Sorry about the delay on this one, but here it is, the Persona 4: The Animation episode 13 review. This is a really great episode for many, many reasons. The new opening was a welcome addition to an anime already filled with style and originality. I loved the new video for the second opening, it really made me think back to the game in a way the first one didn’t but whilst the new song was pretty good, I found I preferred the first OP song, if I’m being honest. However, that doesn’t detract from it in any way – I love that they have such a wide variety of diverse material. The “ADVANTAGE ENEMY” sphere really brought me back to those long hours spent grinding in the dungeons, seeing everyone smash their tarot cards made me reminisce about the awesome fights you had in the game, and overall, the whole opening was just a tribute to playing the game – this will inevitably be much more appreciated by the game fans however, I just thought it was done so well, and fitted with the style and concept of the franchise so perfectly, that even if you’ve never played the game, you can appreciate how creative Persona really is. Then again, I could be taking a completely bias view on this one, so I’d be interested in hearing what others have to say in regards to this.
SOCIAL LINK BANZAI
A lot of this episode is only meaningful to the fans who have played the original game and whilst this is a huge plus for us, one thing I did feel at the end of the episode is mild annoyance, as I tried imagining what it would have been like to try to understand this episode, without having played the game and truth be told, I would have thought it would be nonsensical if not just a random episode. This quickly faded though, as I had played the game… multiple times. Gotta catch ’em all! – Social links, that is. But, if you cannot be bothered to read the link, Social links are the way in which Yuu in the original game gained new powers and had access to new Persona. Much like way we saw him in the last episode summoning a entourage of different Persona as he recalled all his social links, except in the game they aren’t random or preassigned like in the episodes – you have to basically interact with specific NPCs to develop your relationship, unravel their very interesting story and maximise the link. The further you get into a link, the more Persona are unlocked and available for fusion to create some of the most beastly Persona. Though, as I said, if you haven’t played the game none of this would be understood, so before I rambled on about all the people I remembered from the game, I thought a quick run through of this concept was necessary. In any case, this is the chief aim of this episode. Obviously seeing as its an anime and you do not have time to explore all the social links, neither do you want to abridge them into a shallow mess, they had to try to relate the feeling of spending long nights, hard hours and tireless interactions with a whole host of people, some way. I think they achieved it quite well. Pictured above are (in order): The night nurse Sayoko, newly wed Eri and her step-son, your pupil Shu, your fellow truant Ai, the wishing Fox and the old lady of death Hisano. I really do love this game – and consequently, this show – and this episode shows why. There was so much to do in the game, so many people to meet and so any different stories to be told. I won’t run through them neither do I think it would make for good reading however, these characters appearances highlight a key point of Persona and the actual meaning behind the name; Persona i.e. the person behind the mask. Each Persona is reflective of each person and their variable masks, and through each of these masks, Yuu acquires a new power. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, I know, but this probably doesn’t mean much to those who have played the game and for that I can only apologise, but in all honesty, its a game that even now would be worth a play through, if not just for the social links. Then, you could similarly appreciate the homage in this episode!
It wouldn’t be persona though, if it didn’t have some light hearted humour. This episode did make me laugh quite a bit, for many reasons really; some of the content was new and as this episode (and I presume the following, as this is a two part mini-arc) is fabricated, as opposed to being directly lifted from the game, I didn’t know the jokes and so found them to be refreshingly new. But mainly it was because, as usual, Persona just always has that slapstick humour that you don’t find often in more recent anime – innocent yet inexplicably inappropriate. I loved Teddy’s line especially at the end (third picture) and Kanji’s reactions to the water melon which he seasoned with what I can only think, is salt. Is that common in Japan? Anyway, a lot of the humour will again be lost on those who have not played the original game enough to understand what is happening, and whilst, as I said the episode is pretty much an original creation, the references, scenarios and mechanism by which the jokes are created are all lifted from the game. So apologies if this episode didn’t seem as comical to you but I think this just reinforced the point that this episode was basically a tribute to those fans of that PS2 classic. [Despite it not being in the original game, for those who possibly didn’t understand it, I’m quite sure it was Yuu in the teddy costume when he comes off the bus!]
NANAKO – YUU
Nanako’s relationship with Yuu may seem quite odd at first glance, if you haven’t played the game. Nanako in the game was often lonely, shy and reclusive to Yuu and others, mainly because her father was always away and she would always have to pick up the slack – hence why she is so extremely mature for a 7 year old (and why Dojima is surprised at the big words she knows). When Yuu came, you see that she develops a great admiration for him and even notice, she shifts from calling Yuu formally, by his name, to the informal; Oni-san. This isn’t fleshed out as well as I had hoped in the anime because, without divulging into spoilers, Nanako is a big part of the story but even more so, she is one of the most loved characters from the game. Its not just that she is little or cute, she really has an intense background and if you max her social link, you find out that she’s really not just a little girl (I don’t mean physically, strictly speaking metaphorically here). In any case, this episode showed us how Nanako did feel about Yuu. Nanako is anxious about loosing her new big brother, and whilst not quite in the same way, it reminds her of her loosing her mother (to death) and her father in some respects (to his work). Nanako therefore is not just any character as the anime seemed to portray before now, she is not only quite important to the story but she is quite a prominent person herself and her relationship with Yuu in the game is a great one to go through. In any case, I think this episode clarifies Nanako’s feelings quite well and ties it straight back to the point of this episode; Social links – this broken record, doesn’t stop, sorry. When she is talking about Yuu making people smile and such, she is referencing to the social links and their variable endings. Each person you link with may appear fine prima facie but as you develop it, you find out they have troubles and eventually, you help them through them. There are far more social links than I mentioned in this post and truth be told, Yuu gets around the town with them (get your mind out of the gutter). But, despite how cheesy it is when Nanako says it, it is quite true. And whilst such a thing might sound infinitely clichéd, Persona is a game which you should know by now, doesn’t really follow convention, so cliché would be quite the contradiction. The only niggle I had in regards to Nanako and Yuu’s portrayal in this episode was that Nanako seemed to be doing all the caring, whilst Yuu was just going about his Explosive Fishing! business. I guess the character of Yuu in the game is a blank state and is only what you make of him, whether you choose to care for Nanako’s social link or not, however, as one who maxed her Social Link, I thought they should have at least showed that her feelings were in fact returned – she is definitely one of my and the fanbase’s, favourite characters and link. But meh, it was all good in the end, so not too much to complain about here.
There really isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been repeated by me, ad nauseum. Persona is original, pretty stylish, has too much content to fit into an a half an hour episode and it definitely a nice ride for the old fans as well as the new. I really can’t fault this episode much – the bad points that I mentioned were a) Nanako and Yuu’s relationship isn’t as clearly fleshed out as I would have hoped and b) Viewers new to the franchise may just scratch their heads at this episode. However, I’m not so sure on the latter point, I only feel like that because I found myself referring back to my game-play every few minutes, so to try to conceive of watching this without playing it, I find difficult. But, I could be wrong, drop a comment and let me know what you guys (if you haven’t played the game) thought about the episode and whether you got the same message and meaning from it that I did. But to conclude, this was arguably my favourite episode of the season so far. It encompassed everything Persona 4 was: funny, stylish, musical, emotive and downright awesome.