Persona 4: The Animation – 10

Rise is swept into the TV world, and the gang goes in to rescue her. Kuma leads them to a strip club where Rise’s shadow is holding her captive, along with all the other Rises she’s been throughout her career as a model and idol. Rise makes the mistake of denying her shadow’s existence, and it morphs into a powerful boss that scans all the gang’s personas and renders them all neutral. Kuma has to step in to save Rise, who comes then acknowledges her other self and gains a persona. Then Kuma’s other self appears and nearly kills him, but Rise and Yu save him with their personas, and he gains his own as well.

Well, why not kill two birds with one stone? This episode didn’t waste much time setting up the now very familiar persona-gaining sequence with Rise, but also did it with Bear, which was a surprise. While we’ve not been his biggest fans, this episode showed as no other that he has his uses, much like the non-human character in any given RPG. His unique nature makes him impervious to Rise’s shadow’s scans. This took us back to many an instance when a boss scanned us and we knew they were about to nullify all of our buffs, the bastards.

Rise’s shadow is predictably complex, with its initial form cleverly comprising all the ‘personas’ she’d appropriated during her career. Having been all these different people, it makes sense that her shadow would have that scanning ability. The shadow’s defeat and absorption into a card was a bit rushed, but it’s good to simply get Rise on the team so we can perhaps move on with the killer thing. We’re not crystal clear on Kuma’s problems, but I guess they have something to do with his fear of abandonment/disappearing as well as not knowing what he is or why or how he exists. We didn’t get why the cait sith existed either, but we liked him.

Rating: 3.5

Tamayura ~hitotose~ – 10

Kaoru tries to get everyone together on a Sunday for undisclosed reasons, but they all have plans, doing what they’ve chosen to do. Kao-tan begins to falter in what she wants to do, and doesn’t want to bother her friends with her half-hearted efforts, but Norie and the the others pick up on this. At her sister Soyomi’s behest they arrange a surprise party to cheer her up, and she declares her plans: to create an grand exhibition, including Potte’s photography, Norie’s sweets, Maon’s live whistling, and her own fragrances.

We never thought I’d hear the bawdy, animated Norie saying something like “It’s not good for this chaos to persist!” or for Kaoru to be led across town at bamboo vinegar-filled gunpoint, or for her friends to stage an intervention for her. But all this happens. This is a Kaorucentric episode. We’re with her as she gloomily frets about whether she’s doing the best she can. Norie later scolds her for worrying about meeting some kind of standard; what’s important is to do your best and have fun.

It’s a pretty common theme in anime for a girl to feel like she’s “no good” or even “the worst”, and while we can hear her thoughts, Kaoru’s outward behavior is really not all that different from her normal self. Still, Norie has known her far too long, and knows something is amiss almost immediately. She, along with Potte, Maon, and Soyomi, waste no time prodding her to let out whatever it is is on her mind, which turned out to be the proposal of an exhibition, which will combine everyone’s myriad talents into a unified whole. Funny, I’ve never taken her for an exhibitionist…

Rating: 3.5

Un-Go – 09

Renroku Kaishou agrees to make a rare public appearence on a panel TV show debating the nationalization of the energy industry. Kaishou ducks out for a commercial break, and the entire studio explodes in an apparent act of terrorism. All the other panelists, many at odds with Renroku’s politics, are killed. His daughter Rie, who was watching him on live TV, is startled to see him at home, unharmed – a practical impossibility. Shinjurou determines that Bettenou’s reality-bending powers are at work, making lies true and vice versa, underlining how dangerous she can be if unfettered.

Good detective stories have enough twists and turns in them as they run their course from a crime being committed to that crime being solved. But introducing supernatural elements like a girl who can make anyone’s senses show them anything she wants add even more depth and complexity. Watching episodes of such complex and dynamic mystery can be unnerving, even exasperating, because you’re simply not sure who’s telling the truth and who’s after what. But it’s also why we’re so hooked on this show: sometimes its nice to not have everything spelled out.

And nothing is this week. Renroku Kaishou is an exceedingly enigmatic man; he’s pretty damn good at what he does, but it’s inferred or implied that he may have a dark side to him. He keeps his cards close, never revealing to anyone what he’s really about, even his daughter. Similarly, while we pretty much knew the ‘novelist’ wanted – to make awesome reality novels – we’re way more in the dark about what Bettenou wants. Does she just want chaos? Conflict? A resumption of the war that proceeded this series? We just don’t know. With two episodes remaining, we may well never know. But with Un-Go, not all questions need firm answers. Just enjoy the ride.

Rating: 3.5