“You are hollow, 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).
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.