[Blog Update/ New Banner!] Reflections on One Year of Reviewing Anime, Manga, and Comics

Most Viewed Review: Tsubaki-chou Lonely Planet

Most Liked Review: Howl’s Moving Castle
Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog’s creation. One year of researching, reviewing, and writing about anime, manga, and comics. Looking back at those first few posts, it was definitely a rocky start to finding how I wanted this blog to be, and I’m still thinking about all the changes I could make to my writing style to really say everything I want to say. This blog and the couple articles I wrote for Girls Like Comics have all been a tremendous learning experience for me, and I continue to learn every day I write for you guys. So thank you, to those of you who stuck around and have liked my posts and followed this blog. I really appreciate you guys being here and at least letting me know that the things I write are actually reaching people.

I started out this blog thinking that I would need to do episode-by-episode reviews to really be able to dig deep into the various interesting points these romances presented. However, that just led to an inability to keep up with all of the new content that was coming out. I regularly found myself lagging behind and rushing through the writings. After I switched over to this current style of singular reviews, I’m still occasionally falling behind but not as much, and more due to my change in full-time job than an overwhelming amount of content to write. I still want to keep narrowing it down, maybe focusing on one or two important parts of a new series to really allow me to dig in deeper. So perhaps in the future, you’ll be seeing a slow shift over to that style. This blog is always going to be a work-in-progress for me, but I hope to get my style more cemented.
Certainly watching and reading other reviews both helps and hinders this process. I’ve found myself watching various reviews and commentary on Youtube mostly — namely Mother’s Basement, Gigguk, Super Eyepatch Wolf, Pause and Select, NinOuh, and The Pedantic Romantic — and find myself drawn both to the comedic reviews as well as the more academic reviews. However, I know after years of trying to write about other topics that I am not good at comedic writing, and conversely, through my writing with Girls Like Comics, I’ve found that I actually really like digging through academic books to create long-form articles. As Girls Like Comics is on hiatus at the moment due to technical problems, you may see me either posting more of those types of articles here or see them appear on other sites. Either way, I’ll be sure to let you guys know!
I’m also grateful to be living in a city that prides itself in having large libraries packed with all sorts of books. Being able to walk in and find various books on comic history and Japanese culture has given my writing a strong foundation to stand on as well as various streams of knowledge to pull from. While I’m not the most well-versed in DC and Marvel lore — having spent most of my childhood absorbed in manga — I’m hoping to learn more bit by bit, at least by reading about the origins of the “Big Two.” I hope to learn some from you guys as well, so never feel weird about leaving comments if you have something constructive to add to one of my reviews or know of a similar anime, manga, or comic that you’d like me to check out.
But more on the other reason I’m writing this post. As a relative newcomer to the anime reviewing scene — though not to anime in general — there have been some trends both among reviewers and the anime/manga realm in general that I have been taking note of. I thought it might be interesting to talk about a few of those here as a look back on this past year and a look forward to the future of otaku culture in general.
For one, the culture of Youtube reviews is growing but also growing toxic. The amount of people reviewing anime and manga on Youtube has been increasing over the years as video content in general has become more popular. The advent of Twitch and ease of access to video recording technology means more people are free to share their opinions about a certain passion or try their hand at entertainment. What this means for the niche of anime reviewers is a steadily growing number of options for their viewer base to choose from. This means channels must reconsider or more heavily push their content to get it to their desired audience. This is great in most respects, as competition can breed better content and a diversity of opinions. What I’m also seeing, though, is a conflict over what constitutes quality otaku journalism. Do comedic parody videos that poke fun at the tropes many animes fall back on qualify? What about scripted reviews that focus on scene-by-scene analysis? Or academically-styled discussions of culture and historical context? What should viewers tune into? My answer is honestly whatever they want. We see a vast number of people gravitating towards very obvious click-bait, but that also doesn’t mean these other modes are any less needed. People have a vast variety of tastes and opinions and we should be looking to cultivate those voices, not pigeon-hole them into a style they’re not passionate about.
In a more general sense, what we’re seeing from the anime and manga publishing scene is an emphasis on light novels and standard stories that rely on quirks. So many of these stories are popping up now, especially when it comes to anime adaptations. Coming up for the new anime season on Crunchyroll we have a slice-of-life, school girl anime where the main character is a centaur. We also have a sports anime where one character is advertised as a neat-freak. At the root of these animes are standard stories made “fresh” by their quirks. But the real issue is a heavy reliance on light novels for anime adaptations. We see at least one of them every season that is mediocre in content but everyone still seems to watch. Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor was Spring Season’s even though it was basically Irregular at Magic High School just in a fantasy setting, which is itself a light novel adaptation. We even see commentary on this within anime series such as Tsuki Ga Kirei where he is called into a publisher and told he doesn’t make the cut for serious literature but maybe he should consider writing light novels. For the next couple episodes we see his bag of light novels transposed next to a trash can. In Girlish Number we see just how much an anime based off a light novel can tank when a studio is just looking at it as a get-rich-quick project.
However, one of the biggest problems facing the industry right now might be the general shortage of animators. So many people complained when it took four years for Wit Studio to come out with the second season of Attack on Titan. Animator Thomas Romain took to twitter after the resulting backlash of fans learning there would be only 12 episodes, saying that one of the greatest problems the anime industry faces is a shortage of animators and far too many projects. This is an industry where only the most passionate can make a living. According to Romain, junior animators make only $4/hr to do in-between animations, and with the addition of huge workloads, not many people want to work in the industry anymore. When you factor in the fact that merchandising sales go to the rights holder, not the studio, plus the popularity of pirated anime/fan-subs, it builds a picture of a very unprofitable industry. What this could mean for future productions is shorter series, lower quality, and long wait-times between seasons.
If you’re more of a comics person though, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble in the future except for some difficulty in finding indie comic shops. (As a side note, for anyone interested in learning about the future of the comic industry, I highly recommend reading Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture.) The general audience is growing, at least among women, and interest in comics outside of the Big Two is also gaining traction headed by Image Comics. A lot of this is due to the visibility of DC and Marvel films which can bring in new, casual, and/or nostalgic readers. Some of this growth, especially in the indie market, I like to attribute to the popularity of web comics. Web comics have been an easy step into the world of comics and graphic novels with many creators going on to also produce graphic novels of their own or work on special issues of certain comics like Adventure Time. And, in some ways, perhaps this is how the indie scene will begin to shift: moving into the digital and self publishing sector. However, I’d also love to see a shift in how we discover and sell print comics, focusing on expanding the reach of indie stores as well as getting single issues and more trade volumes into bookstores again.
But enough of the future, this week-long celebration happening now is for you guys! I really hope you enjoy the content that will be coming out everyday this week as well as the new look. You can thank the very talented Heather Fesmire for the new banner design. I highly encourage you to check out her work here or like her Facebook page. She is such a talented artist and I honestly would not have thought of half the things she added to the banner. Enjoy the new look, it’ll be here for a long time!

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