Persona 4: October 31st – November 6th (Heaven)

Last time, the game managed to get even worse than the campout. It was thoroughly vile and confirmed the writers are transphobic and misogynist pieces of garbage, not that that was ever really in question.

But there’s still more game, so let’s trudge onwards. Maybe there will be plot this time.

On Halloween there’s a news report about a politician who visited Inaba to see if the fog is dangerous. Nanako said he visited her school and talked to the kids about their health. I was expecting the TV to show him talking to Nanako, which would be instant cause for panic… but no, the news just moves on. So what was the point of that? Nanako suddenly comes down with a fever, so we give her medicine and put her to bed.

I rank up with Kou. He examines the letter again and realizes the paper is too fresh for it to have been written ten years ago — it’s a fake. Daisuke gets very flustered at this and insists they shouldn’t jump to conclusions… Farla wonders if he’s the one who wrote it. Kou is happy, though, because though he felt completely unmoored, he now realizes the orphanage manager cared about him enough to tell him his parents loved him, and there are other people who care about him too.

When I get home Nanako’s fine again. So what was the point of her being sick…? Is this implying the fog is making people sick, just not in any way that’s distinguishable from ordinary colds? The next day, Rise ambushes me to say it’s going to start raining soon so we should check the Midnight Channel. She also reminds me that it’s been a while since we’ve been able to check. In a good plot where the characters cared about the murder mystery, that should have concerned them.

I rank up with Kanji. He gets accosted by the police, who think he’s responsible for a spate of bullying in the area. Huh, I wonder if it’s the same bullies as in Chie’s plotline? Kanji immediately escalates and, because this is Japan and not America, they only threaten to take him to the station instead of shooting him dead. Fortunately, the doll boy shows up to explain the situation. Kanji is initially embarrassed to let the police know he makes dolls, then swings over to bragging about it. Then his mom shows up to make everything even more embarrassing, so the police finally nope out. His mom reveals that Kanji did agree to let the shop sell his dolls, which is nice. His rank 8 skill is… Regenerate 3. Nope, that sucks.

The evening of November 4th, Dojima still isn’t back. The doorbell suddenly rings (!) and Nanako rushes to answer it (despite previously saying Dojima taught her not to answer the door for strangers) and… it’s just the deliveryman. Game, we are in the last quarter of the story, are you ever going to stop with the fakeouts and have stuff actually happen? On the Midnight Channel, we see… well, I immediately recognize it as the hooded culprit we’ve been seeing in the foggy meanwhile scenes after every rescue, but obviously the characters don’t know who it is. Really weird that we were given information the player character wasn’t.

YOSUKE: Dammit… Is there gonna be another kidnapping…? Let’s get together as soon as we can tomorrow.

“By which I mean after school.” After Yosuke stupidly asks if anyone recognized the faceless blurry silhouette, Yukiko asks what I was going to bring up: Has anyone appeared on TV recently? Naoto brings up the politician who visited to investigate the fog, but he wasn’t actually shown on TV and has already returned to the city. In the evening I get another threatening letter, this time stating that if I rescue the next victim, someone close to me “will be put into the TV and killed.”

Dojima sees the letter too. Oh! So we’re finally going to have to tell him! I’m finally, finally given the option to do so… and, like Naoto, he doesn’t believe me because he’s a terrible detective.

DOJIMA: I’ve been treating you like family… That’s why I never questioned you on this.

YOU’VE BEEN QUESTIONING ME ABOUT IT NONSTOP. Dojima tells me I’m under arrest until I tell him the truth, then remembers Nanako is watching and lies, “We’re not fighting,” before leaving her alone so he can take me to the station. Can I just make him watch the Midnight Channel with me? It’s on tonight anyway.

We cut to the station, so no. Adachi is here, as well as a TV. My phone rings and Dojima confiscates it. I’m once again given the chance to tell him the truth and it once again doesn’t matter because my choices only matter when it’s to decide who I’m dating. Dojima throws a hissy fit about how we must not trust him and storms out. No! Make him stay here and watch the Midnight Channel, John!

Adachi stays behind to give me a pep talk.

ADACHI: I mean, sure, I want to believe you. And I know Dojima-san brought you here and asked you those questions because he wants to believe you, too.

No, he doesn’t. His reaction wasn’t “I know you would never lie to me, but what you’re describing is impossible,” it was to throw a hissy fit.

We cut to Yosuke and Teddie at Junes. Yosuke gives Teddie his own cell. Will it work in the TV world, I wonder? He tries calling John and doesn’t get anything, so he calls the home line and Nanako tells him what happened and he rushes off to rescue me. We cut back to John as it hits midnight, and this time the Midnight Channel shows Nanako. Hm, so it changed? Nanako makes sense as the threat of “someone close to me”, but the culprit was using that as a threat to stop me from rescuing someone else, so who’s the original victim? We cut to Naoto and Chie discussing this, and Naoto says that Nanako fits the pattern: She wasn’t shown on TV, but the politician in the recent news story quoted her, and her name and photo were just released in today’s newspaper. So… she is the intended victim? Then what’s the point of the threat if the killer was already targeting someone close to me anyway?

The team barges into the police station to rescue me. Naoto confirms Nanako’s been kidnapped. Dojima tries calling her cell phone and gets a message saying it’s out of service. He immediately calls traffic division to report it, but the guy on the other end is weirdly dismissive even though even if she’s not kidnapped she’s a little kid alone in the rain in the cold in the dark, they should absolutely be panicking regardless. He also asks if they’ve received any ransom letters, and for some reason neither Dojima nor Adachi mentions the threatening letter they just got.

ADACHI: Even if you tell ’em this is connected to the murders, we can’t prove it…

WE HAVE A THREATENING LETTER FROM THE KILLER. Dojima runs off on his own and the team demands Adachi release us so we can follow, but Adachi refuses. This is all happening while there is visibly a TV in the room we could touch at any time to prove our statement.

Naoto tells everyone to calm down and go over the facts. She finds it notable that though the front door of the house was open, there were no signs of forced entry, which means Nanako opened the door herself. We’re reminded that she said she doesn’t open the door for strangers, so the culprit is someone Nanako knows. Perhaps someone who was invited over for dinner multiple times, Adachi? I can say outright I think it’s a friend of Dojima’s, and…

ADACHI: Nah, probably not. Dojima-san pretty much keeps to himself at the station. The only one Nanako-chan might know would be me, his partner.

…Adachi immediately shoots it down.

ADACHI: U-Uh… I’ve been here this whole time, of course.

Has he? Ostensibly he’s been standing guard over us, but he left us alone in the room and it’s the middle of the night. He could probably have slipped out without anyone noticing. If they have security cameras they could corroborate this, but he doesn’t mention that.

Despite my suspicions, Naoto insists we shouldn’t limit ourselves to someone Nanako knows. But we just established she only opens the door for people she knows! How could… Wait a minute. What if it’s Teddie? Teddie is the Junes mascot, and Nanako loves Junes! I’ve been speculating Teddie is connected to the culprit in some way, and we know there is definitely something really weird going on with him given that he has his own Shadow. Teddie himself was with Yosuke the whole time, but what about his costume? The culprit could have worn it, or possibly, given we’re working with magic here, it might be able to animate itself.

Naoto goes onto say that since every victim was thrown into a TV shortly after being kidnapped, the killer must bring a TV with them. More evidence for the Teddie costume, I don’t see how anyone could lug around a large TV without being noticed otherwise. Naoto assumes they’re using a vehicle, and the team decides the only way someone wouldn’t have noticed one is if it was a delivery truck… and Kanji suddenly remembers a delivery truck came to his house shortly before he was kidnapped. Sure would have been cool if we had been told that information at the time! For some reason, Adachi insists there’s no way we can figure out the identity of a local deliveryman in this small town that constantly brags about its local businesses everyone knows, but he glances at the case file and realizes there was a deliveryman mentioned in the original investigation: The council secretary from the very beginning, Taro Namatame. Turns out he has a family delivery business in Inaba, because apparently everyone has family businesses here. Again, sure would have been nice if we had learned this before now! Namatame has been showing up as a background NPC, but I don’t recall him mentioning anything about being a deliveryman. It’s especially annoying when getting deliveries has been a major gameplay mechanic with the shopping channel, so it would have been totally reasonable for us to be seeing him deliver our stuff in person to set this up.

We cut to an anime cutscene of Dojima and Namatame in a car chase. Namatame panics and deliberately crashes into Dojima’s car. We cut to the team finding the crash site. Dojima is badly injured but Namatame apparently escaped; there is indeed a large TV in the back of the truck, as well as a diary with the names and addresses of all the victims. In the diary, Namatame claims that he’s “saving” people by taking them to the other world, but he says nothing about the fact they turn up dead later.

So… he really is the culprit? Ugh. This is even less satisfying than Mitsuo. At least Mitsuo appeared in a story cutscene once prior to the reveal. Namatame has only existed as a background NPC; it’s entirely possible for a player to have never interacted with him once up to this point. We know nothing about him personally, so it means nothing that he’s secretly a serial killer. He’s just Some Dude. Farla reminds me I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up: Adachi would have been an interesting culprit, and there’s no way these hack writers would have done something actually good.

Chie immediately says we should enter the TV to rescue Nanako, but Teddie disagrees.

TEDDIE: W-Wait a sec! We don’t know where we’ll enter through this one! What if we end up somewhere dangerous? It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be foggy tomorrow, so we should go in tomorrow, the same way as usual!

This is so stupid. Naoto, of all people, agrees with this.

NAOTO: Saving her will be our top priority from tomorrow forward.

THIS IS SO STUPID

After deciding to leave the small child alone with monsters, we cut to Dojima in the hospital, who wails about not being able to protect his daughter. Yeah, because you were an unreasonable dickwad who chose to leave her alone so you could make a power play against me.

NAOTO: We will rescue Nanako-chan at any cost.

“Except the cost of doing it right now.”

After leaving Nanako alone for a whole night, the team reconvenes at Junes the next day. Discussing the situation has them finally bring up what I’ve been wondering about: Namatame’s alibi for the first murder. Naoto explains that he only had an alibi for when the body was found, not the actual time of death (which the police didn’t know since the cause of death couldn’t be determined). I’d have to look back at that scene to see if that was laid out explicitly, but this still doesn’t feel like fair play.

When we enter the TV world, the characters note that the fog is unusually thick, even with our glasses, and Teddie suggests the commotion in the real world could be the cause. Okay…? The only thing different now compared to the previous kidnappings is that the culprit knows we’re after him, so maybe he has some sort of power to manipulate the fog. Since we already know the victim this time Rise can locate her immediately, so we don’t have to waste time on a stupid investigation section.

Looks like a fairytale castle to me, but the characters say it looks like Heaven, and must symbolize how Nanako misses her mother. Okay then. The group resolves to prioritize rescuing Nanako over chasing Namatame.

YOSUKE: We can find Namatame later and give him what’s coming to him then. First, we need to rescue Nanako-chan!

Huh, is that actual altruistic behavior from Yosuke? Or, cynically, is this him wanting to prolong the case as long as possible, since once the real culprit’s stopped he’ll no longer be a hero?

As per usual I abandon the kidnapping victim to grind quest drops and fight the optional boss in the previous dungeon. This one is a turret enemy that likes to use Magic Charge followed by a Ma-Dyne yet is susceptible to all elements, so a Magic Mirror takes care of that pretty quick. I also bring Kanji up to merely ~5 levels behind everyone else instead of 15. After that I figure I should get use out of Naoto, so I go with a party of her, Kanji, and Teddie (who is also behind the level curve) for the main dungeon.

Naoto’s battle quips sound really choked and stilted, like her voice actor really didn’t want to be here. I mean, I sympathize, but wow they are terrible. And as I suspected, Kanji and Naoto have a combo move to round us out, called… “Beauty & The Beast”. Sigh.

Rise: “Two more enemies! This fight’s not over!” Yukiko, next turn: “It’s over!” They didn’t think these battle quips through, did they?

On the fourth floor, we hear Nanako crying for her mom, then backing up and saying she’s not lonely because she has her dad. Then she proceeds to list Dojima’s many sins.

NANAKO: I know he’s always late coming home… and he never plays with me because he’s so busy… He can’t cook or do laundry either… He tries to be nice, though he’s a little scary sometimes… but I love him…

This poor, poor child. Kanji recognizes that she’s desperately lonely and lying to herself to stay sane. Yosuke responds that the child isn’t repressing her emotions hard enough:

YOSUKE: You idiot, we’ll ruin everything if we act all sad. We gotta greet her with a smile.

That’s the exact problem here. Nanako is deeply troubled, but is forced to act like everything’s fine because everyone else acts that way too. She desperately needs to be able to express herself frankly and for someone to take that seriously. Which maybe her Shadow will do, hopefully?

Rise notes that she senses someone else here too. Ah, I was wondering how Namatame escaped from the scene so quickly; he must have jumped into the TV himself. Yukiko brings up what I’ve been wondering, why Namatame thinks this is a place of safety even after two of his targets died. After this we start hearing Namatame’s voice instead of Nanako’s, first saying the TV world seems beautiful and that he wishes he could have stayed here with Yamano, and then just some generic stuff about using the TV world to save people.

On the tenth floor we find Namatame holding Nanako hostage. The team immediately assumes these are the real ones and not their Shadows even though the Shadows have always appeared previously. We the audience know these aren’t their Shadows since they don’t have the purple aura, but previous encounters have established that’s not diegetic, so the team should really be more concerned they aren’t leaving the real Nanako to get eaten by Shadows.

YOSUKE: So you’re the killer…
YUKIKO: Let go of her!!
NAMATAME: Ah… Haha, you’re the ones I saved… Don’t worry… I’ll save this girl too…

Kanji immediately tries to rush Namatame, but Naoto, recognizing this is a hostage situation, insists we keep talking to Namatame. The narration ominously insists, Nanako is in danger. You should choose your words carefully… as if my decisions will matter this time. Who knows, maybe they do? But I would take this more seriously if my actions changed outcomes prior to this. I ask what the Midnight Channel is, and he claims he’s not the one making it: “People needing to be saved appear… That’s why I put them in the TV…” Huh, maybe this is another fakeout villain and Adachi’s the real mastermind? Then I can ask him why he’s doing this, and he just repeats that he’s saving people. And… this doesn’t lock options off, I can just keep saying the same lines and getting the same responses, which is really bizarre. I finally go with the last one, “Let Nanako go!” which just makes Naoto berate me. Dang it, Naoto, I tried! Will this game ever stop berating me for choices it forced me into?

Naoto asks if Namatame kidnapped people he saw on the Midnight Channel. I think we already know that, but I’ll give Naoto the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s just trying to keep him talking. He says this time that the people want to be saved, to which his victims immediately say, uh, no?

NAMATAME: If I hadn’t put you in the TV… how would you have ended up…?
[…]
RISE: Are you trying to say… we wouldn’t have been able to face ourselves?
YUKIKO: What…!? But we nearly died!
NAMATAME: Yes… Exactly…

Since I’ve played ahead I know what Namatame is trying to say here, and without spoilers, let me just say this is the absolute stupidest and most contrived way he could have phrased it. This plot only works because the writers chose to make Namatame an incoherent lunatic.

The characters reasonably assume he means he kidnapped them to make them confront their Shadows.

YOSUKE: You keep saying save this and save that… Are you saying murdering people is your idea of saving them!?

Yosuke immediately demonstrates what a failure that was. This is his Shadow speaking: he’s grandstanding to be a hero. Antagonizing a kidnapper in a hostage situation, and especially egging on a delusional one, is the exact wrong thing to be doing here. Namatame insists he’s not killing them, and Yosuke just antagonizes him further. Surprising no one, this makes things worse.

NAMATAME: I know… you chased us all the way here… to kill… Ha…haha… Well, too bad… I’m… gonna save her…

I have to say, this does not make any sense with his previous behavior. Namatame has been a background NPC I’ve been talking to frequently, and he was never incapable of stringing sentences together. I do not buy that he was always this unhinged. (Based on stuff he says later it also does not make any sense that he thinks we’re here to kill him.)

Then Namatame blinks and suddenly gains the Shadow aura. So has he fused with his Shadow, or was this his Shadow the whole time? He now becomes more coherent, capable of speaking in full sentences, but just says the same stuff about being a savior. Nanako chokes out that she’s being strangled, and Yosuke decides that now, after they’ve successfully enraged the kidnapper and the child is in mortal danger, is the best time to rush him. Could’ve snuck up on him back when he was relatively calm, but no, you just had to start an argument, Yosuke. Of course, because this is anime, it works… though it’s extremely unclear what happens because the cutscene of him releasing Nanako is rendered in-engine. Couldn’t draw an anime cutscene for this, no, Naoto’s boob jiggles had to take priority. …And just as I say that, we suddenly do get an anime cutscene. Couldn’t have started it a few lines earlier, artists? Teddie informs us he’s drawing other Shadows to himself and merging with them, which is pretty out of left field. This could have been foreshadowed if the previous Shadows also absorbed lesser Shadows, but no.

His final form is a chibi angel with a massive halo. Okay. His gimmick is element shifting: every few turns, he switches to spamming a different Ma-Dyne spell, and takes more damage (but not a true weakness) from the same element he uses. At low health, he mind controls my party members, but they resist half the time and only use basic physical attacks the other half, so not very threatening. Towards the end he switches from Ma-Dynes to “Unerring Justice”, which I presume is a heavy hit-all Almighty attack. He hits really hard, so I have to cast Mediarahan nearly every round to not die, and I still nearly die when John runs out of MP (and I also completely run through my Magic Mirrors and Makaracorns). Fortunately, I manage to pull out a win with just John and Kanji still standing.

Afterwards, Namatame collapses. Did we just kill a guy? …No, he’s still moving. Nanako looks ill from the TV world’s effects, so we carry both of them out. How do we even know we got the right Nanako? We never saw her Shadow!

KANJI: She’s so small, and she was stuck in there for so long…

No she wasn’t, I rescued her as soon as possible. I didn’t leave her in there for a week like I did you.

KANJI: And then there was that weird fog…

What? Is he referring to Namatame’s Shadow fusion dance? We cut to the hospital, and–

TEDDIE: Nana-chan’s still small… so her other self didn’t appear like everyone else…

Oh come on, that is the lamest asspull. I was looking forward to seeing her Shadow!

Naoto blames herself for not cracking the case sooner. No, this was all on Dojima. And kind of on all of us for hiding everything from him. Which Naoto supported, so scratch that, I guess it is her fault too.

YOSUKE: That… goes for me too. If I hadn’t stood there like a lump in front of that bastard, Nanako-chan might’ve been okay…

That is not what happened. Standing there like a lump would have been a significant improvement over what you actually did.

NAOTO: Why did I waste time listening to what Namatame had to say!?

Because that’s good hostage negotiation tactics, as you yourself explained? My theory that the TV world and real world had different writers is really gaining evidence.

KANJI: Alright, enough of this pity party… Is standing around whining really what we oughtta be doing now?

Kanji continues to be the best character.

RISE: Gee, Kanji… You sounded cool for a second there.

And Rise continues to be… still not the worst, but close.

Chie and Yukiko suggest hosting a party at Junes when Nanako recovers. Yosuke thinks that makes no sense, because he apparently has been tuning Nanako out every time she talks.

Before John leaves he checks in on Dojima, who falls asleep after hearing Nanako is safe. Who do I find watching over him but Adachi. Adachi tells me that he’ll stay here to keep Dojima company, so I should head back home. I can say no, but Adachi insists.

ADACHI: Nanako-chan’s safe, so relax. I think you should get some rest.

I become more anxious with every word out of your mouth. The game does not agree, though, because it gives me a free social link rank up with him. Okay.

So what now? Do I have to wait weeks before the plot can resume, even though I could have rescued Nanako way later? You betcha! Next post we’ll have some happy fun time with friends, because that’s not tonally dissonant at all!

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