「A Challenge That Must Be Won」
Well, at least Akechi had a good episode. With his relationship with Ren deepening as he joins the Phantom Thieves in Sae’s palace, it gives him ample opportunity to be able to share time with him. Along with the chess they already play at Leblanc, he also confides some of his deepest concerns with Ren as he discusses why his biological father pushed him to where he’s at today, and why he aims to pursue his goals in this manner. Although we never got a Ren that kept trying to shove him out of Leblanc or a “Hi Honey, I’m home!” option adapted from the game, the anime has shown a more cordial relationship that builds on something more than the game did by making him feel much closer to Ren with the number of times they’ve worked together on personal goals together. His form as Crow is definitely symbolic for people savvy to future events, but hearing the Japanese pronunciation tips you off especially because “kuro” makes it all obvious that there is a dark side we’ve yet to see of Akechi.
The only problem is that they completely change parts from other characters’ stories to flesh out Akechi. Earlier, Yusuke’s confidant took a hit from having it be used as a device to get Akechi closer to Ren, but that isn’t as egregious as the decision to have him completely spearhead an investigation on Futaba’s uncle. Sojiro’s route and Futaba’s involvement with it are completely thrown out the window in favor of having Akechi take the spotlight in exposing her uncle. In the game, she actively encourages Ren to help her steal his distorted desires in Mementos, and has a full-on argument with Sojiro when he gets angry about the idea of Futaba working to get revenge on her uncle. Sojiro working through his relationship with Futaba as her foster father is one of the game’s deepest confidant plot lines as it hones in on the insecurity Sojiro has inside as not being good enough for Futaba despite encouraging any growth she’s made along the way. Instead of any of this, Futaba is forced back inside of her room while Akechi comes in to dig up dirt on Futaba’s uncle. The scene where Ren steps in front of Futaba to defend her from her uncle is written to have him go in front of Sojiro instead just because they couldn’t have bothered to involve Futaba in a story line that involves her. Having her straight up go after her uncle and tell him to stay away from Sojiro and her hold far more emotional weight to it than shoving her in her room like the anime did.
They also mashed up the events of Sojiro discovering the calling card Futaba received with his confidant event, resulting in a watered-down resolution that loses its impact. With the video game, it happens as a story event that paves the way for Sojiro trying to defend the Phantom Thieves to protect both Ren and Futaba. Sojiro is not only upset that Futaba received the calling card, but is also a Phantom Thief alongside Ren, who happens to be their leader. With the death threats and public witch-hunt and money reward, Sojiro would be horrified beyond belief. However, Futaba holds her ground and tells him that he wants to find her mother’s killer, knowing she has the power to be able to do it and that he should know more than anyone that her death wasn’t a coincidence. I am comparing it with the English version, but I still remember how amazing of a performance Erica Lindbeck did when she captured Futaba’s desperation to get to Sojiro in getting him to understand how significant the Phantom Thieves were to finding the missing piece to a puzzle she’s needed to find all of this time. The last exasperated “Sojiro…!” still rings in my head as I reflect on what a scene that was. The lengths it took for Sojiro to accept Futaba was saved by the Phantom Thieves, that she is a Phantom Thief, and the guy he swore he’d send to juvie at any point he does something wrong turns out to be their leader was a game-changer in showing just how dedicated Sojiro is to protecting Futaba and how much Ren has grown on him.
Because they cut that scene entirely and had Futaba lock herself away in her room while Akechi takes care of everything, we’re robbed of that moment. We’re robbed of much of the emotional connection we have to getting Sojiro and Futaba on better terms. And because the episode’s
resolution came from Futaba defending Sojiro from Child Services and calling him “father”, all of the calling card discovery moment is shrugged off and he passes it off by saying he connected the dots quickly that something was up. It’s deflated to the point of being an afterthought, and Futaba is robbed of the closure she was able to achieve by being involved with getting her uncle away from them and convincing Sojiro not to stop them right away from any new Phantom Thief developments to protect them.
For some of the successful mash-ups the anime has had with confidants, palaces, and story events, this has been one of the worst yet. While his confidant can be finished anytime, Sojiro’s concern for Futaba comes from having to come to terms with being more of a productive parent throughout the game and over the summer. It’s jarring to hear him open up about his parenting skills and see her uncle showing up this late in the anime when Futaba getting the calling card is far more of a concern at this point in the game. It might’ve fit better before going into the palace when public sentiment of the Phantom Thieves was at its lowest, but it feels out of place a quarter of the way through the palace when we’re already acquainted with Sae. I wished I could’ve gotten into Sojiro, his personal story with Futaba, and the genuine emotion that comes from seeing him opening up and tearing up at the thought of being considered a dad in a much different context. Hopefully at the very least, it’ll be much more amusing to check in next week and go in-depth into Sae Niijima, her palace, and its significance/meaning without the fear of it getting butchered by whatever additions they want to make to have us understand where Akechi is coming from.