Ao Haru Ride – 02

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When I think back on it, this show’s first episode had its protagonist in a very dark place. Of course, high school can be a dark place for a sizable chunk of youths; a place where you compromise and do what you have to do to just get through it; where you take advice given years ago about “always getting along with your friends” and you make that happen at any cost, because the alternative is being all alone.

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In other words, it’s a pact you make with yourself, and it’s a pact we thought Futaba would continue to honor for some time, both much to our chagrin and, evidently to Mabuchi’s as well. While he’s still hard to read, his words to Futaba about Asumi and Chie being “friends in name only” created a small fissure in the “High School Armor” she’d spent so much time and effort polishing; getting lost in its sheen and forgetting important things like emotional connections and trust.

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Those cracks spread when Futaba finds Makita—a girl who acts all cutesy around guys like she used to and pays for it by having to eat outside in the cold, alone—to have a perfectly reasonable explanation for why she acts the way she does—because that’s just who she is. She’d rather bear the petty ire of her peers than cease being her natural self. She doesn’t deserve the treatment she’s getting, but no one said high school was fair.

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That’s when Futaba, with her now badly-cracked armor, sits down with Asumi and Chie, and she suddenly can’t suffer any more bile directed at Makita. The real Futaba bursts out of the tatters of that false armor, giving her “friends” a thorough piece of her mind, thereby losing them in the process. But good riddance: real friends should be able to be themselves around one another. Futaba couldn’t be that around them, so they weren’t meant to be friends.

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She realizes this too, so it doesn’t hurt much when her relationship with the other two girls is officially rescinded. But while she lost those two vapid gossips, she gained a lot more: the respect, attention, and even affection of Mabuchi Kou (who she finally starts calling “Kou” rather than Tanaka, since that’s his name now), a new, real friend in Makita…and our regard as well. I gotta say; girl did good this week. I’m glad Kou realized that too, giving her a cute hug through the window, shielding her teary-eyed face from passersby.

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Her gesture to cast away the artifice of “getting along at any cost” and its fallout may have been modest in the grand scheme of things, but right here and now, in the jungles of high school, it was a significant, life-altering achievement. And no doubt Mabuchi was a catalyst for that change, whether he intended to be or not. I’m now hopeful there’s something about him that she can fix…no need to keep things one-sided!

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Persona 4: The Animation – 06

Yu, Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko spend Golden Week and after hanging out, investigating the murders. They learn that the next next victim is a n’er-do-well classmate of theirs named Tatsumi Kanji, whom they tail. However, they prove most un-stealthy, and are forced to run from the furious delinquent on more than one occasion.

Ah Persona 4…the show that takes its time and hangs out at outdoor food courts. For the second straight week, we don’t see a lick of underworld or supernatural goings-on, save the brief Midnight Channel sequences. But rather than focusing on a new character (who doesn’t reappear here), this episode is mostly just about the gang bonding and having adventures with one another in the real world. This episode reminds us that these four are still getting to know one another for the most part. Yu and Yosuke don’t even have Yukiko’s number until now.

Their attempts to tail Kanji make for a good deal of slapstick comedy, including a Chie and Yosuke blowing their own cover by having such a loud conversation, to Chie having beef bowls delivered to her in the middle of being chased by Kanji, which was quite amusing. It was nice to see the show let its hair down a little before diving right back into the underworld and personas, though Yu remains a ridiculously wooden character whose performance is laid back almost to a fault. Also, what’s with the school’s lax dress code?


Rating: 3

Persona 4: The Animation – 05

With Yukiko safe and sound, Chie notices Yu isn’t worn out from all the exertion, and so shanghais him into the basketball club, led by a guy called Ichijo and managed by Ebihara Ai, who falls in love with Ichijo. However, Ichijo loves Chie, so Yu is shanghai’d into service as Ai’s backup boyfriend, which angers Chie. The team loses what’s to be Ichijo’s last game, but he decides not to quit after all. Inspired by his performance and drive, Ai dumps/releases Yu and decides to try harder at being manager.

And so here’s our first Persona episode with no Midnight Channel, no walking through the TV, no battles, no summoning, and (thankfully) no Teddy with his awful not-puns. And while Yu can control more than one Persona, more than one lady is another story, amarite? Haha, but seriously, even though we’ve dived deep into the subconscious of the core quartet and seen their dark sides, here we have a character who has the good person hidden inside, at first. She’s bratty, selfish, vain, and impulsive (we like her!), and leads Yu around by the nose. Yu, for his part, really was the ultimate pushover this week. Why don’t the personas control him?

But Yu’s a Nice Guy, so he goes along with it, and his kindness and that of Ichijo’s eventually brings out her better side: the same one that has previously worked so hard to transform herself from a taunted fat kid to an undeniable beauty. (A somewhat cathartic cat fight with Chie probably doesn’t hurt, either ;). It’s no big deal for Yu the Yenta twhen she cuts him loose, having gotten over her stuff; after all, he and the rest of the PerScooby gang still have that mystery to solve. Romance can wait, right?


Rating: 3.5

Persona 4: The Animation – 03

Yukiko goes missing after appearing on the Midnight Channel very much out of character. Chie races into the otherworld after her, followed close behind by Yu and Yosuke. Once there, Chie is confronted by her doppleganger, who is full of jealosy and resentment for Yukiko, and is content to use her as a doormat. After a battle, the foe morphs into Chie’s first persona, but Yukiko remains at large.

So, we kinda knew this episode would be about Chie gaining her Persona, and we kinda knew that her relationship with Yukiko was not all smiles and sunshine beneath the surface. Chie is a bit of a tomboy, and Yukiko is far more popular with the lads, it would seem. There’s a dark side to us all, and even strong, kind Chie has hers. Unfortunately, her entire battle with that dark side and the monster it turned into was a bit of a dawdle. It was strangling Yosuke far longer than was needed to kill him, for instance, and once Yu summoned the right Persona, dispatching her was, well, really easy.

But then, Persona is a game-based anime, and things start out easy, so it’s understandable. The execution of Chie’s confrontation with herself was fine, although the dopplegangers come off as petty, arrogant assholes more than dire threats to one’s self. And as always, the chemistry between Chie, Yu and Yosuke remains strong; they’re gelling well as both friends and comrades in battle, and are fun to watch. And there’s still a Yukiko to be saved, though lord knows where she is. Her performance on the Midnight Channel was downright bizarre, and we couldn’t make heads nor tails about it. Ah well, next week. Till then, don’t brandish swords in public places!


Rating: 3.5

Persona 4: The Animation – 02

Another girl dies, and this time it’s Yosuke’s crush Konishi, after he sees her on the Midnight Channel. Yosuke and Yuu go back to the otherworld in the TV at Junes, where Yosuke meets a doppelganger containing a side of him he’s been trying to suppress, who he then defeats with help from Yuu and Izanagi. Yosuke then gains a persona ability, and the two promise to solve the murders and find the culprit responsible.

We’ll be frank: we’re not big fans of the crazy-ass bear thing who’s always including bear puns with his lines. He had too much to say this week, and we hope to see him as little as possible in the future. Why would an otherwise classy-and-cool looking series decide to design something so…silly? We would have preferred a more lifelike talking bear to him. Like Gentle Ben.

Other than the bear-thing, this was a great episode, following up the developments of last week by making the week’s victim not only everyone is familiar with, but someone Yosuke’s in love with, making him face his inner turmoil. Death is very quiet and sudden in this show; there’s no blood or gore to announce it, it happens off-screen, in the shadows, which while less viseral, makes it more mysterious. Naturally, we can’t have Yuu the only one who can wield power, so Yosuke gets his own persona, and Chie probably isn’t far off from getting hers.


Rating: 3.5

Persona 4: The Animation – 01



Narukami Yu arrives in a new town to attend school while his parents are working abroad and live with his uncle, a local detective. He meets his new classmates, Chie, Yosuke and Yukiko, who go on about the “midnight channel”, in which staring at a TV on a rainy midnight will reveal one’s soul mate. Yu tries it and is nearly sucked in. He does it again with Chie and Yosuke watching, and all three enter an alternate plane where they’re met by a frekish bear thing and foes called shadows. Yu then beseeches the voice that had been in his head all along and releases a persona to fight off the baddies.

Our only previous exposure to the Persona franchise was the Trinity Soul video game for PS2, which we’ve never played, but have watched a friend play. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to know anything ahead of time to enjoy this series, which we did, quite a bit. It lulled a bit from the cryptic teaser to the introductions of the cast, but as the episode progressed it got far more interesting, dense and entertaining. It had a lot of video game-like qualities, is kinda scored like one, and features transitions of the date and weather whenever the day changes. The alternate plane has a nice slick whimsy, with just a touch of peril so it isn’t just silly.

This series is being directed by Seiji Kishi, who was also at the helm of Angel Beats! and Kamisama Dolls, while Yui Horie (Yuki-onna) lends her lively, expressive voice to Chie. A word on uniforms: they’re pretty off-the-wall. Black with contrast stitching resembling tailor’s marks and houndstooth collars and skirts. The character design is simple but has a nice edge to it, to go with the certain je nais sais qoui appeal of the overall aesthetic of the show. The opening and ending sequences also rock, there’s great budding chemistry amongst the lead cast and a sense of impending adventure afoot. Let’s see where this goes, shall we?


Rating: 4