This episode rewinds back to the beginning of Summer vacation, only this time tells it from Yu’s point of view. A fox directs him to a part-time job tutoring a smart but unsociable boy, which leads to a job assisting with daycare, in which he accidentally breaks a $800 mecha toy he must then pay for. He also takes an mugged elderly woman to a hospital, where he meets a flirty but jaded nurse. He helps all of them in different ways, which explains all of the mysteries introduced in the last episode.
We were left last week with more “huh?s” than “ohs”, so we’re glad this second part explained everything that went on with Yu. It was quite a summer vacation, in which he touched the lives of numerous people for the better. Action, comedy, romance, drama…mom-on-mom smackdowns – all were on display in a very dense and bustling episode. As long as you’re okay with the fact this two-parter had next to nothing to do with Persona and could have been a part of any slice-of-life non-fantasy anime series, it was very well done. It all holds together brilliantly, and even if a few details are a little absurd, they were fun rather than dubious.
This episode didn’t forget about anything that happened last week, and wove all of the storylines he creates as summer progresses with surprising deftness. Every person he meets and who and what they are matters, and none of it would have worked without him knowing them. But on top of all this excellent weaving is the conclusion that all of this was a means for the fox to replace the umbrella Nanako lent him, which was destroyed by wind and a truck. The Fox met Yu, got him to take the job, and everything was set in motion. This was definitely a case of the means being more entertaining than the ends we saw last week.
Yu is always leaving home early and coming home late, but won’t tell anyone what he’s up to, so Nanako takes on the ‘persona’ of Magical Detective Loveline in order to tail him and find out the truth. It proves difficult, as she’s distracted numerous times, but eventually it’s made clear Yu is meeting and spending time with several women of various ages.
With the serial murderer case closed and school out, there’s not much to do, so this episode is pretty laid back, and many days pass relatively uneventfully. But this new, more lightweight mystery arises, and it’s up to Nanako – not the Persona gang – to solve it. Things continue to revove around Yu, only this time, from afar. As the audience we’re just as puzzled as his sister.
Still, we were able to construct a reasonable scenario from observing his behavior through Nanako. It seems he’s helping various women and mothers in some fashion. That’s about all we’ve got. But Nanako connects the dots after helping a fireworks maker dislodge food from his esophagus: this guy loves to see people smile because of his works, and Nanako suspects so does Yu, which is why he’s helping people. Meanwhile, all his friends are merely loafing around.
The gang enters the TV world after Mitsuo, which takes on the look of a video game. But shortly after confronting him and his shadow, time jumps forward to a time after he is defeated. The gang promises to hang out more, but as months pass, they all drift further apart until Yu is alone. After nearly four months, he is attacked by the shadow, and pulled back into the battle with him by Yosuke. Yu fires off a string of Personas until the shadow is bested, and Mitsuo is arrested. The group celebrates, and vows to stick together moving forward.
Meh. Perhaps it’s because we just finished up one of the best anime series – mystery or otherwise – we’ve ever seen in Penguindrum, but we can’t help but be a little disappointed in how this series turned out. The mystery was comparatively quite lame, and its resolution anticlimatic. The cast got far too big for a half-length series, and as a result, no one really got enough development. Subpar characters like Kuma got too much screen time, particularly this week, while Yu, who we’ve seen since the beginning, still possesses barely more personality than wallpaper paste.
This week, Yu descends into some kind of persistant illusion that makes him think all his friends are flaking out and abandoning him after the killer is found. What’s with his sudden insecurity? While a taciturn dude, his behavior thus far never struck us as socially awkward or anxious. It was nice to futz with time and reality, but the sudden transition was jarring to the point we thought it might be a mistake. As a regular episode, this is probably a 3, but the finish to a series-long mystery coulda, shoulda been better.
Another victim is killed, but never appeared on television, vexing the gang. Kuma comes through the TV into the real world with a new human form beneath his mascot suit. The detective, Naoto, reports the killer is in police custody, but doesn’t know who he is. Mitsuo, a loner who is stalking Yukiko, is suspicious, but then he shows up on the Midnight Channel.
Not a lot happened this week. There’s another victim, more half-hearted investigation by the gang, a belated introduction of Naoto the detective, and a couple appearances of a really creepy guy with blank eyes. And Kuma has a ridiculous human form now, which is…interesting. Oh yeah, the gang is treated to huge bowls of noodles and meat on the house, only to be charged afterward. In other words, this was an episodeloaf.
It was made from real episode parts, chopped and formed, but lacking a designated binder; an egg. But the loaf wasn’t completely devoid of nutrition. We at least now finally know who that detective kid is, even if he’s still pretty tight-lipped. What we don’t know is if the introvert Mitsuo is a genuine threat, or just another victim of whomever is throwing people into the TV and killing them. I’m sure we’ll find out though. And Naoto still needs a persona.
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.
Idol Kujikawa Rise, AKA Risette, is sick of her micromanaged, puppet-like life, and decides to quit and move to Inaba where her family runs a tofu shop. Her press conference appears on local TV, making her the next potential victim of the killer. Yu, Kosuke, Chie, Yukiko and Kanji both warn and keep an eye on her. In the course of their surveillance, they catch a real stalker who most likely isn’t the killer. But when Rise appears a second time on the Midnight Channel in her shadow persona, she is kidnapped.
Well, now, this should be interesting. Nobody who has accepted their shadow and gained a persona thus far has been a celebrity of the caliber of Kujikawa Rise – indeed, Yu Narukami is just about the blandest, least-flashy individual imaginable – meaning Rise not only has her shadow like everyone else, but that shadow exists in the real world as the fictional idol “Risette.” Worse still, she is the one everyone in the country knows and adores with all their heart. Not the real Rise.
Yu turns out to be the perfect guy to stand by Rise while the rest of the gang deals with the stalker: he met her before (in a hilarious scene where she first perceives him as a threatening stalker) but always lets her have the first and last say and move, to put her at ease. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Yu liked this chick, despite already being quite friendly with Miss Amagi (who again showed her weirder side this week). So yeah, this Rise has basically just released herself from her shadow’s real-life grip; only to be kidnapped and sent into the shadow world where she’ll presumably reconcile with it.
The gang goes on a school camping trip. They clean up a forest in tracksuits, and meet Konishi’s little brother, who has become isolated by her death. The girls stink at making curry. Yu and Yosuke are uncomfortable sleeping next to Kanji, Chie and Yukiko can’t sleep for their fat tentmate’s snoring, so the girls shack up with the guys, and then no one can sleep. The girls show a little skin. Kanji shares a night with the fat girl, but later she rejects him.
On numerous occasions, Yu simply asked the straightforward question no one wanted to ask, whether it comes to asking Naoki if he feels left out (he does), saying the curry iss bad (it is), or telling the girls they look good in the swimsuits Yosuke helpfully provided (they do). Yet when it comes to Kanji, for some reason he’s just as unreasonable and childish as Yosuke, only without any of the facial expressions. Is his ambiguous sexuality just going to be his singular characteristic from now on, despite the fact his encounter with the fat girl – and his insistence – put that to rest?
Anyway, yeah, this was a momentum-killing filler episode. We were hoping to learn a little more about the short kid with the tam or the third girl, but alas, we just got more of the same tired jokes at Kanji’s expense, and a whole lot of high school cliches thrown in for good measure. We get it; Yu and Yukiko like each other, as do Yosuke and Chie…but none of them will ever admit to each other ever, The End. The only notable (though awkwardly-shoehorned-in) nugget of info was something we’d already assumed: all the victims appeared on TV shortly before disappearing. But that just isn’t enough substance. We would have preferred more developments.
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?
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?
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!
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.
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?