Review: Persona 4: The Animation

Just a typical day in the life of Yu Narukami.


Persona 4: The Animation is one in a long, long line of game-based anime.  The base of the narrative, Persona 4, is an excellent JRPG and many argue it as one of the few recent JRPG games to meet critical praise in and out of Japan (side note: I highly recommend playing Persona 4 Golden if you are one of the six or seven people on earth with a Vita).  In fact, it launched the Persona franchise into mainstream popularity out of Japan despite the reasonable popularity from Persona 3.

So I guess the obvious happened: AIC, best known for adapting anything and everything under the sun (I went half crazy reading the number of “based on” and “adapted from” on their anime list), brought it to the animated scene.  It’s not like they were taking chances here as they’ve got a good number of hits.  Heck, they even grabbed Seiji Kishi almost right after his adaptation of Angel Beats! and gave him the exact same role as director.


Welcome to the quiet town of Inaba in some unspecified rural part of Japan.  Almost nothing of relevance happens here.  Murder count is at a nice fresh zero most of the time.

In comes Yu Narukami.  His parents, for reasons unknown, send him to live with his detective uncle in Inaba for the year and have him attend the local high school, Yasogami High.  The next day, things go from boring to horribly confusing for this sleepy little town as police find Mayumi Yamano, a newswoman recently finding herself in the headlines for cheating with a councilman, dead and hung upside down from a telephone wire.

Oh shut up, spoiler freaks. This happens almost right away.

Not exactly her best day.

Another murder occurs soon after.  Same style of death: hung from a telephone wire.  This attracts the attention of all of Japan (at the least), leaving the small Inaba police department scrambling to solve and close this case ASAP.  Parallel to their investigation comes the adventure of Narukami and his friends.

At the same time all this occurs, Yu finds out that he can enter a different world.  One that he can only access through TVs.  For some reason.  He can’t understand why either.  I promise it gets explained…kind of.  Anyways, one thing leads to another and he finds out, along with his classmates Yosuke Hanamura and Chie Satonaka, that the pair of murders directly tie into this other world.  But that’s not all this “TV world” offers them.  In that world, they gain the power to generate supernatural creatures…avatars…things called persona.  The exact nature of these personae are not explained, but they enact the will of their controller, or something.

Though Izanagi is still impossibly badass. No matter what it is.

Tell you what: you find a better description and I’ll use it.

One sticking point on those persona though: only those who face and accept their shadow may wield one.  What’s a shadow you ask?  Well, continuing with their Jungian philosophical tour, a shadow is an aspect of the self that the conscious self doesn’t recognize.  The series takes it a step further though and the shadow of an individual is a different physical entity than themselves.  This world takes the part of the mind that they don’t recognize, that they don’t associate with themselves, and makes it a living creature. And this creature hates its lack of recognition.  It tortures and accuses its creator, telling them things they do not wish to hear.  And upon seemingly inevitable rejection, it turns violent.

Characters gain their persona only after defeating a shadow (read: beating it over the head with personae) and having the creator accept that the shadow is a part of themselves.  I know the rules of this universe are a lot of take in…but basically it comes down to: person sees a physical representation of themselves they don’t recognize, person refuses to acknowledge that it’s them, the other part of them attacks, loses, and person gains the ability to wield a persona.  It’s got very loose ties to Jungian psychology if that helps.

I should use this time to mention that shadows range from creepy to weird. Very weird.

I should use this time to mention that shadows range from creepy to weird. Very weird.

Anyways, the point being that it’s up to Yu and his group of friends to go to school, solve the murder mystery, and defeat shadows along the way.  All while hiding the detection of the police, who would probably frown on the idea of people investigating a mystery for them.

On one hand, the narrative is very good.  It reveals itself in manners which hide the deepest secrets until the final episodes (and extra episode in releases).  Minor twists and turns keep the narrative progressing at a fairly brisk pace.  Coming in with a completely blank slate creates quite a fascinating and gripping narrative in this sense.  There are very few “pauses” in the flow of the story (whereas you could have weeks in story (hours of gameplay) between points in the story).  Those which do exist often come in the form of amusing comedic adventures also known for populating the Persona universe.  This aspect certainly becomes more of a mixed bag as the side events sometimes carry a small bit of narrative, making all the filler episodes difficult to miss for fear of losing out on part of the mystery, but also generate tedium if your goal is squarely on a mystery.

I mention it previously but it deserves multiple statements: this narrative is fascinating if you walk in without spoilers.  This is a surprisingly difficult task as Persona 4‘s popularity breaks internet searches and litters fan forums and other such sites with walking spoilers.  I’ve tried to avoid such a problem myself but I might slip one or two in by accident.  Regardless, I again should describe this nature of the narrative that works well here: the progress despite continual restarts.  The mystery aspect finds an extremely small niche of playing both the frustration of having to begin again, a notion seem several times throughout the narrative, and slowly diminishing the list of possible suspects.  It espouses tenacity and optimism.  It’s not difficult to spot either of these as a primary motif of the narrative boils down to turning away from the ugly reality versus facing it head on.  Well, kind of.

Finally, as mentioned above, there are filler episodes.  They are probably some of the funniest and entertaining parts of the series.  It inadvertently pulls the same humour strings as the game by typically drawing humour on more of a slice-of-life level.  Focus on character exaggeration is the order of the day.  It’s a nice break from watching these characters trudge through a serious series but it’s certain that it won’t fit the desires of all viewers given this major genre shift.

Given all this though…I’ve got a serious love-hate relationship here.  On one hand, this story quite faithfully follows the narrative of the Persona 4 game.  It’s intriguing, full of some obvious (and not so obvious) turns, and has an ending you probably can’t predict.  There is high calibre material without a doubt.  So why the love-hate instead of pure affection?  Well, it breezes by at such a fast clip at times that major plot points do not receive proper treatment nor do certain aspects really build up.  This sometimes comes from just a failing of the series as a whole; Persona 4 did not adequately explain several plot points even in-game and this simply transfers over to the anime adaptation.  It simply becomes something that you must accept of the world you’re watching.  The series ties up most loose ends by series end, but you have to scour every single line very carefully to make sure you catch it all.

To further this, the comedic effect sometimes contrasts far too greatly with the serious character side.  This often funnels back to the commentary I stated I’d later give on Yu alone but it stretches into each character at some point or another.  Serious scenes inexplicably become comedic.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it just falls flat.  For example, there’s an entire episode which feels like it should be serious but gets played for a string of laughs.  And this sometimes drains the fun out of the episode as it certainly got the “serious” treatment in the game (for the most part).  An excellent description I heard of the animation is that “every character is now the comic relief”.  A thought which is mostly true the more I think about it.

Probably the most egregious issue stemming from both the anime and the game is serious lack of development for the final antagonists.  The antagonist is hinted barely in the game…it’s very easy to forget that the reference even happens.  In the animated version?  Even worse.  This might be because the series intended for a single ending (whereas this unhinted antagonist comes from one of many endings in the game)…but it still feels strange watching the bonus episode since it comes out of nowhere.

Ultimately, Persona 4 is optimistic.  The mystery gets solved, etc.  It’s neither dark nor gritty and you shouldn’t go in expecting such a piece.  I guess though that this is typical given the narrative focuses on high school students who are solving mysteries the police can’t.


The series focuses around Yu Narukami and the friends he gathers along the murder investigation.  It’s very difficult to distinguish between characters and plot spoiling at this point so I’ll focus more on the series’ effectiveness in expressing characters.

Personally, this area is a strength of the series.  It’s certainly much, much compressed (and I’d even say to a slight detriment of the series) but some key aspects get by which make interesting characters within the realm of the world they inhabit.

Persona 4: The Animation is by nature very focused on fleshing out characters; they have “shadows” which they reject and must accept in order to progress in narrative.  This exercise by definition pretty much requires exposition of character by a description of a shadow.  I’ll spoil part of Episode 2 to make an example: Yosuke’s shadow claims he absolutely hates his life.  He hates the fact that it’s boring here and went on this adventure because it was merely exciting.  Very basic application of the rules of the universe (pretty much presented during the monologue) means we learn something Yosuke.  Actually, the game and series both throw it pretty hard in the observer’s face that it’s part of the character they know.  So, naturally, we learn a lot through the initial shadow battles about the characters who witness their shadows.

But it certainly goes beyond that.  The characters themselves have subversion wired right into them, making a very unique experience.  Chie, probably the easiest to spot “tomboy” type of character you’ll see in a long time, is quite uncomfortable with that type of position.  And you find this lack of confidence permeates into other aspects of her personality even going as far as being surprised when everybody seems to agree on her theory being correct.  The design of the entire series focuses and highlights these striking distinctions between the character stereotype and the written personality.  This interesting and fairly unique decision (when mixed with the concept of shadows) provide a surprisingly deep set of characters in the length of time given for characterization.

Not only are the characters deep and subversive but they also deal with topics rarely seen in such anime.  I don’t want to ruin anything but later “shadows” deal with subjects rarely spoken of in such situations.  Almost everything in this regard becomes interesting and stand out very heavily because of it.

But unfortunately the series also suffers from lack of time, simply put.  Characterization is typically a Persona franchise strong point as the series gets older and older.  Starting with their third main game (that is, Persona 3), an element occurs known as a “Social Link”.  It’s nearly a dating game aspect where the protagonist (in our case, Yu) gets to spend time with other protagonists and NPCs.  A great deal of in depth characterization occurs in these events, often tying well in with the main theme of the game.  This is no different in Persona 4, where I’d argue is about half the game in a similar way to Danganronpa having half-Free Time, half-murder mystery.

I mention this aspect because Persona 4: The Animation attempts to replicate parts of Social Links to a net negative in my mind.  They often deal with one early Social Link (out of 10 stages) and one late stage event.  It is certainly ambitious to even consider adding these as they would consume great deals of time from start to finish.  However, the scenes rarely, if ever, hold the same weight or value as they do in game and is little more than time filler without the amount of interest or emotional investment.  I understand that they wanted to showcase the aspects shown in the game (I’m very partial to a couple selected scenes myself) but they come without warning or real context and the flow of the episode often shoehorns it into a side aspect of a greater episode narrative, making any character revelation secondary to the ongoing narrative.  As a result, it becomes little more than fan service for the fans of the game and little else to first time viewers of the animated version.

The other issue I have with the general tendency towards more exaggerated characters.  Characters in Persona 4 are more rounded and realistic than their animated selves.  This really does feel like an issue with the amount of time available as oppose to real director issue since there’s not enough time to keep the more subdued scenes in and more extreme characters results in more viable comedy scenes, something leaned on heavily in this adaptation.  This leads to more silly and over the top characters.  Like a version of Chie which seems to solve any problem by kicking.  Or a Yosuke which has no value other than comic relief whereas he acted as the strong secondary leader and an emotional driver of the investigation in Persona 4.  It’s less notable for viewers of the series only but may leave them confused as to why characters receive so much adoration for their game equivalents.

Boss needs beating? Galactic Punt. Yosuke bothering you? Galactic Punt. Yosuke ticks you off? Galactic Punt again. You get the idea.

Worse than this is the absolutely mixed situation of Yu Narukami.  Yu is, by nature, a silent protagonist in-game.  This lets you filter whatever personality you want into him and, by extension, let you immerse yourself through his eyes.  Parts of the personality are set but much of it open.  The animated Yu, on the other hand, takes on a whole new personality instead of adopting some bland presence.  He’s somewhere between socially awkward, eccentric, one step out of reality, and professional troll.  There’s no better way to describe him honestly.  He keeps a fairly deadpan personality yet makes constant confusion and humour.  He even pulls this card during the most tense situations.  It’s very much another case of extreme hit and miss.  He’s sometimes the funniest character on-screen and makes the scene incredibly funny.  Other times…no so much.  It’s not that his antics aren’t funny.  They typically are.  But he feels so far out of the world he’s in that he is basically an imported character from another series; it’s easy to lose your sense of immersion due to this character.


I…don’t want to put it this way…but I don’t think I have any other option.  The animation for this series is heavily inconsistent.  There are some lively, beautiful, and breathtaking scenes.  They hold up today about 5 years after release.  And I absolutely love these scenes due to obvious love and affection in its creation.

Yet…the same series carries some incredibly poorly animated sequences.  There is no joke when I state that there’s about 20 seconds a single frame.  Stills and characters filling the empty void with dialogue.  Older series could get away with this…but this is pushing the limits.  Actually, it crosses it when you mix in the fact that there are great numbers of cost saving animations.  Poorly rendered characters, lots of distance shots, “side mouth”, and smaller cost saving measures.  There’s in fact a sequence where’s it’s extremely obvious the animators animated a small set of cells for Yosuke and cycled sequentially, completely ignoring whatever dialogue it supposedly represents.  This begins leaning heavily on the willing suspension of disbelief.

Let’s look at the positives first.  Some sequences are incredible.  It’s unfortunate that I can’t really provide examples as they almost always occur in spoiler heavy situations.  However, I almost always note a large jump in animation quality.  Detail are quite notable and honestly feel a step above what the series provides elsewhere.

Crazy Yu

Unfortunately, the negatives are just as painful.  Character’s mouths are “just” off-screen too often, letting the animation get away with showing the character’s eyes for multiple seconds on end and animate a single frame.  Characters get placed in wide pan shots frequently to prevent having to animate mouths.  Or if they do receive animation, the mouth is incredibly small so detailed lip flapping becomes non-important.

I’m not one to typically concern myself with animation but I did notice this vast difference based on scenes.  It’s alright to have difference between scenes.  It’s not always alright to have individuals look like the same character between scenes.

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

Much of the soundtrack for this series comes from the original game.  It’s hard to not love the music…the Persona series is well-known for its excellent pieces, something carried through all the mediums it inhabits.  Part techno, part pop, part rap…there’s probably a little bit for everybody.  The series undoubtedly leans on carried over feelings from the game to secure this since it copies the same soundtrack this heavily.  There are new pieces and they work well…such as I’ll Face Myself – Reincarnation.  Actually, I find the new pieces fit a model of this grander stage with the use of more classic instruments such as piano and violin.  The comparison being the heavy use of guitar and synthesizer in the Persona 4 game

The anime utilizes two openings and two closings.  Kind of.  The series typically uses two openings and two closing pieces.  The opening changes a couple times…primarily, incredibly serious episodes get treated with no opening and simply a title card.  Episode endings also revolve around two piece but change for some special episodes.  Almost all the pieces are written by Persona series favourite Lotus Juice, who writes most of the series’ battle lyrics…almost all raps.  They work strangely well and it’s an interesting experience.

The first main opening is sky’s the limit and the second opening is keys plus words, performed by Shihoko Hirata.  The former is much calmer and less pressing while the latter is quite upbeat and intense.  It makes sense for this duality at some level since the series does pick up in intensity as the episodes pass.  Neither are really outstanding but the mix of that plus the animation really do reflect the concept that this series isn’t fully intended for “new” fans.  The openings outright spoil which characters are protagonists.  Which is too sad since this would be a terrific series for “evolving” opening credits.

The first closing song is Beauty of Destiny and the second is The Way of Memories.  Both are one again primarily produced by Shihoko Hirata.  I cannot claim to know the exact thought process for developing these pieces but they do not really fit the anime as they are both relatively calm pieces, the latter far much more so.  They are nice pieces to listen to but don’t do a tone for the series.

This series has pretty fantastic dubbing voices.  The names on both English and Japanese ends are well recognized and typically fit their role well.  There are some struggles with work schedules (that is to say, honeymoons) which make Troy Baker’s character suddenly shift in tone halfway through the series.  Additionally, fans of the original game will find that Chie Satonaka and Teddie have changed voices too.  There honestly is a very large carousal of changing voice actors and voice actresses for the English side of this franchise over the years and this might make the Japanese version more palatable.  But that’s not to say the cast for this anime are bad, per say.  Actually, Laura Bailey and Amanda Winn Lee both do excellent jobs in their respective roles.  I’d probably recommend you take a listen to the characters and decide for yourself.


How this series floats itself depends purely on the episode.  One episode might use the main story to pull you in.  The next might have a nifty battle.  The next could get you laughing.  It’s very much a beginner friendly series in this sense as it offers a little to everyone but not enough of most of these traits to really dominate.  Except for the mystery.  That part is absolutely an overarching idea…it’s just that you might forget that it even exists from time to time as the episode demands a different pull.

Why to Watch

All the slagging I give Persona 4 doesn’t mean it’s bad.  It’s actually a decent recreation.  You want a compressed version of the narrative and it gives it.  It’s quicker and involves far less monster bashing than the game.  You get to focus purely on the narrative and some silly side adventures.  That’s simply it: you get to watch the mystery come forth and recede in ~10 hours what you’d take 60 hours to see in a game while involving no button pressing.

Why Not to Watch

It’s very easy to see why not if you have a Playstation 2, 3, or Vita in addition to a bit of time on your hands.  The game does a much better job telling the narrative.  The characters are more cohesive, the engagement higher, and the world building comes together much better in-game format.  Like my many comparisons to Danganronpa: The Animation, it’s a case of either needing massive, massive episode blocks (probably to a level of twice as many as given) or having a series which doesn’t quite match the game.

Finding the series might be a bit pricier than the games too as you’re looking at DVDs or a similar distributor.

Personal Enjoyment

I love the Persona franchise.  Plain and simple.  Recent editions of the franchise engage itself deeply with character psychological issues (coming to a front with the “Shadows” in Persona 4).  I re-watch Persona 4: The Animation routinely despite my issues with it.  That should tell you exactly how much I ingrain myself with the franchise.


Persona 4: The Animation presents a real conundrum.  On one hand, it represents the problems with compression of expansive games into a short ~10 hour viewing.  Even stripping away all the level grinding leaves far too much to tell in far too little time.  Some of the intriguing aspects of the series fall to the cutting room floor and the series well-known as the gold standard for character writing feels a little incomplete, living with character exaggerations.  It’s also a bit of a shameless re-creation designed to appeal to its core fans since key parts of the narrative are either left obvious from the start or skipped over with haste.  And it’s hard to recommend it because there is such an impressive alternative.

But what’s left is still decent, enjoyable, and you’ll likely leave a viewing happier than if you left the series alone.  It’s good in a world with no comparable source material and I’d still recommend watching it provided you’re either done with the game or just short on time getting into the franchise.

I guess the easy way to put it is that it’s good, but saying it’s good is a letdown when the source material is just that much better.  If you have the time and a Vita or a PS2, play the game.  If you don’t, watch the anime.

Overall Rating

Persona 4: The Animation has a 7.01/10 for me.  Given I use 5 as average, this ranks as a solid anime.  I would personally place it as an excellent series to put on your “to watch” list and keep it in mind, despite the flaws I list above.

This series, as an obvious carryover from the game itself, scored strongest in the character section.  This means that it manages to reflect the unique characters from the game, even if they lose some of their depth.  The music also help quite well.  It’s unfortunate but the real limiting factor became the lack of episode count and cramming far too much into far too few episodes, leaving out many details which made the original game great.


Review: Ghost Stories

Honestly, just never let these guys make up their own dialogue. Things just get…strange.


So…Ghost Stories.  The franchise has one of the strangest trajectories of any anime I’ve ever seen.  It comes from an older book series from Toru Tsunemitsu and recapped, well, stories about ghosts.  Simple as that.  Then the franchise spun into movies.  Family friendly horror movies.  I…don’t know what they were thinking there.  Fast forward to 2000.  The series continued into an anime aimed at children and came from fairly strong pedigree under the flag of both Pierrot and Aniplex.  Both have large franchises to their name with the former producing well-known shonen demographic anime such as Naruto and Bleach and the latter producing the Full Metal Alchemist franchise.  So we have the stage set for another franchise to come in.  But it never did.  The reasoning appears lost in time but production ended after 20 episodes.  I’d hesitate a guess that there was intention for a franchise given the episodic nature but I have no proof of that.

This is where things take a turn for the weird.  Most series just die at this point but not Ghost Stories.  2005 rolls around and ADV Films, against all expectations, announces they’ll translate and release Ghost Stories.  That isn’t strange enough for this story and they basically received full artistic licence to do whatever they felt with the anime, barring a few exceptions (thanks for the link Wikipedia.  It’s a good listen.).

And with that in mind…the anime becomes a pure and raw “abridged” series.   My writing isn’t entirely clear, but abridged series are a complete parody of their original material.  All officially produced through a dub.  Experiments in this field exist previously, most famously in Samurai Pizza Cats, but I can’t think of an instance where the company licensing out basically signed off on all the changes made by the dubbing organization; most translations go the other way.

As the video link above notes, this anime became a strange mix of ad-lib dialogue, anime tropes, and black humour.  All the major voice actors received writing credit for this anime primarily because the script basically didn’t exist until recording.

The basic framework of my reviews kind of fail at covering the basic concepts for reviewing Ghost Stories and I’m only reviewing the dubbed version.  Let’s try anyways though.


The dubbed narrative retains the same framework as the original version of Ghost Stories.

Ten-year old Satsuki Miyanoshita is moving into a new town.  Her father, for whatever reason, decided to move back to the his wife’s home town.  Well, ex-wife I guess seeing as she died.  Anyways, the Satsuki and her younger brother Keiichirou meet the next door neighbour, a ten-year old boy.  He’s Hajime Aoyama and it turns out he attends the same school (and is in the same class) as Satsuki.  Due to a very strange and awkward occurrence with Satsuki’s family cat (Kaya), Satsuki, Keiichirou, Hajime, and his friend Leo end up heading into an abandoned schoolhouse before their first day of school.  There they meet an older student from the same school, Momoko Koigakubo, and the five proceed to explore the abandoned school.  That’s when they find ghosts.

Turns out Satsuki’s mother spent far too much time of her childhood fighting ghosts and trapping them in…things.  And these things are now getting destroyed as the town undergoes renovations.  But hope isn’t lost as she left behind a diary full of pretty pictures and a description of how she captured each ghost.  It’s through this book that they defeat their first enemy, Amanojaku, and capture him…in the body of Kaya.   Now it’s up to this intrepid group of five, and occasionally Amanojaku, to save the town from the other ghosts roaming the city as they are slowly awoken by the loss of whatever was holding them down.

I’m not sure how many cliches there are in that above paragraph but I’m far too lazy to count.

It’s quite obvious based on the open-ended nature of the narrative above but the entire nature of this series is entirely episodic; every adventure pretty much opens and closes within the span of 25 minutes and you know every villain (well, ghost) will appear and defeated within the same length of time.  You could view episodes 2 through 19 without any clue to proceed and not get confused in the narrative.  This gives the distinct impression that Ghost Stories originally came in as a filler based franchise: that they could produce an endless stream of Ghost Stories episodes with no conceivable end.

There’s not much else to discuss in narrative…so I’ll leave of this section for dialogue choices.

It’s pretty much like this.

The dialogue…well, like the image above describes, it’s dark humour.  It lives and dies off cross the concept of comment decency.  A good number of punch lines purely run off the idea that these are ten-year old children.  That piece of dialogue?  It’s actually in the dub and is certainly on the tamer side of things Hajime says.  Let’s put it this way: Mel Gibson had an infamous rant about Jewish people.  Greg Ayres, who voices Leo, expressed displeasure that production wrapped up a couple of weeks before the dubbing sessions ended since they could have referenced it during that last episode.

Not only is the humour dark but it targets everybody.  Racial humour, homosexual humour, sexual humour, religion…all it’s acceptable and utilized in the series.  And they cross the line on it several times.  It should go without saying that anybody offended by any type of humour probably wants out right away.  Ayres in that other link that there were some topics they weren’t touching…but those are pretty limited.  Almost everything’s a target.  This aspect begins taking over more and more as the series progresses.  The final 5 episodes don’t bother with a censor for swears and the script has a tonne of fun with that.

A lot of humour also exists from references to then current American culture; the dub occurred in the summer of 2005 and the anime will routinely show this.  The 2002 Hollywood movie Signs gets routine mention and references as does the Bush administration (US president in that time period) at the time.  You might be hard pressed to catch every joke if you are not acutely aware of American culture at the time.  Signs, for example, might be difficult to understand since not everyone is aware of the movie’s existence of the often mocked nature of the aliens in the movie.

There’s also a segment of the dialogue which exists to poke fun at Ghost Stories‘ cliche filled narrative.  Characters routinely point out similarities between ghosts they are facing and more common and well-known media pieces.  For example, they draw connections to The Ring and The Grudge several times.  This anime actually utilizes fourth wall breaking a great deal and characters routinely reference episodes (and at one point even their two-dimensional nature by claiming they are breaking the third wall).

I must also express a little softness to some general humour.  The concept of lull destruction exists and they utilize it often when the dubbing team adds in dialogue to screw around with the seriousness of a scene.  One scene has a ghost levitating up some stairs.  The original version treats is completely serious with nothing but music and sound effects.  The dub instead has the ghost shout “Wheeee!” as it climbs.  It’s absolutely unexpected but a great piece of humour and adds to the overall fun of the anime.


This is even harder to write that the above.  The characters are intentionally flat and they even reference any time a character actually changes in any way.  It goes along with the entire package of parodying the typical Saturday morning series.  Every character also plays off a specific quirk and exaggerate it to no end.  Hajime being perverted, Leo being Jewish, Keiichirou being completely dumb, and Momoko having an absolutely unshakable faith in anything Christian…the script throws them all together into some strange concoction of character iteration with humour spitting out the sides of it as they attempt to navigate the episode.  Satsuki is the closest thing there is in this anime to a “straight man”…the character others play their insanity off of to highlight their insanity.  She also has her eccentricities and limits to her own sanity but the most common jokes with regards to her either highlight the other characters’ nature or play off the shock factor of her being a ten-year old girl saying fairly…adult things.


The animation is…not good for lack of a better term.  It keeps fairly standard practice for the early 2000’s era but also utilized a lower budget than other anime and the effects are quite obvious.  I would have guessed the series as around 1996 to 1998 based on the animation alone.  The style is very consistent with mid-to-late 90’s animation in terms of shading and it uses a lot of distance shots and faces turning away from the screen in order to reduce the animation load.  It’s also quite obvious that they used a great deal of model work while animating as character end up in completely awkward positions throughout the anime.  The dub naturally lampshades this.

There are some good moments despite the above commentary.  Later episodes got higher attention to animation and there were some moments when it even exceeded my expectations for the era.  Not only do the monsters begin taking on more horror-based appearances but they become more fluid and uncanny.  This is certainly another reason to hold out for the later episodes while watching this anime…the jokes get looser and the animation better.

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

There’s very little sound.  Very little.  You got me?  I counted probably 7 or 8 pieces that they recycle throughout the anime and one of them is a simple copy of the Psycho “scare” chords.  The pieces feel very reminiscent of 90’s anime and might even remind you a bit of how other Saturday morning series utilize music.  It’s not a great mix and it wears itself thin while you walk through 20 episodes.  There’s nothing groundbreaking and honestly doesn’t assist the anime in any way.  Though it does benefit the anime a bit since the dialogue does point to the sound.

The opening is another one of those many fairly staple and cliche openings.  Grow Up by Hysterical Blue.  It’s a light pop piece which follows many traditions of younger target anime and focus on the same topics we frequent in such pieces: optimism, hope, change…simple topics and easy ones to relate to at that.

I can’t tell if it was intentional but the closing actually get better with the comedic dub.  Seriously.  It’s literally titled Sexy Sexy and it would be silly of me to not point out that the lyrics do not disappoint in the least.  I can think of few reasons for its original usage and it fits the dubbed version way better as some kind of slight shock value as a completely out-of-place piece of music.  It’s kind of catchy though and the distorted guitar chords remind me of Boney M‘s Rasputin for reasons the completely escape me.  That’s probably a good thing all things considered since it does just add to all the insanity in this song.  I wouldn’t try to dissect why this is…it makes no sense to me either.

Neither the opening nor closing use any good quality of animation.  The closing in particular shows the 90’s level of closing animation laziness and just pan slowly through a larger image.

Honestly…I can’t say anything about the subbed version of this anime; my entire reasoning for watching Ghost Stories is its parody dub.  But expect a completely different anime (not necessarily better) with the subbed version.  I’ve heard another company did a serious dub of this anime so that might be worth comparing…and I might watch this anime in a serious form some day…but the viewing I had can only be completed through the dubbed version.

The voice actors themselves are very much the standard cast for ADV translations of that era: Hilary Haag, Chris Patton, Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Luci Christian, Christine Auten…it’s very much a tour of the cast they had at the time.  The length of different voice actors for this series is immense though and it’s almost worth a tour just to see who was likely on staff in ADV at the time.  I swear all the available staff at ADV were eager to get in on the project because of the loose production style…the list of recognizable names goes on for a while.

The quality of the dub is fairly standard but shows a lot of life and enthusiasm; it’s very clear that a great deal of dialogue game through ad-lib performance and the voice actors appear to appreciate this aspect greatly.  Namely, they appear to enjoy mocking many of the tropes they as anime fans recognize through their typical assignments.  You can almost hear a small feeling of joy as they spit out a funny line they would never otherwise be allowed to say during production.  Hearing Vic Mignogna say (and I’m quoting here) “Let’s see…purple for your hair.  Can’t tell that this is a goddamn anime” is perfectly delivered and it’s very clear Mignogna really wanted to use the line.  I almost feel it’s worth the price of admission just to hear the voice actors have fun with the project.


Everything lives and dies off the dialogue.  This is the aspect ADV could adjust and therefore the entire nature of this dub works through it.  None of the original series actually mixes well and this doesn’t change in any variety for the dub.  So the dialogue happily creates jokes out of the different parts it’s given to create a humourous experience.  The original script (and therefore the animation) creates some visual jokes but most of it still comes from the updated script.

Why Watch

There’s a very clear and obvious reason you’d want to watch Ghost Stories: you want to watch humour based anime which parodies cliche anime and doesn’t take itself seriously for more than three consecutive seconds.  You also aren’t offended easily (or can tolerate jokes similar to the western animation South Park) and laugh at such humour.  Or maybe you just want to learn about 2005 American culture.

Really, that’s the only reason to watch.

Why Not Watch

It’s actually quite simple to list reasons why you wouldn’t want to watch Ghost Stories as well since the entire series is very simple in premise: you don’t like offensive humour.  Simple as that.  If you don’t like the idea that there are jokes about Jewish people, Japanese people, sexual humour…the list goes on.  Anyways, you’re probably better off skipping if you don’t like any of the above in an offensive manner to the point where its inclusion would destroy any fun experience.

Additionally, you might not want to watch if you’re the type who insists on catching each joke and aren’t entirely familiar with USA in 2005.  I’d also then recommend you never watch Airplane! in that case.

Personal Enjoyment

This anime fell up my alley quite well.  I grew up on the dubbed version of Duel Masters.  This anime straddled the line between a serious anime about cards and a parody like Ghost Stories.  I loved this series as a child and I’ve been looking for a similar series for a long time.  Ghost Stories satisfied that itch quite well.


Ghost Stories is…well…Ghost Stories.   It’s basically a series which turns it from a bog standard light hearted series into a comedy series with a very long line of black humour comments.  Each episode becomes an attempt to out-gag the last one.  It’s sometimes crude and offensive…while certainly a bit dated in the humour.  It’s a novelty, simple as that.

Overall Rating

Ghost Stories ended with a 5.10/10 on my spreadsheet.  Given I use 5 as average, this ranks as average.  But I think this is an example of where marking schemes fail; many of my categories failed to even qualify as relevant aspects of the series.  Character depth, effective plot, engaging villains…none of this is relevant when the entire series aims to make its viewers laugh. I feel it’s absolutely pointless to discuss ratings much as a results and instead just consider it for what it is: a series with fairly offensive humour that will be incredibly funny to some and less so to others for all the reasons listed previously.

Review: Eden of the East

I cried the rain that filled the ocean wide

Catch the wheel that breaks the butterfly…


East of the Eden is one of those anime you hear about quite a bit.  Extremely popular, well-recognized, and probably has a bit of a reputation proceeding it. It’s quite interesting to see where my lines fall in comparison to those of previous viewers.

Strangely, unlike the other anime I have reviewed, there isn’t much that really stands out from the production side. Production I.G is a fairly large organization and it sticks its hands into quite a few anime though it has got some great roots in the science fiction anime.  Ghost in the Shell, in this case, is its baby.  Actually, this franchise is probably key to understanding a bit of the background of Eden of the East since Production I.G went in-house to Kenji Kaniyama, the director of many parts of Ghost in the Shell (in specific, the Stand Alone Complex pieces), to take over the same roles he had in those anime: Director, Screen Composer, Script, and Storyboard.  Basically, they wanted to tap his brain again.

But of even larger interest is the character designer, Chica Umino.  Though this is mostly because of the similarities between protagonist Akira Takizawa, and Honey and Clover‘s Shinobu Morita.  As in, it’s obvious they wanted to draw lines between the two.

Aside from that, it’s key to note the composer.  Kenji Kawai has a hugely prolific career as a composer and while I can’t say he’s my favourite composer, it’s important to in mind his vast career as I approach the music comments.


Three months before the anime begins, several missile strikes hit Japan in an event called “Careless Monday”.  It probably took place on a Monday, but that’s just a guess.  Anyways, Japan fell under attack by several missile strikes which, while dealing extreme damage to the infrastructure in the vicinity, did not actually kill anybody due to a large string of freak coincidences.  Protests and reaction sparked after the launches but quickly died down because of the real lack of leads.  In a similar stretch of time, 20,000 NEETs (“No education, employment, or training”) vanished from Japan.

Jump ahead to the first episode.  Saki Morimi is a university student pretty much set to graduate and take off into the work force.  This is a pretty big thing so her and her friends run off to USA for a little bit of time.  But she decides to abandon them fora little and visit DC.  While she’s by the White House, attempting to throw a coin into the fountain for god knows what reason, she meets Akira who at this point in time has no memories of anything, is stark naked, and is holding a gun and a cell phone.  And when I mean no memories, I mean nothing about himself; He apparently has a great recollection of Hollywood movies and is able to pinpoint even obscure films out.  Oh, and did I mention his cell phone seems to be connected to an all-powerful assistant named Juiz?  She can seemingly do anything she wants, up to and including making the Japanese Prime Minister say “Uncle” for no good reason.  Oh, and did I also mention Akira has an 8.2 billion Yen bank account for Juiz to carry out these orders with?  No?  My apologies.  I meant to get to that.

After some antics around DC, they decide to return to Japan together.  The story follows the adventures of the two as Akira attempts to restore and rediscover his past and his memories while Saki continues on in her old world and gets them and Akira to mix/integrate with each other.  The events of the past are tied in and we are left with an explanation of the world we have just witnessed.

That’s some lovely wreckage there.

The world itself and the hypothetical it poses are actually by far the most interesting part of the story.  The world they actually tell you creates a whole host of opportunities to stop and think.  The show is highly charged from a political point of view and while I’m not an expert in Japanese politics, can certainly understand and even relate to the problems that they speak of.  The topic of youth status, cultural development, and political issues rise very frequently.  A recurring question later on becomes, “If you had 10 billion Yen to change Japan, what would you do?”.  And, after transferring currency and country, this becomes a brilliant hypothetical to any nation and any individual.  From this aspect, it’s a well and extremely interesting product.

However this is also mixed in with the pacing of the show and exposition method.  It’s terrible at best.  An extremely short anime, 11 episodes, it fumbles between so many different arcs, characters, and situations that it barely gives much depth or interesting thought about any of the above.  The ending of the show is probably the most egregious as, while it answer our questions, it does it in an info-dump sort of method at the start of the episode and then leaves us with many other questions left hanging.  The movies are hardly much better and, while they do provide closure on the narrative arc, leave a lot of questions unknown.  And it’s unlikely they’ll ever be answered.

Actually, let’s take an aside to discuss the info-dumps.  This cheesed me off.  It really cheesed me off.  Maybe it’s a bit of my own idiosyncrasy though – I enjoy having to put together the intricate elements of the story itself.  For example, one of the greatest games I’ve ever played was Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.  This game basically just let you piece together some of the background yourself.  Want another example?  Look at the blog’s name.  That show probably host lecture on how to hide the story.  At any rate, the fact that the key aspects of the show presented the information in nothing more than lengthy monologues really killed the fun for me.  Especially when it came from characters who show up and begin throwing out exposition.  Hey, at least Martian Successor Nadesico had the balls to call that character “The Exposition Lady” halfway through the show.

Part of the problem is that it tries to balance two worlds: Akira’s and Saki’s.  For much of the anime, they barely interact and do mostly in the most superficial of ways.  When things begin to pick up it gets better in its narrative handling.  I wouldn’t call it stellar in this aspect, but it at least works.  But this is what creates problems.  The already short anime is split even further into a world which kind of barely moves until the last episode or two and the world which we need to explore and solve.  Not points for guessing which is which.  And when things get so short you really can’t build much of anything.

I can’t say it’s all bad in the story telling methods however.  This same brevity also works to some small part in Eden of the East‘s favour.  In the same breath that it uses to tell us it’s short and you’re likely not going to get detail on any of Akira’s world, we also realize that Akira is rushing through society.  He’s hunting answers and he tries to get them quickly.  The show might have improved if there wasn’t any focus on Saki and her friends in this realm of thought.

This next part can go either way: the humour.  The show is unrepentant part comedy.  In good times and in bad it’ll always try to turn things to the funny.  Serious action sequence?  Probably got jokes.  Story is progressing?  Let’s toss in a little humour.

Oh, and before I forget, check your thoughts of humour before preparing to watch this show.  The show has two primary levels of humour: the slapstick and the Johnny.  I mean penis.  No, seriously.  The animation team seemed to have a fascination with it.  Let me give an example: in the first episode, a police officer was asking to see Akira’s Johnny, which is to say passport.  So he subsequently drops his pants.  Cue laughter.  Honestly, this type of humour doesn’t work for me but it might for others.  It’s all well and good for kids…kind of.  They put cute and cartoonish white squiggles over the fun bits.


The anime’s main characters are undoubtedly Akira and Saki.  However, we are also introduced to at least nine other characters who you should be familiar with at some level.

This pretty much, including the fact that there is less than 4 hours to explore the world, a strong indication of the level of depth of most of these characters.  Most have at most two faces to their personality and they are rarely explored in any deep or meaningful manner.  They are instead presented as an almost monologue styled exposition.  And while I kind of amused myself with Micchon’s antics, she’s hardly a deep character.  In fact I think a huge problem with the show is the fact that most of the characters are one note.  They seemingly populate a world just for the sake of populating it.  In my review of Haibane Renmei, I considered this a flaw even though philosophical questions could be to blame.  I think the same may exist here: despite the fact that we really don’t see most characters long enough to really get to a point where we can see them develop, it’s hard on a show when we basically see them as all flat characters.

Another major issue here is the static level of the characters.  With about exception to one aspect of Saki, the entire world seems pretty consistent.  Akira never varies from his happy-go-goofy self for example.  I mean, Akira and Saki are likeable people to most, sure.  Akira is a goofy guy and Saki edges very close to your average person. But at the same time, you’d expect them to change as the world impacts them.  Akira especially.  This really does impact the viability of character strength in the show in my opinion.


The animation has two primarily aspects: the CGI and the animation itself.

The CGI is used as a lazy effect.  I get that this show had a lot of put up and needed ways to save money.  Trust me, I understand.  DC (and New York City from the movies), from what I’ve heard, have some amazingly accurate details from what I’ve heard.  Much like how Bethesda put a lot of effort into accurately portraying the landscape of DC in Fallout 3, it seems time and effort was put into it for Eden of the East.  And with this they create some pretty great looking sequences.  However, it’s also important to note that CGI really stands out in this anime.  As in, eye rollingly so.  Buildings and vehicles, even to the eye of a newcomer, will seem fairly obvious.  Anything large will be put into CGI form typically.  And, while it helps because it did let large set ups be created which high frequency, it also detracts since it is so obvious.

The animation can break further.  We actually get a very clear distinction of foregrounds and backgrounds in Eden of the East.  You can tell, very quickly, what is recycled scenery and what is changing on the foreground.  Kind of the dual-sided nature of coming into the digital era of anime I find.  And this gets a little distracting for some people.  Maybe not you, but the more I’ve watched, the more this begins to bug me. I will say that there is a production value ramp.  This is kind of expected and par for the course though and these issues fade during the more important sequences…it’s just that these cover so little time that the filler animation seems necessary.

No discussion about Eden of the East and its animation is complete though without looking at its style of animation.  It is intentionally lighthearted and drifts to remind us of its jovial nature even at the most serious of times.  Blush stickers, empty eyes, and overall typical cute anime artistic choice is pulled.

Wait, what?

Sound/Music/Voice Actors

Sound. I can’t say too much about the background music itself.  You know how airport music and elevator music is music you’re not supposed to listen to?  Well, it works the same way in East of the Eden.  The tone and mood is driven purely by visuals and dialogue.  For example, how important the sequence is can be derived and determined by whether or not Saki’s eyes are the empty white circles shown above or if they are using the more serious art for her. I will say though that Kenji Kawai made some incredible decisions when it came to songs used in-show.  In particular, the closing piece, Brenda Vaughn’s Reveal the World, is excellently placed and really sets a semi-symbolic tone to the anime.

Of course, the most famous part you’ll likely ever hear about Eden of the East is its opening.  Falling Down by Oasis.  That and the animation that goes with it are amazing.  I typically call it an arts student’s wet dream because, well, look at it.  Beautifully laid out decorations all over the place, a chaotic scattering of text, and a great song to go with it.  If you look hard enough too, it becomes a reflection of the anime in lyric and in animation.  Unfortunately, licensing issues (namely, Oasis caring about its distribution in North America as oppose to Japan and charging a boatload more for dubbing companies to distribute it) meant that this only appears on the first episode of English anime.  Please just pretend it was for all of them as the alternative opening is kind of generic and is much less interesting in its utilization.  This is where Kenji Kawai’s experience works in the show’s favour I think.

The closing, while not memorable, is catchy enough.  Though this section is turning more into a “review the opening and closing” section, I think it’s interesting to point out how nice the ending looks.  Pretty atypical work and pretty interesting to watch.

Watching this show is fine in either the dubs or subs.  Personally I didn’t notice a real difference between the two.  The only real standout for me were two VAs from the English side: Stephanie Sheh (Micchon…notice a pattern?) and J. Michael Tatum (Kazuomi Hirasawa).  Both provided voices that better suited their role…at least in my mind.  Actually, this was the first time I’ve ever recall any work dubbed by Tatum and I’m overall impressed with his ability.  Maybe I’m just getting old…

I will notify you though that English-speaking characters in the Japanese narrative are great at their jobs.  While they don’t work perfectly, it’s rare to see that perfect an understanding of importance of language being emphasized.  The characters speak effective English and those which would have unexpectedly butchered English speak with strong, though understandable, accents.  This works very well at the immersion of yourself into the show if you happen to watch the subbed version instead.


The mixture of tension and character appeal tries to drive the show primarily.  Akira is a nice guy and we want to see him succeed to some fundamental level.  Similarly, Saki has dreams and goals we can relate to and want to see her do well in life.  But the tension and events of the show make this impossible.  So the elements begin to focus on how the show disrupts and prevents that from happening.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much relation or synergy between the characters and the events themselves; it becomes more a tool of “what is forcing our lovely protagonists apart” than “what happened and how is it influencing the characters?”.

Don’t get me wrong though.  I like this angle.  It’s a fairly fresh and unique take on the dramatic elements.

Why to Watch

Eden of the East is a show almost everyone can get into.  As much as I’ve critiqued elements of the show and have disagreed with the direction taken, it’s something that you can show almost anybody and they can get interested and engaged with.  The lighthearted tone makes it something you can watch without getting too emotionally invested and it gives you characters you genuinely care for…something that seems lacking at times in other anime.  The story gives you a good mix of a little bit of everything: a little action, a little comedy, a little drama…you name it, it has it.  It also asks questions relevant to society, in particular about apathetic youth, cultural identity, and how this all impacts the world around them.

And don’t forget about the incredible opening.

Why Not to Watch

The show, while it does everything, doesn’t do well at anything either.  It has comedy, yes, but it’s really kind of restricted to penis gags and a little staple humour.  It has action, but nothing extreme.  It has story, but it handholds you through the discovery process and doesn’t really let you do too much with it.  The animations, while a nice breather from what I typically watch, have a horrible tendency to reveal the obvious background/foreground choices that were made during the animating process.  If any one of those elements were the only draw, you’ll leave a little disappointed.  If you handed this to a newcomer to anime, you may wish to treat it as hor’dourves, something that will give them a light taste of what’s to come and may even give them extreme enjoyment but nothing that will sate their appetite.

And, of course, the ending never really summarizes in a really satisfactory manner.  Again, if I may compare to Martian Successor Nadesico, that show had the balls to point it out and say that they’ll be answered “in the inevitable sequel” (which…it turns out, they weren’t).

Personal Enjoyment

I like work where I don’t get to find out what’s going on fully.  The humour really wasn’t my speed unfortunately and it may be a sign that I’m out of my element in this anime.  I actually quite enjoyed a few episodes, but those were far apart.  I think the best way for me to put this was I found the show kind of chugged along until it ended.


I find the primary thing to remember when considering East of the Eden is that it’s not a hardcore thriller, comedy, or drama anime.  It does each of the above, but doesn’t do them to such a degree that it overwhelms the rest.  It has a great philosophical question too, but doesn’t explore it to as great a degree as you may wish for.  The primary protagonists are likeable but primarily static and the secondary characters are static.  Where this show really takes off is its ability to be approachable by fans of pretty much any genre.  Then it ties itself off with a beautiful finishing of sound…especially the opening.

Overall Rating

East of the Eden has 5.62/10 on my spreadsheet.  Given I use 5 as average, this ranks as a fairly decent show and I would suggest anybody to test a few of the free episodes on Funimation’s YouTube channel in their spare time.  This may seem counter-indicative to the score, but consider the universal appeal of this show.  When given a free outlet, I’d suggest anything with that wide an appeal to give it a couple of episodes before making their decision.

The show highly excelled in its musical elements under my scores.  This and personal enjoyment as I could think long and hard about the philosophical questions raised.  However, the show’s story (in particular, depth of exploration) and characters (their static nature) kind of held the anime back in this raw score.