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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!