Persona 4: November 21st – December 3rd (Dramatic Turns)

Last time I made a new social link, but I still don’t have them all. This time, the plot continues… maybe?

This time, the fog persists past the evening and into the morning of the 21st. The team is reading the newspaper, which says Namatame has conveniently just woken up from his fortnight-long coma to give his statement to the police. Were all the rescuees in comas for that long too?

YOSUKE: So it’s finally over…

“I know we said that last time, but this time it’s definitely true!” Please let Namatame be another fakeout, please please please. He knew more than Mitsuo, but still seemed confused about the nature of the Midnight Channel, so it is possible there’s more going on. Let me hope.

And Adachi shows up, right on cue. He says Nanako has recovered enough to allow visitors, and Namatame is still being questioned. He also says that according to his diary, Namatame was creeping on Saki, which might be more surprising if we hadn’t spent the whole game establishing everyone in this town is a pedophile. Yosuke pretends to be upset about this.

Okay, Farla proposes a theory: Namatame’s also a copycat killer. He didn’t kill Yamano and Saki, but after they died, he noticed the pattern that it’s people who appear on TV, and tried pre-emptively kidnapping people to protect them from the real murderer. And will you look at that, thanks to our efforts, no one has died since — from his perspective, his plan worked perfectly.

After school we visit Nanako, who’s happy to see John. Dojima is no longer bedridden, but still injured enough to need a wheelchair. The doctor says they still don’t know the cause of Nanako’s condition, so anything could happen. Huh, but the rescuees all got a clean bill of health from the doctors. It could just be that she’s more susceptible because she’s so young, or it could be interacting with her mystery illness.

Dojima says he hopes Nanako can come back home soon, but Adachi says it’s safer for her to stay here.

DOCTOR: It’s true. The number of patients complaining about fog-related health problems has increased…

Wait, so the fog is harmful? I thought that was just a rumor with no evidence. Are we doing the rumors coming true thing again? This would probably make more sense if we were actually watching the TV reports. Oh, and I can indeed ask, “Isn’t that just a rumor?” The doctor says it might be placebo effect, but isn’t certain. What’s more concerning is that the fog has delayed the arrival of medical supplies.

DOJIMA: Fog-related medical problems… Now that’s just ridiculous.

Oh, unlike kidnapping people with TVs?

For now, it seems you can only watch and wait to see how things will turn out…

God, these have to be the laziest kids ever. “Watch and wait” has been their approach to everything, up to and including a direct threat from the culprit. This is not special.

We cut to gossiping housewives gossiping about the fog.

PASSING HOUSEWIFE: They say an old man was driving through the fog and got into an accident.
SHOPPING HOUSEWIFE: What? Did he lose control?
PASSING HOUSEWIFE: Well, he’d never been in an accident or gotten a ticket before, so something seems off… Isn’t that scary?

These people must be so bored to be grasping at the thinnest of straws like this.

SHOPPING HOUSEWIFE: I’ve even heard there are experts saying it’s poisonous.

Who are these “experts”? The same people who told the students Saki was poisoned? Where is this rumor coming from? The housewife also speculates the fog might be due to global warming. After this a man in a gas mask runs around screaming the fog is filled with viruses, so I guess that’s their “expert”. Then the same housewife who just said “experts” claim it’s poisonous says he’s being ridiculous. What is consistency? Then the other housewife thinks she’s coming down with something, which I would chalk up to placebo effect.

The fog still persists the next day, and the usually perky town music has changed to a spooky track! The Junes theme song still overrides it, though. And… apparently I can go into the TV world as normal, even though it’s supposed to be deadly when Inaba is foggy?

I hang out with Naoto. She’s determined that both cards came from Shiroku Store, and talking with the owner confirmed the person who gave me the first card bought both, making them the burglar. Naoto figures out the cards have invisible ink on them, heats them to reveal a riddle pointing to a mailbox, behind which is the stolen goods: a toy detective’s badge Naoto made as a child. I think it’s pretty certain at this point this was a family servant trying to give her enrichment. Naoto blushes when I offer to help her investigate further, because she is that starved for positive attention.

…And no one else is available the next day, so I hang out with Naoto again. This time I guess the riddle’s meaning incorrectly, but Naoto figures it out anyway, and finds another one of her childhood toys (a digital watch she modified to function as a blinding light) at the specified location. She explains she had tomboyish pursuits as a child, and laments that if she had been born male her life would have been easier. I can see why people might read a trans narrative into this, but the Culture Festival demonstrated there is no way these writers would have written a trans person this sympathetically, so I can’t read it as such. And indeed, she’s happy when I say her gender doesn’t matter… and then blushes and stammers a bunch, because the writers have to remind us that girls must be pathetic and emotionally incompetent even when they’re ace detectives.

On the 25th I decide I may as well do the bike ride mechanic I’ve been neglecting. My option for today is Yosuke, and I offer to take him to the hot springs. He says he’s never gone to the hot springs with friends before. …We just had a plotline about all of us going to the Amagi Inn springs together. Were they expecting players to do this before then? For our outing he gets Panic Boost, which is theoretically useful because Panic is actually really strong in this game, but it’s not better than his other skills. I feel like these bonus skill mechanics are really hamstrung by how strictly limited the skill inventory is; it’s just not feasible for me to permanently give up something as universally useful as Wind Boost or Masukukaja for something as situational as Panic Boost. If you could freely switch skills out like in DDS or DeSu (still the best SMT) there would be no issue, but for some reason Persona refuses to do that.

On the 26th some students gossip about the fog, revealing the rumor mill has jumped from “maybe the fog is because of global warming” to “the world is ending, and global warming is because of Original Sin.” Was that different in Japanese? I’m not sure Christianity has enough of a presence in Japan for the average Japanese person to care about original sin. Because John is the worst detective, he just walks past and ignores the rest of their conversation.

I go on a date with Kanji. He says Rise stopped by the store the other day, and he told her he made the dolls. She proceeded to be a raging dickhead and told him he was a creep, but Kanji kept showing her his stuff because he is a kicked puppy with no spine. Well, I guess now we know where the girls shaming him for his interests are coming from. What the hell, Rise? I wish I could talk to her about this so I could throttle her for it. It’s annoying that they can have other characters show up in social links, but we can’t interact with these cross-character threads at all.

KANJI: I’ve just been throwin’ in the towel all this time. Of course no one could understand me… I been keepin’ my distance outta fear. So I decided I’d do things my way, no matter how tough, but… It ain’t just about hanging out with guys who understand you and telling the rest to get bent… You gotta make an effort if you want people to understand you. I wasn’t even trying.

This sounds nice, but it doesn’t match his behavior at all. He’s been clinging to Yosuke like a lost puppy even though Yosuke makes no attempt to understand him and in fact is an unrelenting monster to him. This does match what we’ve seen of his behavior towards strangers, but he blew his top at the male cops too, so that’s not gendered either. The writers’ attempt to insist this is a gendered thing just is not borne out.

He does, at least, also say he now fully accepts his Shadow as part of him. Does that mean he’s accepted his sexuality too, or are the writers trying to say his homosexuality was born of his character flaws and that’s also something he’s supposed to overcome? Ugh, I don’t even know.

I can’t find a Wikipedia article for this guy, so I think he’s probably a downgrade from a god.

On Sunday I check Tanaka’s latest deals only to discover he’s pandering to the hysteria with gas masks and disaster prep, similar to what he did in Persona 3’s endgame. Farla speculates that he’s the “expert” everyone’s getting the rumors from, which probably isn’t intended but sounds plausible. We’d know for certain if the game would actually let us watch TV!

Finals begin. Yosuke says there’s more important things to worry about, but the game obviously thinks that’s a filthy lie. On the last day I hear gossiping students say that the Midnight Channel can be viewed even when it’s not raining now. Dang it, I should have been checking that. John ignores this and just walks past them, because he’s a terrible detective. The next day, Kanji picks up the group braincell and discovers that their glasses let them see through the fog, so it must be related to the fog from the TV world.

Then this shows up out of nowhere. O…kay? I feel like this would have more meaning if the game hadn’t been so committed to railroading me this entire time. Why is saving here so important when my choices clearly don’t matter?

The team meets up after school to discuss the situation, because this just had to wait until after exams.

CHIE: Hey, here’s a story about the fog. Ummm… “Some specialists are raising concerns that this fog may consist of harmful substances…

Again, what specialists? Did they actually test it in a lab or is this just more baseless speculation? Teddie also confirms the fog feels like the TV world’s fog. Why didn’t he notice this earlier?

NAOTO: There’s another item of note here… A summary of Namatame’s career, with details about the case. “…The suspect was having an affair with the first victim. It seems she was killed due to relationship troubles. Also in April, Ms. Saki Konishi’s body was discovered. The police are looking into a motive for the murder.” […] It seems Namatame is still confined to his hospital bed, so further interrogation has yet to commence.

Wow, this is such riveting storytelling. I’m so glad we aren’t playing as the police doing the interrogation, that would be so much more boring than this. (Also interesting that they don’t mention a motive for Saki’s murder when Adachi gave us one.)

Naoto goes on to note that because of the supernatural elements, the police may not have enough evidence to convict Namatame. This leads to a rant from the characters about how terrible it is that the police have to go through due process to convict people. My understanding is that Japanese police are even more corrupt than ours, so that’s pretty rich.

YOSUKE: They better not dismiss something this serious because of some mental issues…

So I did not see this part myself because I’m not wasting any more of my life on Persona 2, but apparently in the Persona 2 rerelease there was a new plot arc that was a long author rant about mentally ill criminals getting off too easily. Can’t help but wonder if this is the same writer or if there’s something in the water at Atlus.

John remembers he promised Nanako he’d buy a new kotatsu, so the team goes shopping to get Nanako presents. Teddie whines about how he’ll have to go back to the TV world now that the case is closed. Oh, no. Yosuke immediately declares he can stay because everyone loves him so much, and in fact he can stay at my place! You do not speak for me, Yosuke. Then Adachi calls to say Nanako’s condition suddenly got worse, so we rush to the hospital.

WOMAN’S VOICE: Doctor, this fog is poisonous, isn’t it? Isn’t it filled with viruses? They said so on TV! Isn’t there a vaccine or something for it!?
NURSE’S VOICE: Calm down, please. That’s just a rumor…
MAN’S VOICE: Don’t tell me to calm down! You’re lying! We know you have medicine for this!

Boy howdy is this timely with COVID. Although at least these conspiracy nuts believe in vaccines. Dojima is also arguing with the doctor:

DOJIMA: I don’t give a damn about myself! Do something about Nanako–

“I don’t care if I leave her an orphan! Would kind of prefer it, now that I think about it!”

Everyone’s banished to the waiting room. Adachi shows up and Yosuke asks about Namatame; Adachi confirms what the team already concluded, they can’t make the charges stick.

ADACHI: And the whole angle about him putting people into TVs… There’s no way that’ll hold up in court.

Yes there is, just let us shove our hand into TV in front of the whole court. Why does everyone act like this is impossible to prove? Kanji flips out at Adachi for acting so calm, and–

OH MY GOD KANJI YOU ARE THE BEST CHARACTER THANK YOU SO MUCH. Unfortunately, before he can follow through a nurse interrupts us to tell us we need to see Nanako.

And… Nanako actually dies. Wow.

I should be feeling emotional, but all I can think of is how the game told me I “did everything I could” by rescuing her as early as possible, after it acted like my choices mattered during the Namatame confrontation, but of course my choices never mattered. It wanted to kill the little girl for cheap pathos and nothing I do is allowed to change that.

The one detail I do like is that Dojima arrives too late to see her last moments, because Dojima is always too late for Nanako. I wonder if he’s going to kill himself to traumatize John further… No, instead he runs off to kill Namatame, since he’s at the same hospital.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”
ADACHI: In case something like this happened! The details of a suspect’s hospitalization are confidential information…

Yet he’s been so loose-lipped about confidential information before.

We cut to Teddie crying over Nanako, because for some reason the doctors let him stay with the body. Ooh, is he going to sacrifice himself to revive Nanako? Please, please do something good for once in your life, Teddie. …No, instead it just cuts to Dojima outside Namatame’s room screaming that the rules don’t apply to him because he’s police.

DOJIMA: Give me back Nanako… Give her back! She’s… She’s all I have! She’s… the only one… in the world…

Wow, tell me how you really feel, Dojima. I guess John means nothing to him after all. He tires himself out, so the police guards escort him back to his room… conveniently leaving the room unguarded when we get there. Yosuke rants about how, y’know, maybe a little extrajudicial murder would be justified, we hear a noise in Namatame’s room.

…They left a giant TV in his room. Okay, these idiots deserve whatever they get. Apparently it’s so that we can see the Midnight Channel come on, because we were somehow in this hospital for like 6 hours? (Farla: “Clearly there’s time dilation going on, that’s why it takes a whole day to go on a single date.”) This time, it shows Namatame’s Shadow, who is remarkably more coherent than he was before. He claims the reason Nanako died is because we got in his way, even though that’s not how it worked with the other rescuees. Chie says this deranged rambling proves he’s not deranged, because this game runs on opposite logic. (Namatame also appears genuinely confused by what his Shadow is saying.) Shadow Namatame tries taunting them into killing him for some reason.

OTHER NAMATAME: I’ll continue “saving” people… It’s my mission…!

And now all of a sudden he’s saying “saving” in scare quotes, as if he knows he’s actually killing people. So Shadows can lie?

Yosuke flips out and says he is going to actually kill Namatame here and now. Hm… if we did that, we’d be the ones going to jail. If Adachi is the real culprit and he knows we’re the ones rescuing people, that sure would be a tidy way to get rid of us… and he made sure to tell us exactly where to go after removing the guards. Naoto proposes that actually, we could avoid consequences the same way he did: murder him by TV. The other girls shrink from this, but Yosuke gives a long and impassioned rant giving us an ultimatum to either help shove him in or look the other way while he does it.

Hm. I would say that under these circumstances I do think extrajudicial murder could be justified… but this is way too fishy and he’s not only insane but clearly wants us to kill him. Also, Yosuke is really jumping the gun here: He’s not going to go straight back to kidnapping people tomorrow if we let him live, he is still going to have to go through a lengthy trial and he will be in jail that whole time. (And let’s be real, with the way the Japanese justice system works, if it does go to trial he’s definitely getting convicted.) I can’t say all of this, but I do get a third option to saying we’re “missing something.” And… Yosuke demands multiple follow-up questions, wow. I think I fail them because Yosuke just blows me off after the second one. Why am I not allowed to point out we already made this exact same mistake with Mitsuo? This does, however, give the girls time to chime in that revenge is wrong uwu so Yosuke is successfully talked down.

YUKIKO: So what if there’s another crime!? We can still save people, like we always have!

We didn’t save Nanako. This would make a lot more sense if Nanako hadn’t died and Yosuke was just flipping out over Saki.

…Actually, never mind, because when everyone heads back to Nanako’s room, she’s actually alive! WTF, game. (I notice Teddie isn’t in the room. Please tell me he sacrificed himself.)

DOCTOR: Nanako-chan came around!

“We’re terrible doctors who can’t tell what dead people look like!”

DOCTOR: It’s very rare to be resuscitated after one’s heart and lungs fail, but it does happen.

Then why didn’t you immediately perform CPR, you morons?

At this point people notice Teddie’s disappeared. He left a totally-not-a-suicide-note that he’s decided to go back to the TV world. Oh, no.

Then… we suddenly skip to March? Wait, so this is an alternate ending? Was I supposed to kill Namatame? It cuts to John watching a TV report.

ANNOUNCER: Defendant Taro Namatame has confessed to committing the multiple kidnappings that previously seemed irrelevant. However, he continues to flatly deny his involvement in the first two murders.

Holy crap, is Farla’s theory actually right?!

The weather report says that the fog is still persistent, though it’s thinning with the advent of spring. Dojima says that Nanako is somehow still in the hospital after three months. I’d be a little concerned about that, but okay! He pointedly asks if I had any regrets over the last year, and I play dumb. Then the investigation team sees John off on the train, and… credits roll.

I reload and this time I murder Namatame. The girls, to their very slight credit, agree to stay and watch me do it instead of looking the other way. Things play out similarly, but notably, Nanako does not revive this time. So Namatame’s presence borks whatever Teddie did? The final report obviously has much less information, only telling us that Namatame’s death was officially ruled a suicide, and this time Dojima implies that he knows we did it and supports our extrajudicial murder. Truly a cop.

Okay, third time around, let’s see if I can intuit what the game wants me to say:

YOSUKE: We don’t have time to wait! If we don’t do this now, the cops’ll come back! What’re you trying to say?

My options: “We’re missing something.” | “Leave him for the police.” | “This won’t change anything.” I pick the first option.

YOSUKE: Something we don’t know…? What don’t we know!?

Four options this time: “Whether he’ll kill again.” | “Whether revenge is right.” | “Namatame’s true feelings.” | “Whether he can be tried.” I think all except the second are things we don’t know, but I pick his true feelings, as I think that’s the biggest unknown here.

YOSUKE: But we just heard the guy’s true feelings on TV! What didn’t you understand!?

His Shadow’s true feelings were definitely to suicide by cop, which is a red flag. Annoyingly I can’t say this, only: “Why he’s scared.” | “Something’s still bothering me.” | “He can still repent…” | “I actually don’t know.” I guess that last one’s just there if you want to back out and pick a different option. Initially I asked why he’s scared, which just made Yosuke whine that that doesn’t matter, so this time I pick the wishy-washy second option.

YOSUKE: Well, what is it!? I already told you, there’s no time to waste! Are you even getting at something here, or are you just stalling!?

Yeah, this does honestly sound like stalling. Am I ever going to make an actual deduction here? My options: “…I got nothing.” | “He could escape via the TV.” | “We’re missing something.” First option is surrender, second option seems pretty obviously wrong (Teddie controls the only exit), so I guess we’ll keep stalling.

YOSUKE: Missing…? Like what exactly? Dammit… I’ve heard enough of this bullshit! Give me a straight answer! Are we doing this or not!? That’s all I give a damn about right now!

Never thought I’d say this, but I sympathize with Yosuke. This is infuriating. My options: “I can’t do it.” | “Calm the hell down!” | “I’m sorry…” None of those are good options! Uh, second one? I end up yelling at everyone, not just Yosuke, and Namatame groans again. As with the last time I tried this this lets the girls get a word in edgewise and talk Yosuke down, but this time I can keep talking about the loose ends… by which I mean Naoto can keep talking about the loose ends, because now after suggesting the murder in the first place she suddenly says actually she’s not 100% sure he’s the guy. Coulda been real helpful if you said that when I was trying to talk Yosuke down on my own, Naoto. Even she doesn’t give specifics, though, just that we haven’t heard Namatame’s own testimony of events. But he’s still incoherent, so… we’re just going to wait to talk to him later, I guess?

So wow, the correct choice was to be a waffling idiot and say I don’t know why I’m objecting instead of giving specifics, because why let the player do any detectiving in a mystery game. God forbid the player actually put anything together without being spoonfed by you, game.

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