Ben-To 07 / Persona 4 08: Ladies’ Swimwear

Summarized Assessment:

Ben-To 07: Strong

Persona 4 08: Weak

The Case of Sato

Before the Ben-To protagonist ever gets near the swimming pool, he’s already fantasizing about his favorite girl’s swimsuit look.  He speculates on the style of swimwear she will be sporting, coming up with three possibilities:

Bikini? → One-piece? → Sukumizu?!

When he considers the sukumizu (=school swimsuit) possibility, he practically has a psychological nosebleed, so clearly this is his favorite.  Now, my best bet is that the one-piece is a transition in his thought process.  I do not believe he prefers a one-piece over a bikini, but is simply taking himself from the bikini (2nd best option) to the sukumizu (absolute best) by way of the one-piece.  As to the question why would anyone ever prefer a sukumizu over a bikini, I think the answer is one word: fetishization.

As it turns out, Sato gets to see all three styles in display, but not in the configuration that he’d have preferred.  Shaga has a white bikini, Sen a gray and yellow one-piece and Oshiroi is wearing the blue sukumizu.  It makes perfect sense that a girl so aware of fetishes like Oshiroi would be wearing that.  And it makes sense that Shaga would be flaunting her stuff as much as possible.  Finally, nothing is as practical and functional as the sort of one-piece Sen is wearing, and we know the only thing on her mind is the day’s bento battle so functionality has got to be the top priority at the moment.

The Case of Yosuke

It would have been interesting to compare the Ben-to gals’ choice of swimwear with Chie and Yukiko’s in Persona 4, but we only have Yosuke picking cutesy bikinis for them.  The bikinis have been carefully selected to fit the girls’ personalities.  Chie gets a predominantly green and yellow one (matching her usual jacket of the same color) and the bottom looks like sporty jean shorts.  Yukiko gets a white one (=purity?) with a more stereotypically feminine skirt bottom.  I’d say Yosuke has good taste but again, it’d have been much more useful for analysis if the gals had picked their own…

The Case of Kanji

There’s no doubt in my mind, both from seeing the episode and from having played this section of the game, that Kanji’s nosebleed is for the guys, not for the girls.  When the girls come out initially he does blush, but I think that’s a normal reaction in this context.  Seeing high school classmates in swimsuits for the first time can be an embarrassing experience regardless of questions of attractiveness.  The person he really finds attractive here is Yuu, and the fact that he gets kicked by the girls is not because he was bleeding at them, nor because they thought he was bleeding at them, but because he was bleeding and evidently thinking naughty thoughts period.

All in all the evidence in this episode is that Kanji is gay, but that he intends to try and “settle” for women at least for the moment (he even says something to this effect).

Of course, I could be wrong in reading it like this and if other people have different views of the situation I’d love to hear them~

 

~ by Haloed Bane on November 24, 2011.

12 Responses to “Ben-To 07 / Persona 4 08: Ladies’ Swimwear”

  1. Anime clich’e #22: Have a least 1 episode where girls are in Swimsuits, hot springs, or public baths with males getting excited leading to fantasies, peeping, and/or acting like horny 13 year old boys.

    • 22 is my favorite number, actually!

      You’re right, of course. Now, the question is: do high school boys in Japan act this way in similar situations? I don’t know enough to say for sure, but I tend to think they do. The funny thing is even if they didn’t use to behave like that 20 years ago, I bet you with all the anime/manga influence a lot of them do now~

  2. I haven’t watched 4 8 yet, but I’ll say that Yuu’s taste is certainly better than any of the women in Ben-to’s regardless of plot justification. Not that I like swimsuits either way, but Chie’s is about as nice as they come.

  3. The tent scene was very hurtful, not funny. Could you imagine if you thought your friends would accept you, but then they say “no we don’t” and then they try to kick you out? What if something like that happened to your friend?

    • High school is rough that way. I had gay friends who kept the secret very guarded and only came out years later. They were popular in school and had no (overt) problems. I also had a friend who was much more open about his sexuality (he was not gay, by the way) and he was shunned in school.

  4. no matter how I tried, I can’t see Kanji as being gay. He’s just more in tune with his feelings but he’s definitely doesn’t swing that way… but it would be funnier if he does turn out to be gay though😄

  5. * I found this on a forum, thought it was a good read/it’s not mine:
    “I kind of expected, and in fact would have encouraged, Yosuke to be a homophobic jerk because, let’s face it, he’s a homophobic jerk. He’s a lovable character, but in the game the fact that he is a homophobic jerk is clearly portrayed as a character flaw. The reactions of other characters to Yosuke’s behavior throughout the game clearly establishes that Yosuke is a tad immature and he blurts out stupid things and he often receives a legitimate comeuppance for his bursts of douchebaggery.

    That’s kind of the point with Yosuke: he’s a decent human being who nonetheless is a bit of an ass. And while the Protag basically scores with every woman in the city because he’s a nice, compassionate guy who cares about his friends and acts respectfully, Yosuke deliberately contrasts with the Protag and shows just how and why the Protag just might be so ‘successful’ in his dating life and why he and not Yosuke is the leader of the Investigation Team. With men like Yosuke as ‘competition,’ all Protag has to do is not be a chauvinistic, homophobic douche with the maturity of a third grader!

    So, the way I thought Episode Seven should have gone was the way my game’s playthrough essentially went: Yosuke says stupid homophobic shit, the Main Character and the girls scold Yosuke for being so self-centered when Kanji’s life is at risk, the Protag acts like the supportive, all-around awesome person he is (and the awesome person that the game and the anime portray him as and that the other characters believe him to be; that is important), Kanji accepts his shadow, everyone wins!

    So it was exceptionally disappointing when the Protag decided to join the Homophobia Train. And not just with one or two “You feel mild trepidation entering this dungeon with the wacky sauna theme…” messages that the game gave. Merely feeling fear upon entering a dungeon with shadows trying to kill you, even if that fear is exacerbated somewhat by some irrational and brazenly idiotic “What if the shadows are gay and try to rape me?” thought is one thing, but it’s what the Protag actually says when he opens his mouth that differentiates the game’s Protagonist from the anime’s douche.

    Game Protag hesitates but he never once indicates that he’s willing to abandon the mission outright (and effectively allow Kanji to quite possibly die due to his non-intervention) because he’s afraid of gay people. And while I don’t have the script of Episode Seven in front of me, some of the lines from Protag’s mouth were just disgustingly homophobic. It wasn’t ‘snarky,’ it was homophobic. There is a difference.

    But that pales in comparison to Protag’s single worst line (said in Episode Eight, we’ll get there,) and it also pales in comparison to…

    * The Protag and Yosuke expressing willingness, at a moment’s notice, to attack and attempt to kill Kanji’s shadow just because Kanji’s Shadow makes them feel uncomfortable because Kanji’s Shadow is totally gay and hitting on them.

    Let’s get a few things straight:
    At this stage of the storyline, Protag and Yosuke have seen and fought other shadow versions of characters before. They know that shadow versions of characters are absolutely harmless in their original state and remain harmless until the person in question denies them, at which point the shadows transform into a violent version that does in fact start to destroy things.

    …So, Yosuke and Protag know that the shadow must be ‘defeated’ by Kanji accepting Shadow Kanji as himself. Given that the shadows have never been permanently ‘defeated’ by the cast by any other means, attacking the pre-transformation form of Kanji’s shadow is counter-productive at best and could well end up in an outcome of Kanji’s death at worst.

    Remember, the strategy employed by the P4 characters at this point of the game was to attempt to convince the affected character to accept their shadow before the denial happened, therefore avoiding a fight outright. I’m reasonably certain that at no point in the game did the P4 cast attack the pre-transformation version of a Shadow, particularly when this version of the shadow did nothing to merit their anger except be gay.

    And let’s not forget that the only fault or foible of pre-transformation Shadow Kanji was that he was too gay for Yosuke and Protag to apparently handle. Shadow Kanji did not constitute a physical threat to the Persona 4 cast at this juncture. He did not physically attack them. He did not threaten to hurt or kill them.

    …He just was gay.
    And being gay, in and of itself, was totally enough to send Yosuke and Protag into a primordial rage.

    But even if we could stop there, I might have been okay with the episode. I mean, sure, lots of (heterosexual, privileged) high school guys who are otherwise decent people have no idea whatsoever how to handle the thought that another guy might think they’re smexy. Back in high school, I was one of those guys myself! And maybe there’s a message here that the P4 Anime would attempt to convey, like perhaps the Protag who was a perfectly compassionate, likable dude in the game would be portrayed very differently, as a flawed boy with significant moral shortcomings, in the anime.

    But then…

    * Chie and Yukiko join in and attack a pre-transformation version of Shadow Kanji who represents no physical threat to them just because he’s gay.

    I guess Chie sort of attempted an excuse of “It’s not because he’s gay, it’s because I’m impulsive and really annoyed at his monologue and I want to freeze things!” But it was particularly surprising (and disappointing) to see Yukiko Amagi, who is basically presented as a sweet, likable girl who’s thoughtful and considerate and not excessively prone to initiate violence suddenly decide that she too has had enough of Shadow Kanji.

    …because Shadow Kanji is ‘acting gay.’

    Shadow Chie was acting pretty sinister; why didn’t Yosuke and Protag beat the crap out of her when she talked her trash, before Chie’s denial and Shadow Chie’s transformation into Dominatrix Banana-Chick? Actually, that’s just the thing; Shadow Chie’s pre-transformation dialogue was arguably far more threatening and antagonistic than Shadow Kanji’s, because really, all Shadow Kanji does is flirt shamelessly and talk about how much he enjoys what constitutes his definition of a ‘good time.’

    The answer that the Anime posits to us is quite simple: Shadow Kanji was gay, and open about being gay, and willing to flirt openly and present his sexuality in a forthcoming manner around others, and that alone merited wanton violence against him. From everyone, male or female, ‘jerks’ and ‘compassionate heroes’ alike. The Protag is the chosen one, a symbol of tolerance, progression, heroism, the greatest hope the town of Inaba has, beloved by every woman, respected by man, and he totally wants you to know you better not flirt with him if you have a penis or he will fuck your shit. Chie and Yukiko weren’t even a position to feel personally threatened by Shadow Kanji’s idle flirtations and they still were so riled by Kanji’s **gayness** that physical violence was the preferred solution! Their only justification was one of brazen homophobia, unless you want to argue that they were ‘afraid’ they’d otherwise be subjected to something so torturous as ‘watching this guy talk about how much he enjoys hot saunas with other guys.’

    * Did I mention that all of this is occurring in the context of a moment when Kanji’s life is personally threatened? The kids don’t have the slightest clue of the intricate nature of the TV world they’re exploring; all they know is that they have a strict timetable to save Kanji in or he dies, and he needs to accept his Shadow or he’s at risk.
    …Oooh, I know! Let’s antagonize Kanji’s Shadow before it transforms and give Kanji more reasons to want to deny his affiliation with said Shadow because we literally care more about not having to listen to gay people flirt with us or our guy friends, than we value Kanji’s life!

    * Oh, it’s okay, because we all know that deep down inside Protag’s a really, truly nice guy who cares about Kanji and respects their friendship, he just likes to be ‘snarky’ (manifesting his snark in the form of wanton attacks in this particular instance, I suppose) to his buddies, right?

    Well, Episode Eight puts rest to any thought of that notion!
    Episode Eight takes place after the Protag and his buddies have presumably ‘accepted’ Kanji.
    …Only they’ve only accepted Kanji at day. At night, it’s another matter entirely!

    Protag’s line here is absolutely ludicrous to defend precisely because Yosuke acts far worse around women and the Protag does not call Yosuke out on it. Hell, in the very same episode, Yosuke brazenly advocates that Chie and Yukiko sleep in an integrated manner with he and Protag — he is advocating a sexually predatory outcome in a tent in the exact same manner that he and Protag accused Kanji of doing! And yet the Protag and the women will tolerate this, because it’s typical heterosexual male chauvinistic bullshittery.

    …And that’s probably actually the biggest problem about all of this. It isn’t just the homophobia, although the homophobia is very overt and very despicable and it very openly refutes the P4 game’s flawed yet positive approach of encouraging tolerance and diversity in friendships.

    …It’s that the characters respond so harshly to actions taken by ‘homosexual’ characters while tolerating and in fact encouraging the very same behavior from their heterosexual counterparts!
    Yosuke forcing Yukiko and Chie to wear swimsuits despite their discomfort at the notion is funny and typical guy hijinks, and Yosuke can be excused of that! Even Chie and Yukiko don’t aggressively call Yosuke out for being creepy. When Yosuke says “Hey Yukiko and Chie, why not sleep alongside us tonight?” The girls do not respond by badgering Yosuke for threatening to take their ‘chastity.

    So the message here is plain: Girls just have to tolerate this from heterosexual guys! Heterosexual guys can and will act like perverts who want to steal your sexual purity against your will and force you to dress up in scanty swimsuits, but you should just swallow your criticism and choose to remain his friend and accept the behavior as ‘typical.’ Even the Protag, by refusing to aggressively scold Yosuke when Yosuke acts legitimately creepy as fuck in drooling over Chie or Yukiko, is passively enabling Yosuke as his ‘friend’ to engage in this skeevy shit.

    …But when Kanji barely acts half as predatory as Yosuke and is just sitting silently in the middle of the guy’s tent, both Yosuke and Protag feel that their chastity is in serious danger! Not even because Kanji is gay and because Kanji, like Yosuke to the girls, has expressed a serious sexual interest in the Protag or Yosuke. The ‘real’ (non-Shadow) Kanji hasn’t flirted with Protag or Yosuke at all! They don’t even really definitively know whether Kanji is actually gay! And there’s far less evidence that Kanji is remotely interested in pursuing a relationship, and he’s certainly not forcing the Protag or Yosuke to waltz around in swimsuits for his personal enjoyment.

    …The anime says this: The mere possibility that your guy friend might be gay, even if he is utterly disinterested in you, is more threatening than a heterosexual guy’s overt and depraved sexual interest in women. There’s only reason why this could be: Because mere gayness in and of itself is a ‘threat!’

    * And the game sort of was imperfect too, but the crucial difference was, the game at least gave you incentives to roleplay the Protag as a decent human being who did not in fact support this worldview. Yosuke may have been condemned to his childish immaturity, but the Protag received rewards in the form of boosts to his social links with Chie and Yukiko by treating them respectfully during the swimsuit scene, and the Protag received rewards in the form of boosts to his social link with Kanji by treating Kanji compassionately, like a true friend, supporting Kanji’s presence in the tent, refuting privilege and refusing to indulge in homophobia. Even if you could choose to roleplay the Protag as a jerk, doing so felt out of character (how could the Protag acquire the sincere respect of Kanji and the women he interacts with regularly if he was a chauvinistic homophobe?)

    Choosing the ‘I-am-a-decent-human-being’ options subsequently flow naturally. Yukiko and Chie and Naoto and Kanji and Nanako and Dojima repeatedly reinforce the notion that Protag is a great guy; and more often than not, choosing the ‘snarky’ options results in penalties to your P4 gameplay experience in the form of stalling social links. An ideal playthrough requires you to consider your friends’ feelings and act respectfully and not be intolerant.

    But P4: The Anime is tying to have its cake and eat it, too; it’s simultaneously attempting to give you a snarky Protag who repeatedly chooses the “hysterical” (note that I don’t think they’re often very funny) dialogue options, yet also gives you a Protag who, by the Anime’s own admission, has above-average Stats in all fields of personal growth by Episode Eight and who’s Maxing social links with relative ease. The dynamic of P4 that once punished a homophobic, chauvinistic, asshole of a player is gone, and instead there’s a huge fundamental disconnect: The anime characters are still acting like Protag is the sweetest, coolest, most benevolent, likable, tolerant human being they know, utterly demanding their fealty and accruing their affections, but the Protag is increasingly acting just as big a jerk as Yosuke is.

    The plentiful evidence that the game provided you that the Protag was a decent person in watching his social links gradually accrue over extended periods of time and effort is gone; what’s left is a homophobic jokester who tolerates Yosuke’s chauvinism and who’s petty and insecure and yet still beloved. At this point, the Protag is in desperate need of the same kind of abuse given to Yosuke on a regular basis. But even when Yukiko and Chie dared toss the Protag into the river with Yosuke, it’s still heavily implied that they’re totally crushing on him, just as it’s still heavily implied that Kanji thinks the Protag is an incredible friend (except, well, not at night, lest his chastity be threatened) and just as Naoki can apparently be swayed from hating the Protag and Yosuke to totally being good bros in the course of a single goddamn conversation.

    …So it’s not just the homophobia that bothers me, although it’s bothersome enough. It’s that the homophobia is in plain contradiction of the halo the P4 anime team is still painting around the Protag, and that in painting that angelic halo around the Protag, the animators are saying this: The Protag is an ideal high school student; all you high school students watching the P4 Anime should want to be just like him, because he’s going to get all the girls and earn the respect of all the guys and he’s a role model. Oh, and by the way, he totally hates gay people, and you should, too. They make him feel awkward and uncomfortable and fearful for his chastity just in the mere act of being themselves. And, it is totally acceptable for heterosexual men to treat their gay friends with this degree of innate suspicion. (By the way, despite the fact that gay people can’t do this to you, it’s totally cool for you or your heterosexual friends to go even further then this when pursuing women. They just have to accept your inherent lustful state.)”

    • Wow, that’s long~

      Well-thought ideas, but I think the analysis takes things too far.

      1) It’s not primordial rage that makes the boys attack the Shadow prematurely, it’s fear..fear of sexuality (and for teens, sexuality is a fearful thing indeed).

      2) I think a lot of people are focusing too much on the treatment of Kanji and not enough on the treatment of Yosuke. Yosuke keeps getting shot down every single episode, and he’s been in this from the beginning! People keep comparing the protagonist’s “do-no-wrong persona” to Kanji, without realizing that Yosuke is suffering a similar fate too.

      3) If the show seems to have an agenda, it is to proclaim that playing it cool (not showing your emotions too quickly, not revealing your affection whether hetero or homosexual) is the best possible way to live. I’m not supporting this opinion, but it’s certainly one opinion out there with a lot of supporters.

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