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!
Hot off the heels of the school festival day episode. We're tossed right into another fun affair filled with tons more game-service that Persona 4 has become known for, and a little fanservice added to the mix. A bit of a misunderstanding has lead to the Investigation Team all invited to the traditional Japanese inn of Yukiko's family. What it all leads to is another in the misadventures of teen manhood dreams. It kind of gave me a Revenge of the Nerds vibe at times. For me, Nanako set the tone right from the start as she passed on a message from Margaret that our boy Narukami is a natural born gigolo. There was much laughter at that little bit. It's the utter definition of the idiom, "out of the mouths of babes". Can't say that I really blame her, Margaret knows what's going on in Yu's social life. She has the compendium to prove it.
I wasn't at all surprised to find that Yukiko's maxed S. Link story was tied into this episode. Seeing how Rise was settled in the pageant. Yukiko finally had her chance to realize what she wants to do with her life. She originally felt trapped in tradition, because she was feeling pressure to do so out of a sense of inheritance. Changing just for the sake of change isn't smart the smart choice. She finally made the decision on her own to stay. When she stood up to that slimy TV producer. I was really impressed how she put him down. Oh yeah, if anyone is curious what ramune is. It's a lemonade-based soda. It looks as if Yu and Teddie are drinking some during the ping-pong shot.
Given how uncomfortable you were with the bikini scenes from last week, Nick. How did you handle all the near nudity, and the ever so famous 'convenient censoring steam'? Were you a paranoid mess looking over your shoulder as you watched this one? That's used for a lot of bath scenes in anime and manga. In fact, some series such as H.O.T.D. and Strike Witches will only add the steam for the TV airing. The home versions wont have that at all. I foresee Persona 4 keeping the steam. It's actually a little shocking we saw as much as we did. The anime finally really earned that TV-MA rating.
I can't lie: I laughed at this episode a lot. Like you mentioned, the 'gigolo' bit was great, as was Yukiko accidentally inviting everyone over. Teddie's Japanese voice actor continues to turn in amazing performances: his ghostly whisper voice was hilarious, and his "YO!" moment was probably the hardest I laughed at the episode. There's something so innocent and adorable about Teddie's perviness in this show. For whatever reason, Yosuke feels like the 16-year-old equivalent of a dirty old man, but Teddie is somehow immaculate in his lewdness.
Speaking of Yosuke, it feels like he's growingly less homophobic toward Kanji, which is great. There were a handful of times where Kanji said something that could've easily been misconstrued by Yosuke or Yu, but they let it slide. It feels like a deliberate choice: as the Investigation Team gets more comfortable with each other, they're shedding some of those insecurities we saw earlier in the show. Good on 'em for getting character development in here from time to time.
P4A also continues to pull some insanely specific deep cuts from the game: that bizarre song Margaret sings in the opening of the episode is a reference to this unvoiced throwaway line from her S-Link. Conversely, they seem to be going out of their way to integrate non-canon stuff whenever possible. Great example: they sure are getting a lot of mileage out of Aika, aren't they? When I heard they were introducing a new character for P4A, I expected that we'd see her maybe once or twice, but man, it feels like she's been in like half the episodes now.
As far as the hot springs fanservice stuff goes: yeah, it was gross. They're still catering to the worst contingent of anime fans, and I'm still uncomfortable with it. But somehow more distracting than how exploitative it felt was the fact that it was reeeeeeeeally poorly drawn! Like, laughably bad! If you have to put in shameless fanservice, don't leave it to the animation B-team! It honestly looks like the animators intended for some of these half-finished sketches to be covered in steam, but the editing team opted to be edgier by showing more skin, resulting in these eerie, featureless figures. They've actually managed to make their show creepy on multiple levels. It's astounding.
It's completely pointless to argue with you on how you feel about a certain aspect of the series -- though that's quickly becoming some of our readers favor parts in the comments. You bring up plenty of valid points, but I just don't get the same 'gross' vibe that you do from the level of fanservice the series has. This is at it's core a story of adolescent adventures. It's not as if these were adult men and teen girls. That would be creepy. This level of comical misunderstanding could be compared to old sitcoms, such as Who's the Boss or Three's Company. (Please, don't let me be the only one old enough to get those references.)
Aika's use through the series has been interesting. Japan tends to like adding certain things when remaking a product. Look at how the P4 Vita version is adding a new girl to the mix. It's just a thing to give some added value and justify buying again for people who already own the game. I never really followed the P4 manga version deeply enough to know if it added anyone. Still, I really like Aika and how she's been used. I just don't foresee her making the same plot impact as a character like Makinami Mari Illustrious is to Evangelion.
Yosuke's personal growth reminds me of quite a few people I knew in school that were just as hyperbolic to homosexuality. That was until they actually got to know someone who is homosexual. I do feel I should point out that Kanji's sexuality isn't as black and white as many first thought. Too many took his Shadow literally. I always loved how his sexuality wasn't his defining characteristic. He's more the tough guy with a heart of gold.
Here's the thing, though: if you're talking about the show's audience and the characters being exploited, it is a situation involving adult men and teen girls. Objectively, the content itself isn't that repulsive - although I definitely wouldn't brag about watching an anime that extensively depicts high school girls naked in a hot spring. To me, what's troubling is the implication that we, as viewers, are supposed to be super excited that we get to see naked cartoon minors. It's sleazy, and I hate it. Then again, at least it's not Nisemonogatari, an apparently brilliant show whose pedophilic and incestuous undertones are so blatant that Anime Vice editor William Taylor is finding it difficult to recommend. P4A could be way, way worse!
And, somehow putting aside the uncomfortable amounts of teen nudity, this episode really was a blast. Yukiko's S-Link stuff fit in nicely here, hitting home the point that this is mostly a remarkably well-planned show, and yeah, watching her tell those reporters off was wonderfully cathartic. I'm also finding that this show sometimes follows the game to a fault: it's still highly obvious how awkwardly shoehorned in Teddie's S-Link scenes are, even if they're mercifully brief in the show.
That ending was nuts, though, right? It implies that Yu had known about the mysterious letter for more than a week prior to this episode. That's pretty crazy, I think, but it's also something I'm sure will be addressed next time. Still! Whoa!
There was a lot to love about this episode, and I wish they hadn't played up the fanservice angle so much so I could endorse it without reservation. The use of the spooky music during the room invasion was an excellent touch, and a great example of how subtle this show's sense of humor can be when it wants to. The comedy came fast and often this week, and this is probably the closest P4A has come yet to being as funny as the game. I liked it a lot, and with only five episodes until the end, it's about time we start savoring these humorous moments before they dry up completely.