Colony Drop’s mission statement asks, “[i]f blogging is such a great tool for expressing opinions and ideas that can’t be found in more mainstream publications or venues, then why is anime blogging so brain dead and vapid?” This is a question intriguing enough to merit an in-depth, structured answer. Thinking about it brought to mind an incident from the distant past.
The year is 1989, and my grandpa’s electrical engineering expertise is called upon to fix a neighbor’s misbehaving radio. With the screws out, the clunky off-white box comes apart, revealing something much more sinister than a burnt-out wire or loose capacitor: to everyone’s disgusted surprise, the problem burst out in the form of a massive cockroach colony. As the adults fumbled for a can of dichlorvos, I was struck by a curious feeling of dissonance. The radio, a versatile informer and entertainer, brought urgent news, classical concerts and chess matches to a populace spread far and wide. It was a tech enthusiast’s toy box and a traveler’s portable companion — but none of this mattered to the roaches, who just wanted a dark, enclosed environment to shit up. Left to their own devices, the insects did an impressive job of multiplying, at the cost of permanent damage to the radio’s original — intended — functionality. Likewise, the rank-and-file anime blogger set up shop in search of an isolated refuge from reality, until enough of them accreted to establish a warped structure of discourse that has very little to do with exchanging ideas or opinions.
It’s not like the preponderance of garbage is unique to the anime-devoted segment of blogs. Enough shitty sites about art, music, programming, etc. are out there to justify invoking the over-quoted Sturgeon’s Law. Nonetheless, all of these domains rely on a competent cadre of writers to uphold standards that foster effective communication, in turn enabling the detritus to be recognized as such. This has not been the case for anime bloggers, most of whom are out not to inform, but to indulge personal insecurities with displays of exhibitionist self-wallowing (and loads of huge screenshots to compensate for the lack of substance). The mediocre are so firmly entrenched that they call the shots, repelling anyone actually interested in genuine discussion or criticism of anime. As a result, not new ideas and understanding, but conformism and endless regurgitation of memes drive the community’s existence. Its degeneration has been so thorough and systematic that most of its participants neatly fall into three categories.
Typical blog names: The Melancholy of Sukebe-Panda, Nekomimi Conundrums, 100% Pure Win, Drowning in Pantsu
Sukebe-Panda is the result of not getting his ass kicked enough as a kid, which allowed him to remain an obnoxious, in-your-face teenage loser all the way through his twenties. For him, the world of Japanese media is an accessible scene that is just insular enough to serve as a fertile source of inside jokes, weird fetishes and other social markers for asserting a sense of belonging. Once the campus anime club and the smelly kids’ cafeteria table in high school are no longer available, a blog becomes the next best way to participate. Yet, this is a constantly moving bandwagon, and staying on top of things requires continuously keeping abreast of the latest 4chan catchphrases, image macros and annual “Dai-kawaii Meido” polls on Japanese forums. On this dynamic playing field, leave it to a distinguished achiever like Sukebe-Panda to prove his mettle by showing just how EPIC his latest WAIFU is, how many pillowcases with pedophilic drawings adorn his wall, and how much sperm he can ejaculate onto a plastic schoolgirl figurine.
To his credit, Sukebe-Panda doesn’t pretend to be particularly insightful. He writes reviews and year-end roundups to keep up with peers, but is content to simply list his favorite panty shot scenes or disturbing fanart to jerk off (excuse me, FAP) to. This archetype is the likeliest to “graduate” from anime to just playing Asian video games and arguing with fellow alumni about who’s more jaded about Japanese cartoons. It would be nice if the ongoing specialization of otaku merchandise and shift of conventions from covering anime proper to general fandom lore provided a way to absorb these clowns directly. For now, anime remains the primary gateway to the scene and, as long as there are torrents and WordPress, Sukebe-Pandas will be blogging about it.
Giant image abuse rating: high (especially if he just bought a figure or wacky new hat). Sukebe-Panda is also fond of embedded YouTube videos, but what he loves most is linking to similarly inane pages elsewhere in the blogosphere (pardon me, blogohedron). However, as fun it is to suck dicks, the one S-P finds tasting the sweetest is his own, so fully expect half of these to be past Sukebe-Panda articles. This scholar has kicked science to the curb by standing on his own shoulders, and copious references to old audience favorites like “The Battle of TrafalGAR” and “Twintails vs. Hime Cut – A Lolilicious Dilemma” are guaranteed to both entertain and enlighten.
Typical blog names: Kakeru-san’s Maboroshi! Blog, …an endless pause…, Melodic Afterthoughts, ★Atarashi☆Watashi★
Shaped by a lifetime tenure as a spineless punching bag, ~SkyGazer~ is a self-described “dreamer” (here, an unsubtle codeword for “milquetoast escapist ashamed of his past and scared of the future”). This doormat has acquired a thorough phobia of anything that could remotely be construed as judgment or criticism — which doesn’t deter him from positioning himself as a critic and reviewer of anime. ~SkyGazer~’s poorly organized, meandering excretions represent a brave new school of critique, as per the following axioms:
- A critical mind merely isn’t open enough.
- When something clearly aspires to fit some defined criterion, but fails to, the definition is too narrow and should be relaxed accordingly.
- A person who dislikes something must dislike absolutely everything, and his opinions are to be dismissed as baseless negativity (or trolling).
A total rejection of standards and metrics provides ~SkyGazer~ with a vast playground for waxing philosophical about “the bliss of imperfection”, while chiding anyone who dares to admit failing to enjoy a show for not LETTING himself enjoy it. Writing like this is not easy — it is all-too tempting to lapse into discussing a show’s strengths and weaknesses like a normal person, but ~SkyGazer~ dutifully peppers anything that might resemble an opinion with expressions of doubt and uncertainty:
“I found Season Two of ‘NikuNiku Hazardous Chronicle’ to be weird, but a fun kind of weird. I think. The last episode features loli ninjas, and I couldn’t possibly dislike that — because I don’t. That would be crazy, but I am already crazy, so here’s a really win picture of Niku-sama: [GIANT SCREENSHOT]”
Count on ~SkyGazer~ to stay up to date on the internet jokes and macros, but unlike Sukebe-Panda, this dude takes it 100% seriously. He defines himself first and foremost as an otaku, more precisely, a warrior on the battleground of moe — the only genre featuring characters more helpless and one-dimensional than ~SkyGazer~ himself. His weapon of choice: holier-than-thou diatribes on the chaste purity of his beloved maidens, complete with extended psychological profiles and a “Soap Opera Digest”-level of scrutiny into the proceedings of key episodes. Lord help any soul brave enough to point out how moe is a money-milking machine carefully crafted to ensnare fetishists. ~SkyGazer~’s utter incapability for critical introspection ensures that he’ll foam at the mouth at as many comments as his blog engine can handle. Any complaint, whether about idiotic fansubber habits, uncompelling characters, or undisguised otaku pandering will be interpreted by ~SkyGazer~ as an assault on his beloved animus and answered with a furious barrage of self-righteous babbling.
Giant image abuse rating: severe. Putting too much text all at once might be too hard on some people, so why not provide an opportunity to pause and contemplate a helpful graphic? Of course, it pays to be mindful that interpretations of “too much” vary across individuals, so why not play it safe by spamming an image in every fucking paragraph?
Typical blog names: A Meta-history of Zeitgeist, Anime Apotheosis, Inexorably Lugubrious: An Otaku Odyssey, Excursions Unto a Superior Culture
The esteemed Panopticus Æternum, Esq. considers himself an historian, theosophist and philosopher, and his singular mission in life is to bloviate without end, even if noone is paying attention. Being the kid who talks too much is a lot easier when you’re alone at the keyboard, a drive that Panopticus channels into taking anime blogging to the next level. He will set out to review a romantic comedy and end up with a multi-part persuasive essay about the extent to which a side character fits a popular fandom fetish. A retrospective on a long-running shounen series will warp into a protracted comparison with the themes of loyalty in some archaic incunabulum, complete with footnotes and a glossary. Ready and willing to add a literary flair to the most preposterous of assertions, Panopticus is a perennial favorite of ~SkyGazer~s everywhere as a primary source on the parallels between being a magical girl and the hardships experienced by a 15th Century Jesuit acolyte.
No matter the subject, Panopticus always reminds us how he single-handedly keeps the R1 industry in business by purchasing piles and piles of DVDs — a dubious accolade, considering his horrible taste. Occasionally, US distributors end up licensing the oddest stuff, causing fans to wonder who the fuck would ever buy it. Well, chances are that Panopticus not only bought it, but also shelled out extra dough for the limited edition, gaining the privilege of punctuating some endless wall of sleep-inducing text with a ultra-high resolution scan of the enclosed bonus PENCIL BOARD. He is also the likeliest candidate for engaging in that bizarre variety of necrophilia, whereby some mind-blowingly obscure OAV from 1981 is repeatedly cited as the unsurpassed apex of the animation industry as a whole. Yes, it’s a wonder that Lawnbattle Delight Ramencopter, where the robot freezes his enemies’ vocal chords so they can’t shout attack names, is so thoroughly underrated -– a case not unlike the Archduke of Schleswig-Holstein getting passed over for Kurfürst in the Papal Bull of 1356.
Giant image abuse rating: medium-low, and there’s at least one image (text-only posts violate the Shitty Anime Blogger Constitution, punishable by revocation of Twitter privileges). To Panopticus, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but the space it would occupy on a page could house ten times as many, and so it does.
Thus, the real topic of the average “anime blog” is not anime itself, but rather the ways it serves to provide meaning in the life of a worthless individual with the personality of a traffic cone. The exceptions to these anti-patterns of anime blogging are far and few between, and they are neither numerous nor cohesive enough to raise and maintain a high standard. In the meantime, the incestuous swarm of maggots is left to thrive like parasites in an ecosystem without a natural predator.
This is a serious problem, but it is also eminently solvable. Anyone with something interesting to say about anime and the desire to do it right should just go ahead and make a blog, without bothering to grapple with the retards or even paying them any attention. This especially goes out to the curmudgeonly past generations of fans. Instead of complaining about how shitty new stuff is, why not explain why the old stuff was so much better? Finally, if you recognized yourself in one of these descriptions, do everyone a favor: STOP. Switch gears. Put on your acid-orange Crocs (or whatever abortion of a shoe is now in vogue with lazy, friendless rejects) and step outside. The fresh air might just awaken whichever synapse is responsible for realizing that being an attention-deprived wretch is hardly grounds to make an embarrassing spectacle of oneself.
Sadly, there’s no fumigant strong enough to dislodge the current junta of socially stunted imbeciles from prominence, but if enough people do anime blogging right, they can create a new critical mass that displaces the old one to its rightful niche of resident kooks. It can happen. Let’s take back our radio.