Anime Vice News

Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #20

The Investigation Team is just as surprised as we are by all the fanservice this week.

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!

Kristoffer Remmell:

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.

Nick Robinson:

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.

Kristoffer Remmell:

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.

Nick Robinson:

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.

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 March 7, 2012 at 1:44 p.m.
@Turambar
@sickVisionz said:

@Turambar said:

It's simply the things you spend a lot of time criticizing whenever given the opportunity: sexual depiction and production value, are the lowest of low hanging fruits in analysis

Production values are pretty important imo. A lot of people write these things off (I assume because they want to be seen as a person who looks beyond that) but to me it's art, which is perfectly valid and not "the lowest of low hanging fruit in analysis" and it can be a huge boost or deficit for any series.

Production value is useful in terms of series recommendations, but that is not what an analysis blog is.  People who read that blog are people who are already watching the series.  If it looks good, we already know that.  If it doesn't look good, we also already know that.  Any differences of opinion had no need to be stretched out into multiple entries.  Week after week mention of visuals is repetitive, redundant, and a bore to read for me.
This. We've already established that the show has problems with visuals. There is no need to continue harping on that point week in and week out. Also, I should add that Nick completely ignored points made by Turambar.
zaldaron March 7, 2012 at 3:16 p.m.

As I said before I would like to let this drop but some things I need to reply to. I believe that things like sex toys should not be where children can see them in store windows and I do think people should be discouraged from having sex at a young age (I wouldn't want my 16 year old daughter having sex if I ever have one) I realize that is probably a minority opinion here. Much of the game/anime culture bothers me as it seems to trivialize things like work and education in fun *shrug* generalization yes and I haven't seen it here so I am not saying I have.

Usually Anime is better than western media as that it deals with big ideas and isn't formulaic and stupid. Only recently has it become that way. This is way thinks like k-on I don't like and I never liked dragonball. Look at this show, it deals with issues of identity much better than western media ever has and later will deal with some pretty deep philosophical issues if they follow the game. Ghibli's stuff is much more than simple cartoons.

Dismissing anime by saying it is simply Japanese cartons and comparing it to the Saturday morning cartoons in the west is ridiculous and REALLY annoys me. Is it going that way? Seems to be, but that should be fought. American animation would never deal with philosophical issues the way ghost in the shell, Akira, Here and There Then and Now, C, or even this show do. And only live action movies that no to see do. In fact I don't know many academy award winning western movies that do. If anime becomes comparable to western media I will go elsewhere as the price and preconceptions people have about it (that often come from things like Strike Witches, or Loli Vampire shows) make watching it to difficult.

The shows that brought me to anime are the older ones I mentioned above along with Lain. The fact that shows like these no longer seem to be made or bought and watched when they are makes me sad. If strike witches, loli vampire shows, and K-On (which yes I know is in no way sexual) are the future of anime then it is time for me to find another hobby.

SergioBon March 7, 2012 at 3:23 p.m.

@Babylonian: Some people saying that P4A isn't as bad as such-and-such, doesn't necessarily mean that we think P4A is bad in the first place. It registers as a 0 on the creepy meter for some people.

Hailinelon March 7, 2012 at 6:05 p.m.

@zaldar: You have no idea how much anime is formulaic and stupid. For a long time, only a relatively small number of anime series and movies were released in the west; someone who only watched what was available in the U.S. wouldn't have a proper barometer. It's only been in recent years with the advent of digital downloads, more readily available fansubs, and most recently, commercial streaming services that a lot of the series that in the past wouldn't see a large audience in the U.S. are readily available. It's no different than, say, only watching well-regarded U.S. TV series like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Cheers, and Seinfeld for a full decade before the fire hose gets turned on and all of the quality programming you're used to seeing is floating amidst a torrent of mediocre or bad television series like generic police procedurals, lame sitcoms, and low-brow reality shows.

The bottom line is, bad anime has always existed; we just have better access to more of it now.

zaldaron March 8, 2012 at 3:52 p.m.

@Hailinel: This is possible, I do stay away from fansubs or other things that break copyright laws.

Hailinelon March 8, 2012 at 10:24 p.m.

@zaldar said:

@Hailinel: This is possible, I do stay away from fansubs or other things that break copyright laws.

That isn't really part of the debate. My point is that more of these series are available in an official capacity than ever before.

zaldaron March 11, 2012 at 7:32 p.m.

@Hailinel: I never said it was part of the debate. But yes they are I am agreeing with you on that point.

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