「Suspicious Tropical Paradise」
Going into this adaptation, there was one social link in particular that I was most concerned about how it would be adapted, and that was Tatsumi Kanji’s. He is, as far as I know, one of the first video game and anime characters who actually struggles with his sexual orientation. This is a serious and relevant subject that is ripe for insight and development, but so far, I don’t think this adaptation has done it nearly enough justice yet. Social links, not action scenes, are what made the video game so memorable for me, so for the show to only barely graze the surface of these issues was a bit disappointing to say the least.
Instead of having the members of the Investigation Team actually address the issues surrounding Kanji’s sexuality, they resort to juvenile humor and stereotypes like Yuu and Yousuke constantly hesitating to explore the steamy bathhouse, summoning their Personas whenever they felt uncomfortable, or fainting when their asses were fondled. While I do think that the inclusion of more comedy is a good recipe for improving the somewhat heavy nature of these Persona awakening episodes, Kanji’s whole rescue mission felt like a huge wasted opportunity for novel character development and commentary on the subject of sexual orientation as a whole.
Yuu and Yousuke’s behavior (and Chie’s to a lesser degree) reminded me of how children would act around LGBT people, which only serves to reinforce common stereotypes. They could have used this episode to show that the Investigation Team members are people who are willing to not only risk their lives to rescue Kanji, but also accept him for who he is. After all, they should know by now that they are going to experience people’s hidden and repressed sides and be ready to face whatever issues come their way in a mature way. Granted, I don’t actually know enough about the views of homosexuality in Japanese culture to say whether these are actually issues and stereotypes that are common, but from what little I have read, it is something that is not openly talked about enough. Out of all the things that the characters could have said about Kanji’s struggles with his shadow self, the fact that the most substantial line was Yuu telling Kanji that the keychain he made was cute is definitely indicative of the all squandered opportunities to explore the issues relating to sexual orientation. Hopefully future episodes will showcase more of Kanji’s struggles, especially as he continues to interact with the mysterious boy. (Poor Kanji, already confused about his feelings, gets even more confused when the boy tells him “You’re weird.”)
All seriousness aside, there were still many bright spots to the episode though. More humor involving the girls is never a bad thing, as it gives a chance for Yukiko to show a wider range of emotion from the deadpan delivery that we’ve been used to. (Although, the water scene felt a little tacked on – guess you have to somehow put in a little fanservice in here and there.) Kanji’s keychain acting as the bridge beginning and end of the episode was a nice touch as well, as it represented a physical manifestation of the hidden side of Kanji’s personality. And another one of viewers’ many wishes was probably fulfilled as Yuu finally used his true Wild Card ability, fusing together Priestess and Magician Personas to summon Yamata no Orochi of the Moon Arcana. What I’m really looking forward to though is next week’s episode, the long-awaited school camping trip!
* Yuu’s summoned Strength Persona was Rakshasa, a demon of Hindu myth.
* Kanji’s Persona is Take-Mikazuchi, the Shinto god of thunder.
* I wonder if Yuu just records all the Mayonaka TV appearances now, just in case another episode like Yukiko’s shows up again – and he probably didn’t anticipate in a thousand years that the next one would be something as crazy as Kanji’s TV show.
* Full-length images: 1, 22, 24, 26, 35
* Interesting essay about Kanji’s character in the video game