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!
That was...really intense! I'm glad Kanji is now a proper member of the investigation team, though I'm curious to see how they're gonna handle the 'only bring three squadmates' system the game uses. Do you think by the end of the series we're gonna see all eight team members rolling through dungeons together? That would be a little overwhelming, I think. I guess we'll see!
Anyways, yeah, the Kanji stuff. I thought it was mostly funny; Yu and Yosuke busting out their Personas way too early was a cute gag, and Shadow Kanji's musclemen bodyguards were undeniably hilarious. Still, some of it felt a bit homophobic at times. I know it's a weird accusation to level at an anime based on such a LGBT-friendly game, but the bizarre rage the main four cast members had towards Shadow Kanji throughout the episode was a a little baffling. To be fair, a lot of it might be language barrier stuff (and, if my understanding is correct, Japan generally isn't great at dealing with flamboyancy, gay or otherwise). Still, that doesn't quite excuse how how "Hard Gay" all of it feels. I know it's meant to be light-hearted and all in good fun, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me feel slightly uncomfortable.
Still, I'd also be lying if I said I didn't get more laughs from this episode than any other so far. Seeing more of Yu's dry sense of humor come out is a treat, and it's worth restating how great those two bodyguards were. I want to shake the hand of the person at AIC who thought it'd be a good idea to flesh out those two minor enemies with dialogue. An awesome little touch.
I really have to stop trying to predict what this anime series isn't going to be bringing from the video game. It keeps proving me wrong. I never thought they were going to deal with more than one Persona for Yu, then I never thought they were even going to touch the Social Linking outside the main cast. This episode it's the fusion of the Persona to creation new and more powerful ones. I'd be interested in seeing if the hydra Yu created by using those same Persona is what's used in the game. As far as having all eight rolling into a Midnight Channel dungeons. I've given up on predicting much of anything for this anime. It would seem seriously overpowered, but they could always split up to search.
This was the funniest episode to date. A lot of users complained about Yu's lack of personality, but I think his deadpan delivery makes his lines even funnier. Three minutes in and I was busting out laughing. Yu's started taping the Midnight Channel bits and asked Yosuke if he wanted a copy. That was a great call back. I do agree that pulling out the Personas instantly was a good bit, then even Chie can't help herself. Later on, even Yu was disappointed he didn't bring a camera. This is why he needs to upgrade to a smart phone.
I can certainly understand how you could see the guys reaction as over the top to the bathhouse, but would it seem odd if the sexuality of situation was reversed and the girls didn't want to go in? I don't know about Japanese culture and their views on homosexuality. I can say that you can find some flamboyant characters in nearly every series that deals with teens and up. One Piece has Emporio Ivankov, who bares a striking resemblance and similar personality to Tim Curry's role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. How many western comics or cartoons have you seen that have such openly flamboyant males? Kanji in the end admits that his feelings aren't about men or women. It's about his fear of rejection. The Shadows are extreme exaggerations of people's insecurities. The same way Chie's Shadow was a dominatrix.
Yeah, this show has absolutely bucked our predictions at a couple points. It's funny, because looking back on the first episode's militant faithfulness to the game, it'd would have been impossible to predict that we'd get a new character, substantial story tweaks and all the other changes we've observed. It's resulted in a show that is a bit more interesting than we were led to expect, I think.
I'm also no authority on Japanese views toward homosexuality, but I feel like most of the depictions of gays I've seen in mainstream Japanese media are these same cartoonish, utterly un-PC caricatures. The flamboyant, subtlety-free gay guy is a recurring Japanese trope by now - Valkyria Chronicles' Jann Walker is a particularly damning example of that.
I do think there's an argument to be made that I'm missing the point and that Persona 4's depiction of these stereotypes are entirely ironic - and either way, Kanji is such a progressive and interesting character that it's a pretty minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. Like you pointed out, Kanji isn't the only one with an exaggerated and highly sexualized Shadow. Still, it initially put me off enough that I felt it was worth mentioning. Like, one of those bodyguards put his fingers in Yu and Yosuke's butts. In their butts, Kris.
Moving on, I love the fact that they're gradually edging towards Yu having a personality. The few times where he's given meaningful lines each episode feel a lot like the in-game moments where you're selecting from dialogue options, which is perfect. The humor feels like it's improving, and they continue to break my expectations (Shadow Kanji's bodyguards flirting with Yu's Persona directly? Who saw that coming?). Breaking my expectations and keeping it light is just about all I can ask from P4A, and lately, it's delivering on both.
What are your final thoughts on episode seven?
Oh yeah, I wouldn't call a lot of the depiction of homosexual characters in anime always the best role models, but most archetypes are taken to an extreme. Notice that it was Kanji's shadow that was so over the top. While the real Kanji is kind of a tough dude who stands up for his mom and little kids. That's pretty positive. The shadow seems to be more based on Kanji's insecurities of what other may see. It's a hard critique to make that the exaggeration was over-exaggerated. It's not as if it's going to be like that in every episode. People can focus on the finger up the butt part, but I'd rather focus on Chie and Yukiko covered in hot oil.
My final thoughts are that this is a shining example of how this series is putting in a great effort to follow the iconic moments of a game, but mix them in with new touches to deepen the story. Yu has been steadily become more lively as that character chart has grown. I think people who dropped out of the anime thinking they were never going to see social linking or fusions needs to watch this episode. As you said, Nick. This is delivering something for everyone, and next episode looks to have some more fun hijinks.
I hope you and all our readers in the U.S. have a good Thanksgiving. After I'm done cooking and eating, I'm sitting myself down to watch episode eight of Persona 4.