One of the main reasons I was drawn to the Persona series in general was its central theme on the denial of self. On one hand, denying the aspects of the self that we abhor about ourselves is the surest way to lead to self-destruction. On the other hand, self-acceptance of our failings and reaching out to others with love and selflessness is how fallible humans are able to complete one another and combine their strengths to achieve a higher cause. But when you encounter a cynical antagonist like Tohru Adachi, who simultaneously fully embraces his shadow self while rejecting the necessity of human bonds, such a character adds real complexity and gravity to an otherwise simple morality fable about friendship.
Episode 5 brings about the culmination of Marie’s character development. Her struggles with finding meaning in her life in spite of her loss of history and identity come to an end as she fully embraces the present with Yu and friends. Furthermore, rather than being just an extra social link for Yu to explore, Marie’s true role in the story seems to be emerging as something that binds all the events together, symbolically or otherwise.
As the antithesis of everything Marie and Yu stand for, Adachi’s arc in the next two episodes is predictably dark and brooding. In an unexpected turn, the New Game+ Yu makes a whole-hearted attempt to bring Adachi around, as our hero might still be unbeknownst to the detective’s masterminding of the Inaba serial murders. In spite of a myriad of well-intentioned efforts, however, Adachi is too far-gone to be moved by benevolent acts of selflessness. A history of rejection, self-imposed isolation, and smoldering resentment and frustration unfurls for the viewers, invoking as much pity as it does despair that a man could transform into such an inhuman monster who takes pleasure in inflicting pain and suffering on others. In the end, though well-matched against Yu in power and resolve, Adachi is forced to admit defeat even while continuing to reject calls for redemption. Our hero is victorious but shaken by his failure to save Adachi from his own damnation. Marie manages to pull him out of it by reminding him of the good he has done for her, making her supporting role in the story even stronger than before. This was a rare moment where the protagonist is allowed to feel weak and question his abilities, and it was something that I felt was lacking in most anime today. The Adachi arc certainly has one of the most real human moments in the series, and really does much to elevate the story’s themes.
The remainder of Persona 4 Golden is likely to be devoted to the “post-game” plot, where Yu and the gang will finally confront the real antagonists who are behind Mayonaka TV and the looming fog that is engulfing Inaba. I am hoping that the series will continue bringing decent quality storytelling in the upcoming weeks.
My Score: 9/10