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!
If there is anything these sort of mystery-drama series have taught us as an audience. It's to never make a promise with a child about doing something in the future. It will always come back to bite you in the ass, and something bad will befall said child. It's a great narrative tool to create tension, but it really breaks your heart when the child is so loveable. Everyone in the Investigation Team made a promise with Nanako of some kind. This kid is in serious peril. There's another unspoken rule. Don't trust anyone who drives a truck. They'll always abduct someone.
For as much as this was about Nanako and Yu. I feel that Naoto really stole the show in several scenes. The drama of her car conversation with Chie, and how she was so collected in breaking down the evidence in the police station. Having a detective really pays off when you need to tie up twenty episodes of story threads. Easily, my biggest disappointment of the episode didn't fall in the animation quality or the plot. It was in Yukiko stopping Chie from kicking down that door to free Yu and the boys.
While we always knew that Yu and Dojima were eventually going to come to a head with Yu's involvement in the case. Somehow the payoff felt lacking. Yu so casually tries to explain what he's been doing in a TV world to his uncle. You can't blame him for not believing something so fantastical. What made things worse is that there was a TV in the interrogation room. You want to give the man proof. He should've walked up to that screen and put his hand in. That would knock the skeptic out of anyone. I guess he could have also shown Dojima his phone, as well. Only an anime super hero would have that many cute women on his speed dial.
Completely with you on how great Naoto was this time around. The assessing-the-situation scene, the car accident scene - she stole the show in all of them, and it's clear the makers of this show have a soft spot for the character. Considering this episode was the culmination of months of weird tension between Yu and Dojima, it almost felt like a Naoto-centric episode, but I'm not complaining, because they pulled it off with aplomb.
Like you mentioned, there are some pretty gaping plot holes around the interrogation room stuff. Likewise, there were a bevy of drama-draining technical hiccups this week: poor animation, occasionally mismatched music, not to mention, uh, no actual crash sound during the car crash. It's minor stuff, but it detracts from what was otherwise a tense and dramatic episode; for instance, the moment where Dojima passes Namatame in the other lane was an excellently paced and executed scene.
I've alluded to this before, but it's as true here as ever: I don't typically dig the self-serious episodes of P4A, but this was one of those rare exceptions. They effectively communicated a very real sense of urgency in all the police station scenes, and even though I already knew roughly what would happen, they totally managed to hold my attention. That's quite a feat!
Not sure any real favoritism is given to Naoto. She's just playing her role of the great detective. As the series is nearing the end, you need someone that can start tying your plot together. I do have a tip for anyone who wants to play detective with this one. Be sure to watch it again There is one character who does something suspicious in this episode. It's hard to catch, becasue it isn't anything he said. It's what he doesn't say.
I'm not so sure that it's fair to describe much of what we saw in the interrogation scene as plot holes. People often expect answers to all their questions right away. Something is only really a plot hole if it's never answered in the series. If the issue is eventually explained. It wasn't a plot hole. It was foreshadowing. I just felt Yu trying to so casually explaining something so insane to Dojima was careless. Especially when he could have given him some seriously proof by just walking over to that nearby TV. As far as the car crash. It's much more jarring to have it suddenly cut away, because your audience is expecting a sound. It creates more tension for people to wonder if he stopped in time. It's the subtle differences between using an exclamation mark or a question mark.
The final act is drawing ever closer with episode 21 in the can. All the months of getting to know and care about Nanako is really paying off, because now we're put in Yu's place that it's someone we know, rather than all the characters we just met. The threat has never been higher, but Yu now has a strong team of friends to back him up. Still, that may not be enough this time.
Right! Yu was explaining the TV stuff in a way nobody ever actually would. It was silly and frantic in that Twilight Zone "I'M NOT CRAZY, YA GOTTA BELIEVE ME" way. As far as Yu's refusal to just show Dojima his powers not being a plothole - maybe you're right and that is totally explained in the game. As of last night, I've got something like four episodes of the Endurance Run left (I know, shame on me), so I guess it's possibly covered there. If it isn't, though, I have no problem calling that a plothole. Like, the TV is the only other object in the room! I understand that they wanted to have it there for Midnight Channel purposes, but you can't have it both ways. I mean, to be fair, this was a logic gap that totally existed in the game, too, but it's no less stupid here. Slavish devotion to your source material can be problematic when the source material is occasionally a teensy bit dumb.
I think it's also worth noting how dark this episode was, in every sense of the word. Visually, it was all nighttime and shadows, and what was lit was pretty much grey. It made a great shorthand for communicating the "playtime is over" tonal shift from last week's episode to this one. As far as the crash itself - the scene was fine, but the lack of a actual sound during the crash was a little stupid. Whether it was a stylistic choice or not, it's massively distracting, especially everyone onscreen absolutely would've been close enough to hear the crash happen. Maybe it would've worked if they'd cut to another scene or another location, but as is, I found it jarring in all the wrong ways. Also: the fact that some of the artists apparently can't be bothered to draw the characters' goddamn eyeballs next to each other is a little distracting, too.
Man, it's starting to freak me out that the series is ending. As someone who experienced P4 more or less in real-time with the ER, running through the whole thing over the course of a few dozen 25-minute episodes is totally crazy to me. That feeling from the first episode that it's all moving way too fast has worn off, but only slightly. Among all this grim and heavy plot stuff, I do take solace in knowing that there are a few funny moments left after the climax. I know this story already! Is it too much to ask that we get back to hanging out with the characters? (Editor's note: Yes, I know that it's too much to ask. Shut up.)