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!
We're eight episodes in, and it's been a ride that I've really enjoyed. This particular episode just felt all over the place. I put the blame on the completely rushed S. Link of Naoki Konishi. Yeah, Naoki didn't have the most interesting story, and it didn't deserve a full episode. It just feels as if he appeared and it was instantly resolved. I just wish they had at least explained why Naoki had a grudge against Yu. What saved this episode for me is the fun situation comedy bits. The evil curry, the tent, and river. It's hard to tell who's more on in this episode, Yu or Kanji. I love the way they play off each other. Yu's a stoic dude, but he doesn't even express himself when kicked off a cliff. Kanji is also a great personality to watch.
The episode really feels like a filler. I often hear that used in a derogatory way, but that's not always true. You can't expect a series to always be on high speed. If it was non-stop action you'd never appreciate the good stuff. You need time to decompress in good story telling. Variety is the spice of life. They still found a way to tie this all into the plot by coming to the realization that the victims all appeared on the TV just before their disappearance. The Investigation Team now has a direction to follow.
I haven't seen an episode of anime that spent so much time discussing the preparation - or lack there of - in how to make curry rice since One Piece Ep. 133. That filler episode had some rather odd amount of fine detail in how to cook curry. It's a dish I've been curious to try and make. It amazing how huge curry rice is in Japan. It's one of the nations most popular dishes, and it's not even originally from the nation. It was first introduced some time around the late 1800s. I guess you could compare it to pizza or tacos in the U.S.
I actually loved this episode! Like I've alluded to before, I'm a huge fan of "hangout moments" in television - too often, shows get caught up in plot and never really give you a chance to spend any time with their characters, which is especially disappointing in shows with casts as lovable as Persona 4's. This episode reflected the attitude of the in-game school trip perfectly: they (mostly) set aside the detective stuff for an episode and just chilled out, and that's always fun to see.
And yeah, Yu and Kanji were both incredible this week. When this show started, I wasn't sure what tone would be appropriate for the protagonist (or if an appropriate tone even existed), but sure enough, it feels like they've nailed it! His hyper-dry sense of humor and quiet yet direct attitude make him possibly the most interesting character in P4A, which is a reaction I never expected to have to Yu. He's awesome.
It's also great to see them sticking to the changes they've already made. The subtle callback to the fact that Aiya delivers anywhere was a cute touch, and regardless of whether or not it worked, I feel like I understand their choice to fold Naoki into the episode, Kai-style. Like you say, Naoki wasn't a huge character in the game, and proportionate to the length of this show, I feel like they dedicated just the right amount of time to him. Then again, I'm not particularly fond toward any of the Konishis as characters, so maybe I'm biased.
Still, because I'm incapable of not complaining: the Kanji "boys' tent" scene broke my fucking heart in two. Yosuke and Yu are now undeniable homophobes. The creators of the show have incontrovertibly chosen to characterize them as dudes who are obsessed with Kanji's sexuality, and it sucks. I might have yelled something angry at my laptop after the "Don't you trust me?" "Not at night" exchange went down. Like, seriously? Is this a show about 13-year-olds? Fuck off! The scene didn't entirely squander this episode's goodwill, but stuff like Yu asking Kanji if his "chastity is safe" is pretty much indefensible. I know that they're trying to play it for laughs, but hey, guess what: gays aren't rapists!
Maybe I'm a bit naive, but I'd like to think most high schoolers in 2011 don't actually act like this. Besides, we're supposed to like these characters, right?
Oh, I still enjoyed the episode. Things just didn't have the same flow as before. It felt like sub-episodes within the episode. More so with Teddy popping in every few minutes to shout "Persona", I do see why Naoki's story was important to tell, and he got as much time as he deserved. He represents the aftermath of murder and family left behind. Yeah, Yosuke reminds of that with his feelings of Saki, but Naoki was her brother. He reenforces the hero's desire to get justice, because we already knew her parents weren't very sympathetic characters.
I think what makes Yu's personality work as so entertaining is that it's not subtle. They really play up just how indifferent he is that he's kicked off that cliff and doesn't even flinch about it. It also makes his reactions just so much more funny. Kanji is also cool. He's aggressive and straight forward in everything he does. Even that final scene. He was probably so worked up thinking he was going to have to let Ohtani down easy, but she flat out told him to forget it ever happened. His ego just suffered a swift kick to the nethers.
Wow, you are really passionate about how Kanji is treated in this episode. Not that I'm one to criticize someone for being passionate about an issue. In fact, I think it's a good thing. I agree that Yosuke comes across as a homophobe. I just don't get that same vibe from Yu. If he was, I doubt he'd be so confident to show off those trunks so blatantly. The whole scene was just a set up for Kanji to run off to the girl's tent, suddenly pass out (get KOed by Chie's power kick), then have the girls come to the boys tent to a classic sit-com moment. If he hadn't. We wouldn't get that great close.
I do agree that gay men don't get very fairly treated in media. I think you have a valid complaint. Im just not picking up on that same level of maliciousness that you seem to be. I also doubt that Yosuke is suppose to be completely likable. I'm with Kanji that it was pretty messed up that he bought swim suits for the girls. How did he even know what size to get? I'd bet you'd find that more people would come to Kanji's defense over Yosuke. The boys even pay for their behavior when the girls kick them off to the side of the tent. If they hadn't said anything. They could of gotten a good nights sleep, but we would of had a boring scene.
Yeah, the pacing this week was crazy! The relatively short scenes and those bizarre "PERSONA!!" transitions really made the episode feel like a montage of little character moments instead of a unified whole. Which is probably why the Naoki stuff felt a little at odds with the rest of the episode; it was like they wanted to shoehorn one more S. Link anywhere they could, and the result was a little awkward. It often seems like the creators of this show sat down and tried to plot out a way to fit every single slightly memorable part of Persona 4 into one anime series. As a result, we've got a show that is, for better or worse, bursting at the seams with semi-rushed references.
Dude, I don't think I can communicate how hard I laughed at Yu's reaction to being kicked off the cliff. It was brilliant, and makes a great segue into one of the weirdest things I've noticed about the show: Yu is entirely unable to emote unless being prompted. It adds this incredibly strange meta bent to the show where the protagonist pretty much only reacts to things at times when the game would've prompted you to make a dialogue choice. As a reult, Yu almost never talks, but when he does, he's often picking the least "safe" conversational decision possible. It's crazy, but it's also an incredibly unique and interesting way to characterize what could've been a total blank slate of a character. Kudos to them on that.
And yeah, a final note on Kanji's treatment this week: I don't think I'd call it "malicious," just "irresponsible." Having the characters tease Kanji for being gay is just the absolute laziest. I get that they'd write Yosuke this way, because let's be honest: Yosuke is the worst! But having Yu ask Kanji whether or not he can safely share a tent with him without risking being sexually assaulted just seems totally at odds with his character. Maybe I'm projecting, but I prefer to think of the Investigation Team as a relatively progressive group of kind young kids who accept each other's insecurities, not as as a relatively progressive group of kind young kids who accept each other's insecurities unless they're about homosexuality. If this is what P4A's producers think of as an acceptable treatment for Kanji, I shudder to wonder how they're going to handle some of the later Naoto stuff.
All that aside, I really did love this episode. The scene with Nanako was precious, the curry stuff was great, and it was moment-to-moment the funniest episode yet.I hope we see more pure character-centric episodes from this show in the future - detective work and action scenes are all well and good, but at the end of the day, I'm here for the characters. What did y'all think, readers?