Persona 4: October 21st – October 30th (Culture Festival)

That evening, I get a letter from the killer demanding I don’t rescue people anymore, then I get… an anime cutscene of someone alone in a room furiously scribbling names and ranting about how he’s going to “protect” people from the world? That doesn’t track at all, the culprit clearly knows he’s killing people. Or is this another fakeout? The cutscene was voiced, but it didn’t sound like Adachi.

I show the letter to the team the next morning. The game won’t even tell me if it’s handwritten or typed. Yosuke asks if I showed it to Dojima, and I can only say no.

NAOTO: Senpai… Dojima-san is trustworthy, but it may be best to keep this to ourselves.

WHY. Okay, she does follow this up with an explanation for once: “If he were to put you under surveillance, our hands would be tied.” Or you could just show him the incontrovertible evidence you’re the only one who can stop the killer. Naoto notes that the fact it was addressed to us by name shows us the killer knows who we are. My question is, why did it take him this long to figure it out? Farla proposes that maybe he’s always known, and is only doing something this stupid because we’ve frustrated him so much.

NAOTO: I’d have this letter checked at a crime lab if I could… But even then, I doubt they’d find anything.

They would if it’s handwritten!

CHIE: So it’s useless to tell the police… In fact, that would make things worse.

You are the worst detectives. You know what would be a reasonable argument here? If they suspected the culprit had a mole with the police (Adachi). Instead they’re just declaring we can’t use the police’s vast resources to solve this case for no reason.

YUKIKO: But how could the killer know so much about us?

Because you’re infosec nightmares who refuse to stop blabbing in public spaces? Because of that, there isn’t even evidence this is the killer. It could just be some rando screwing with us.

YOSUKE: Wait… Every time we went to the other side to rescue someone, did we end up on the Midnight Channel ourselves…?

I thought this myself but no, clearly not. The gossip queens have consistently gossiped about the subjects of the Midnight Channel, but never about you. Oh, Chie actually points this out. Good on you, Chie. Then everyone decides there’s no point in worrying about it and they should just passively wait for the killer’s next move like they’ve been doing, because they’re idiots.

CHIE: Mind if I change the subject, then? The Culture Festival’s just around the corner.

God if this line doesn’t represent the entire game. We may be about to die, but the Culture Festival!

I think I need to emphasize something: By this point in Persona 3, the game I complained about having an empty and extremely backloaded plot, one of the main characters had been murdered. The autumn midterms were used as twisted juxtaposition between the banality of mundane life and the danger of the supernatural plot, with the characters explicitly saying how messed up it was that they had to go back to classes like nothing happened after watching their friend die. In Persona 4, the midterms are filler that segues into more filler.

RISE: Hey Senpai, have you decided who you’ll be going around the campus with during the festival? My schedule’s still wide open, you lucky guy!

Oh good, I’ll tell Teddie that! (Alas, I don’t actually get a response option.)

The scene ends and I STILL DON’T KNOW IF IT’S HANDWRITTEN.

In the evening I rank up with Nanako.

NANAKO: I gave [the photo] back to Dad. He looked happy and smiled at me. Big bro… I love my Dad.

This kid’s standards are so low.

NANAKO: Dad loves Mom. …I feel sorry for him, losing someone he loves.
“I feel sorry for you, too.”
NANAKO: I have Dad, though.

Do you, though? Do you really? And… that’s it, pretty much. She says a few more permutations on the same concept and the scene ends. This is just so uncomfortable how it seems to be pushing children to be their parents’ therapists.

On the 22nd the student council tries to bully us into doing something for the Culture Festival.

MALE CLASS REP: *sigh* You guys don’t care, do you?

No, I don’t. There’s a murderer on the loose, I think that’s more important! The class rep lists our options, which are mostly boring except for “Group date cafe.” Yosuke’s interest is immediately piqued.

YOSUKE [winking]: Heeey, who put in a suggestion like that? […] Yeah, it’s just a joke idea. You gotta have one weird one mixed in, y’know?

Yeah, he did it. (Chie apparently agrees!) I can vote, but group date cafe wins no matter what.

YOSUKE: Wha–1st place!? What are we gonna do!?

So he wasn’t expecting it to win, haha. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes, Yosuke.

On the 23rd I can go on a date with Yukiko. She has indeed decided not to leave Inaba, sigh.

YUKIKO: I never really objected to being the inn’s manager per se… I just didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t up to me… I felt that my life was on rails.

This is technically in line with what her Shadow said. It’s still a really crappy bait-and-switch that does nothing to address her core fear of being trapped in the town forever.

YUKIKO: Thank you. I think it’s because of you that I realized this.

Don’t blame me for this!

YUKIKO: Because you were always by my side…

Hey, Yukiko, you know I’m leaving at the end of the year, right? If you want me to be by your side you’ll have to leave too!

YUKIKO: I wanted to ask you this before… […] Why are you always with me?

Because a weird lady told me it would give me superpowers and because it gives you gameplay benefits. That is not an option, so I go with the bland but inoffensive, “You’re my friend.” Unlike the other girls, she does get weird about this. Stop crushing on me and go confess to Chie already!

The next day I find a man in black at the shopping district, who asks me to give a card to “Naoto-sama.” Someone from her family, perhaps? I give the card to her after school and score her social link: Fortune, which seems fitting. The narration says we spend our downtime discussing the murder case, so it’s nice to know there’s one person on the team who actually cares about that.

In the evening I do Nanako’s final social link. Dojima claims he’s coming home, so she wants to cook dinner for him.

NANAKO: We have to start eating our veggies from now on. A well-balanced diet is important!

“Previously, I was fine with us dying of malnutrition together, but now I want to live!”

NANAKO: …My teacher said that families help each other.

Which of course means the child has to help as much as the parent, because that’s definitely an equal relationship.

Her capstone item is… the family photo??? Are you sure you want to be giving me that, Nanako? Oh, she says Dojima made copies, that’s more reasonable. She says we should have our own family photo together sometime, which is sweet. And… that’s it, that’s the grand conclusion to her subplot: She gives up on trying to convince her deadbeat dad to treat her better because he smiled at her once, and latches onto a friend who can’t stay with her. Well, she’ll have a lot to talk to her therapist about in a decade.

The ultimate Justice Persona is… Sraosha? Not Metatron? I’d like if the games could have a little more consistency if they want to be a series.

It’s raining on the morning of the 25th. Naoto tries to talk to me about something, but Yosuke and Kanji show up to have a ~there’s only two umbrellas~ fanfic. Yosuke immediately claims mine, but Kanji is weird about going with Naoto. I try to make Yosuke go with Naoto, but Kanji just says that won’t solve anything (???) and runs off. Okay, Kanji, I tried.

I hang out with Yumi. She says she can’t act anymore. So great, her dad ruined yet another nice thing for her.

YUMI: There’s no one who will say my name like that anymore… No one… to call me “Yumi” with that… that voice full of love…

So I guess her mom never does that. Yumi decides that when she tried to forget about her dad, she was running away from her life. No, Yumi, that was completely valid of you.

On the 26th everyone wants a piece of me! I hang out with the sports boys since it’s been a while. Kou visits the orphanage and discovers that his birth parents died shortly after he was put up for adoption.

“Your parents named you ‘Kou’ because they hoped that you would always be in good health. They considered health more important than fame or money, because it’s much harder to keep and maintain.”

Nice to get followup on that.

On the 27th Yosuke ambushes me to ask what I think about the Culture Festival. I say I’m not looking forward to it and Yosuke whines. Sorry, a murder case isn’t exciting enough for you? Apparently there’s also going to a beauty pageant, and Ms. Cougar is a contestant alongside the students. Oh god, how bad will this be? A bunch of onlooking students immediately start slobbering over the contestants, who are of course all of our female party members. (Including Naoto, so I guess administration just outed her?) We have a team huddle revealing that the girls did not enter themselves into the pageant, and Yosuke has the gall to act offended when they immediately assume it was him (it was).

YOSUKE: What’s the point of having a beauty pageant if all these incredible heroines aren’t going to take part!?

That sure is something you should have said to them so they could have made their own decisions. He then tries to make Kanji back him up, for some reason. Kanji obviously isn’t interested. Call him when it’s a fursuit competition, Yosuke! Yosuke then tries to tap me, and mercifully I’m given the chance to say this is stupid. Rise immediately gets creepy about this, assuming I just don’t want other boys looking at her.

The discussion turns to Naoto, who is impressively calm about this. She offers to take it up with school management, but Kanji…

KANJI: Um… I beg you, please be in it. If you do, my, uh, doubts will finally be cleared… C’mon! Make me a man!

Oh, Kanji. You were so good for so long. Why must this game ruin everything it touches?

On the 28th we learn there’s a male crossdressing pageant. Oh wow, it just keeps getting worse. All the male party members, including John, have been signed up, so I guess the girls got their revenge. (But hey, I was innocent in this!)

DISINTERESTED STUDENT: I heard that this year, even if someone else signs you up, you can’t back out.

So everyone knows this is the case. Why aren’t the teachers just signing everyone up, if they’re okay with this? Why the fiction that “someone else” signed them up? Letting specific students be singled out is just outright enabling bullying.

IMPRESSED STUDENT: Well, that’s not cool… Hey, but what if they did sign themselves up?
DISINTERESTED STUDENT: Ewwww, what a disturbing thought. Seriously, that’s really wrong.

Well, so much for hoping Naoto would be the limit of this game’s transphobia. The boys proceed to confront the girls about this, confirming they did indeed do it as revenge for Yosuke’s stunt. You know what they should do? Pull a Mitsuo and “go missing” in the TV world. There’s an established precedent that kids randomly go missing and then show up again with no memory! But they’re not that smart, so I guess we’re doing this.

KANJI: I ain’t doin’ this! Period!
YUKIKO: Kanji-kun, are you still okay as far as the mandatory attendance policy? I don’t think it would be wise to disappoint a teacher too much.

What the HELL, Yukiko? Kanji had nothing to do with signing you up! Why are you torturing him like this?

YOSUKE: Wh-Why is this happening…?

Because the writers are manchildren, next question.

The group date cafe happens on the 29th. It is such a disaster even Rise nopes out. The crossdressing pageant is even worse.

If I have to see it so do you. I cannot believe people are wasting time arguing about characters’ official gender identities when the creators are such disgustingly blatant transphobes.

Teddie wins the pageant, which grants him the privilege of judging the pageant with the “actual beauties”. He declares he wants a swimsuit competition.

Ha ha, the main characters are joking about murdering each other, completely justifiably! What stirring character writing!

We cut to Ms. Cougar giving the girls a chance to back out, but that would mean admitting Ms. Cougar is sexier than them so they don’t. Naoto, the last sane person in this mess, points out this is stupid, but they force her to go along with it anyway. Then they’re trotted out on stage, all clearly extremely uncomfortable with this, and… Teddie shows up to be a judge.

Farla: “So, Teddie seems to have a modicum of social understanding. Let’s see if he deliberately hammers their weak spots like Yosuke does, or if he’s just generally lecherous.”

Teddie:

We tried giving him the tiniest sliver of goodwill and nope, he can and will always be worse.

He proceeds to ask them incredibly invasive sexual questions that just keep getting worse, then they’re all trotted out in swimsuits. You remember how that’s the exact thing Rise had a breakdown over her Shadow doing? Well, the writers don’t.

For the sake of my sanity I’ll fixate on the one interesting thing: Kanji finds Yukiko in a swimsuit surprisingly attractive, even though she’s wearing the exact same one he saw her wearing to the beach (since they didn’t make multiple swimsuit models). He then says he doesn’t find Rise attractive at all, even though she’s in an even more revealing swimsuit (and, frankly, looks identical because they’re all generic anime girls). I wonder if this could mean he’s demisexual? He apparently finds Yukiko more attractive than when he barely knew her, and he finds the girl he still barely knows to be unremarkable even though everyone else insists she’s a hottie. This could fit with why his sexuality seems to strange and inconsistent.

Naoto refuses to participate in the swimsuit section, mercifully. I guess that’s more fuel for the trans theory if you interpret her as feeling uncomfortable with her body, but well, none of the other girls wanted to do this either. I’m forced to pick one of the girls as my favorite, so I pick Naoto as a protest vote and to reward her for asserting boundaries.

Afterwards, Dojima drops Nanako off for us to babysit because he has to visit the prefectural office for something. Yukiko offers to let her and everyone else stay at the Amagi Inn tonight since she promised to do that a while back. Teddie immediately makes suggestive jokes in front of the small child, because he never stops being awful.

We cut to our room at the inn, and Teddie complains that he doesn’t get to share a room with the girls (which, again, includes an elementary schooler). They start talking about the hot springs and uuuuggghhh no are we going to be spying on the girls while they’re bathing?

The two boys who don’t think entirely with their dicks notice that the room Yukiko picked for them looks really expensive, and are surprised it wasn’t booked given this is the busy season. Yosuke wonders if something happened in here… I wonder if this was Yamano’s room? But of course that line of questioning is immediately interrupted by hot springs, because why have plot when we can have porn. We get a fully-animated cutscene of the girls entering the hot springs, and yes, the camera is aimed up their butts. Thankfully, the camera doesn’t seem to creep on Nanako, just the teenagers. Rise forces Naoto to come out, revealing Naoto has big boobs, which Rise draws attention to because she’s horrible. Eugh. Then the boys show up and the girls engage in comical over-the-top violence against them. Mercifully, I’m allowed to cut this short. So the boys don’t creep on the girls, only the camera.

We do get one plot-relevant detail from this: Nanako says she’s a responsible child who doesn’t open the door for strangers when she’s alone in the house.

Back in the room, the boys hear a creepy voice crying and Kanji finally realizes this was Yamano’s room. They can’t sleep, so they… decide to sleep next to the girls. Oh great, so it’s not over. They barge in on Ms. Cougar and Hanako’s room by mistake, and Ms. Cougar offers to rape them but they manage to escape in time. Hilarious!

Well, that was utterly vile. I feel gross just having watched that. I didn’t think anything could be worse than the campout, but I really should know by now that anime can always get worse. The fact that so many people praise this game to high Heaven yet don’t think this deserved even the slightest mention or warning is disgusting and tells me way too much about them. Oh, and every single line was fully voiced.  They couldn’t voice every social link, but they could voice every single word of this transphobic and misogynist creepfest.

2 Comments

  1. Valkiria de la flame says:

    Fun fact: The cultural festival, as well as the earlier scene where you go to Okina to randomly get girls phone numbers are both additions made in Golden. They don’t exist in the original release.

    On a different note, I think the Persona series in general would benefit a lot from dropping the dungeon crawling part for the majority of it. Make the scenes where you go into a dungeons set pieces, no random battles just enough to make it thematic, boss at the end. Once you go in you can’t back out. Instead double down on the social links aspects, how you act on them determine how they go, and you gain abilities based on that. You could hang out with multiple characters, so you could put Yosuke and Naoki together and how you played that out would influence yours and Yosuke’s growth and personas. Then, hanging out is important because it gives you more personas and abilites for the boss fights. Plus, roleplaying is more interesting than climbing 10 floors of random encounters.

    1
    1. St. Elmo's Fire says:

      So make it even more of a visual-novel-with-dungeon-crawler-elements rather than a hybrid? Maybe, but I think the core issues are still the pacing and the extremely decompressed timescale. It’s absurd that you can choose to spend your days hanging out with your friends instead of doing anything productive when there’s a murderer on the loose. I suppose it might have worked with Persona 3’s setup where you can only investigate at night anyway.

      I’ll talk about this more in the conclusion post. I have thoughts.

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