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Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #22


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:

Really Investigation Team, did you not hear anything I've been saying in these past few episodes? Stop making promises to do things with an adorable child. With all those promises everyone made previously, and she barely survived the Midnight Channel world. She just starts feeling better, and what do they all do? Yu wants to get her Christmas presents, the girls want throw her a party, and Kanji want to make knitted-animals with her. She already had enough death flags waving around. They had to go and make it worse. GOD, that moment at the end where Nanako says she's scared. The wave of emotions that hit you in this episode can be overwhelming. I was excited, sad, heartbroken, angry, but I still feel completely entertained.

I really have to hand it to Japan that they are certainly not afraid to spend hours making you care about a character just for the purpose of killing them off in the most tragic way possible and breaking your heart. In these dramatic series, no one is ever safe from danger. They did it with Nina Tucker and Maes Hughes in Fullmetal Alchemist and L Lawliet in Death Note. You never get that in Western media. More often, they will make someone seem as unlikable as possible before offing a character.

Once more, I have to applaud Persona 4 the Animation for finding more ways to integrate the combat from an RPG into the plot of the game. Before this series, I would have never thought it even remotely possible. It made for great drama when Taro Namatame was able to turn Yu against his friends. He really makes for the Investigation Team's ultimate threat. Not only does he know all their weaknesses. He has a Persona perfect for exploiting them. In the end, Yu heroically overcomes the control and defeats his then possessed friends with the Kohryu -- who is a four card fusion -- and Sraosha. Both of which are the Persona you can only create after maxing out the S. Link with Ryotaro Dojima and Nanako.

Nick Robinson:

Even knowing what was coming, the ending to this episode was totally devastating. It's such a quick turn, too, right at the end of an episode after like ten minutes celebrating how they just narrowly averted tragedy. Our emotions are not your plaything, Atlus! Augh!

I'm absolutely with you - the combat was excellent this week. The episode began a little abruptly, but those first few minutes were super intense and visually fantastic. The whole fight looked great, really. I sometimes forget how much I love P4's designs, and Namatame's Shadow is one of my favorites. Just so unapologetically weird-lookin'! The way Namatame puppeteers the Investigation Team not only made for great drama, like you pointed out - it also a great metaphor for some of the later revelations in the game. Really smart stuff.

Speaking of the combat, I think it's pretty neat that the entire Investigation Team is there during battles in this show. In the game, you could bring a maximum of three others, but having all eight team members around for the boss battles makes things, well, twice as intense.

The stuff between the beginning's combat and the final scene was great, even if it didn't look quite as hot as the rest of the episode did visually. I think they made the right call by making some dramatic cuts in the game's "self-pity in the hospital" scene. They turned it into yet another Naoto-centric moment (one of two huge ones this episode), and it was for the better, I think. Seeing Naoto and Kanji share a moment that is actually genuine instead of just played for laughs was a wonderful change of pace.

Kristoffer Remmell:

To date, all the Shadow forms have had a deeper meaning behind them, but the rules were kind of broken this time. Previously, it was the Shadow that attacked the team after being rejected by the original. Namatame himself was taken over by the Shadows and there wasn't any real personality change. The design really did reflect Namatame's twisted ideal that he's been some savior. It sort of reminded me of a Muppet mixed with one of those Easter Island Moai. The cold and metalic nature of his delusion is reflected in the red-mechanical halos. Ticking through like clockwork and controlling.

Naoto is suffering from what some call the detective's dilemma. She's been so focused on solving the case that she's thinking she has abandoned the human element that Nanako was in danger. It's easy to get lost in solving the puzzle. To be a detective you almost have to separate yourself so you're not so emotionally involved that you're blinded by your passion. The detective prince is young and still finding her balance. Though, she's being too hard on herself. She was fighting just as hard to save Nanako, and the proof she's fine is how upset she is with herself. Naoto was also right to question Namatame. Not everything is lining up, and they've already had enough false leads thanks to Mitsuo Kubo. If Namatame thinks he's been "saving" people, why did the threatening letter talk about killing someone if Yu kept saving the abducted?

The only thing that felt off to me for the episode was such harsh skips in time. Suddenly between scenes, a week or more would pass. It's been used before, but it feels like there was more in this episode. As someone who knows the game, I'm aware that little to nothing happened in those gaps. It was mostly free time to let the player build up social links and level up. As an audience member, I'm left wondering what possibly happened between those weeks. Nearly all series use them, and Persona 4 is more stylizes than having "one week later" flashed across the screen. It calls to mind all those real life police files shows I've watched. Police may go weeks at a time without any leads, but fictional dramas, such as C.S.I. or Law & Order, give the impression that these sort of complex problems are solved within an hour. I know people in law enforcement who hate C.S.I. for that. These skips are a touch of reality brings that I really appreciate.

Nick Robinson:

I didn't actually find the jumps in time terribly distracting, but then, maybe that's because I have next to no concept of this show's calendar timeline. If anything, I think the way it's handled in the game is much more distracting; there's really no elegant way to transition from from "Nanako's in the hospital!" to "Let's go hang out with the hot nurse at the hospital!" Here, at least, the narrative is coherent and unbroken, even if it's all happening a bit faster than would be realistic.

What I keep coming back to, though, is that this episode was able to wring genuine emotions out of me, even though I totally knew what was coming. Nanako's sharp decline in health and eventual death are every bit as shocking. It's easy to come across as cheap when using child tragedy as a plot device, but one of the things this show has kicked ass at is legitimately endearing the audience to Nanako as a character. Everything about Yu melting down in the hospital is pitch-perfect, because it's exactly what we're feeling: NO! NOT NANAKO!

As deftly as they handled Nanako's final moments, I'm hopeful and excited to see their take on the Namatame interrogation scene. I reckon some of these kids are fixin' to be pissed. Well, there's one way to find out!

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!

nocturne98on March 19, 2012 at 8:15 p.m.

This episode showed perfectly how to take elements from the game and reuse them in the anime. In the original game, Nametame took control of your party members and set them against you. Not only was this represented here, they changed things up by having Yu controlled too, which would have been every RPG player's worst nightmare. After all, the main character is usually the one with the highest stats and best equipment, so taking control of Yu would give Nametame the ultimate advantage. I liked how they tried to show the relationships Yu had with Nanako and Dojima, especially in the case of Dojima guiding him to summon Kohryu. I thought it was kind of weird, however, how it cut from a rather humorous scene with Naoto to 'Mr. Narukami, Nanako is dying. Please come quickly.'

AlKusanagion March 20, 2012 at 12:16 a.m.

I'm going to be so bummed when this ends. It's the first anime I've really gotten into in years, since Macross Frontier.

I know there are several out in Japan already, but has there been any further word about the US blu-ray release of the series?

FoxxFireArt moderator on March 20, 2012 at 12:26 a.m.

@AlKusanagi: Well, the Blu-rays have been coming out in Japan on a nearly monthly basis since the series first began. I think they are up to Volume 6 now, but these only have a couple of episodes on them. This is pretty standard for the Japanese market. I don't think Sentai Filmworks will be getting their hands on the series until after it's finale in April. They are going to need to cast everyone still. Nick wrote a while back that he had contacted several of the original PS2 actors, and they told him that they hadn't been contacted. I not sure about the turnaround, but I wouldn't be shocked to hear we'll be seeing in in the US market before the end of this year or even this summer. The subtitle work is already done for them. The HOTD subtitles was the same thing that was used when it was shown on The Anime Network.

Draxyleon March 20, 2012 at 1:05 a.m.

The fight scene was pretty brilliant; the show is definitely at it's best when it improvises with the source material in clever ways like that. And I went in wondering how they would end the episode, though I suppose it would only make sense for them to have ended on that note, of course.

So close to the end now! Overall this has been more than I could have hoped for from an adaptation.

mutha3on March 20, 2012 at 4:56 a.m.

 kanji what happened to your face.
Eh, I'm still on the "Persona battles in this show are awful"-train. This week's battle followed the same rote template as every other. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but: if their goal was to reproduce JRPG combat in anime form they did it perfectly. The battles almost literally take place in a turn-based manner. Camera zooms in to Jiraiya doing *woosh* we see a wind explosion. Camera zooms in to Tomoe *CLANG!* we see an ice explosion. 
Also: Yu. God, YU. This show has copious amounts of Yu ex machina.

Oh geez, Yu happened to have a Persona that can dispell mind control? HOW CONVENIENT
Shit, if Yu Narukami ever had to square off with Superman, you know he'd pull a Persona out of his ass that could fire kryptonite or some shit.
I love the little nods they make towards the game, though. Yosuke being weak to lightning, hippie jesus controlling Yu, Sraosha and Kohryu...Good stuff.
As for the rest of the episode....Not fond of the part where Naoto had to moe it up. Way back in EP9 I thought they were going to avoid this stuff, by just making Rise the love interest...But nope. Instead, they just took her weird infatuation with Yu in the game and spread it across all 3 girls. At least they contextualized Rise's affection unlike the game.
 Its hard for me to get emotionally invested in this episode when I know 
Crowwingon March 20, 2012 at 6:13 a.m.

@mutha3: Every fight they try to do something different or added elements.

Vs. Shadow Yosuke = Normal summon

Vs. Shadow Chie = All Out Attack and Persona change

Vs. Shadow Yukiko = Persona weaknesses/strengths

Vs. Shadow Kanji = Fusion

Vs. Shadow Rise/Teddie = Scanning

Vs. Shadow Mitsuo = Persona bum rush (the only one where there was not something entirely new)

Vs. Shadow Naoto = Status healing and larger fusion

Vs. Kunino-sagiri = Mind control and having the whole team together

And I commend them for doing that. I'd say they have done a damn good job of taking the game's fights and translating it into an anime and still making them entertaining.

As for showing Naoto as "moe." She can't be a hard ass all the time. She'd be boring if she was portrayed that way.

And Yu gets everyone cause:

Except he forgets everyday.

UsbCableon March 20, 2012 at 10:01 a.m.

I managed to completely forget about the whole Nanako sick thing but I did remember she got kidnapped. I was all alone in my room getting teary eyed like the grown man I am lol. I can't wait to see what they do with the ending and can't wait for Persona 5!

FoxxFireArt moderator on March 20, 2012 at 3:14 p.m.


Shadow Mitsuo battle showed that you aren't limited to one switch in a battle and can change Persona at every turn if desired.


We tend to try and forget terrible trauma as humans.

Hailinelon March 20, 2012 at 6:52 p.m.

@mutha3: I'm not sure how you can say it followed the same rote template when the majority of the battle consisted of either Yu getting controlled, or the others getting controlled, and then Kunino-sagiri gets taken out. As for focusing on one Persona at a time in battle, well, that's not an uncommon way to depict battles in anime. Even if actions actions in battle take place simultaneously, they may be depicted sequentially in the animation.

As for Yu, well, what more did you expect? This is, more than anything else, Yu's story, just as it's the player's story in the game. Yu is the core of the story. Without it, events as they are depicted could not take place. The characters would never have discovered the TV World. He is also the one with the power of Persona fusion. He has abilities that the others simply don't.

Also, key difference; the anime depicts Kunino-sagiri's power as more of a control over bodies and the subconscious mind (i.e.: Personas). His power does not control conscious, rational thought. Also key to note, it's not clear what breaks the characters out of their control in the game. In the game, Yu is never controlled. Instead, Kunino-sagiri takes control of one of your party members, temporarily loses control, and then controls all three before relinquishing control again. As I recall, the player's actions during this sequence do not matter; you could conceivably defend against the entire assault without being attacked until control of the others is returned to you.

Actually, Kunino-sagiri does have symbolic representation. It's incredibly skewed by Namatame's unstable mental state, but it's there. Namatame sees himself as the savior of those that appear on the Midnight Channel. Kunino-sagiri, in a way, reflects this with a perversely angelic appearance. He flashes peace signs and wears things like the heart on his robe. Kunino-sagiri represents a distorted, corrupted savior that paradoxically tries to kill the Investigation Team while bearing aspects that commonly represent peaceful intent.

As for Nanako's death, the anime handled this incredibly well. As the single most stunning, depressing moment in the game (even taking into account what comes after), the P4A brings a level of detail and intimacy to the event that the PS2 game couldn't evoke in the same way. This is no small feat, because despite the more simplistic nature of the game's presentation (PS2 graphics, Yu having no voice), I can't count the number of people I know of that felt utterly heartbroken as it played out. And P4A had a handicap of twenty-two episodes to get to this point.

NIveouson March 20, 2012 at 9:54 p.m.

One might argue that by the very act of adding new elements to each battle, rather than working within the same constraints, each new Shadow encounter shows only that Narukami is a god, and not that he is particularly creative, insightful, or otherwise accomplished. He wins because he is the Fool and the Wild Card, by original ability, not because there is anything otherwise special about his person.

You could argue that his strength comes from his relationships, as it does, and that this makes him somehow skillful--It does not and it is obvious. If Narukami were amicable alone, that would be no special power. There are many friendly people. If Narukami were not a Wild Card, he would not be able to wear the faces that attract others so inexorably to him, and then to use them against Shadows. So really, it's not Narukami and his friends. It's his Arcana that makes battles different. And that could be boring.

In some sense, this is not totally Yu’s story, because at some point, that got hijacked by Izanagi and Igor. Unless a man becomes only what he shows to the world… But that’s all depressing! Back to the rest of the episode.

Did anyone else like that Nanako’s ring was made out of eleven pink beads, and one blue one? Did anyone else really like the twitches in Kunino-sagiri’s movements? Does any of this make you wonder about Namatame's political leanings when he had a real job?

I was so mad when Namatame pet her hair—I half wish they’d deliberated over whether to just leave him there, though there are enough decisions that have to be made at the end of this episode that I don’t mind.

There was a lot of animation-lazy, some of which I thought worked ok, like lingering on the IV and certain repeat frames, some of which, like Naoto’s hand, that needs to be redone on the Blu-ray. But everything was superb with Nanako’s death. They got that perfectly.

zaldaron March 21, 2012 at 12:11 a.m.

It must be a sign of the end times or something because I am agreeing with Haiilinel ;). I tear up everytime I play this part of the game. I didn't mention it before now except very round about because I didn't want to spoil things but I was worried in the beginning that we wouldn't get to know Nanoko enough for this to have the proper resonance. I am extremely glad that I was wrong. They did mention Hailinel the corrupted savior stuff and they did mention the metaphorical nature (though I do wish they had gone a little deeper discussing it ;). Still I think they called this an Iron Jesus in the endurance run which I always thought was interesting. I actually missed the importance of the clockwork symbolizing control in the game until I watched that.

You are correct that Western Media doesn't have the same audaciousness in killing off good innocent main characters but it is something that they do some. Game of Thrones for example does it quite well and often. Still this is a very modern development. Japan is perhaps closer to the original use of fairy tales/fantasy as scared straight tools (think of the original Grimm Tales) rather than pleasant escapes from a harsh world. Hmm, I wonder if you could use that to talk about major cultural differences between the two countries?

I had never heard it called the detectives dilemma before. Is that an "official" psychological or literary term? Medicine has the same issue I expect. House portrays this very well.

The law enforcement officials I have talked to also mention the fact that CSI is changing the nature of what constitutes reasonable doubt, that juries almost expect 100 percent surety before they will convict which is really not the legal definition of reasonable doubt.

FoxxFireArt moderator on March 21, 2012 at 3:25 a.m.


The Grimm fairy-tales is a great example. Western media is so used to the Disney-fication of these classic stories that didn't have the happy endings so many are used to. The same way most people never realized that Sherlock Holmes was a habitual user of cocaine.

I don't believe "detective's dilemma" is an official psychological term. More a saying among fans of detective literature. To be a real detective, you need a completely different frame of mind than what you are actual taught. You need an analytical mind or train of thought. It was put bet by Sherlock Holmes in I believe A Study in Scarlet. To paraphrase, Holmes told Watson that if you explain the events of something to an average person. They can tell you what the outcome is. It's the analytical mind that can look at the outcome, and tell you what led up to that result. You kind of saw it in CSI with Grissom. House is another another example, but he really didn't care as much about people or the morality.

I know about the issues with law enforcement and the way C.S.I. and such series have twisted the perceptions of people. There are people who get away with crimes now that are beyond my imagination just because some juror wonders why there's no DNA evidence.


You bring up some excellent points, but doesn't he also look like he could be a Muppet? I hope I was able to address some of the issues you were having with the articles. I can't do 100% of what you've been asking, but I want to give you some more depth. Having these shadows to analyze helps me do that.

It really is hearing their voices that just stabs you kn the heart. I felt the same way with that Nanako and Dojima S. Link episode. In the game, I felt Dojima was a jerk, but watching the anime I wanted to hit him.

Hailinelon March 21, 2012 at 7:47 a.m.

@FoxxFireArt: Yeah, he actually does look like a Muppet. :P

And I do appreciate your attempt to bring more depth to the discussion. This column was definitely a better read than past entries. Thanks!

zaldaron March 21, 2012 at 5:53 p.m.

@FoxxFireArt: hmm thanks for the liking on the grimm connection. Really if a fairy tale movie was made like the Grimm fairy tales now I wouldn't want to read it to a child and it would probably be rated R, or at least PG-13. Changing attitudes. I so love sherlock holmes but I have never heard that term before...need to read more detective fiction though haven't found anyone that I like as much as holmes yet (and the recent movies were a travesty). I also thought it was Laudlum that he used which was opium rather than cocaine but yes he was a drug addict and very much not a nice person...much like House actually...

AURON570on April 12, 2012 at 8:14 p.m.

Funny discussion about time skips. Sure you can talk all about having a narrative line, plot structure and things logically following from scene to scene, but in real life there is often no such thing. And the things that we decide to remember about a particular day or how we decide to remember them are often arbitrary or tailored to some other purpose or biased in how we like to view our lives. The same goes for making plans for the future.

I'm really not sure how I feel about P4A anymore. I feel like I should be more excited to keep watching the final episodes of the series, but I already know what's going to happen (pretty much). So I'm basically just reaffirming what I already know about the story and themes. And then whatever new stuff is presented is basically one-off fan service that makes me go "haha I see what you did there." Ehh, I duno.

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