OP2: 「Next Chance to Move On」 by 平田志穂子 (Hirata Shihoko)
「THE PERFECT PLAN」
“The Dokidoki Date Super Plan”
The story so far: Narukami Yu moves to a new town, jumps into a television, summons his Level 81 Pikachu, and whoops an arbitrarily large number of generic mooks.
This week: Nothing remotely like that.
True to its premise, Persona 4 The Golden ANIMATION is only really covering the additional material introduced in the Golden version of the Persona 4. This means more of the brand new character introduced last week: Marie. In fact, she integrates neatly with the rest of the Investigation Team and is physically present for the entire episode. They’re pushing her development very hard in what must be an attempt to promote her to main heroine status. On the flip side all non-Marie related activities have been deemed unimportant and to that end the plot has skipped half a month. With only 12 episodes P4GA has no time for orientation; it cares not to explain any developments. There can be no doubts that the audience of P4GA are presumed to have either played the game or at least watched the original anime. Otherwise, with the way new characters pop up and pretend they have always been there, this series is going to sound like the strained recitatives of a struggling soap opera.
The other possible problem with this Marie-centric approach is that there is very little in the way of action since she doesn’t actually participate in any of that card-crushing, demon-summoning goodness. For those seeking quasi-symbolic battles with Jungian psychic constructs, this episode is not for you. But fear not, gentle readers. In its place we get something even better. We get Social Links on motorbikes!
No, wait! It’s (even) better than it sounds. Yu biking with his mates is only half the story. The girls also want him to go shopping with them. Unable to choose between his bros and his…female friends, Yu decides that he must do the unthinkable. He double dates! And while having to be in multiple places at once to juggle an increasingly complex timetable is not exactly an original plot twist, especially not in anime, here the execution carries the day. The humour is generally whimsical and well timed, driven largely by Yu’s complete inability to pick up anybody despite his immense amounts of swag. Yes, that’s not original either but the sum is somewhat greater than its parts. There is at least a bit of schadenfreude to be had watching the confident, max-parameters Narukami Yu be brought low and destroyed. And they made fun of fat people. It’s a high class act.
Public Service Announcement: Obesity is a real disease suffered by more than 500 million adults around the world. Please, have a heart. Stick to making fun of short people.
Reading the cards.
It’s true that, from a plot perspective, nothing really happened this episode. The most we can take away is that Marie made some new friends. It is arguable, though, that character development is just as important as plot development for advancing a narrative. One would certainly not be too bold to guess that Marie will have an important part to play in the story at a later point, and it would hinge on her being a fleshed-out and relatable character. Slow episodes now are investments, and we shall see in the future whether they pay dividends. Again, those who enjoyed the original Persona 4 (in any of its forms) have an advantage here in that they will be expecting guaranteed returns and probably have more patience to enjoy the wait.
In any case, P4GA seems confident with what it’s doing because the previews for next week hint at much the same formula. It is possible that we are in for a rather long run of fluffy slice-of-life episodes before we get to the substantial meat. This is not necessarily a bad thing–I would not be the only one who considers Fumoffu superior to the original Full Metal Panic, for example–but it can certainly turn off a lot of viewers. After all, three episodes is about as long as an anime can get to impress its audience, and we’re fast approaching that cut-off. Maybe that’s why they’re breaking out the bikinis? Let’s see what comes out of them (No, not in that way. Get your mind out of the gutter.).
ED2: 「Dazzling Smile」 by 平田志穂子 (Hirata Shihoko)