“Would you mind comforting her for me? …Thanks.” — Dojima
If Yu intends to recommit to his craft this May, then there’s one glaring flaw that need improving: his school life.
In April, Yu barely paid attention in class. His mind kept wandering to the TV world, to the shrine, to Aiya. In May, Yu is going to try his best and fulfill every aspect of his heroic destiny. If Persona 4 only demanded Yu be a hero in battle, then I would have nothing to write about.
Great timing too: there’s a test next Monday! Yu’s got to get prepared. Preparation leads to studying. Studying leads to knowledge. Knowledge leads to success. Success leads to popularity. And…
…popularity leads to intimacy? What? What does that even mean? Why does it sound so mathematical? And not like a fun, Finn The Human kind of mathematical. Like algebra textbook mathematical.
“If Popularity is the reciprocal of Happiness, then how can Popularity lead to Intimacy?”
This information was imparted via special colored Zelda text, so I can only assume that it set something off in Yu’s brain. “Popularity,” he thinks. Time to process. “Intimacy!” He connects the dots. Finally, an actual, factual Hero’s Manual.
After class, undoubtedly driven by his subconscious desire to cuddle, Yu studies in the library with Chie. It is a riveting success, as they bond and bump up their knowledge levels a tick. Sure enough, as King Moron foretold…
Back at home, Yu confronts a problem he can’t solve with book smarts. The atmosphere is already thick, solemnly watching TV alone with Nanako. You can almost feel the impending grief, like a forecast projecting rain in about forty seconds. Nanako is quiet, quieter than usual, because I can only imagine that Nanako has a sixth sense for this kind of thing by now. The phone rings, and she robotically rises to answer. Dad’s late again, which means Dad could be the one calling. And he is.
Dojima is a terrible father, but he is not a terrible person. A game less focused on finding depth in its characters would draw Dojima like a villain. That game would make him more overtly abusive or negligent, such that the player knows how and when to feel at every turn. The thing that makes Persona 4 different is how it refuses to take the easy way out. It knows that spending eighty hours with a stereotypically terrible father would be tedious. So, instead, they write Dojima, who’s little more than a lonely, flawed, oblivious man. When he asks Yu to comfort Nanako in his stead, I do not get the sense that he realizes how awful it sounds.
There are problems in life, and in Persona 4, that take more than a simple equation to solve. If we’re still talking and thinking about truth, then there’s an unfortunate one. Dojima’s absence and Nanako’s sadness are bubbling, and Yu can’t make it all better by stat grinding. That threatens his grand May Initiative. He needs to be the greatest, fullest hero he can be, and that means focusing on achievable goals. Even if the unachievable ones are secretly tearing him apart.
Where does intimacy lead? Maybe we’ll find out in June.