overbearing sound direction which is tacky rather than entertaining. Too many awkward instances of comedy in scenes where they don't belong(Micheal Bay, much?).

I don't really see the complaint about stereotypes, though. At this point in the story, we know about as much about the characters as was revealed by the same point in the game. Yosuke spent a lot of those early game hours acting like a putz and didn't start straightening up until after the confrontation with his Shadow.

Eh, that's not true at all. At this point in the game Yosuke had been characterized as an awkward guy that was friendly yet overbearing.

In EP1 of the anime, he's been a walking pee joke in literally half the scenes he has appeared in and a yelling lunatic in the other. The only brief moment we saw the Yosuke we knew from the game was in the scene where he asked Saki out(which admittedly was a cool addition and closer to the stuff I want to see this anime do more often).

I've already said this before, but Nanako is by far the biggest offender of this so far. We are getting NONE of the initial awkwardness between Yu and Nanako that was in the game, we haven't seen her reluctance to interact with Yu, hell, if you didn't know better you'd probably think Nanako and Dojima have a perfectly normal, healthy relationship.

Here is a good example: the scene after the credits where Yu offers Nanako to wash the dishes with her, and the Junes commercials. In the game those moments where the only time we ever saw Nanako act like a real kid and get excited-- The conversation had usually been about Dojima before those moments or awkward silence. They were quick flashes of the fact that underneath the restrained and brave face she put on, she was still a kid. The director seems to have missed the point, because those kinds of scenes are the only ones they left in there. She has been your archetypical anime cute girl so far. And she's probably my favorite character in the Persona series, so that bums me out.

Now, yeah, they probably will introduce that stuff later on...but not showing us the symptoms of that relationship early on(Nanako's unnaturally mature behavior, her self-sufficiency, Dojima's eternal absensce etc. ) will make those scenes seem lame and tacked on. And even if they pull it off, it won't be nearly as effective.

...I'm being a little harsh I guess. Its a fine adaptation, I just feel P4 deserved better.

@Hailinel said:

Edit: You guys both missed out on the more noteworthy part of the protagonist's name however. "Narukami" can be taken to mean "become a god." i.e.: You become a god.

Actually, the way the Kanji in his name has been written doesn't translate to that. "Yu" means calm, Naru means "roar" and Kami, with the kanji it has been written with, means "above".

He's calm while something roars above him(referring to his unnaturally rational/calm personality in the anime and his Persona)

At least if the dude who did the P2 fantranslation is to be believed!

Hailinelon Oct. 19, 2011 at 6:56 a.m.

@mutha3: Well, you can't have it all. An adaptation like this had to figure out what to keep and what to drop. Even now, we've only had one very brief scene with Adachi; the anime dropped the early scene in the police station entirely.

And while the kanji in Yu's name might not be the same, phonetically, "Naru" can be interpreted as "To become" and "kami" as "god."

AURON570on Oct. 19, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.

A Great Conversation has begun!!! Keep it up guys!

I heard some theories about Yu's last name, Narukami, kami being "God". I also was sort of turned off by how Yosuke and Chie were being portrayed, but it's understandable. It's going to be very interesting to see how it balances social linking/character development in each episode while also keeping a mystery feel to it.

LifeByDegreeson Oct. 19, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.

Wait, wait, wait. The lyrics to the opening and closing themes are meaning less?

I think the opening themes lyrics is that they are the other half of the 1st episode's opening theme- which is taken straight out of Persona 4- the game. Those themes- along with the closing theme- describe many of the general concepts and lessons that the game centers around.

The 1st opening theme describes the world of mass media and technology- how it clouds out personality and thought- and how this isn't always so great to say the least.

The 2nd opening theme- that plays during the opening of this episode- is the positive upturn- describing how life can be a joyous adventure if we let go of those things to some degree.

The closing theme is a mish-mash of the themes mentioned previously with an emphasis on the concept of free will/originality/ and personality. It ties into the concept the tarot cards represent- of seeking out ones destiny- and in my interpretation- potential

CH3BURASHKAon Oct. 19, 2011 at 4:14 p.m.

Yes, the common opinion was initially one of disappointment due to its straight-forward adaptation, and now of begrudging-to-accepting acceptance of realizing it's still awesome. Despite what you or they say, this is basically for P4 fans (and those who have had to endure their P4 friends) and I would have expected a bit more fan service in terms of story. They literally packed hours upon hours of gameplay into ~25 minutes, and as someone who has played the game, it seemed incredibly rushed. I'm very interested to know what someone who has no context for the show thought, but I thought they should have taken WAY more time. Maybe they're getting the intro stuff out of the way for some meaningful S. Linking scenes later on, but I would have appreciated a slower pace.

Your "Yu Narukami" theory is sound, but they should have just named him "Charlie Tunoku" and gotten it over with.

I've grown tired of turn-based gameplay, so seeing the battle in real-time was effing awesome - P5 should go for real-time, turn-based is old and dumb.

Chie blackmailing them into some steak was hilarious.

Hailinelon Oct. 19, 2011 at 8:28 p.m.

@CH3BURASHKA said:

I've grown tired of turn-based gameplay, so seeing the battle in real-time was effing awesome - P5 should go for real-time, turn-based is old and dumb.

Them's fightin' words. I enjoy turn-based combat, and it still has its place. Persona 4 has one of the best turn-based systems I've ever played. And I feel like punching kittens every time someone says turn-based combat is antiquated.

So, please, think of the kittens.

I will agree with you on Chie's choice of blackmail payment, however.

As for your other comments, well, keep in mind that this is a 25 episode series. They need to condense and cut elements in order to be able to tell the whole story, and the game itself was front-loaded with a ridiculous amount of exposition, not all of which was entirely necessary at the pace the game delivered.

FoxxFireArt moderator on Oct. 19, 2011 at 10:45 p.m.

It's pretty natural that the series can't live up to all expectations. This was originally a video game. The story really wasn't designed to be told episodically. You can't just watch one episode and dismiss it. It's not a sitcom.

I didn't like Death Note until the second or third episode when L played appeared. Remember that series was only 37 episodes long. It had plenty of time to tell a good story. Even with a recap. If you see people have dropped this series after the first episode. Invite them back in after a few more.

@Hailinel:

For the name to mean "becoming god". It would have to be "Kami naru". Though, kami doesn't exclusively mean god. Depending on the kanji being used, it can also mean, beginning, paper, or hair. "Kaminari" actually means thunder.

@mutha3:

The person who did the translation is right and wrong. The kanji used in Yu's name can be used to say "calm" but when written as "yuyu". Yu by itself isn't really used in first names alone as it is in Persona 4.

I agree about the gradients. They give such a great feeling of depth for the characters.

@Hailinel said:

@CH3BURASHKA said:

I've grown tired of turn-based gameplay, so seeing the battle in real-time was effing awesome - P5 should go for real-time, turn-based is old and dumb.

Them's fightin' words. I enjoy turn-based combat, and it still has its place. Persona 4 has one of the best turn-based systems I've ever played. And I feel like punching kittens every time someone says turn-based combat is antiquated.

Fight, Fight, Fight!! (But keep it clean)

Hailinelon Oct. 19, 2011 at 11:58 p.m.

@FoxxFireArt: Oh, I'm quite aware that the "Become a God" interpretation isn't grammatically correct, just as I am that "kami" can mean a number of different things. But it's still an interesting interpretation to come to and one that I don't believe was entirely an accident.

eldiaxon Oct. 20, 2011 at 4:52 a.m.

Great article guys, I hope to see more collaboration between you :)

Gerhabioon Oct. 27, 2011 at 12:25 a.m.

I mentioned the Yu=You theory on the GB forums when they announced that would be the protagonists name on the upcoming P4 fighting game, but I was completely shut down, haha. They told me about that You become God and calm roar stuff.

Babylonian staff on Oct. 28, 2011 at 4:57 p.m.

@LifeByDegrees said:

Wait, wait, wait. The lyrics to the opening and closing themes are meaning less?

I think the opening themes lyrics is that they are the other half of the 1st episode's opening theme- which is taken straight out of Persona 4- the game. Those themes- along with the closing theme- describe many of the general concepts and lessons that the game centers around.

The 1st opening theme describes the world of mass media and technology- how it clouds out personality and thought- and how this isn't always so great to say the least.

The 2nd opening theme- that plays during the opening of this episode- is the positive upturn- describing how life can be a joyous adventure if we let go of those things to some degree.

The closing theme is a mish-mash of the themes mentioned previously with an emphasis on the concept of free will/originality/ and personality. It ties into the concept the tarot cards represent- of seeking out ones destiny- and in my interpretation- potential

Nah, I'm pretty sure this is some straight-up nonsense. Agree to disagree?

LifeByDegreeson Oct. 28, 2011 at 7:07 p.m.

@Babylonian I know where your coming from- I remember hearing the main opening theme for the first time and thinking it was generally nonsense but...

I hear about big ideas,

I share them with my friends.

We try to keep communication open (Freedom of thought/ideas are accepted and/or Social Link reference..

We can have great ideas- and no one can stop us from sharing them with each other.

To stop creative thought is terrible.

We just want to come up with ideas that change the world- not destroy the truth.

We're good at this- we have good ideas and skills.

Life is tedious if thoughts can't move freely- or if there is junk thought- kind of up for interpretation.

Copy and paste- using the same ideas over and over- We're constantly giving up or just going back to the same ways of thinking- the same paradigm.

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