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!
Happy days, Persona 4 The Animation is back on the tracks after the derailment of it's animation in the previous episode! This looked far better and didn't have long pauses of no motion and flapping lips. Let's try and put that behind us and hope the issue never comes up again. This episode about gave me a fan-gasm. (Pun intended, given the setting.) So many cool moments were realized from the game in this anime. Even down to Shadow Rise scanning the Persona to avoid attacks, the stat screen it showed for weakness and strengths, the lesser Shadows reflecting, and Teddie went Over 9000. Don't even get me going on how cool Kanji was here. The music is seriously making me consider ordering the soundtrack.
I've been holding off on a theory until I was sure. I have some thoughts on the Shadows and the Personas. There could be a deeper meaning behind their design. I notice how all the Shadows say the same thing upon their release, "I am the Shadow, the true self.". Are these really the embodiment of our dark side, or what we fear people will see us as if they ever see us stumble? I see that people often try and find the negative side in others. When we see a darker side of someone, don't we often assume that this is who they really must be? Why do we jump to the conclusion that this one bad moment sums up who they really are rather than our overwhelmingly positive experiences? It's the embodiment of tabloids. Is that's why this is all taking place in a TV world? Yukiko thought people would see her as an ugly bird trapped in a cage, Yosuke's fear was being an obnoxious monster, Chie thought people would see her as a sadist for her joy of being needed, Kanji thought people would see him as effeminate for his hobbies, and Rise worried people would see her as an attention.... grabber (nice version). It's then the Persona that embodies what they want to become. Yukiko's a free and beautiful bird, Yosuke's a flashy hero, Chie's a knight, Kanji's a manly warrior with a cute skull mark, and Rise's an elegant performer.
Last episode you talked about Rise using "-kun", and "-sempai" for Narukami. Those were really no big deal. Chie was calling him "-kun" from episode one. What is a big deal that I noticed. Yu was calling Rise just by her given name, and at the end she called him "Yu-kun". Now, it's not too odd that Yu would say her given name since she's younger. He does the same thing for Kanji. I also don't recall Yu using honorifics much at all for anyone. It is very interesting that it's Rise who starts using his given name. I guess we see which point of the romantic side this series may be taking. She's far from my personal choice. I'd prefer Chie. I just find the super popular girl falling for the average protagonist terribly cliche.
Yeah, this week's episode was fantastic. All my past quibbles aside, one thing they've done a really good job with is characterizing the Investigation Team. Rise's more appealing than she was in the game, Yu is hilarious, and I'm starting to agree with you that Kanji stands out more in this show than he ever did in the game. I think it's one of the strongest aspects of P4A, actually - despite it's huge and ever-growing main cast, everyone seems to stand out pretty nicely.
Weirdly, I had the same observation as you about the Personas this week, albeit only about Rise - it struck me that it must've been deliberate how Rise's Shadow is symbolic of promiscuity and trashiness while her Persona is so elegant and sophisticated-looking. I didn't think to extrapolate that juxtaposition to everyone else's Personas, but I totally agre your conclusions. Each cast member's Persona seems to be the opposite of their Shadow in a lot of ways. Maybe this is something we should have picked up on in 2008 when the game came out, but better late than never, I guess!
Like you point out, there was a ton of really potent fanservice in there, and I don't mean all the Shadow Rise stripping stuff (which: really, Japan? She's a high schooler, for Christ's sake!). We got to see Rise's fantastic-looking rainbow Shadow boss monster thing, flat Teddie, Shadow Teddie, and all the other stuff you mentioned that's lifted right out of Persona 4. It was, as always, strangely rewarding just to see recognizable little things from the game reappear in animated form, and I really enjoyed it.
Which brings me to another observation: there were a couple times in this week's episode where I took a step back and thought, "Man, if I had no idea what Persona 4 was, I'd be so confused right now!" But taken solely as a piece of entertainment for intended preexisting P4 fans (which, really, is the only vantage point we've got), I think this show is solid. P4A is a blisteringly paced adaptation, but it's one I mostly enjoy, and this episode was it at its best.
I've been forming that theory ever since Chie and Yukiko's Shadows appeared in the series. The cast don't obtain their Persona from overcoming their Shadow, but by accepting them. One of the many things that I admire about manga and anime series of this scale is that you can really dig into the symbolism. You can look deeper and find much more was put behind design rather than "it looks cool". These writers invest real thought in telling a larger narrative, and don't try to answer all questions in a single episode. There's more happening behind why this mystery is taking place, and I think Yu is starting to pick up on this. You can't get that out of a lot of Western series of comics or cartoons.
A great starting moments for this episode was Yu mashing on the record button of his remote. It figures that the signal didn't record. He should've gotten that HDMI cable. I love how they've been using that recording the show gag since Yukiko's appearance on the Midnight Channel. The whole stripper thing was a bit out there given her age, but it's not as if they ever actually showed anything. It was symbolic of her entire celebrity, idol identity. In the end, they saved Rise but another dead body is still found.
Sure, if you were to jump into Episode 10 it could seem really confusing. But if you were starting at episode one, I'd think a person would grasp what was going on. Much in the same way people who played the game don't know the whole story right away. A murder-mystery should be obscure. You aren't suppose to understand everything that's going on. The cast sure doesn't. How is this really stretching the bounds of disbelief more than anything out of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings? All the game details just add an extra layer of appreciation for the fans of the game, and the people who are inspired by the anime to get the new PS Vita version will get a kick out of the things they remember from the anime. Do we have any readers that never played the game or watched the Endurance Run having a hard time following? That's the real test.
Dude, the opening bit with Yu, mouth agape, jamming on the record button: top 3 funniest moments of this show so far, no doubt. For whatever reason, I thought that was the funniest thing in the world at the time. And while we're on the subject of recurring gags: man, they sure are getting every ounce of mileage possible out of the Groucho glasses, aren't they? And to clarify about the stripper stuff: my distaste is less towards the show's producers and more directed at everything about the vaguely pedophilic cultural juggernaut that is Japanese pop idol culture. There's this unignorable undercurrent of creepiness to all that stuff, and it's a vibe I can't shake whenever I happen upon a Morning Musume video or whatever. That's a topic for another time, though!
I love the way that P4's design aesthetic dictates that while everything should (and does) look cool, it shouldn't just look cool. From the limo to the enemy designs, pretty much every aspect of Persona 4 is not only stylish as hell, but also stands up to psychological scrutiny. Don't ask me what, but someone somewhere was probably trying to say something when they sketched out a giant pig in cop's clothing with a rotating key in its chest cavity.
Speaking of the visual style, it's probably worth mentioning that this episode looked excellent, especially in light of last week's occasional visual hiccups. Considering the high density of action in this episode, you might expect this to be the kind of episode where they'd finally have to cut some budgetary corners on those high-intensity action scenes, but nope! They looked as good as ever. Also, I have to say that ten episodes later, I'm still in love with that crazy video artifacting effect that they use on "dying" Shadows.
It seems pretty likely that this episode will be remembered as one of the best of the series. The pacing seemed crazy at first, until I remembered that this was that dungeon, and the quickness at which stuff moved suddenly made sense: they had two whole Shadows to fit in! Which is great, because I find the show's depiction of Shadow battles vastly preferable to the drawn out, repetitive, boring combat sequences they were in the game. I think it's great that the Personas in P4A stick around for the battles instead of just appearing long enough to cast a spell like they do in the game. Also, a quick aside about the relationship stuff: I am admittedly totally one of those CHARLIE AND CHIE 4 LYFE weirdos, but in just a couple of short episodes, P4A's producers have successfully sold me on the Yu/Rise pair. That's quite a feat!
You're probably right that a non-P4 fan who's been watching the show since the beginning would probably have their bearings by this point in the show. I think anime fans are more acclimated to inscrutable weirdness than the average person, so all this TV nonsense would probably be a lot easier for them to swallow. I do think it's a bit weirder than Star Wars or LOTR, if only because P4 purports to take place in our world; solving a murder mystery in modern day Japan suddenly becomes a much tougher prospect when the fundamental laws governing whether or not people can climb into TVs are no longer in place. Still, like I said, I think it's something anime fans can capably handle. Actually, If I remember right, a couple of AV users who have commented on our past articles mentioned that they're coming into this show blind, and they're keeping up just fine. On to the next one!