「THE MAYONAKA OHDAN MIRACLE QUIZ!」
“Investigation: Day 1”
…So it was a fake out, but I suppose it’s sweet that P4GA still remembers to remind us what we’re watching each week. Yes, it’s an RPG adaptation, yes fighting abstract monsters is a big deal, yes at some point someone should summon a Persona, but surely we’ve had enough of that in that other anime adaptation. There’s always the chance we’ll get more action later but for now we’ll have to settle for this pre-OP sequence booster shot to try and tide us over until the Marie plot leads us to an inevitable fight with something. On that note, those keeping track at home can check off Void Quest and rescuing Naoto because we’ve skipped past those too, bringing us deep into September.
As expected, the atmosphere sobers up somewhat this episode as we probe a bit deeper into the circumstance surrounding Marie’s amnesia. Which, in the Persona 4 tradition, means waltzing around town asking random people for information. This happens to be a great opportunity to let some minor characters have cameo appearances, and on the signal they come out in droves. Earning a special mention is the anime-exclusive re-appearance of Nakamura Aika, here to put the recently bike-obsessed Investigation Team in their place by taking her own up to the roof of Junes. Just for a delivery run. If I had a conditional superpower like that I’d show it off too. And go around giving narrative-driving hints.
Surprisingly enough, we do actually manage to find information, or at the least foreshadowing. To make sense of it, though, we’ll need to let anime be educational for just a bit. Hopefully we’ll all survive the experience.
Kanji’s mother explains that Marie’s comb should not have been a gift from somebody else (i.e. belonged to her from the beginning). Gifting combs is a taboo in Japan, because the Japanese word for ‘comb’ (くし, kushi) is a homophone for ‘suffer’ and ‘die’ (苦 and 死, loosely). Also, since combs are used to ‘part the hair’, so to speak, it is also symbolic of partings. Hence it would be inauspicious to gift someone a comb. It’s akin to other traditional Asian superstitions you may have heard of, like gifting clocks, skipping level 4 when labelling elevators, and anything to do with feng shui.
So what they’re essentially implying is that Marie’s lost memories have something to do with suffering, death, and partings. Best pay attention because not only is this material going to be in the final exam it also foreshadows something tragic, something ominous, or both. The Daidara guy also comments that Marie’s ancient comb is not of this world (and, seriously, how many worlds do the Investigation Team know of anyway (hint: 2)? Nobody’s getting a passing grade for genre-savvy this semester). Put all that together and considering the mythological motif running through Persona 4…
…I’ll keep my guesses to myself for now because we’re still just building suspense, but don’t let me stop you, gentle readers. Speculate away, but remember that there will be obviously viewers who have played Golden and viewers who haven’t. In the interest of everybody’s enjoyment would you kindly keep anything that you think may have even the remotest chance of being a spoiler behind spoiler tags. Thank you all in advance.
The rest of the episode is devoted to Marie, dissuaded from self-searching by doom omens and the classic amnesiac headache, needing to be picked up out of her slump. Since this is anime and this is Persona 4, it looks like a job for the Power of Friendship. By which I mean a convoluted scheme in which the entire Investigation Team gets involved. Even Kanji, even if it’s just as beefcake. Again. Isn’t it sad, Kanji? Anyway, that little Chechov’s Gun planted earlier about Marie liking quiz shows is put to use as the Investigation team put on one of their own to remind Marie that there’s plenty of memories she actually has. It’s completely roundabout and slightly cheesy but ultimately heart-warming, like Italian food. Or was that heartburn? Same difference.
And just so we don’t end on too positive a note, Canon’s patron deity shows itself briefly before we’re done. Don’t forget that you’re watching Persona 4, ladies and gentlemen!
Reading the cards
So the drama certainly did ramp up a notch this week, as we really are in a more serious phase of the plot. However, it’s unlikely that we’ll keep up this indefinitely. After all, we still have eight episodes and the tension level needs to do the rollercoaster impression before we get to the climax. To some extent Marie’s internal conflict has already been resolved since the moral of this week’s story is that it’s okay to have no past. Or something. Of course, there’s no way we’re just going to leave that there. One way or another, Marie’s secrets will need to come to light. But the plot may do some diversions before that happens.