The Self is an Interesting Burden to “Bear”: The Development of Teddie in Persona 4

source: pixiv

“You are hollow, empty.”

“Empty!?”

“You have no lost memories. You are but a mere–”

“I’m not listening! I’ll find the answer myself!”

“There is no answer.”

“I’ll look anyway! I may be hollow, but I’m not a useless bear! I don’t wanna disappear. I don’t wanna leave Master and my friends!”

“You would put yourself through more anguish in your quest for answers? Your choice is incomprehensible.”

-a conversation between Teddie and his Shadow in Persona 4, Episode 10

One of the more interesting things to watch in Persona 4: The Animation these past few weeks has been the development of Teddie as a character. Initially, I was drawn into watching this series for the stylish visuals and music, along with the fabulous glasses that each character was inevitably outfitted with. I knew next to nothing about the game going into this series (with the exception that it had been highly recommended to me by my brother and I still hadn’t played it yet) and still know very little. Taking this into consideration, along with the fact that I was bringing my own fears and prejudices from years of anime watching (which were not at all allayed by the consistent tendency that the series had shown to make Kanji’s sexuality the punch line to every joke), it’s no wonder I assumed that Teddie would stay relatively in the background. Perhaps he would act as a guide, as mascot characters often do, but he wouldn’t participate much in battles, and he certainly wouldn’t ever be seen outside of the television world, right?

I was absolutely wrong about this, and Teddie’s fight with his own shadow, as well as his presence in the town has made for the best episodes of Persona 4: The Animation to date.

Others have written excellent posts on Teddie’s shadow from a philosophical standpoint; however, what I really like about the development of Teddie’s character is the humanization of him from Episode One to the most recent episodes. Not only is his development as a character reflected in his actions, but it’s even reflected in his outward appearance and ability to reach out beyond the television.

In Episode 11 (following the acceptance of his shadow in Episode 10, which is where the above quote comes from) Teddie grows a human body and ventures out into the every day world of Persona 4. There, he acts a bit awkwardly, but is soon laughing and chatting with the gang like a normal teenage boy (albeit a no-so-coincidentally beautiful one).

source: pixiv

The implications of Teddie’s evolution are fascinating. On the one hand, he could be an evolved form of whatever creatures populate the world of the Midnight Channel, sent out much like Eureka in Eureka Seven, to study these humans that keep being thrown into televisions like pieces of junk. He does reiterate that the shadow world is his home, and he is also a supplier of the glasses that they all wear in order to see through the fog. In this case, Teddie’s evolution would be a result of curiosity and the imprints that Narukami and Co. have made on him as their relationships have deepened. Teddie would simply be a reflection of the interactions that humans (and shadows) have had on him.

Secondly, Teddie could be evolving himself through sheer willpower. This is the explanation of his changes that is presented in the conversation with his shadow self. He admits to “being hollow” and knowing nothing, but also says that he’s not useless, which is a deliberate and meaningful distinction. In spite of not knowing his own past or himself, Teddie is realizing through his interactions with others that these facts don’t have to hold him back from leading a fuller, richer life in his future.

Regardless of why Teddie has decided to evolve the results are sure to be interesting to watch, and not simply because his personality is a bit over-the-top and energetic. Far beyond being an ordinary mascot character, Teddie is certainly one of the main reasons that I enjoy this series so much.

7 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Persona 4: The Animation

7 responses to “The Self is an Interesting Burden to “Bear”: The Development of Teddie in Persona 4

  1. Break

    admin edit for emphasis on spoiler warning for Persona 4 and Persona 3. -vuc

    i am amazed at how good you are guessing teddie’s origin depsite nto having palyed the game yet; indeed, (if oyu dotn mind beeing SPOILEREed), teddie is a kind of evolved shadow; he himself deleted the memory of that, though. however, the fact of him having a shadow of his own, as well as a persona hints at the fact he is not really a shadow anymore, but something more like an actual person; he developed an ego which makes him “human”, the fact taht he actually really grew a human body can be seen as a picture for that too. incidentally, metis from persona 3: the answer is a beeign very simialr to teddie: a shadow (aigis’ shadow) who developed an own ego and became somehting more like an actual person, including having a persona of their own. it makes for an interesting view on how a “person” is defined, too, really.

    • I can’t really respond to your comment too thoroughly because I didn’t read beyond where my blogging partner posted a spoiler warning. Please know that this is NOT because I don’t appreciate your comment (I do!) but I just don’t want to be spoiled.

      That being said, I can’t wait to read your comment when I’m done with the series. Good to know that I’m on the right track apparently. Thank you so much!

      • Break

        okay, cant wait for your answer when its done^^ well im not 100% done with the game ether-im currently at the true boss (there are three ends, bad, normal and true) and after beeing killed by a sudden death-spell (i had a persona with a skill on that halves any damage but disables dodging, so i was hit by it while the rest of my party dodged it.. its times like these when i hate the “if the maincharacter dies, its game over” system… just a for when you get to fight (SPOILER izanami-no-ookami SPOILER END): dont use a persona with weakness darkness or the skill “firm stance”. to avoid suffering my fate! i had her almost killed bakc then, too…)

  2. animekritik

    I only played the game to about episode 13 in the anime, and I did not read the post above (thanks to Break for spoiler warning), but Teddie is definitely a very strong presence to have in this show. Just the sort of wacky element in a story that makes you go “huh” and that might just very well be what you remember about the show years down the road.

    • I didn’t read the above comment beyond the warning either. ^ ^

      Teddie just goes to show me how I still come in to each anime series with my own assumptions from watching the medium for so long, and yet those expectations can still be challenged or surpassed. I love it. Hopefully this is only the beginning of the interesting things that they can do with his character.

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. This post was beary fun to read!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s