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Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #20

The Investigation Team is just as surprised as we are by all the fanservice this week.

Welcome to Amateur vs. Expert, a new column wherein noted anime layperson Nick Robinson (Babylonian) squares off against anime savant Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt). The goal? To take our two columns, Anime Amateur and Anime Examiner, and combine them for your reading pleasure. Let's get started!

Kristoffer Remmell:

Hot off the heels of the school festival day episode. We're tossed right into another fun affair filled with tons more game-service that Persona 4 has become known for, and a little fanservice added to the mix. A bit of a misunderstanding has lead to the Investigation Team all invited to the traditional Japanese inn of Yukiko's family. What it all leads to is another in the misadventures of teen manhood dreams. It kind of gave me a Revenge of the Nerds vibe at times. For me, Nanako set the tone right from the start as she passed on a message from Margaret that our boy Narukami is a natural born gigolo. There was much laughter at that little bit. It's the utter definition of the idiom, "out of the mouths of babes". Can't say that I really blame her, Margaret knows what's going on in Yu's social life. She has the compendium to prove it.

I wasn't at all surprised to find that Yukiko's maxed S. Link story was tied into this episode. Seeing how Rise was settled in the pageant. Yukiko finally had her chance to realize what she wants to do with her life. She originally felt trapped in tradition, because she was feeling pressure to do so out of a sense of inheritance. Changing just for the sake of change isn't smart the smart choice. She finally made the decision on her own to stay. When she stood up to that slimy TV producer. I was really impressed how she put him down. Oh yeah, if anyone is curious what ramune is. It's a lemonade-based soda. It looks as if Yu and Teddie are drinking some during the ping-pong shot.

Given how uncomfortable you were with the bikini scenes from last week, Nick. How did you handle all the near nudity, and the ever so famous 'convenient censoring steam'? Were you a paranoid mess looking over your shoulder as you watched this one? That's used for a lot of bath scenes in anime and manga. In fact, some series such as H.O.T.D. and Strike Witches will only add the steam for the TV airing. The home versions wont have that at all. I foresee Persona 4 keeping the steam. It's actually a little shocking we saw as much as we did. The anime finally really earned that TV-MA rating.

Nick Robinson:

I can't lie: I laughed at this episode a lot. Like you mentioned, the 'gigolo' bit was great, as was Yukiko accidentally inviting everyone over. Teddie's Japanese voice actor continues to turn in amazing performances: his ghostly whisper voice was hilarious, and his "YO!" moment was probably the hardest I laughed at the episode. There's something so innocent and adorable about Teddie's perviness in this show. For whatever reason, Yosuke feels like the 16-year-old equivalent of a dirty old man, but Teddie is somehow immaculate in his lewdness.

Speaking of Yosuke, it feels like he's growingly less homophobic toward Kanji, which is great. There were a handful of times where Kanji said something that could've easily been misconstrued by Yosuke or Yu, but they let it slide. It feels like a deliberate choice: as the Investigation Team gets more comfortable with each other, they're shedding some of those insecurities we saw earlier in the show. Good on 'em for getting character development in here from time to time.

P4A also continues to pull some insanely specific deep cuts from the game: that bizarre song Margaret sings in the opening of the episode is a reference to this unvoiced throwaway line from her S-Link. Conversely, they seem to be going out of their way to integrate non-canon stuff whenever possible. Great example: they sure are getting a lot of mileage out of Aika, aren't they? When I heard they were introducing a new character for P4A, I expected that we'd see her maybe once or twice, but man, it feels like she's been in like half the episodes now.

As far as the hot springs fanservice stuff goes: yeah, it was gross. They're still catering to the worst contingent of anime fans, and I'm still uncomfortable with it. But somehow more distracting than how exploitative it felt was the fact that it was reeeeeeeeally poorly drawn! Like, laughably bad! If you have to put in shameless fanservice, don't leave it to the animation B-team! It honestly looks like the animators intended for some of these half-finished sketches to be covered in steam, but the editing team opted to be edgier by showing more skin, resulting in these eerie, featureless figures. They've actually managed to make their show creepy on multiple levels. It's astounding.

Kristoffer Remmell:

It's completely pointless to argue with you on how you feel about a certain aspect of the series -- though that's quickly becoming some of our readers favor parts in the comments. You bring up plenty of valid points, but I just don't get the same 'gross' vibe that you do from the level of fanservice the series has. This is at it's core a story of adolescent adventures. It's not as if these were adult men and teen girls. That would be creepy. This level of comical misunderstanding could be compared to old sitcoms, such as Who's the Boss or Three's Company. (Please, don't let me be the only one old enough to get those references.)

Aika's use through the series has been interesting. Japan tends to like adding certain things when remaking a product. Look at how the P4 Vita version is adding a new girl to the mix. It's just a thing to give some added value and justify buying again for people who already own the game. I never really followed the P4 manga version deeply enough to know if it added anyone. Still, I really like Aika and how she's been used. I just don't foresee her making the same plot impact as a character like Makinami Mari Illustrious is to Evangelion.

Yosuke's personal growth reminds me of quite a few people I knew in school that were just as hyperbolic to homosexuality. That was until they actually got to know someone who is homosexual. I do feel I should point out that Kanji's sexuality isn't as black and white as many first thought. Too many took his Shadow literally. I always loved how his sexuality wasn't his defining characteristic. He's more the tough guy with a heart of gold.

Nick Robinson:

Here's the thing, though: if you're talking about the show's audience and the characters being exploited, it is a situation involving adult men and teen girls. Objectively, the content itself isn't that repulsive - although I definitely wouldn't brag about watching an anime that extensively depicts high school girls naked in a hot spring. To me, what's troubling is the implication that we, as viewers, are supposed to be super excited that we get to see naked cartoon minors. It's sleazy, and I hate it. Then again, at least it's not Nisemonogatari, an apparently brilliant show whose pedophilic and incestuous undertones are so blatant that Anime Vice editor William Taylor is finding it difficult to recommend. P4A could be way, way worse!

And, somehow putting aside the uncomfortable amounts of teen nudity, this episode really was a blast. Yukiko's S-Link stuff fit in nicely here, hitting home the point that this is mostly a remarkably well-planned show, and yeah, watching her tell those reporters off was wonderfully cathartic. I'm also finding that this show sometimes follows the game to a fault: it's still highly obvious how awkwardly shoehorned in Teddie's S-Link scenes are, even if they're mercifully brief in the show.

That ending was nuts, though, right? It implies that Yu had known about the mysterious letter for more than a week prior to this episode. That's pretty crazy, I think, but it's also something I'm sure will be addressed next time. Still! Whoa!

There was a lot to love about this episode, and I wish they hadn't played up the fanservice angle so much so I could endorse it without reservation. The use of the spooky music during the room invasion was an excellent touch, and a great example of how subtle this show's sense of humor can be when it wants to. The comedy came fast and often this week, and this is probably the closest P4A has come yet to being as funny as the game. I liked it a lot, and with only five episodes until the end, it's about time we start savoring these humorous moments before they dry up completely.

Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for news updates: @ animevice / @ FoxxFireArt

Nick Robinson (Babylonian) is a Whiskey Media intern and a journalism student. Won't you follow him on Twitter at @Babylonian? He'd be ever so appreciative!

Turambaron March 4, 2012 at 10:18 p.m.
@zaldar: You don't actually think Japan is the only country that makes entertainment products based on Rape, and the the West is somehow free from it, do you?  Further, for all your denunciation of Japan on their lenient treatment of people intending to harm children, this is the same society that repeatedly puts out warrants for any adult men that even so much as speaks to a female minor.  Morals taken to an absurd paranoid degree is alive and well in Japan.
Hailinelon March 4, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.

@zaldar: This isn't about being a "sexual hound." It's about not finding particular fault with the depiction of sexuality in a show. I mean for god's sake, this is the same show that includes Shadow versions of characters that include a dominatrix, a man-hungry princess, a stereotypical homosexual fruit (complete with male groping), and a rainbow stripper. And yet, Nick's biggest freak-outs are with a couple of swimsuit scenes and a bath scene that do not depict the girls in a sexual manner.

FoxxFireArt moderator on March 5, 2012 at 3:31 a.m.

@Babylonian: @Hailinel:

I really wish people would stop leaning on the idea against manga and anime by using fanservice as their basis. Guess what, people? Sex sells in ALL MEDIA. More so in series that targets the young adult crowd, such as Persona 4. You also see it all over the US. This isn't a series targeted to young children, people who lack the maturity to understand the context of the story.

Why is it so many people expect anime to set some higher standard that they don't call for in comics or TV? Look in comics books. How many women characters from publishers such as Marvel of DC can you name that are under a D Cup? They all wear these impossibly skin tight outfits that more often have high heels, little bikinis, and comics are no shy about the shower scenes. Emma Frost used to just walk around all the time in her bra and panties. Persona 4 The Animation is not a series like Ikki Tousen that's built around the fanservice. There is context for all of this.

The swim suits from the previous episode were no big deal. You could see more skin in a Sears' catalog. I didn't see this same issue brought up during the school camp episode. This episode had them in a traditional Japanese Inn, which are famous around the world for a hot spring.

@zaldar:

The idea that Japan produced anime of violent sex and using that argument is blatantly not understanding the concepts. That kind of anime is porn. You're comparing porn to television. Western style porn can be just as sick and twisted as you will see in Japanese style. It shouldn't even be brought up in this discussion.

Turambaron March 5, 2012 at 4:14 a.m.
@FoxxFireArt: Actually, Nick was definitely up in arms enraged over the swim suits in that episode as well.  He is consistent on his stance at least.
AlKusanagion March 5, 2012 at 9:23 a.m.

It hurts my soul to see THIS show drawing ire for sexualization of its characters when this is one of the increasingly growing minority of anime in Japan that isn't just softcore porn or moemoe bullshit.

Also, half of MTVs programming is about teens either having sex or getting knocked up, and that's in REALITY shows!!!

Hailinelon March 5, 2012 at 12:47 p.m.

@Turambar said:

@FoxxFireArt: Actually, Nick was definitely up in arms enraged over the swim suits in that episode as well. He is consistent on his stance at least.

All the same, his harping on this of all things in regards to P4 makes it far more difficult to take his opinions on the show seriously. I'd actually say that this series of columns has largely been a disappointment.

Turambaron March 5, 2012 at 12:54 p.m.
@Hailinel said:

@Turambar said:

@FoxxFireArt: Actually, Nick was definitely up in arms enraged over the swim suits in that episode as well. He is consistent on his stance at least.

All the same, his harping on this of all things in regards to P4 makes it far more difficult to take his opinions on the show seriously. I'd actually say that this series of columns has largely been a disappointment.

Eh, I wouldn't say that.  The whole "look at how pedophilic this is" as well as the week after week complaints of production quality is a giant bore, but the rest of the pieces has largely been pretty entertaining reads.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 5, 2012 at 1:22 p.m.

@Turambar: @Hailinel:

So far, there is only one episode that I've had a problem with the animation quality. The one with Rise's introduction that had so many static images and only lips moving. but that was so bad that it had to be discussed.

I am also a bit drained on the constant morality police of rather rare shots of fan service. More so because this series doesn't deserve it. This isn't in the same realm of Strike Witches or Ikki Tousen. There are so many other things I'd love to talk about, but if comments do go there. There's little I can do about that.

Hailinelon March 5, 2012 at 1:33 p.m.

@FoxxFireArt said:

@Turambar: @Hailinel:

So far, there is only one episode that I've had a problem with the animation quality. The one with Rise's introduction that had so many static images and only lips moving. but that was so bad that it had to be discussed.

I am also a bit drained on the constant morality police of rather rare shots of fan service. More so because this series doesn't deserve it. This isn't in the same realm of Strike Witches or Ikki Tousen. There are so many other things I'd love to talk about, but if comments do go there. There's little I can do about that.

I'm sure it can't be that hard to steer the conversation between you and Nick away from the subject, especially if you're as tired of it as anyone.

There are a lot of things about the series that can be discussed, from the way the Social Links are handled per episode, to the myriad ways the series references the game and to an extent the fan reaction to the game, the ways it differs, and what the most meaningful parts of the series are for each of you. And you have discussed a lot of this to an extent, but the moment that the animation becomes less than great, the conversation veers into the same tired territory, and the morality police act was overbearing from the get-go.

The idea behind these columns is a good one, but the execution has left a large gap between what I've read and what I actually desired to read. This is my fault for holding expectations, but sometimes, the ways the conversations in these columns have turned have been absurd. I suppose I should be thankful that no such bath or bathing suit scenes should appear in these last few episodes; maybe the two of you will actually be able to hold a discussion about the actual episode that isn't loaded with morality arguments.

Turambaron March 5, 2012 at 1:58 p.m.
@FoxxFireArt: Eh, don't worry too much about it.  While I disagree with his sentiments pretty flatly, if Nick feels strongly about a point, asking him to not speak on it would be disingenuous as well.  It helps that you guys are pretty much the only one on my blogroll that is doing a non-summary analysis of the show, so I'll keep reading either way.   (Summary blogs are the absolute worst.)
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 5, 2012 at 2:08 p.m.

@Hailinel:

I really regret we couldn't have done these as podcasts. Being able to talk would have allowed us to dig deeper.

@Turambar:

Summary blogs are kind of pointless here when we have a whole wiki database for that.In fact, I need to get back on writing summaries for the episodes. I haven't done that for a few weeks.

zaldaron March 5, 2012 at 2:36 p.m.

I don't know one American show that would show teenagers in the nude. Yes MTV does things that are terrible and shouldn't be done, but even they don't show teenagers nude. I have no idea what comics do as I don't read them but really I wouldn't get my morals from comics, as lets be honest that isn't mainstream media (yes I know anime isn't either but the idea is to try and get it that way). Maybe I am to much of a stick in the mud (doubtful though) but Britney Spears and the new crop of teenage singers are incredibly oversexualized and this along with MTV has bothered me for a long time. Yes this isn't nearly as bad as strike witches but then strike witches should have never been made. As well if you can find me western porn that includes rape of people under ten in America I would be astounded. Talking about the other forms of media is important as it shows the level of craziness that they treat women with. Women are not chattel or sex objects only and media in general everywhere treats them to much like they are.

The items you mention while true are only a recent phenomonom. America had to MAKE japan make child sex illegal and within the last five years you could buy used elementary school underwear from vending machines. You can also STILL buy idol videos of five year olds in swimsuits and worse. Yes we do such things here with child beauty pageants but we at least call them out as being ridiculous and are trying to stop them (unsuccessfully so far). Japans culture is not healthy in this respect and calling them out for it is what should be done.

all the things you mention are reasons the game was given an MA rating (and should have been) and why the anime will likely be if it comes out here as well (and should be) though to me in the game at least those scenes were not nearly as bothersome as the scenes in the anime with Kanjai (which were over the top and disturbing honestly) and the bathhouse scenes in the game. Though mostly that was from nanoko's participation. If I remember correctly in the game them throwing was shown completely from behind and you saw only heads. If the anime had gone that way I wouldn't have had a problem. But they didn't.

I admit his problem with the swimsuit scence was overblown but we are dealing with nudity here which does bring it to another level and this being MA for reasons shown above, the idea that a 25 or 30 year old is getting off on seeing a 16 to 17 year nude yes that is disturbing. Is this is bad as some by no means but they are even MORE disturbing. As are the crazy 30 to 35 year old otakou's who lust after these characters. Hell K-ON was not at all sexual but it had crazy Japanese men lusting after the characters, scenes like this are put in to cater to those types of people and it really should stop. But then the whole moe movement should stop as well. Bring back shows like Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Vampire Hunter D (though that one was a little overly violent), and stop adding crazy scenes to good shows like the first scene in last exile silver wing. It is hard enough to tell people no I don't watch anime to see young children in states of undress or close to it when only a small percentage of shows had it. It is impossible now. And no not caring what other people think is not the answer. Perception is always important, unless you don't want to work have friends (except those who are into all your hobbies), and normal life respect.

Turambaron March 5, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.
@zaldar: Calling out japan for its ridiculousness is fine.  Comparing it to Western culture as if the latter has any moral high ground at all is laughable.
zaldaron March 5, 2012 at 2:48 p.m.

@Turambar I honestly don't know of anything in American culture that would compare to strike witches or honestly a scene like these, especially in live action. European I have no idea as I do not watch their TV. Europe though often strikes me as being to far on the side of free with nudity and sex, much like America is to free with violence. I mean a commercial in the early evening with bared breasts is to much for me really (and I'm not even a republican). I am not comfortable with six year old children or even 12 to 13 really seeing such things in the sexual way they seem to be often portrayed in European media.

I mean this is the country that made RapeLay as well.....so yes I think we do have a moral high ground on this in the west now especially. One-hundred years ago? Probably not, as the Victorian age was supposedly all moral but in reality was not.

to comment on a different aspect I find these columns much more useful than the wiki which I honestly don't use all that much. The training and education these people have in media and journalism makes there perspective much more valuable and interesting to read. I mean Tom's articles and the connections he makes are much more interesting and thought provoking than anything on the wiki. Training, and education do mean something and make peoples takes on things more interesting and worthwhile. Reviews for example from normal users over on screened I take with a much larger grain of salt than those put out by the official reviewers on the site (though I take those with some as well especially when they review an anime feature film)

Hailinelon March 5, 2012 at 3:25 p.m.

@zaldar: American culture is full of bizarre shit that some people would consider morally depraved. We as a society do not have an inherent moral high ground that allows us to tell others how their own cultures should operate.

I would also note that of course Shadow Kanji is ridiculous. He is meant to be a stereotype. Shadows are by their very nature vertical slices of a subjects overall personality, twisted out of proportion. If you take Shadow Kanji for how Kanji really, actually, honestly is, you're either giving the Shadows too much credit or the writers not enough.

And in comparing the game's depiction of a scene to the anime, the game used in-engine cutscenes for the majority of its content, including the bath scene. The anime is of course able to depict things differently because the series isn't restricted by technical constraints of game engines or PS2 hardware.

Neuroticon March 5, 2012 at 5:01 p.m.

@zaldar: So you would not be comfortable showing a child 'European media' even though you admit that you haven't seen any of it? Well, alright then. I'm not sure which commercial you're referring to or if it even exists. I should also point out that Europe is a continent not a country. When you refer to a (probably imaginary) European commericial with bared breasts you accuse around 50 different countries of selling Lego (or whatever it was you imagined this commercial would sell) to children with full-frontal nudity. Good job. If you're not Republican, you're doing an awfully good impression of one what with your sweeping generalisations and moral guardian attitude and all.

Also, the Victorian age is an age in British history alone. You guys got the Civil War instead. Whilst the people of Britain were failing to repress their sex drive, the people of America were killing each other whilst deciding on whether or not slavery is wrong. I would rather live in a part of the world that is more open about sex than one that is more open about violence. I've been brought massively off-topic but I felt I had to address all that. Back to anime...

You're telling me Akira isn't excessively violent? Give me a break. Might I also mention the first scene in GITS where you see the Major? She's nude. Just like she is on the cover of the box/main promotional art. If K-ON! was in no way sexual and had crazy otaku lusting after the girls in it then why on earth would the creators of P4A need to put in this scene to cater to them? This scene happened in the game. If they left it out, people would rage at that instead. The (very, very mild) nudity in this episode is a total non-issue and I'm sick of seeing it being compared to Strike Witches and other such fanservice-heavy shows and being considered the problem with modern anime. The fact that Rapeplay could even be brought up in a thread about this anime is laughable. I would venture that these comment sections are the only places where this non-issue is being discussed or even contemplated.

SergioBon March 5, 2012 at 6:46 p.m.

There are of course series that depict a lot more teenage nudity than P4A.

Turambaron March 5, 2012 at 6:54 p.m.
@zaldar: Let me put it this way: You have obviously had the fortune of not watching a lot of shitty late night television.  Late night cable programing is pretty atrocious and before you scream "incomparable", most anime, and certainly the ecchi driven ones are in fact late night programing in Japan.
zaldaron March 5, 2012 at 8:59 p.m.

@Neurotic: France has had these commercials for years, it is a joke over here in American movies. Some of which also make me a little nervous Euro trip being one. It has been years but I have seen some of them. True Europe is a continent but western Europe (which is what I am talking about) does generally have less issue with this stuff. American historians consider the early 1900's the victorian age in America, I have no idea if British ones agree, it ended here with the roaring twenties. Yes Akira is excessively violent, if you can give me an american movie that portrayed teenagers nude and where it was supposed to be titalating then please do so. No I do not watch much late night cable, it is atrocious but it does have to adhere to the laws over here which would keep them from portraying people under 18 nude (which is what we are talking about here). The comparison to rapelay was simply to show Japanese culture and how I consider it morally screwed up. If you would like to give something comparable in American entertainment than please do so. I do believe in treatment of women the west is generally better than Japan but that is a much larger discussion and a tangent I would love to talk about it in the forums however.

The major is not a teenager so her nudity is immaterial and she is not drawn to look like a ten year old (like in many vampire anime) mostly though that comment was about wanting a return to anime that dealt with philosophical ideas. Things like Lain, Now and Then Here and Now, Eva (which had its own sexual problems though not enough to turn me off), and Texnolyze are what attracted me to anime. I came to anime from hard sci-fi novels and foreign movies.

I am an independent not a republican but I do worry about sexualization of minors. Some of that is because of life experiences which do make me more sensitive. But we should agree to disagree on this now...gone on long enough.

Hailinelon March 5, 2012 at 10:56 p.m.

@zaldar: When I was sixteen, I took a trip to Europe with my family, and during my time there, I saw among other things, one shampoo/body wash commercial in France broadcast roughly mid-day in which a woman's nude torso was visible for less than a second. Later on that same trip, we walked by a sex shop in Copenhagen that had all manner of sex toys in the front window display. Is it weird to see from the perspective of an American? Yes. Morally objectionable? No. That's just the way they do things there.

If you are an independent, you sound like an incredibly conservative one.

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