Persona 5 The Animation Ep. 16: Out comes the hikikomori

My face when people say that Persona is just Pokemon for edgelords. 

— When the game came out, people were looking for any reason to champion their chosen waifus. The Makoto-stans pointed to this particular scene to rally their cause. See? See how she’s clinging to him? That means she’s the preferred waifu! I think that’s silly. She’s only in this position because she’s irrationally scared of nothing. And I hate that. I hate when writers create a strong female character, but then give her some weird phobia just so she can have her cute “moment.”

— Anyways, Sojiro finally spills the beans on his “daughter.” It might seem strange that a man totally unrelated to the girl could somehow get custody, but Futaba’s extended history is actually locked away in her social link.

— So Wakaba, Futaba’s mother, was a brilliant researcher in the field of cognitive psience. Yes, psience. For us, it’s a bunch of baloney. In the Persona world, however, this shit is as legit as it gets. Unfortunately, she apparently committed suicide one day (hint: she didn’t), and Futaba has closed her heart to the world ever since. Sad times. Recently, however, it looks as though the girl is suffering from hallucinations.

— As for Futaba’s father, he’s simply not in the picture. I guess Wakaba just had a fling or something.

— Side note: I didn’t know I could draw on the blackboard until my second playthrough.

— Yusuke is troubled. Sure, they could try and change Futaba’s heart, but haven’t they been exclusively targeting evil people up until now? It thus feels weird to go after a traumatized little girl. Morgana replies, however, that distorted cognition can be brought about by any number of things. Basically, you don’t have to be a rapey or greedy bastard to have a palace. Futaba’s fair game, man.

— I want to say upfront that I actually like Futaba’s story. I even teared up a bit at the very end. Having said that, from a thematic standpoint, I don’t think her palace fits in as neatly as it could have. The writers missed the mark on the hikikomori thing.

— Sure, we don’t have an evil villain to reform this time around, but if rehabilitation is the main theme of the game, then you could argue that we’re attempting to rehabilitate a hikikomori, individuals who have shut themselves off from society. The key here is that society isn’t blameless. Society plays a large role in why so many young Japanese people are discontent. The problem here is that Futaba is a shut-in largely due to a personal family issue. She blames herself for her mother’s death, so she thinks she deserves to die. There are plenty of Futabas out there. I won’t deny that. But this doesn’t really address the larger point of why most hikikomoris end up in their situation.

— I mean, if you try really hard, you could kinda make some tenuous connection to society by arguing that we always try to find a scapegoat? And as a result, Futaba is the scapegoat for her mother’s death? Ehhhhh.

— Look, Persona 5 is largely about reforming society. This is accomplished by attacking the pillars of that society, namely the teachers, mentors, businessmen, officials, and politicians of the world. To put it bluntly, Futaba doesn’t fall in that list. She just doesn’t. Now, if she had become a shut-in because she folded under academic pressure, then we could attack another large pillar of Japanese society. But the writers went for the emotional angle — the tragedy of a dead mother — so we ended up with this story instead. And for what it’s worth, they milk the hell out of it. But it still isn’t the right story for Persona 5.

— Yes, the Phantome Thieves.

— This is yet another cheap episode to animate. Just earlier, the anime literally did a slow zoom-in on Futaba’s closed door. Right now, we have the gang standing around in a hallway, gazing at Ren’s phone.

— This just means they’ll put all their animating budget into an important upcoming scene, right? If you’ve played the game, you know what I’m talking about.

— Damn, they didn’t freak out this hard in the game.

— Unfortunately, the anime decides to completely bypass the roadtrip in the catvan. We jump immediately to the entrance of the palace. How odd.

— Instead, we don’t get the fanservice until after they’ve already entered the palace. Um, okay. The scene in the catvan was funny, though.

— Yusuke simply admires all things beautiful.

— Speaking of which, he also says the darndest things.

— Sorry girl, but I have no interest in plundering a teenager’s tomb.

— After their first attempt to plunder Futaba’s tomb, we see the group hang out at the batting cages. That’s cool to see, because they definitely didn’t do that in the game. I have to nitpick our hero’s swing, though. He keeps opening up at the end instead of following through with his motion. You can’t hit the ball with any authority if you do that. Sorry, it just bugs me.

— More quality animation that we’ve come to expect from CloverWorks. In fact, I gotta remind myself to add this screenshot to the “My Eyes” section later.

— The adaptation really wants to highlight the creepiness of being haunted by your mother. Unfortunately, she just looks goofy here. Plus, no one with that bobcut can ever look threatening. Instead of looking like a scientist, Wakaba looks like a local art critic. There is nothing scary about art critics.

— As for the Futaba’s palace itself, I guess this is where the game’s difficulty made a jump. Kinda. Persona 5 is still an easy game compared to the rest of the SMT catalogue, but those Anubis enemies can be nasty if you’re unprepared. Up until now, the game has hammered into your brain that you need to exploit elemental weaknesses. Surprise, Anubis has none! Also, he’s level 37 when most of your party is probably in the high 20s when you first reach this palace. Another hot surprise! Last but not least, he likes to use Hama and Mudo spells. And despite being a modern game with a bevy of quality-of-life improvements over its predecessors, you still get a game over if Ren dies. I know it’s tradition. I know it’s the SMT way. But sorry, this is still bad game design. It’s the one thing I absolutely hate about the Persona series.

— I think you’re exaggerating a bit, Yusuke. While we’re on the topic, I wasn’t really a fan of these puzzles. They weren’t involved enough to be challenging. Just kind of a brief roadblock to break up the monotony of dungeon crawling.

— Oh, I remember this exact scene from the game! Unfortunately, CloverWorks doesn’t even bother to animate it. Yep, this is a still shot.

— After Wakaba committed suicide, a bunch of adults took her suicide letter and read it out loud to Futaba. The note pretty much blames the kid for everything. That sounds outrageous, doesn’t it? Why would adults do such a heinous thing? Well, maybe there’s something fishy about Wakaba’s death…

— This is why it’s even funnier to me that people continue to defend that Akechi guy. Don’t you guys love Futaba? Isn’t she just beneath Makoto in terms of popularity? Hey, don’t ask me. I would never waifu a sister type. All I’m saying is that it’s odd to me how people often forget that Akechi had murdered Wakaba.

— Man oh man, the adaptation really hones in on that maternity neurosis thing. As a result, Wakaba’s voice actress is trying her best to sound crazy, but it’s just… ugh, it’s laughably bad. She’s hamming the shit out of it.

— Speaking of bad voice acting, Ren has almost no emotion in his delivery. He also looks emotionless to boot. This is why you don’t do blank slate characters in adaptations. You get a voice actor like Fukuyama Jun and then tell him to act like a robot. I don’t get it. I just don’t.

— I somehow remember this scene being a lot funnier in the game. Maybe I’ve seen it too many times to laugh.

— But with that, the path to Futaba’s treasure is open. Unfortunately, this mean ol’ bird is going to stand in the way. We’ll tackle her in next week’s episode.

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