「I have amnesia, is it so bad?」
“The Obligatory Summer Episode.”
When I watch Persona 4 the Golden I am reminded of Tom Stoppard’s absurdist play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. For the uninitiated, R&G are Dead is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet but instead of focusing on the titular character it follows the exploits of minor roles Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. There are hints of the Hamlet plot and Hamlet does show up now and then but Hamlet is really not the point.
In Persona 4 the Golden murders and investigations and even personae are implied, but they remain fully offstage. Instead it’s all subplot, all the time. With that in mind, try to keep up as Golden disposes of Marie’s routine bad poetry on embarrassing stationary, speeds past real life into August, casually drops Rise into the narrative, and jumps straight into what all the viewers at home have been eagerly waiting for: road trips on motorcycles!
…So that’s not really special at all, but we’ve got to work with what we’ve got. At the very least we can admire the attention to little details, like how Rise has a license but Kanji doesn’t. She’s a full seven months his elder! Now you know.
In any case, compared to last week where it was more or less pure comedy, this week we also have a measure more of introspection. As is common for summer episodes in anime, half of it is hijinks-on-the-beach and the other half is navel-gazing. There’s something about fireworks, I swear. What it means, though, is that our dose of development this week probes a bit further down into the philosophical core of our characters, unlike the vaudeville antics which remain only skin-deep. By which I mean there’s flesh. Lots of it. Enough for everybody.
There would be those of you who expect fanservice in an anime like this to be an entirely male-pandering affair, a parade of nubile girls suffering from various forms of wardrobe malfunction. You may be pleasantly surprised (or delighted, or horrified; I won’t judge) to know that the 21st century has no place for gender inequality. We must reach out to a wider demographic! Therefore this week’s titillation is provided by our very own hunk of cosmopolitan man-meat, Tatsumi Kanji! Embrace this brave new world, ladies and gentleman. It’s the second Renaissance.
Unfortunately, good times must end and we must meet our quota of soul-searching. To that end the second half is devoted to our characters (not just Marie!) talking about their internal conflict set to the backdrop of that symbol of transient happiness, fireworks. It’s a strange sort of thing to do when we’re only a quarter-way through because this sort of resolution is usually reserved for near the end of a series, or at least the end of the arc. It also means that Naoto, yet to appear, misses out on all this juicy individuation. But I suppose that they’re not really bubbling for our sake; after all the assumption is that the viewer is already experienced with Persona 4. If anything, this is a signal that the Investigation Team’s stories are essentially done and are being set aside. Instead, Marie needs to be spurred to seek out the truth about herself, especially by Teddie; you’d remember that ‘I have no memories’ was his schtick before it was Marie’s. In that case, we may be at a turning point in the series. I suppose all the reflective vibe was appropriate after all.
Reading the cards.
As noted last week we’re now at Episode 3, which is a good point for us to do a bit of reflection of our own. Has the series met expectations? Has it maintained your interest? Have you been given an idea of what is to come?
If there’s one thing I can definitely say about the production of Persona 4 the Golden is that it is very aware of who is watching. From the beginning it makes no attempt to cater to anyone but its core audience: that is, Persona fans. With only 12 episodes, this focus (perhaps out of necessity) has served the series well. I’m sure there would be those who would welcome simply having the original anime re-animated by A-1 Pictures but personally I consider getting through to new content to be the most important thing. So even though the narrative has been somewhat disjointed for it, I can commend the overall series composition. That said, being one of the targeted demographic I suppose I’m biased; I get satisfied just by fresh takes on Persona 4.
Looking forward, it seems that the plot is moving up a gear and once again finding some of that forward momentum. Introduced this week is a mysterious artefact in the form of an antique hairpin. This kind of thing is the bread and butter of amnesiac plots and hopefully Marie’s Forgotten Past™ will shake up the story. At the very least previews show that we’re returning to the Midnight Channel next week, which may be an indication that Stuff Will Happen.
Full-length image: 14. Of course.