「The World is Full of Shit」
Although the central focus was the revelation that Adachi was the mastermind behind Namatame’s kidnappings and the one who killed Yamano and Konishi, I found that when I looked past the surface of his motives, there was also a theme that connected it to Kuma and Yousuke’s storylines as well. Crass as it may be, the title of this episode is a fitting description of this theme: many of the Persona 4 characters, not only Adachi, have viewed the world this way. This makes sense, as early everyone has a dissatisfaction with some part of reality, but it is how they deal with their unhappiness that defines them, and ultimately, helps them grow as a person. Unfortunately, not everyone deals with it in a healthy way.
At first glance, Kuma doesn’t seem like a person who is too dissatisfied with reality – he just appears to be someone who wants to find out who he is and what the reason is for his existence. Yet after his appearance in the Velvet Room, I realized that he too had issues with his reality. Kuma wanted people to like him, but the reality was that as a Shadow, most people would probably be scared of him. The way he dealt with this was to take on his current adorable bear form, which probably saved him from being attacked when he first met Yuu. We all have yearned for that fresh start, a blank slate to start anew, all for the hope that we will be treated differently than before. While we may not be able transform ourselves as easily as Kuma, there are countless other ways that we can change ourselves and grow into better people.
Yousuke, on the other hand, is someone who we all know has been unhappy with the world, so it wasn’t really much of a surprise when he told Yuu his issues. As far as I can remember, the show hasn’t really explained Yousuke’s backstory very much, but basically he moved to Inaba from a large city because his dad became the manager of the Inaba Junes, and then became dissatisfied with reality because he was bored of Inaba’s small town life. It’s not like he did anything about it though, which explains why he was jealous of Yuu who also came from a large city to Inaba and was quickly able to find something to alleviate his boredom. I’m not sure getting into a good old brawl is the healthiest of ways to deal with your dissatisfaction, but I definitely know how it feels to just let it all out with a friend who understands that a fight like that isn’t personal, it’s just primal. What matters in the end is that it works, and hasn’t harmed anyone (too much) in the process.
And then there’s Adachi. He’s always been a suspicious one, but it was never entirely clear what his motives would possibly be to commit the murders. Adachi is a terrible police officer as well, one who’s always bumbling and aloof – so even though I knew there was a chance he could just be putting on an act and was actually a smart and diabolical mastermind behind all the kidnappings and murders, a part of me figured that there was some truth to his façade too. Sooner or later, Adachi would mess up, and he did with his lack of reaction when Naoto read out the names in Namatame’s diary. I have to admit, I missed that part when I was playing through the game, so I thought it was pretty clever writing to make me miss an incriminating clue like that, especially when I pride myself in trying to search for and pay attention to every single hint.
Now with Adachi was established as the murderer, it was now time to delve into his motives – and boy were they appalling. Here is a man who was filled to the brim with dissatisfaction with the world. Similar to Yousuke, Adachi implies that he also came from a large city and possessed the detective talents to work in a big-time police department, yet is stuck with the small town one in tiny Inaba. From the lack of challenge in his life, he probably moved onto other challenges, like trying to get with Yamano and Konishi, and then killing them just because he couldn’t get with them. I think the worst thing about Adachi’s motives is that to him, it is all a game to entertain him. It’s no longer about addressing his lack of challenges in life or his talents not being recognized. Adachi committed these murders and manipulated Namatame all because he can, and I think that is probably one of the most despicable reasons that one can have to do something. It’s also the worst possible way for dealing with one’s dissatisfactions with the world.
「We Can Change The World」
The title of this episode maybe clichéd, but it is entirely appropriate as it is basically the Investigation Team’s answer to Adachi and Ameno-sagiri’s view of the world, and a great answer in general for anyone who is dissatisfied with the world. Yuu and Adachi – this protagonist and antagonist pair are about as diametrically opposed as can be, or at least from what I can remember. Usually, I always anticipate that the protagonist can empathize with the antagonist a little bit and offer them a chance at redemption, but with these two, there is no seeing eye to eye; not one ounce of understanding exists between these foes.
In the previous episode, Adachi explained the why and how he committed the murders and manipulated Namatame, but it turns out his ‘why’ wasn’t as simple as he made it out to be. Adachi didn’t merely commit all those crimes just because he could and because it entertained him, he actually did them because he felt like he could no longer change the world. He didn’t want to face reality, or be boxed in by its boredom – he just wanted to give up and ignore it. Defeatism and apathy is by no means a rare emotion, but what I don’t understand is why he wants everyone else in the real world to feel the same as he does.
Even though it might be true that very few people think about what is real, what is right, and what is wrong, there are still some people who do think that the way. However, Adachi’s motivations here smacks of hypocrisy; he says that it’s pointless to change the real world and tells Yuu to quit trying, yet he’s working to change it by merging the two worlds, and turning everyone into Shadows so that they can continue “living” in naiveté. I don’t really understand what exactly he has to gain here. Is it because he would be able to lord over everyone since he presumably would be superior and not turn into a Shadow while the rest of them do? Even though it’s not really made explicitly clear in the anime, I recall from the game that he was actually the puppet of Ameno-sagiri? Unfortunately, the vagueness in the adaptation means that anime-only viewers might never understand the full story and Adachi’s identity as a villain remains somewhat muddled.
On the other hand, Yuu knows clearly why he fights and what he fights for. He is too smart to be outwitted by a person like Adachi, and it was spoke volumes about who he is when he called out Adachi on all of his misguided beliefs, especially when it came to the truth that Yuu and the rest Investigation Team was looking for, which was for justice. My favorite line was when Yuu said that they’ve braved and saw many truths in themselves, truths that they didn’t want to see, all so they could get to where they are now. Almost as enjoyable was when all the members of the team called Adachi out for what he was truly doing, which was basically throwing a tantrum because he wasn’t able to get what he wanted and was tired of living.
After being beat up by Tomoe Gozen’s “God’s Hand” attack, I actually thought that was the end for Adachi. With the culprit behind the murders and kidnappings dealt with, there was still one question that remained to be answered: what is Mayonaka TV and why does it exist? Turns out, it’s a place where humans choose to see what they want to see, what they want to exist, where their desires become reality. The master of this domain, Ameno-sagiri, the Japanese mythological god of fog, is an entity who wants to grant all of mankind’s hidden desires and believes that merging the two worlds is the best way to turn those desires into reality, which basically means one last enemy for the Investigation Team to defeat.
I was really satisfied that Mayonaka TV finally had an explanation and a face to attach to it. I also felt it was a fitting conclusion because we finally had a true reason for there to be Personas (which Ameno-sagiri did not expect), and a reason for all of Yuu’s social links to become useful. Some people might deride the series to falling back on the power of friendship trope out of nowhere, but I’d like to remind them that the theme of social bonds, their power and importance, has been said from the very beginning in the Velvet Room, and Margaret reminds Yuu of their value each time he forms a new one. True, it could have been emphasized more and spelled out in greater detail, and I would have liked it if each Investigation Team member’s Persona had transformed into their ultimate form earlier, but seeing everyone work together to defeat Ameno-sagiri was still a satisfying conclusion to the story.
With the every showing that they do have the potential to change the world, the crisis was averted and we’re left with a teary eyed goodbye, but this series could have easily been made into a 4-cour one too, since there still are a few strands left untied. For starters, we’ve seen how important the social link that Yuu made with each of the Team members is, but we’re never shown the importance of the other social links that he made, aside from probably using them to fuse Lucifer, the ultimate Persona of the Judgment Arcana (which technically can’t be fused until the true ending route). Even though there wasn’t a canon romance chosen for Yuu either, other than Rise telling him she loves him, there’s enough material for a whole cour to be made in an omnibus style. (Where’s my XMAS episodes!) It all makes sense though, since this anime adaptation can be seen as an extended advertisement for the games’ PS Vita remake (called Persona 4: The Golden), so they have to leave some things for players to discover, right? And that is one thing that it does very well, because I know I’m itching to play the game again.
All in all, I’d have to say that Persona 4 the ANIMATION is one of the most entertaining anime adaptations of a video game that I have ever seen. And given the 2-cour time constraints, it’s also one of the most faithful adaptations too. Coming into the series, I worried that the show would consist more of shounen-esque battles between Personas and Shadows and that the relationships that Yuu made with people would take a back seat, but it turns out that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I think one of the best aspects and one of the most pleasant surprises about this adaptation is that it made many characters even more likeable than they were in the game. I didn’t think this would be possible because of how much story and voice acting many of the characters already had in the game, but somehow the show managed to pull it off. One of my main concerns was how they would portray Yuu, who as the player character was basically an unvoiced blank slate. Surprisingly, he turned out to be one of my favorite protagonists in recent memory as the writers did a superb job of extrapolating a fun and memorable personality from the limited dialogue choices of the game. As for characters who did have plenty of dialogue like Chie and Naoto, the show somehow even added to their appeal as they were cuter than I remembered. The fact that an anime adaptation could make characters more appealing and more endearing than their portrayal in the source material is a very laudable achievement in my book.
The other aspect that I think the show actually does even better than the game is the comedy, where for the most part, already hilarious situations are made even more hilarious. Some situations had to be shortened in interest of time, but it always felt like none of the humor was lost in the translation. I would even go as far as saying that even if someone didn’t care for the action scenes or the social links, Persona 4 is worth watching for the comedy alone.
Few adaptations, if any, are perfect – and Persona 4 is no exception. The pacing can be a little uneven, many of the less essential social links were pared down and combined so much that they lost a lot of their meaning, the Persona versus Shadow action was a bit short, and the mythology and meaning behind each Persona were largely overlooked. However, you have to keep in mind that there’s no way they can condense an 80+ hour game into approximately 10 hours, so working within those constraints, I think that the showrunners have done an extremely fine job with Persona 4 the ANIMATION, making it a show that even people who haven’t played the games can enjoy. And for people who have played the game, it’s an adaptation that very few fans will be unhappy with.