Social Justice vs Games: Ann Takamaki

So, let me finish with “Solid Snake’s” thesis: that Ann Takamaki’s presentation in the game represents the height of misogyny. Spoilers ahead!

Let’s start with his complaint that everyone is in love — or at least attracted to — Ann:

– Ann’s a beautiful model, and at least three of the boys introduced appear to have huge crushes on her.

The first antagonist
(the initial boss with the first dungeon) in the game also has a huge crush on her, because everyone apparently does.

He later even suggests that the person who took the MC in has a crush on her, even though his reaction seems to be more that the MC has taken up with someone relatively “nice” instead of someone who is a delinquent, like Ryuji.

What we find in her S-link, though, and early along is that she is attractive because, for the most part, she’s exotic: a blue-eyed, blonde woman in Japan. Thus, she gets modeling gigs for that — and being, well, attractive herself — and gets attention because of that. She outright says that she considered dying her hair to get less attention, but decided not to. So her looks make her popular because they are exotic, and because of that popularity Kamoshida targets her, less simply because of her looks but clearly more so that he can have what everyone else wants. Now, I personally like both Makoto and Fubata better, and also consider Ann to be a bit of a ditz, but she has far more reason for being that popular than Yukari did in Persona 3 or Yukiko did in Persona 4.

Also, how much she isn’t attracted to Ryuji would be thrown into question on the beach outing, where she teases him about now finding her attractive or interesting. But that’s not a big deal.

He also, though, hypes up her backstory at the expense of the others:

To convince her to partake in relations Kamoshida targets her best friend, who plays for the volleyball team that he coaches. Kamoshida basically tells Ann “Sleep with me or I will ruin your best friend’s life,” and when Ann hesitates Kamoshida first beats up her best friend, then he sleeps with her best friend, and then her best friend attempts to commit suicide.

…By the way like, none of the male characters have tragic backstories to work through with nearly as much bullshit. Ryuji’s trauma which Atlus dares to compare to Ann’s is that Kamoshida ruined his life by…kicking him off another sports team and ostracizing him from his former team members. Kind of tame compared to attempted sexual assault, actually sexually assaulting your friend because you refused to comply, and then your friend attempting suicide and ending up in a coma, don’t you think?

Um, Kamoshida took over coaching the team for the explicit purpose of destroying it, abused them, and pushed Ryuji into attacking him by taunting him over the issues in Ryuji’s backstory with his parents. Then, he used that as an excuse to kill the team, a team that had been looking promising in the upcoming year, which ended up with some students losing the possibility of scholarships, for which they all blamed Ryjui, who ended up blaming himself for doing that, which is what caused him to slip into not caring and delinquency. While you can debate whether Ann’s is worse or not, Ryjui’s is indeed pretty bad. And we’ve already talked about the MC’s backstory, which is pretty bad, too. So this doesn’t really seem to establish anything.

At any rate, putting aside Morgana’s crush on Ann and Ryuji’s crush and definite “perverted teen vibe” — and there’s at least one in every game — his biggest complaints are reserved for Yusuke, who when he first sees Ann finds her so striking that he wants her to pose for him, and then later when the modeling session isn’t working for him demands that she pose nude for him or else he’ll report her friends to the police for essentially trespassing, which will get them expelled. That blackmail isn’t a good thing, of course, but “Solid Snake” takes it further:

Later, Yusuke changes the terms of their deal: He now wants Ann to pose for him in the nude. He insists — and I think it’s important to note this because this actually makes this even worse in my mind given what happens later — he insists to Ann that he’s not interested in seeing her nude for any sexual reason. He’s a serious painter, he alleges, he takes this kind of art seriously, it’s just a job to him, and he just wants to translate her beauty to a canvas for purely artistic reasons. I mean, I know plenty of artists who draw nude portraits and it really is just about the art and not at all sexual to them and he’s about Ann’s age so maybe, just maybe, we can trust his word, right?

…Nope!

Before we get into that, he goes on about how the others are convincing her and teasing her about having to pose nude for Yusuke, and about how that infuriates him. Except it was clear that they had no intention of her actually posing nude. When Ann gets upset over the comments, Ryuji flat-out says that she isn’t going to pose nude, and all she’s supposed to do is keep him busy until Morgana gets the door open and the main artist guy sees it, which will change his cognition and let them get into the room to turn off the security. Even without that, the fact that both Ryuji and Morgana were opposed to her modeling for him in the first place and were, if I remember correctly, opposed to her posing nude for him should have made that clear. And while “Solid Snake” suggests that they’re being unimaginative here in thinking of solutions:

You see, there’s no other option. (There are actually other options, the boys just suddenly have no imagination to conceive of any other possibility.)

I can’t see what those other options are. They need to get into the house, when people are going to be around, and get that door unlocked where the main artist can see it. And the MC and Ryjui had to stay in the Palace until it was open because if it got closed they wouldn’t be able to complete the mission, and then Ann might really have no choice but to pose nude or else get at least the MC into serious trouble. Ann is the only one who can legitimately get into the house, and only if she agrees to pose. Yusuke won’t allow the other two into the house at all anymore. So … what’s the other option? Add in again that she’s a decoy and isn’t supposed to actually post nude, and while she doesn’t want to do it it really does seem like there’s no other option.

Also, “Solid Snake” demonstrates his ability to overinterpret things:

Okay, so: She shows up in Yusuke’s room, alone, and the first comic joke that Atlus really wants you to laugh with them is…she decides to wear like, twenty layers of clothing so she’ll delay the inevitable nudity by slowly removing each layer of fabric (while Morgana hopefully unlocks a door they need to unlock, that is the extent of their plan.) HAHAHAHA, you get it guys, Yusuke is naively dismayed and verbally moans and groans because he thinks Ann has ‘gained weight’ in the whopping twenty-four hours since they last saw each other.

Um, except that he didn’t “moan and groan”. In fact, his reaction was far more puzzled and confused than anything else. He didn’t hint that he wouldn’t want to paint her or anything. It’s a mild — and yes, deliberately ridiculous — comment of “Um … have you gained weight?”. A more socially adjusted person would have known what had happened, but Yusuke is, in fact, not that socially adjusted. To turn it into fatphobia says more about “Solid Snake” than it does about Yusuke and, by extension, Atlus. This sort of reading in will be in evidence throughout the entire critique.

So what is the evidence for that “Nope!” above?

So the camera POV obscures Ann from the audience’s view and focuses on a closeup of Yusuke and his artsy canvas as she begins to ‘strip.’ Pieces of Ann’s clothing begin to appear on the screen as she tosses them his way as she’s removing them. Ann instructs Yusuke to look away but as she begins to remove her clothes, Yusuke catches glimpses of her clothing near his feet and…he begins to stutter and slur his words and blush and act all predictably clumsy and betray the fact that he’s actually a pervert who just wanted an excuse to see an attractive woman nekkid. As someone who desperately wanted to believe that Yusuke was telling Ann the truth when he insisted upon his honor that he only wanted to draw her for some abstract artistic motivation, and that he wasn’t at all motivated by sexual desire, this revelation was…well, not surprising, still annoying as all hell.

Ann picks up on Yusuke’s juvenile behavior and is perturbed enough to begin begging Morgana to finish unlocking the damned door so she can make an early getaway, dammit. Of course, the gag at this point is that Morgana runs into unexpected difficulties unlocking said door, requiring poor Ann to continue to find awkward excuses to buy time.

For the (heterosexual, male) audience’s amusement, at this point Ann is revealed to have stripped down to just a tanktop and the shortest of imaginable short shorts. Morgana reveals Ann needs to continue ‘acting’ so…
…Ann decides she’s going to have to seduce Yusuke, I guess? I think the joke on Atlus’ mind is having Ann utilize vague language with Yusuke that could be interpreted both ways — the classic “Let’s go inside that room for more privacy, then we can do exactly what you want” kind of purring that just strikes me as icky to the extreme. Here’s a problem, though: While Ann is ‘acting’ this way she is simultaneously whispering sincere despondent “PLEASE TELL ME YOU’RE FINISHED!” messages to Morgana, and she comes across as very, very uncomfortable with the situation she must ‘act.’

Yusuke is flustered and betrays any possibility that he really was just motivated by ‘fine art’ by seeming perfectly willing to engage in far dirtier escapades than just painting a nude portrait with Ann until his mentor, the elderly plagarizing baddie, shows up and **** hits the fan, I guess.

First, Ann started being seductive pretty much from the beginning. That’s why, even though she tells him to turn his back, she tosses her clothing at him from the beginning, and suggests going somewhere with a lock a couple of times. And while she is doing this and Yusuke is being “flustered”, Yusuke explicitly tells himself that he’s doing this for the sake of art. Again, he tells himself this. Thus, the more reasonable interpretation is that Yusuke is a teenage boy who thinks that nude posing is particularly “artsy” or carries artistic weight but has well, never done it before. And so while he wants to tell himself that he can just be dispassionate about the art side, this is the first time he’s seen a naked woman. Add in Ann being flirty and seductive in an attempt to distract him long enough for the door to be opened and he’s going to be flustered. That doesn’t make him a pervert, and the game itself directly contradicts him deliberately doing it just to see Ann naked.

As for the seduction scenes, it isn’t obvious that Yusuke is taking Ann’s “Do it” as sex. There are indeed cases where he does seem to get that and in fact is briefly open to it, but, again, he’s a teenage boy. But for the most part at those times Ann runs off into the house where she isn’t supposed to be and where if the main artist finds her there Yusuke will get in trouble, so the dominant emotion is “Get back out of sight and stop messing with the things that no one is supposed to mess with!”. So it doesn’t seem to me that his primary focus is on having sex with Ann or seeing her nude, and that’s what would need to be established for that characterization to work.

If Yusuke were just motivated and passionate about painting he’d be just as interested in drawing Ann clothed, or any other character, with any other expression, or he’d talk about other possibilities of things to draw even if nude painting fascinated him.

Instead he zeroes in with otherworldly focus on the possibility of drawing Ann and obsesses over drawing her — specifically her — nude for months, to the point where he’s interjecting it in conversations that have nothing to do with Ann or painting and he’s actually trying to plot his way into living in her home as that would presumably facilitate this painting.

Well, he actually tried painting her clothed, and determined that artistically it didn’t work, which led to him demanding the nude posing. And Yusuke reacts the same way to, say, painting Mementos and even lobsters as he does to paining Ann nude. He also wants to paint Futaba in a swimsuit, which if you’re used to him by now and his eccentricities is easy to interpret as, again, him being overly enthusiastic about art, as is consistent with his character. He also has a tendency to not really understand how his requests come across to other people, which to me is a better explanation for his simply assuming that he could move in with Ann after leaving the dorms than that he had some huge plot to use that to get Ann to pose for him … but I concede that that might come up later in his S-link and so “Solid Snake” might be right here. But up to that scene that he considered so problematic there’s not much to establish that he really just wanted to see Ann nude and wasn’t focusing on what he thought was high art.

In a later comment, “Solid Snake” gripes about all of the other characters being turned into perverts and bad people so that the MC can be justified in being the one that all of the girls like (I’m not going to bother quoting that). This … does not seem accurate to me. In Persona 3, the worst of them — Junpei — actually proves himself worthy of and get a relationship. If you play P3P with the female protagonist, Kenji has Rio in love with him. Akihiko is seen as more popular with the women than the MC is, and seems to be a viable boyfriend if he only cared more and was better at dealing with women. In Persona 4, the game itself seems to ship Naoto and Kanji, and while the MC is likely to end up with Yukiko or Rise as his main and canon interest a case can be made that Chie and Yosuke have a “Slap, slap, kiss” relationship going, although that might be a stretch. Here, I can definitely see Yusuke and Futaba as being a cute couple, as they are both deeply eccentric and the “Neo Featherman” scene gets Yusuke to bring Futaba out of her shell with an argument where, at the end, both of them end up understanding each other while the others don’t. And I think Ryuji and Ann might make a better couple than Ann and the MC. Given that, they have differing personalities, but they are all, in the end, good people … if often annoying. And that’s the heart of the series. If you miss that, then you miss what makes the series great … and push for things that don’t make sense and criticize for things that are not there. As I think happens with Yusuke. If my opinion changes as I forge ahead in the game, I’ll be sure to post about it.

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