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Last month saw the first anniversary of what marked the beginning of the MeToo movement, which were the sexual abuse accusations on Harvey Weinstein. From there, the #MeToo movement spread amongst women in showbiz across the United States and eventually other countries as well. It highlighted how women in showbiz can be vulnerable under sexual exploitation in Hollywood, and encouraged women to speak up against it. Japan did not see the same level of activity in the MeToo movement, where the wrong kind of conservatism prevails in my home country. However, there are three cases that spoke out against it (and possibly more that I am unaware about). The first, and ongoing one is a journalist named Ito Shiori who was raped by a senior journalist. The second, and more relevant to this, was Perfect Blue, an animated movie which is a story of an ex-idol's desparate attempt to further her career in showbiz, and discussed sexual exploitation in showbiz years before MeToo did. The third one, which basically dropped the same anvil as the second one (albeit in a much more family-friendly manner with a happier ending) was Persona 4: Dancing All Night. The Gameplay Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a rhythm and dancing game with a "Where are they now" story after the canon epilogue of Persona 4 Golden. As a persona who has only passing interest in dancing games, this was perhaps the only one that I actually was interested in, and played fairly extensively. And considering that, the game was easy enough to get used to. The interface and controls were intiutive, with the notes spreading outwards, indicating which outer buttons on the PS Vita I need to press or hold down, and it was easy to follow the notes. You can play the various songs from various Persona 4 entries, with many remixed by various Japanese artists, in which they appear at certain points in Story Mode, or as a score attack in Free Mode. Bonuses for high scores and story mode progressions appear in the form of extra costumes which you can buy using in-game currency in this game's versions' Tanaka's Amazing Commodities, or pay and download via DLC. As for the difficulty of this game, it is very easy to get used to (as mentioned before), yet very difficult to master. There are four modes in score attack, which are Easy, Normal, Hard, and All Night. Easy is very much for beginners to the genre, while Normal is also managable. The former two settings are also the modes available in Story Mode, which means that you can enjoy the story without having blisters on your fingers. On the other hand, Hard is quite challenging, while only the best rhythm gamers will be able to even have a go at All Night, let alone master this difficulty setting. So far, this sounds like what a good rhythm game should be. So why did I pick up this game and not, say, Dance Dance Revolution, or even Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight? Story Part 1: Overview What Persona 4: Dancing All Night had which others lacked is a story - while less substantial than the main game, was nevertheless a story very much worth watching, and was the main reason I got into this game. So Rise Kujikawa, the J-Pop idol who went back to the city (presumably Tokyo) after her adventures in Persona 4 (Golden), and was going to join an all-star concert with the upcoming Kanamin Kitchen as her comeback debut. And she wants Yu Narukami and his friends from their old school (who all solved the serial murders together) join in as backup dancers for her debut. However, the game soon takes a darker turn which focuses on the other idols gone missing, and it is up to the Yu and his Investigation Team to solve the case. Yes, sure, there is quite a lot of fanservice in this game, but the story is much more than that; it probably helped me appreciate some of the basic aspects of the MeToo movement, and Atlus should be commended for not shying away . Zhiqing Wan has wrote a review that I almost wholeheartely agree with, so expect a number of quotes from her. (I strongly urge readers to read her review too.) One of Dancing All Night's discussion is the dark side of people's true self versus people's perceptions. Wan wrote: Dancing All Night follows a slightly different path and instead deals with issues like meeting the expectations of others, and putting on a façade or adopting an entirely different personality so as to be accepted by the majority. Suddenly, the very notion of bringing pop idols into the silly mix of jumping into different dimensions and ‘dancing’ Shadows to death seems completely rational and not out of place at all. [omitted]...Dancing All Night brings back the personal connection we all felt when we played the original Persona 4 for the first time back on the PS2. How many times have we felt unappreciated or unloved for being ourselves? And how often have we tried to change who we are just to fit societal expectations? Persona 4: Dancing All Night tackles these questions with finesse and, just like Persona 4, proves to be a very human game that we can latch onto easily. I can very much relate to the above paragraph that Wan wrote, as I had a similar issue with my classmates. Back in 1997, my family and I returned to our hometown of Tokyo from San Francisco, where my dad worked as a bank's branch manager. And the conformist Japanese classroom was as such that I felt punished for acting assertive or even honest, whether it was through the regimented curriculum, or the bullying I experienced from my classmates. It felt like Atlus questioned the usage of tatemae (the veneer we all have in our lives) versus honne (our real opinions) in modern Japanese society, and how we should be not afraid to be more honest with ourselves. Story Part 2: J-Pop Idols and sexual exploitation The other moral that Atlus explored was the lives of Japanese pop idols. This is the industry where older people (mainly men) are attracted to the idols, which we see has some of the strictest lifestyles of Japanese professionals (both private and public). Wan described it succinctly here: As happy and cheery as the game’s box art looks, Dancing All Night doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to exploring the lives of Japanese pop idols either. There are a few narrative sequences in the game where we get to witness the emotional turmoil of the four Kanamin Kitchen girls, and the struggles they face within the industry. These sequences are all incredibly stylized within the game, of course, but just like in Perfect Blue, it’s shockingly easy to draw parallels between the in-game events and real life itself. The story's critique got me curious and I had a look at some of the stuff that idols had to go through. Many of the idols have to follow codes of behaviour that demands a high level of politeness and purity: the extent that bans having boyfriends and requires prior permission to marry. One idol member from AKB48 shaved her head and made a public apology for going out with a boyfriend - something many of us do as part of our teenage lives. Even worse, unlike stars on the Disney Channel which at least has the justification that they are starring on a children's show, the situation surrounding the J-Pop idols are basically the hypocrisy of the managers and audiences alike. Hannah Lee, a Law/Asian Studies student from Australian National University writes, for example: Most fans who follow groups like AKB48 are middle-aged men. The idols themselves are teenagers, who begin performing at around 13 years old. Idols are often presented in cute school outfits and perform in synchronised groups. Whilst sexualisation of women is not limited to Japan, Japanese idol groups specifically pander to a young girl fetish, which is encouraged for the sake of record sales. But what young girl would ever consent to this? If consent is ‘free and informed’, there is simply is no way that a girl, at 12 years old, can knowingly consent to being sexualised by men four times her age. Equally disturbing is the fact that this idol fad came as the counter-response to the first wave of Japanese feminism in the 1970s (referenced from the link). Japan Subculture Research Center describe's AKB48's founder, Yasushi Akimoto, as follows: Yasushi Akimoto was a Zegen [sex merchant] with a vision – having never been popular in high school himself, he recognized the deep sexual frustration and vast need for sexual fantasies festering in the educated and dateless Japanese male. When he came out with “Onyanko Club” in the mid-1980s, people were blinded by the sheer genius of this man. Here he was, peddling quite ordinary high school girls on TV, who all got up on the studio stage to teasingly sing “oh please don’t take my school uniform off, no-no-no!” to an audience who could never hear such titillating pleas when they were 18 so was totally stoked to hear it now, from a gaggle of winking girls all beckoning SIMULTANEOUSLY. And perhaps not as obvious, but also a question that I have is this: Why do many Japanese VAs for anime tend to voice female characters like chipmunks when the majority of females in real life don't sound like the saccharine, cutesy voices? The only times I remember hearing pitch ranges that are not absurdly high in Japanese animations are perhaps Naoto or Yukiko in Persona 4, or the Japanese dubs from Disney. Through many of the articles, I now understand why Atlus was so critical about the idol industry. And the above mentioned are just the articles written in English - there are more on that on Japanese news sites. As for myself: While I enjoyed watching the so called gravure idols in their swimsuits (and to some extent still do), this has made me have second thoughts about the stuff they possibly have to go through. The game (and the subsequent research) was quite enough to make me feel uncomfortable about myself, and acknowledge that I have my fair share of misogyny that I may have contributed. And my thoughts do not end here. While Atlus was warning people about the dark side of the idol industry in particular, it was perhaps also warning us about the dark side of sexual exploitation in showbiz in general. And this game was released a couple of years before the Weinstein scandal had its cover blown in 2017. Granted, it probably did not have the effect in kicking off the MeToo movement anywhere near the level of other factors, and it definitely has not in Japan, sadly. But I cannot help but think about how the release had such perfect timing. The other thing is that the English localisation had a response in implying a possible reconstruction of the idol's role. While a lot of people seem to miss Laura Bailey as Rise's English VA, I actually welcome the more mature treatment of Rise by her new VA, Ashly Burch. It seems like Rise asked her agency for permission to assume a more mature persona for her new idol role instead of the airhead-ish role of her old idol persona, and it seemed like she did so assertively too. It's a very good thing, considering how idols should be able to grow up and be more independent like the rest of us. Conversely, it's to my high disappointment (and my only disappointment in this game) that the Japanese original of the game did not do so in the first place - either Rie Kugimiya (the Japanese VA) should have toned down the chipmunky voice Rise turned out as, or Atlus should have casted someone else to sound more in-line with Ashly Burch. (I personally would have like Nana Mizuki to voice the new Rise's Japanese scripts - except that she's already voicing someone else from the Persona series (Ann from P5)...) Story Part 3: Other comments There are also some interesting tidbits to read from the characters speeches as well. The characters don't get much character development per se, partly because the story only takes 2-3 in-universe days at most, and also because I think, understandably, everyone in general wants to be more like silly, carefree teenagers after their harrowing work in solving the serial murders in the prequel. This particularly applies to Yosuke, Chie, and Yukiko, as they are in their final year in high school and will be having their university/job entrance exams soon - this is their last opportunity before they need to get serious again. However, there are many retrospective reflections that come into play when they interact with each others, and with the idols they are saving and befriending. Many are very heartwarming and awesome to see, precisely because of how they reflected upon their own issues, and how their generally honest interactions with each other over the past year in the prequel strengthened their friendships, and how they became more confident with each other. And for that, there is Persona 4 Golden which is the prequel (and the main story) everyone should play before this game, as they won't be able to appreciate Dancing All Night's story otherwise. (See here for my reviews of that game.) Both this and the prequel are on PS Vita, so if you can play this game, you practically have no excuse to not get Golden! Special props goes to Uncle Ryotaro and Nanako Dojima: Conclusion So there you have it. If there was a game that not only wrote a story worth reading, but highlights some of the social issues Japan's biggest fad has tucked away conveniently, this is the game. I encourage everyone to either borrow a friend's copy of Dancing All Night (or even better buy a copy, but not before understanding the story of Persona 4 Golden) and look up "the dark side of japanese idol industry" on Google. And maybe spread the word. I'm not sure how I myself can do to address the issue that Dancing All Night rightly raises apart from acknowledging my contribution to misogyny, but at least I can say that Atlus has done a great service in raising the social issue, and they should not be ashamed for it. Verdict: Buy the game, and look up the info on the social issues. (But play P4G first!)