Having watched more episodes, thus far, I am not surprised to find that Persona 4 Golden has been made in the image of a slice-of-life comedy. The audience is expected to know who the characters are already, and nearly all the jokes refer back to events in both the original anime and game. The only refreshingly new thing this anime has to offer is the new social link with Marie, which may be the real test as to whether this show will hold interest or not in the future.
Episode 2 harkens back to Yu’s New Game+ levels of social sophistication, challenging him to juggle his myriad relationships in an ultimate test of time management. While fighting Shadows may be a trivial feat for our overpowered protagonist, rushing from one event to another proves to leave Yu nearly in tatters. However the comic antics do wind up encouraging Marie to leave her comfort zone and initiate interactions with Chie, Yukiko, and the rest while Yu was away. I found it to be a big growing point for her as a character who would have otherwise remained the clingy tsundere girlfriend. The next two episodes have more of the same friend-bonding adventures, but they also explore the biggest challenges that impede Marie’s social progress – specifically the painful amnesia that has robbed her of her past. One of the most profound themes to come out of this was how the friends’ social bonds were not made because of their individual identities; as pointed out by Yosuke, most of one’s revealed identity is a mere public mask. Instead, these bonds are held together by shared experiences, values, and memories. Aside from the light-hearted character dynamics, there was a surprisingly deep message there that brought me back to why I was drawn to the Persona series to begin with. The nuances of social interaction are truly more down-to-earth and simple than most people would expect, even while sometimes being taken for granted. In Marie’s case, she is starting to see that being close to others has little to do with the past, but everything to do with present and future actions.
In the beginning I was somewhat skeptical that Marie, albeit an interesting character, would be a necessary addition to the storyline. Most remakes of best-selling games tend to have extra content that doesn’t really improve upon the main plot or do anything else besides create new challenges or extend a game’s life. However, Persona 4 Golden may be such an exception if Marie proves to bring greater insight into Yu and company’s group dynamics or the philosophical themes of the Persona series itself. It would be easy to write it off as extra fan service and call it a day, but I have faith that future episodes will start moving into very exciting uncharted territory. I look forward to seeing more.
My Score: 9/10