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Amateur vs. Expert: PERSONA 4 #4

Now we're getting somewhere.

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:

Seems a bit hard to think up much of a quick summary for how Persona 4 The Animation Episode 4 turned out this week. I think one phrase that comes to mind is, "symbolism abounds here". This episode had some pretty heavy drama in both character and action. As you pointed out before, Nick. They aren't just throwing in parts of the game, but going deeper. We get that with all the flashbacks the episode had of Yukiko's life at her family inn. She's a high school kid who works really hard at the inn and is often surrounded by drunks on vacation. What young teen wouldn't want to escape that? The Persona 4 game never really sold how hard it was for Yukiko at home. This is the first time we've seen a shadow in clothes different from the original. I can see why she's depicted as a princess when there are all these Cinderella issues floating in her life. When the Shadow transforms, she becomes that bird trapped in a cage.

It's again impressive how much of the battle from the game they worked into the episode. It's all little touches that are nice nods to the fans of the game. The pose they take when summoning their Persona, the chandelier being used, and how Pyro Jack absorbs fire attacks. The quality of the voice acting is really impressive. I think viewers can see in Yukiko's performance why Ami Koshimizu is one of my favorite voice actresses.

A theme is starting to arise as they deal with the Shadows. It's basically, "So what?". The series seems to be trying to say, "So what if we're all horrible people? We can still be friends." That makes sense. We can't be perfect, and we don't need to be. You think I'm off base there?

Nick Robinson:

Sounds about right to me! And yeah, I really enjoyed this week's episode, too. After last week's tease of the fact that, yes, they're willing to step outside the boundaries of what's explicitly shown in the game, I was seriously looking forward to see what they did this time around, and I wasn't disappointed.

I'm finding that the stuff I'm getting the most enjoyment out of is exactly that stuff, too. Seeing what Yukiko's day-to-day life at Amagi Inn was like, for example, was really neat and helps paint a better picture of where the character is coming from.

I'm also digging the action scenes a lot, too. From Chie destroying three Shadows in one kick at the start of the episode to the more explosive business when they confronted Yukiko's Shadow, they're really killing it in terms of keeping the combat scenes fluid, fast and exciting. And yeah, like you said, little touches like Pyro Jack absorbing the flame are great.

Unfortunately, the excellence of the action only stands to exaggerate how downright poor the animation looks at times. This show's animation quality ranges from "hey that looks pretty good" to "whoa, this is worse than season 1 of Avatar," and it's not something I'm adjusting to. The animation of human characters looks occasionally lazy and frequently pretty damn choppy - in the aforementioned Amagi Inn part, I had to rewatch the moment when that one guest fell over drunk like twice before I could figure out what even happened, not to mention the really bad-looking four frame long dancing guy animation in the same scene. Maybe I'm being nit-picky, but I don't think so: this show is sometimes pretty ugly. Or am I just imagining all this?

Kristoffer Remmell:

They aren't shying away from giving the character's more depth and back story. I did like that shot of Chie taking out the three in one scene. I thought one of the biggest challenges this series was going to have is to make the boss fights from the game look exciting and dynamic when animated. So far, they haven't disappointed. We've had some steady action, but that may take a break for a while now that everyone is rescued. The actual investigation for the murder begins. I don't want to get into a habit of talking about the preview of the episode to come, but I think that Ai Ebihara's going in for a kiss on Yu. Next episode may be dipping into more of the Social Linking from the game. Under normal circumstances, I'd call that a waste of time, but the more links Narukami makes. The more Persona we could possible see. That doesn't mean they all have to be explored to Level 10. Unless we're talking about Chie.

It's not just you. Others have been talking about it in some of the comments. I'm amused on a level how critical people are getting over still images from "animation" or of scenes of little consequence. Even in your description, you said you watched a scene twice to figure out what some drunk in the foreground was doing. I don't think we can fairly criticize it for looking choppy. We are just streaming this off the internet and not the optimal version seen on Japanese TV. A lot of scenes look beautiful. The battles, and that scene of Chie and Yukiko surrounded by the fire was awesome. It's all of this is why I can't wait to see this on Blu-ray. The only thing I found oddly jarring was that forward shot of Margaret. I'm only used to ever seeing her from the left profile.

Nick Robinson:

I gotta disagree - I think some of these animation flaws are pretty significant. These aren't small background characters we're talking about here; these characters the focal point of their scenes, and it's pretty distracting to see them animated with all the fidelity of South Park characters. This isn't negligible stuff we're talking about here - I specifically recall a scene in episode #1 where it looked like the animators straight up forgot to draw Dojima's nose. Likewise, the reason I had to rewind the scene with the drunk dude in this episode was because he was dead center in the shot and Yukiko was laughing at him directly, yet I had literally no idea what had happened! Even the main cast has moments where they look lazily drawn. If it was all peripheral characters (other students in the hall, etc), that'd be one thing, but don't skimp on animating the protagonists, dudes.

I don't buy your excuse about the online streaming, either. If the problem was that the show looked too compressed or whatever, that'd be a different story (even though we're both watching it in 480p), but that's not the issue - it's not as though Hulu drops frames of animation or randomly makes shows appear choppy. Furthermore, the excellent, smooth action scenes are proof positive that the show can look good, it just often doesn't. There are corners being cut here, and unless they go the Shaft route of making radical animation changes for the show's disc release, it seems unrealistic to hope that the show will look much better in the future.

As grateful as I am that they're giving these characters depth and backstory, it's got me thinking about what's missing and what would improve the show for me. Right now, I think the only thing left is the writing. This version of the show feels a little bit cheesy and melodramatic sometimes, which has me wondering how much of my Persona 4 enjoyment is owed to Atlus' fantastic localization team. The way the English-language versions of these characters were written in P4 made them seem real, human and consistent. These subtitles don't hold a candle to that, and as a result, I'm finding it a bit tougher to connect with these characters. It also has me wondering if simply obtaining the game's English voice cast is enough; if it's written by an entirely different group of people, I can't imagine it 'feeling' right, y'know?

And speaking of Margaret, I feel like Igor's lack of original VO is really gonna stand out if they insist on starting every episode with a Velvet Room moment. They're falling into a pattern of having Igor say "WELCOME TO THE VELVET ROOM" the same way every time, before Margaret speaks up and actually says something pertinent to the plot. I get that the actor's death is a restraint they've been saddled with, but you'd think they'd choose to work around it, not highlight it by having him speak in every single episode, right?

Still, I don't want to get too caught up in the negative, because I really did like this episode! It was as painstakingly detailed as ever (I love that Yukiko threw her bird cage away in the same trash area where Yosuke crashes his bike in the game); Teddy was adorable, as always; the inclusion of the fan-favorite Groucho glasses scene was great. I've really started to look forward to P4A each week, and given the circumstances, I think this show is as close to perfect as we're gonna get. I do have to part ways with you on the "Social Linking would be a waste of time" position, but that's because my priority in this show is the characters and how they interact, not the Personas or the combat. Still, I wouldn't enjoy one without the other, and so far, they're striking a pretty decent balance of the two. I can't wait for next week's!

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!

Hailinelon Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:14 p.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: Yes, yes. You like that 4chan thread. I've seen the image like twenty times now.

If you've seen it twenty times, then it seems bizarre to me that you're to trying to dismiss criticism of the wildly inconsistent artwork with "adjust your stream".

I was referring to the choppiness of the animation, not the detail in the drawing.

mutha3on Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:16 p.m.

@Turambar said:

@Babylonian: I think the point of frustration that Hailinel expresses is that this particular criticism is one that is thrown at every episode,

I'm pretty sure this is the first time he's brought it up.

Hailinelon Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:18 p.m.

@mutha3: He said as much in his direct response to me. Perhaps you should read the full conversation.

mutha3on Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:23 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: He said as much in his direct response to me. Perhaps you should read the full conversation.

Turambar seems to have missed it, since he's claiming its a criticism that has been thrown at every episode.

Hailinelon Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:25 p.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: He said as much in his direct response to me. Perhaps you should read the full conversation.

Turambar seems to have missed it, since he's claiming its a criticism that has been thrown at every episode.

Turambar isn't specifying that the criticism has been levied in every one of these columns. Only in general.

Turambaron Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:35 p.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: He said as much in his direct response to me. Perhaps you should read the full conversation.

Turambar seems to have missed it, since he's claiming its a criticism that has been thrown at every episode.

Read the last sentence of my first paragraph. Come on, don't embarrass yourself this easily.

mutha3on Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:36 p.m.

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: He said as much in his direct response to me. Perhaps you should read the full conversation.

Turambar seems to have missed it, since he's claiming its a criticism that has been thrown at every episode.

Turambar isn't specifying that the criticism has been levied in every one of these columns. Only in general.

Oh, right. Well, that's still a pretty silly reason in my book to not mention these inconsistencies.

Heck, its nonsensical. This is about their impressions on the anime-- if the art sticks out like a sore thumb to the point where it takes you out of the experience, then it should be mentioned. If you're sick of hearing about it, then its your problem, not the people giving their impression.

mutha3on Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:48 p.m.

@Turambar said:

@mutha3: Except I don't have an argument. This isn't a denial of Nick's criticisms. It is a potential explanation of Hailinel's frustration. As I said in that post, I fully accept the criticisms thrown at P4A's production values and respond with an "I don't care because I've watched Macross 7 and liked it." Production value is pretty low on my priorities of what I enjoy about anime and I rarely care to engage in arguments over it.

Alright, nevermind

im dumb

Hailinelon Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:51 p.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: He said as much in his direct response to me. Perhaps you should read the full conversation.

Turambar seems to have missed it, since he's claiming its a criticism that has been thrown at every episode.

Turambar isn't specifying that the criticism has been levied in every one of these columns. Only in general.

Oh, right. Well, that's still a pretty silly reason in my book to not mention these inconsistencies.

Heck, its nonsensical. This is about their impressions on the anime-- if the art sticks out like a sore thumb to the point where it takes you out of the experience, then it should be mentioned. If you're sick of hearing about it, then its your problem, not the people giving their impression.

Yeah, it's my problem if I'm frustrated, but I am, and I have as much of a right to vent that frustration as Nick has in making his complaints. My problem is that his complaints are, from my perspective, a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things and is only exacerbated by constant complaints in forums that overstate the dips in quality or resort to image macros as the basis of their argument.

Turambaron Oct. 31, 2011 at 11:55 p.m.

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3 said:

@Hailinel said:

@mutha3: He said as much in his direct response to me. Perhaps you should read the full conversation.

Turambar seems to have missed it, since he's claiming its a criticism that has been thrown at every episode.

Turambar isn't specifying that the criticism has been levied in every one of these columns. Only in general.

Oh, right. Well, that's still a pretty silly reason in my book to not mention these inconsistencies.

Heck, its nonsensical. This is about their impressions on the anime-- if the art sticks out like a sore thumb to the point where it takes you out of the experience, then it should be mentioned. If you're sick of hearing about it, then its your problem, not the people giving their impression.

May as well repost as you've edited that one, making my previous response lack connectivity.

I do suggest you not put words in my mouth...fingertips, whatever. If I may point you to my comments for this article. I enjoy talking about, and arguing over thematic factors and that was what I've written about. It is their impressions of of the anime, and hence I not made any direct response to that segment of the article. My comment to Nick was for the purpose of nipping an argument between him and Hailinel over the legitimacy of his criticisms, and explaining Hailinel's cause for frustration.

This has nothing to do with what I am "sick of hearing about." There is a lot of meat in this show, and there is a lot of meat in that article for me to happily gorge on.

Little_Socrateson Nov. 1, 2011 at 12:17 a.m.

I am also of the opinion that the symbolism in this episode was rather heavy-handed. I enjoyed it as a Persona 4 fan as it expanded my perception of Yukiko Amagi, which makes me happy. But that kind of repetitive, obvious symbolism that, while consistent, also gets ANNOYING QUICKLY really takes away much of the power I have to say good things about this show to its detractors. As someone else said, the proper way to handle Yukiko's problems was to simply have a birdcage make an appearance in the boss battle. In this case, even the backstory could be included and still be enjoyable, but the resolution feels just too cheesy by the end of it all.

I'm okay with it with Yukiko; it's good they're really driving home the symbolism of these shadows. Chie's Shadow was actually excellently handled, still clearly a dominatrix, but without tons and tons of nonsensical "top/bottom" references.

Thing is, Yukiko's is the most obscure to begin with. I just hope they don't go the same route with any of the other Investigation Team shadows. I don't need a long, repetitive sequence on how Rise got offered a porn contract when she turned 18 or something of the like.

As for the animation, I haven't noticed it, but I rarely do. I certainly was able to figure out what was going on during the scene with the drunk. The first couple times I watch a series, though, the animation issues are far less apparent to me. Fate/stay Night is certainly an example of a series that gave me some animation shellshock on a repeat viewing.

Babylonian staff on Nov. 1, 2011 at 12:51 a.m.

@Turambar said:

To put it in video game terms, it would be like if there was an episodic Resident Evil game, and every chapter received the same complaint regarding the shooting.

If there was an episodic RE game with broken-ass controls in every single episode, yes, I'd hope that anyone reviewing one of the episodes would at least mention that the shooting is poor! Your job as a critic is to inform vis-à-vis your opinion, and you'd be doing a disservice to anyone using your review as a purchasing guide by failing to point out that "Oh yeah - the controls are still fucked." It's bad form to assume that your readers already know everything already (that they've read every thread, every forum, every writeup, etc) and to only bother with observations no one else has yet made. It's better to be redundant with other reviews than to leave out something major because it's been 'done to death.'

@Turambar said:

While this may be the first time you have made mention, remember that we don't exist in a bubble and this segment is one voice amongst a chorus.

While I see how that might make it annoying for you, I don't see how that's relevant in the context of these write-ups. Maybe you happen to be reading lots of other stuff about P4A, but if someone were to land on this article from, say, Giant Bomb, it's possible (even likely) that this is the first they're hearing about it, and that the issues with the animation haven't been overstated to them.

Even putting all that aside: if it stands out to me, I'm gonna mention it. That's how this works!

@Hailinel said:

Yeah, it's my problem if I'm frustrated, but I am, and I have as much of a right to vent that frustration as Nick has in making his complaints. My problem is that his complaints are, from my perspective, a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things and is only exacerbated by constant complaints in forums that overstate the dips in quality or resort to image macros as the basis of their argument.

I think it's a little unfair to dismiss particularly hideous screenshots of the show as "image macros." There's nothing misrepresentative about those images - they're real, unmanipulated stills from the show, and they look like poop from a butt! Just because the screenshot comes from an awful website doesn't make the information any less valuable. If those images were posted here individually without the 4chan thread format, would you still reject them as "image macros"?

Turambaron Nov. 1, 2011 at 1:25 a.m.

@Babylonian: You seem to misinterpret my post much like Mutha3 has. My post is not a policy prescription for writing. I will say to you as I have said to him: write whatever you two want to in whatever style. There is more than enough meat for me to chew on in both show and blog and write about things actually relevant to my interests. My post is an explanation for Hailinel's frustration, and a tangent from the dead end argument of "is this show pretty or not." I feel like this is the third timed I've repeated this point, the second time being just two posts below your latest comment.

Turambaron Nov. 1, 2011 at 2:08 a.m.

@Babylonian: I'm hesitant in posting this as it predicates heavily on personal blogging philosophies, but what the hell. I might as well start my own potential flame war. I played some Amnesia and now I'm in one silly mood. (Everyone go buy it on Steam by the way.)

Now, for something that is policy prescription for writing. I write this because of your comments in the previous post that you feel your role is a reviewer of some kind. Repeat after me. Episodic blogs are not reviews. Episodic blogs are not reviews. Episodic blogs are not reviews.

You are not an arbiter, or even a guide, but a traveling companion. What you and Kristoffer are writing here is not a full review of the show. It is a companion piece written bit by bit in reaction to a work in progress. You cannot approach each episode as if it was a review with a set list of talking points, checking off story, action, graphics as you go along. Partly because it leads to dull and formulaic writing about weekly episodes that will after a point might as well be writing themselves, but also because you are not writing a buyers guide. Viewers cannot simply decide to skip episodes as they can titles in a video game franchise. The very fact that the phrase "I feel sorry for anyone who just dropped the series because something in the first episode rubbed them the wrong way." existed in the previous blog undermines the reviewer role fully.

This blog exists as an easy platform for conversation with set view points and opinions to launch ourselves from. It is very valuable in that respect, but no one reading it right now should base their decision to watch the next episode or not off it.

Babylonian staff on Nov. 1, 2011 at 2:50 a.m.

@Turambar said:

@Babylonian: I'm hesitant in posting this as it predicates heavily on personal blogging philosophies, but what the hell. I might as well start my own potential flame war. I played some Amnesia and now I'm in one silly mood. (Everyone go buy it on Steam by the way.)

Now, for something that is policy prescription for writing. I write this because of your comments in the previous post that you feel your role is a reviewer of some kind. Repeat after me. Episodic blogs are not reviews. Episodic blogs are not reviews. Episodic blogs are not reviews.

You are not an arbiter, or even a guide, but a traveling companion. What you and Kristoffer are writing here is not a full review of the show. It is a companion piece written bit by bit in reaction to a work in progress. You cannot approach each episode as if it was a review with a set list of talking points, checking off story, action, graphics as you go along. Partly because it leads to dull and formulaic writing about weekly episodes that will after a point might as well be writing themselves, but also because you are not writing a buyers guide. Viewers cannot simply decide to skip episodes as they can titles in a video game franchise. The very fact that the phrase "I feel sorry for anyone who just dropped the series because something in the first episode rubbed them the wrong way." existed in the previous blog undermines the reviewer role fully.

This blog exists as an easy platform for conversation with set view points and opinions to launch ourselves from. It is very valuable in that respect, but no one reading it right now should base their decision to watch the next episode or not off it.

I...okay? I used the word 'review' in reference to your Resident Evil analogy, but whatever!

I mentioned that the show looks sometimes shitty because I think the show looks sometimes shitty. You might be overthinking this.

ComicMan24on Nov. 1, 2011 at 2:55 a.m.

It was a nice episode. But how many Personas Yu is going to have? lol And I agree that sometimes the animation gets a bit weird but that's something that happenes in a lot of anime.

FoxxFireArt moderator on Nov. 1, 2011 at 2:58 a.m.

@Turambar:

I feel the same way about the symbolism. It's all the tell the audience that Yukiko feels trapped. It happens for one episode. For different Shadow worlds the symbolism will be there, but different for each person. I think this anime sells a lot better how hard life is for Yukiko living at the inn.

I'm pretty confident that once the DVD/BD comes out. What we will see will be a lot smoother in animation than what we're seeing on stream.

I'm just not getting that vibe from the animation. You take random screenshots from many series and you'll fad awkward pictures. Why this standard for Persona 4? The whole scene with the falling drunk, I don't have any problems with. Some dude with a stupid grin holding a bottle fell over. He's must be drunk. That's how I saw it on my first viewing. It's all in the setting. It doesn't feel out of place at all.

If it bothers people. That's just the way they feel. I'm not noticing it at all.

@Lurkero:

We have the format so we can react to each others thoughts, but not go on forever. I try to keep my points to at least two to three paragraphs. It would be kind of cool if we could do this in an audio format.

@Rapid:

Yeah, I wanted her to cast some ice magic.

@ComicMan24:

Hard to tell how many he'd get, but it was such a surprise that he would get more than one. I'm excited to see how many.

FoxxFireArt moderator on Nov. 1, 2011 at 3:16 a.m.

@Babylonian:

To my point about "Social Linking being a waste". I wasn't talking about with the main cast. I was talking about the side stories of basketball team, drama girl, what appears to be Ai's story, ect.. These doesn't hold any connection to the plot or the cast relationships. They will just seem to serve to be a catalyst for Yu obtaining new Arcana and thus more Persona to see later. That's why I don't see it being used as a waste of time.

Arrested_Developeron Nov. 1, 2011 at 5:19 a.m.

I haven't watched much anime but I'm really enjoying the series so far. The only thing that bugs me is the female voice acting, it's a little embarrassing to watch it around other people with the constant gasping and cries but I guess that just their way.

mutha3on Nov. 1, 2011 at 5:20 a.m.

@FoxxFireArt said:

@Babylonian:

To my point about "Social Linking being a waste". I wasn't talking about with the main cast. I was talking about the side stories of basketball team, drama girl, what appears to be Ai's story, ect.. These doesn't hold any connection to the plot or the cast relationships. They will just seem to serve to be a catalyst for Yu obtaining new Arcana and thus more Persona to see later. That's why I don't see it being used as a waste of time.

Actually, I kinda agree with the bolded. Removing the non-party S-links seems like a good move to me, and one of the liberties I would have liked them to take. A smaller focus goes a long way in establishing proper pacing, especially when you're strapped for time(25 episodes, dude!). And Persona 4 had the advantage of being a game, which easily allows you to have 20+ characters without having to worry about something like screentime.

Ai is one of my favorite S-links, but I would have been satisfied with a little cameo appearance.

@Hailinel said:

Yeah, it's my problem if I'm frustrated, but I am, and I have as much of a right to vent that frustration as Nick has in making his complaints. My problem is that his complaints are, from my perspective, a very minor issue in the grand scheme of things and is only exacerbated by constant complaints in forums that overstate the dips in quality or resort to image macros as the basis of their argument.

Can't say I've seen that happen!

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