I started my Anime blog in 2010 for a couple reasons. I had run a few blogs over the last couple years but I wanted to focus on write longer pieces and try to build an audience around it. I choose anime because that was one of my consistent hobbies for ten years previously. I set up the website, I looked for people on twitter to follow, and I made a big deal about entering the aniblogging space.
Otaku in review was never a huge success but I got reactions from the right people. People I respected in the anime community came out and complimented my work. I became a known quantity in the space. I started to collaborate with some of the biggest names in Anime blogging. I mark the work I did at the time as the highlight of my professional career, despite never earning a dime from any of it. I cherish every single episode of the podcast and every single blog post I ever wrote. Then I stopped. One day I just said that it was enough. I put everything on the shelf and I walked away.
There are many reasons why I walked away. Most don’t have to do with any negative experience that I had. Simply put, I was completely burnt out on anime. At the time new anime had entered a dry period after an extreme high point. I was getting tired of just writing and talking about anime. As I started to feel burned out I started to spend time on other hobbies, such as American cartoons and comics. I didn’t feel like I could write about those things on the site I created. Finally, I wanted more free time because my job took up a lot of time and energy. I wanted to enjoy my hobbies without having to critique them.
The dark shadow over my entire experience as an Anime Blogger was the fact that fans were constantly fighting about criticism of Japanese Cartoons and Comics. Positive criticism comes under attack because fans believed shows are over hyped or overrated. Negative criticism was unwelcome because fans felt was a personal attacked when their favorite show. It grew tiresome. Tedious. I would write a review and launch it into the world then go read a twitter fight about how mad people were that a critic said something mean about their favorite show. Some of my friends and collaborators took to Twitter to say that they hated critics. A person who I reviewed anime with stated that he did not care about criticism at all.
If anime fans didn’t see a value or purpose to criticism then what was the point?
Roger Ebert wrote about the role of the critic, what he believed their purpose was:
I believe a good critic is a teacher. He doesn’t have the answers, but he can be an example of the process of finding your own answers. He can notice things, explain them, place them in any number of contexts, ponder why some “work” and others never could. He can urge you toward older movies to expand your context for newer ones. He can examine how movies touch upon individual lives, and can be healing, or damaging. He can defend them, and regard them as important in the face of those who are “just looking for a good time.” He can argue that you will have a better time at a better movie. We are all allotted an unknown but finite number of hours of consciousness. Maybe a critic can help you spend them more meaningfully.
Roger Ebert, “Critic” is a four letter word
Huge parts of the anime community do not see the value in the opinion of others. Do not want to dig deeper than the very surface level of a work of Japanese Animation. I can even pinpoint the moment that my spirit broke. I wrote an essay I was proud of about the then airing show Kill la Kill. The essay was praised by peers who I respect. Yet, when I put it on reddit and the average anime fan saw it, the idea of wanting anything deeper in Kill la Kill than violence and boobs was attacked. The comment was: “Wohoo, another pretentious over-examination of a simple action show. No, seriously, enough with the damn 2deep4u studies.”
So what was the point in trying to enrich the culture and community of anime fans if any attempt was met with hostility? What is the point in putting my opinion out into the world if it’s dismissed without examination? I know other fan cultures have similar problems. I can’t read the comments on a Video Game blog without feeling like I need a shower. There will always be those who want to simple place enjoy what they enjoy and do not want engage with it on any higher level. That is perfectly fine. However, I will never understand why those people are threatened by fans who do want to dive deeper, who do want to stay with a work and pull every tiny bit of meaning they can from it before they move on.
Once you start to dive deeper into a work there might be no end to its enjoyment. Once the surface is scraped away, the author’s work becoming a part of yourself, there might be no end to the enjoyment that can be wrung out of it. But we are the minority, the scorn, the unwanted.
The combination of factors above caused me to stop writing about anime, really to stop interacting with the anime community as a whole, but as my burn out slowly started to fade and the desire to jump back in came back events in the community kept pushing me away. What makes me want to head back into the deep end of it all are the people who are much more vulnerable, much more visible, and under far more relentless attack do not waver in their determination to bring thoughtful commentary to the anime community. Yet, my ego was so shattered by the community that I just didn’t want to engage anymore. I felt inadequate compared to them. So the best gift to those commentators I can give is to once again contribute to the conversation about my favorite perverted cartoons.
I have a lot of people to thank for encouraging me during my dry spell; Charles Dunbar for always pushing everyone around him to be better. Lauren Orsini for her advice and encouragement to myself and anyone even thinking about writing. Animated Ink for his wisdom and philosophy on what it means to be a writer. Amelia Cook for taking a million punches and never stopping.
Equal shoutouts to all the friends I’ve made since I originally started Otaku in Review. Michael Camacho and all the life long friends I’ve made through the Podcast, twitter, and panels all hold a special place in my heart.
So for now. I’m back.