And so we come to the end, not exactly with a bang but at least not with a whimper either. I’m sure everyone expected an ending more or less along these lines. Players of Golden probably already pretty much knew how it was going to go down. Even though P4GA tried to paint the ‘truth’ as something profound and shocking it was never ever anything surprising. The final confrontation unfolded fairly similarly to the game or the original anime (albeit Marie-flavoured) and that was not really a big twist either. If anything, it felt slightly forced. ‘If you kill me you’ll also kill your friend!‘ is an old chestnut, but it was only tenuously linked to the greater overarching theme about accepting the truth and all that. For that matter, the whole ‘people are weak’ –> ‘people prefer to be lied to’ –> ‘turn on the fog machines!’ logic isn’t really fully developed either, but that’s a fault carried from the game. Chalked it up to ‘gods are weird’. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose, because ultimately Marie ex machina happens and breezes the conflict aside. ‘Now, I am the master!’ she says, and that was that. Maybe it’s a metaphor for individuation. I’ll buy anything.
Despite all my nitpicking, I must reiterate that this was not exactly a bad ending. At the very least it had the correct shape of an ending, giving one last hurrah before wrapping things up and leaving a sense of closure. I’m glad that they let the effects budget have a final day in the sun, at least; I can forgive a lot of things as long as it’s shiny enough. After our descent into anti-climax last week I had my fears but luckily they were mostly unfounded. In fact, for a while I was almost brought aboard the Marie ship. I believed in the power of love! That is, I was fully expecting Yu and Marie to go full SEKIHA LOVE LOVE TENKYOKEN during their big scene, but alas, they didn’t hear the cries (or didn’t want to make things weird for Kanji). If anything disappointed me about this episode, it was that. I thought we were fully embracing the ham and cheese. They had the obligatory title drop! They had Marie profess her love live on TV just to rile up Rise! If you have the ball you have to run with it, Persona 4.
(Actually, the thought of Marie as a fickle god with no respect for the long term ecological ramifications of her actions is…can we really call this a happy end?)
Adaptation—the art of converting one medium into another—has always been a subject of great interest to me. Original series are great and deserve their respect, but turning a manga, a novel or a video game into anime is no simple craft either. It’s a lot like translating languages, and not everyone appreciates the subtleties—sometimes, not even directors. Watching how each adaptation decides to do their thing is a fascinating study, especially when games are involved. They are a medium like no other, and one that we are just beginning to play with (pun…yeah, completely intended).
What stood out the most for me about P4GA is their decision to only adapt very specific sections of the original source. For everything else, they relied on viewer meta-knowledge, whether it’s from playing a game, watching an anime or reading a manga. This is not actually a bad idea; it saves seasoned viewers from having to retread old content and gets right to the real meat. The end result was something not quite a sequel and not quite a standalone production. It was an interesting experiment, but is had its failings. For one, it highlighted the difference between knowing and experiencing. When I watched P4GA I knew of the events happening off-screen that were skipped. I knew how the limited events shown played into the greater scheme. But it didn’t feel like I was experiencing a fully cohesive narrative. Instead, it felt rather choppy—more like OVAs than a full series—and I think it hindered my connection to the new content.
Speaking of which, the one full arc in P4GA is Marie’s story, and I suppose we should go into that a bit. The impression I got from those who’ve played the Vita game is that Marie didn’t really play a major role there, so I should commend the P4GA staff for being able to write so much of the anime around her. Because underneath all the drama and high mythology surrounding Marie, her story—which I consider to have been wrapped up in Episode 11—is rather simple yet plays well into Persona 4’s overarching themes. It’s really just about a teenager, and that teenager acting like a teenager. All that stuff with her going, ‘Leave me alone, nobody understands me, just let me cut myself’—that’s usually just a phase people have. That’s why Persona 4 switches so often between fantasy and mundane. With time, even the most trying or amazing parts of life become mundane. It’ll all just be happy memories.
There would be those who enjoyed the focus on Marie, and those who don’t; I’ve said enough about the subject already. I will note, though, how interesting P4GA’s strategy was. It essentially goes all in, all the time; it devotes fully to new material even at the risk of alienating potential views, and devotes fully to the new character Marie, at the risk of overexposure. Perhaps it’s just very sure about its targets audience, that is, those who only wish for Golden material and those who will enjoy a lot of Marie. If this was done deliberately, then that was a very bold choice; I will give credit for that. But how successful was it in execution? Do you fall within this narrow target? Did you expect to fall within that target? I’ll leave the discussion to the comments.
Full-length images: 11.
ED4: 「Never More」 by 平田志穂子 (Hirata Shihoko)
Thank you all for bearing with me through Person 4 the Golden ANIMATION and my first full season of anime here on Random Curiosity. I hope you’ve enjoyed the coverage; I certainly had fun (sometimes a bit too much). If any of you have any feedback about my writing (or, really, anything at all) now’s a great time to get heard. I read all your comments, and constructive feedback is always useful for me. Otherwise I’ll be back next season (basically beginning as we speak) with more of that weekly rambling. I look forward to seeing you all (and any new faces! Invite your friends! Invite your family! Invite total strangers!) again.