[OWLS May Blog Tour] Stealing Hearts with the Phantom Thieves in Persona 5

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Okay, first impression time. For those of you who didn’t know, I joined the OWLS group for…reasons which sound worse the more I think about them. Anyway, this means that I’ll be joining in on monthly blog tours discussing whatever random topic everyone else is able to cover without my erratic style. This month’s topic is “Movement”.

We join movements, organizations, and systems that align with our own personal values and beliefs. Sometimes we join these groups because they believe in doing good and making positive changes in society. However, these movements can turn sour when a dictator arises or behind the good intentions, there’s a hidden agenda of oppression. It is in these groups that individuals start to shape their identities by questioning their values and beliefs or conforming to the system. This month, we will be examining “real and/or fictitious” movements, organizations, or systems in anime and other pop culture mediums, and the positive and negative effects they have on individuals and society.

Rather suspicious prompt for someone who’s just joined this OWLS group, don’t you think?

I’ve never been great about joining movements. However, movements tend to center around some form of societal improvement or moral gain, and I do like thinking about morality. So, I’m going to casually hijack this topic to talk about the main characters of Persona 5 and how I felt about their quest to change hearts (because that’s a post I’ve wanted to do for a while). For the record, I mostly plan to talk about overall themes in the story rather than specific events.

If you’re not familiar with Persona 5 (game or anime), the story centers around a group of high school kids who gain access to a “Metaverse” which acts as a supernatural manifestation of human subconscious. In that Metaverse, the main characters fight monsters called Shadows, which are meant to represent the repressed emotions of real people. By defeating these Shadows and stealing “Treasures” from “corrupted” individuals, the main characters can trigger an admission of guilt in the real world.

From a broad perspective, this setup seems alright. Get the bad guys to freely admit what they’ve done and face punishment in the real world. It’s not hard to see the benefit. Of course, there’s the inherent issue of trust and responsible use of power if this power got applied to the real world. However, the question that nagged at me while I was originally playing the game was whether we should condone directly altering a person’s mind.

Before I move on, I want to insert a small caveat. I’m willing to admit that this may not have been the point of the game. The game seemed more focused on how the main character broke free from the shackles of adult society. The story also seemed to skirt around the issue by intentionally making targets of the Phantoms Thieves clearly bad. It’s even explicitly stated that the main targets are those who have become corrupted enough to manifest a special “Palace” for their desires.

In defense of the Phantom Thieves, I would make the case that we, as a society, are generally okay with using antipsychotic drugs to treat the mentally ill. In many cases, this is done against the patient’s wishes (for obvious reasons). So if we could “treat” malevolence, would be similarly okay with doing so?

On the other hand, I think most people would agree that “brainwashing” is morally questionable. I would argue that changing someone’s heart, even with the best intentions, falls under the category of brainwash. It involves directly manipulating the target’s mind to drastically alter beliefs.

I guess my final assessment depends on how much the target is compelled to confess. If the target will just naturally tend to confess because the act of stealing a Treasure is “unclouding” the mind, then it seems much more like treating a mental illness. Otherwise, it seems a lot sketchier.

Anyway, that’s all I had for this one. What was the topic again? I feel like I just went on a tangent. If you’ve made it this far, I’m gonna suggest you check out my neighboring OWLS posts linked below:

On Friday, Carla over at PopCultureLiterary talked about Suisei no Gargantia.

Up next is Marina over at Anime B&B.

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Darling in the FranXX Episode 18: Suffering is inevitable

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This week’s episode was strange. The wedding felt like a random development, but I could see how it was acting as a turning point. I was actually more interested in what was happening with Nana (and Ikuno too). I’m still consistently annoyed by the adults in the series, but I’m starting to wonder if this episode is meant to mark the beginning of their comeuppance.

Hmm, everyone in the party is getting sick. I know we were given an explanation about this fever, but I feel like this will be important later.

Well, she sure was serious about the “pistil-to-pistil” connection.

Zero Two being haunted by the stamens she killed in the past makes sense. I just don’t understand why the giant hand klaxosaur was part of her traumatic vision. Is it just because of her blood?

This isn’t a good sign.

It’s interesting that Squad 13 has a special exception from this indoctrination thing. It’s consistent with how Nines treats them. However, I don’t see how wiping Mitsuru and Kokoro solves the problem. Everyone else in Squad 13 still knows what happened. They have a lot of faith in their memory wipe technology and obviously have no idea how plot devices work.

Two parasites are trying to have a wedding ceremony? SEND EVERYONE!!

Seriously, what were these kids going to do to stop like three armed guards?

This fight actually looked kinda okay. I would have liked to see more, but it’s more than I expect from a mecha anime.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai Episode 6: The big case

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This show is turning into quite the interconnected set of relationships. I still quite like the way the series frames its episodes. This week’s episode had everyone focused on Nyanko Big, but it was actually a love story for Yui, albeit a sad one. I feel like this doesn’t bode well for the other love interests in this series.

This scene is a nice bit of misdirection. We know about Nyanko Big’s love quest, but the references to his “girlfriend” in this scene really made me question whether I missed the moment when Mitsuyoshi and Yui found out about her.

The small scene at the beginning of the episode seemed to suggest that Nyanko Big was with Charles, so I was about to point out the fact that Alec and Teresa were ironically moving away from him. But alas, that wasn’t the case.

I thought Yui’s (accurate) deduction here was pretty funny. Well played, Yui.

Well, good on Yui for being direct. It kinda sucked to see how it turned out for her, but I liked the way it was portrayed. While Yui’s crying in Teresa’s arms, she makes it pretty clear how her wishes differ from Kentarou’s.

Steins;Gate 0 Episode 6: This looks familiar

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Oh, is it time to ramp things up already? This show really isn’t holding back with these cliffhangers. But that aside, this episode was pretty fun. I feel like there’s a lot to be suspicious about, which makes it kinda entertaining to speculate.

Wait, how long was Kagari staying at Rukako’s temple? The conversation is never clear on the timing of her amnesia. If she’s been there the whole time, I have some follow-up questions.

Suzuha’s suspicions are also pretty interesting. Her flashback indicates that something was wrong with Kagari before the time travel, so it sounds like there’s more to her than the amnesia.

Well, at least Maho’s willing to validate the idea that Kagari is too similar to Kurisu.

So, are you asking Rintarou to move on from Kurisu for his benefit or for some other reason? Not that I’m suggesting anything in particular…

I didn’t expect Rintarou to get busted so casually. Still, this scene seemed excessively cruel for Mayushii as well.

I really liked the way this scene played out. Playing the analogous scenes from the alternate timeline really ups the suspense. Now, I’m just worried that this suspense will end up fizzling next week because of some kind of misunderstanding. They never actually showed Moeka, but I’m a bit suspicious of the fact that this happened after Rintarou called her about Kagari.

Spring 2018 Grab Bag Week 6: Some of the extras

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Since we’re halfway through the season, I figured I should take the chance to do some quick impressions on some of the shows I haven’t been talking about as much in the season.

Dorei-ku

I’m kinda fed up with this show. Every episode seems to focus on a random new character before the main characters somehow show up on the scene as if to validate the character’s existence. I don’t know if there’s some source material that explains things better, but the setup as portrayed in the anime continues to make little sense. The SCM just appears with an app and built-in functionality, and the characters just seem to know how everything works.

Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi

This series hasn’t been terrible, but it doesn’t really appeal to me. When I’m watching something folklore-based, I’m looking for interesting stories that relate well with the underlying folk tales. This series seems to focus more on using the stories as a setting while pushing its own characters. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not really my thing.

Saredo Tsumibito wa Ryuu to Odoru

I fell off with this show a while back because it didn’t . The story ended up taking some interesting turns, but the main villain really doesn’t really appeal to me so far. He seems a little too full of himself to the point of being annoying.

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

This show ended up being a lot more entertaining than I expected. It doesn’t have the overblown drama of the original, so it’s a lot easier to watch. Also, it seems to be genuinely interested in focusing on the game (it’s almost like watching a game of PUBG or something). The main character’s superpowers end up feeling a bit awkward, but it’s not a huge problem in my eyes.

Golden Kamuy Episode 6: On the hunt

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This show just keeps getting weirder, but it’s still pretty fun. This week’s episode seemed to take a step back to look at Sugimoto while introducing the wolf hunter team some more. Sugimoto’s stuff was strange in that it was happening a bit late in the game, but I guess you could argue that the deer hunt ran a bit parallel with the wolf hunt.

I’m not sure I fully understood Tanigaki’s motivations, but they seemed interesting. It sounded like he didn’t feel like his exploits in war were befitting of a Matagi hunter, which is why he’s determined to kill Retar.

Sugimoto seeing himself in the deer was a cool way to take things. It makes sense that Sugimoto would still be messed up from the war.

Asirpa, what are you doing?

The episode did a pretty good job of displaying Nihei’s obsession, which should make the battle between him and the main cast more entertaining. This guy’s pretty nuts.

Nice censoring.

Caligula Episode 6: The team is assembled already?

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I still don’t feel like I know what’s going on with this show, but this week’s episode felt like progress. The mass awakening is nice because it seems to indicate the beginning of the actual show, but it’s kinda odd that this is happening in episode 6. Surely, the series isn’t stopping at episode 12, right?

I was a bit skeptical about Kotono’s responses at the beginning of the episode, but she makes up for it later. Her earlier arguments are just about a fake world, which isn’t really a strong case against living in happiness. This scene where she talks about running from problems holds a bit more weight in my eyes.

I didn’t expect for everyone to gain their powers simultaneously, but I guess I’ll take it. Some of these characters haven’t really been set up at all, so I didn’t think they’d be able to go through the Catharsis step.

This show definitely isn’t Persona.

Wait, was the Shogo part of last week’s episode just some sort of flashback to his real life? He’s already awakened his power, so I would assume that he already remembered his past life. So, is he actually saying that he wants to go back to reality because he’s a murderer in reality?

I was going to laugh that Ritsu’s the only one who doesn’t get his powers, but I guess he just needed to be special.

So what? Is Ritsu personally related to Mu? She called him out in particular.

Darling in the FranXX Episode 17: Where babies come from

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This episode drops a surprising number of revelations, but no individual revelation is really developed. In the end, I’m just left with even more questions. Still, the plot seems to be moving forward and we’re getting more clues about the world, so I guess that’s progress.

This is a pretty casual reveal, but we finally get an indication that Hiro is developing oni-like characteristics similar to Zero Two’s past form. Uhh…this seems really important. Is it just me?

This guy’s basically just trying to fill the gap left by Zero Two when she officially joined the team. He’s the frustratingly mysterious guy who taunts everyone, including the audience, with the knowledge he has about the world.

Well, that escalated quickly, Kokoro.

This conversation falls kinda flat for me. It feels like it’s attempting to act as exposition, revealing that the parasites are somehow different because they have reproductive organs and emotions. Is that really how the world is? This is news to me.

Nana’s “regression” is probably the most interesting part of the episode for me, but we really learn nothing from it. Is the simple explanation the right one? Is she just a former parasite who was brainwashed to oversee this experiment?

This line makes me wonder if the klaxosaurs are just supposed to be a different branch of humanity. That development feels like the kind of thing that could be really generic or really interesting. I wonder how it will go.

Whoa…okay, Kokoro. Well played.

Hinamatsuri Episode 6: Finding the real protagonist

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Hina had some funny moments in this episode, but Anzu’s story was just great. Anzu seems to be doing a better job of developing as a character than Hina is, even if Nitta reminisced in the episode about how much Hina has changed. I’m not sure where the series is going with Anzu, but I like what I see so far.

This facial expression coupled with the action of pouring a drink was surprisingly funny.

Who are you trying to convince, buddy?

I definitely thought that this setup was going to lead to a rehash of the bar scene from last week, so I was glad to see that the joke went in a different direction.

Why are you doing this? This show’s supposed to just make me laugh!

I’m really happy that this week’s episode didn’t rush to restore the stasus quo for Anzu. In a comedy series, that tends to happen. I was really expecting Hina’s new guardians to run into some kind of freak financial crisis to push Anzu back into the homeless lifestyle. I kinda want this to just work out for her, but the story might not be over yet.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai Episode 6: Introducing the nobility

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The introduction of Charles this week wasn’t as frustrating as I kinda expected it to be, but I still feel like this series pushes some weird things. I do like how it uses minor gestures to send messages, but I think Charles was suspiciously likeable.

I did like how the episode showed Alec’s personal interest in Charles. I also thought it was nice that other people, namely Kaoru, picked up on that fact. I did think that the relationship between Alec and Charles was pushed a little too hard, though. At a certain point in the episode, I was tired of seeing them together.

Hmm, the westerners seem to have no trouble figuring out who Hina is. Maybe they’re just too used to comic book superheroes with their weak secret identities.

I always like little moments like this one. When Kaoru gets attacked by Nyanko Big, there’s a very quick succession of shutter sound effects indicating that Mitsuyoshi is taking pictures of the suffering.

I’m a bit worried about this scene between Teresa and Mitsuyoshi. I guess the implication is that Teresa’s nanny is Mitsuyoshi’s grandmother or something. I’m really not a big fan of linking the two like that, because it feels like a really forced plot point. In an earlier scene, Charles touches his bracelet when Mitsuyoshi talks about his dead parents. The scene could have been an indication that Charles experienced a similar family tragedy.

However, I have a different interpretation. If Mitsuyoshi’s parents were travelling because of a relationship with Teresa’s family, it’s possible that Charles might have had a relationship with them in the past. Maybe he’s remembering the exact same tragedy.