「He Is My Other Self」
With Episode 07, we reach the point where Madarame and Yusuke unveil their true selves. Whereas we see the darker implications behind Madarame’s art as an opportunistic plagiarist whose deep-seated desire to earn money contributed his ill-advised exploitation of young artists, Yusuke is finally able to free himself from his sensei’s influence by awakening his persona and joining the Phantom Thieves. Much of the arc has been adapted far better than the Kamoshida chapter as we see the events of the Madarame section adapted faithfully while the staff get the hang of how action scenes should flow without having too much stake put into having the characters use their personas or All-Out Attacks all the time.
It also captures the most popular scenes from the chapter well as Ann wears hundreds of layers of clothing for a nude modeling session and Yusuke’s awakening is kept in-tact, complete with him digging his nails into the floor. They were also gracious enough to include Ohya Ichiko into the fray, a journalist who finds herself diving deep into Tokyo’s criminal underworld to get the best scoop. Some people don’t like her, but I’ll fight tooth-and-nail to defend her as she contributes to the plot twice, has a decent confidant story line, and has great voice actresses in English and Japanese.
Err, back to the topic at hand, Madarame might not be as memorable of a villain as Kamoshida, especially since Kamoshida sets such a high bar for the level of awfulness the Phantom Thieves targets, but he is interesting in that he’s been successfully coasting off of a mild-mannered attitude to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone around him other than the students he’s exploited. Even as Yusuke is startled over how many copies of Sayuri are present in his closet of counterfeit paintings, he had acted like he was coming clean about his heinous counterfeiting scheme, and looked convincing enough to make it seem like he truly was coming clean right then and there. It wasn’t until Ann poked the holes in his lies when his visage of a calm, collected artist who fell on hard times in secret came undone, resulting in him losing his cool and reporting Ann & Yusuke to his private security system.
While his real-world personality covers for his misdeeds enough so that he’s never had to face the possibility of getting angry and getting the authorities involved, his Palace’s ruler lets most of his worst vices slip as he eagerly took advantage of a young Yusuke and his pupils to gain access to their artwork, working them to death so that he can take credit for their work. The flashback of Yusuke being influenced by Sayuri and Madarame’s teachings was effective in this regard as it brings about the disillusion with his sensei/father figure that Yusuke has while piecing together the younger Madarame’s smile in conjunction with his shadow’s sinister laughter.
Although much of the episode was well-done, the only technical aspects that could’ve been improved was how the palace was shown. Most of the palace’s neater aspects are in-tact, except for the painting puzzle, which was given very little stylistic flair. It looked amazing in the game, but an animated version of the scene could have made it far more visually tantalizing to show the Phantom Thieves navigate around the semiotics from painting-to-painting, climbing over waves, deserts, and forests. There’s also the dubious implication behind the party pressuring Ann to strip down for Yusuke when the past arc was decrying Kamoshida for objectifying her and treating her like an item. There are a few times in the game where it gets hypocritical as far as what level of sexualization is acceptable, or what situations we can give characters a free pass for seeing the girls in a sexual light. Even if Yusuke had no actual desire for Ann outside of painting, it seems messed up that Ann was being pressured to put herself in an uncomfortable position like stripping down in front of Yusuke after she was already at risk of being sexually exploited by the gym teacher. Where the guys telling Ann to strip is given the okay because it’s part of a wider plan that doesn’t actually see her taking it all off, yet still places her in a vulnerable position by having her remove her clothes in front of a strange boy who pressured her to strip for him to make amends for breaking into Madarame’s shack.
Additionally, there was much more to securing the root than the painting puzzle as it was the first time the treasure was so heavily guarded that they had to piece together an idea to create a full-on heist of Madarame’s treasure. They’ll probably depict it in the next episode, but it was one of the first instances in the game where you felt like a professional thief, having to map out a clear-cut route to steal a possession methodically in a way that isn’t just walking up to an empty room to snag it.