When anime sucks

18 December 2014 | 7 comments


I have a friend who loves video games and is also an excellent writer. When a video game blog we both read was looking for reviewers, I suggested he apply.

His refusal was instant. “If I did that, video games wouldn’t be my hobby anymore. They’d be my job and that wouldn’t be fun.”

Clearly, this is a point where we disagree. Everything I do for a living right now—blogging, writing books and articles, and web design—is also something I do for fun. So when Anime News Network put out a call for weekly streaming reviewers this summer, I didn’t need to think twice before I put my name in for consideration.

I’m coming on four months of reviewing three anime episodes a week, every week. Most of the time, it’s amazing! I get to pick the shows I want to review, so I can feel good about a show coming into it. However, I don’t always make good picks. For example, I chose to review an anime, Nobunaga Concerto, that I didn’t like from the start! I don’t know what was worse, having to watch it every week, or letting down a slew of readers every week who were disappointed that I had so many critiques toward a show they loved.

This year I learned that it’s not reviewing anime that makes watching TV feel like a job. It’s sticking with anime I simply don’t like that feels like the worst kind of work.

Some of the shows I watched this year were not my cup of tea, like Nobunaga Concerto. Others were non-negotiably terrible, like Dramatical Murder—a show with animation so poorly rendered that they had to redo episode three. As a BL fan, I am Dramatical Murder’s target audience, and even so I would have given it an even lower grade than its reviewer did. Hands down, this was my worst show of the year. Of course, Psycho-Pass 2 could be the dark horse in that race—it’s getting dumber the more I watch!

I also watched a few fan service anime this year that had little else to offer. I loved the mini, moe Mashiro in Engaged to the Unidentified, but the other characters were barely more than sketches. I wouldn’t recommend the so-so Bakumatsu Rock, a silly manservice musical anime that had trouble keeping up a semblance of a plot. And then, I actually liked Love Stage!, even though it hastily ended on episode 10, a clear sign that it had issues.

You see, I didn’t drop a single show this year. I wanted to document a comprehensive record of everything I watched this year so I could calculate the hours on day 12 of my Twelve Days. As a result, I watched some pretty awful anime to their conclusions in 2014. I wouldn’t recommend this. I’m kind of ashamed that I carved out time in my life to do it. I am not sure who came up with the Three Episode Rule, but it’s a good one. In 2015, if I don’t like something by episode three, that’s the end of it. I’d rather have a job I love—reviewing anime—than to assign myself work I hate based on some misguided principle of finality.

Screencap from the infamous Dramatical Murder episode 3. 

This post is the fifth installment of The Twelve Days Of Anime, a blogging series in which anime fans write about shows that inspired or impressed on them this year. For all the posts in this series, visit my table of contents.

My Yowamushi Pedal confession

17 December 2014 | 5 comments


Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach? A lump in your throat? That feeling when your heart pounds almost painfully when you’re around that special somebody? Those feelings are familiar to me from getting crushes on human beings. But in all my years of anime obsession, I never actually expected to feel that way about a cartoon character.

This is the most embarrassing of my Twelve Days, and certainly the most embarrassing blog post I’ve written all year. Here’s my confession: I have a crush on Toudou Jinpachi, a 2D teenager from a TV show, and it’s made me question everything I know about romance.

I discovered Yowamushi Pedal in the spring. The days were growing longer and lighter and every morning felt like the start of something new. It was the perfect time to fall in puppy love. Toudou, a loudmouthed, boastful, and vain character, immediately became my favorite. But then it became more than that. I’d blush when I’d think of him. I’d cover my eyes when he appeared on screen. I’d stammer when talking about him with fellow fans.

Suddenly, I understood what people meant when they’d say X character was their “waifu” and “husbando.” It wasn’t an ironic statement (most of the time), but a genuine expression of love for a character. Can a crush exist between a human being and a cartoon drawing? Maybe not, but our brains are really good at tricking us into believing it.

So for me, the weird-factor isn’t that I have a crush on a cartoon character. In my subculture that’s not too unusual. Fortunately, my friends are so used to me saying stuff like this that their reaction was more like, “Seriously? The other dudes are way cuter.”

What was surprising and a little concerning for me was having my first crush on somebody else after getting married. What I never realized before was that just because you get married doesn’t mean you only have eyes for one other person forever. Marriage (well, the way I do it) means you’re making a commitment to be only with this one other person forever. What’s great about me getting a crush on an inappropriate, not to mention impossible, target is that I can direct those positive feelings back into my marriage to make my husband feel more loved.

As to whether my husband gets crushes on 2D characters? Well, you’d have to ask him.

Screenshot via Yowamushi Pedal, episode 31.

This post is the fourth installment of The Twelve Days Of Anime, a blogging series in which anime fans write about shows that inspired or impressed on them this year. For all the posts in this series, visit my table of contents.

How sports anime made me more of myself

16 December 2014 | 2 comments


This fall I joined a running club. Every Thursday night, I go out on a three or four mile run in the dark with the occasional freezing rain pouring down. I come back exhausted, but I can’t stop smiling for the rest of the night.

My husband and my friends think I’ve gone a little crazy. But when I think about the encouragement of the other members, the high-fives and pats on the back, I realize I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for after watching all this sports anime all year: a team.

At the beginning of the year, I blogged about how shows like Free!, Kuroko’s Basketball, Haikyuu!, and Yowamushi Pedal were actually getting me into shape. I can’t swim, play basketball, or even ride a bicycle very well, but I can run. Onoda, the scrawny nerd who stars in Yowapeda, was a huge inspiration to me. He doesn’t look athletic, but he has heart. Slight of build but passionate, sports anime main characters like Kuroko and Hinata follow this same personality recipe.

Growing up, I always thought that being a nerd was in opposition to being athletic. I ran JV Track & Field because I had friends in it, but I never tried all that hard to be fast. In fact, when I wasn’t fast, I felt justified in an odd way, like it proved I was a “true” nerd. Of course, personality traits aren’t so black and white as they felt in high school. Even as they continuously break the sound barrier with their speed and skill, what makes sports anime heroes so sympathetic are their oddball characteristics. From Midorima’s quirky obsession with horoscopes to Makishima’s terrible fashion sense to Tobio’s socially awkward small talk, sports anime wouldn’t be worth my time if weren’t rooting so hard for these losers.

The lesson here is that it’s difficult to resist categorizing people, including yourself. Running a blog called Otaku Journalist for five years, I’ve highlighted my otaku side online because doing fandom activities in real life makes great blog fodder. However, I have a lot of other interests. I enjoy hardware hacking, knitting, experimenting with makeup—and now, running.

You don’t hear about this stuff very much because it doesn’t fit in with the online perception I am trying to convey. With “otaku” and “journalist,” I already have two identities to manage! And I don’t plan on starting to cover my other hobbies more often, either. Instead, sports anime has encouraged me to live a more offline life, with hobbies I don’t feel compelled to document on my blog. My favorite sports anime characters don’t usually bring their non-sports activities to the competition, but these interests shine through their personalities anyway and make them more memorable no matter what they’re doing. I hope the same goes for me.

Screenshot via Kuroko’s Basketball

This post is the third installment of The Twelve Days Of Anime, a blogging series in which anime fans write about shows that inspired or impressed on them this year. For all the posts in this series, visit my table of contents.

Shirobako, dreams, and goals

15 December 2014 | 3 comments


The first thing I thought of when I watched Shirobako was my little sister. (Yes, the one I explained 2D crushes to once upon a summer.) It’s not just that both she and Aoi are beautiful young women with insane driving skills. It’s that they’ve both been firmly set on a goal since college and have devoted their daily lives to achieving it.

For my sister, that was becoming a lawyer. An English and Spanish double major in college, my sister is a great communicator who wanted to use her skills in the realm of labor law, where competency in both languages is necessary. This year, she graduated school, passed the bar, got a prestigious position at a world famous law firm. From the outside it looks as if she’s been simply blessed with good luck, when in reality enormous effort went into her successes. I watched my sister devote her life to school, internships, and exam studies for three years. And after all that, she’s still usually at the office until seven at night.

Meanwhile, Aoi has a job any anime fan would covet. She is working as a production assistant at a major anime studio, a career that sounds amazing on the outside. But just like being related to my sister has offered me a glimpse into just how difficult her job is, Shirobako pulls back the curtain to show us how our anime sausage is really made, with impossible deadlines, overworked animators, and one crisis after another. And let’s not forget about that infamous chart that shows just how underpaid Aoi and her friends are!

Both Aoi and my sister’s experiences parallel one underlying lesson—the difference between a dream and a goal is a lot of hard work.

For me, this was 2014’s greatest lesson. You see, it’s always been my dream to be a published author, and this year I wrote three books—one self published, two traditional. The first of these is already out; the second is the cosplay one I keep talking about.

Dreaming about writing a book was easy and fun. Turning it into an actionable goal made me want to die. With non-traditional publishing, I dumped a ton of my own money into the process. Traditional publishing wasn’t much better, as I was consistently paid months after I did the work (which I’m learning is normal for low profile authors). The flat rates I was paid were far from glamorous, and edit after edit and proof after proof got boring and tedious. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful I got to write books this year, but it wasn’t a walk in the park!

Aoi is living her dream life, but she still has moments when she’s close to tears in her frustration. Dreaming is easy. Living the dream, the show teaches us, is not.

Screenshot via Shirobako.

This post is the second installment of The Twelve Days Of Anime, a blogging series in which anime fans write about shows that inspired or impressed on them this year. For all the posts in this series, visit my table of contents.

Why Kill La Kill won’t be a gateway show

14 December 2014 | 4 comments


Recently a friend of mine became interested in anime. She’d never seen anything but Studio Ghibli movies, so she went to me to ask for suggestions.

“I heard about this show, Kill La Kill, that was supposed to be pretty good,” she said.

“No! Not that! I mean, there’s so much else to watch first,” I stammered.

Kill La Kill is many things, but it is not the anime you show to mom and dad to demonstrate what a well adjusted adult you’ve become. It is not something you want the TSA to find in your carry-on at the airport. And it is certainly not an ideal “gateway” series for my anime-beginner friend.

I’m not saying that Kill La Kill isn’t much more nuanced than it looks on the surface. It’s one of the most important shows of the year for the depth of its message. My friends Charles Dunbar and Katriel Paige made a powerful academic case for Kill La Kill being based on the clash in Japanese 19th century history between eastern Shinto myths and western cultural reform.

And that’s only one interpretation. Earlier this year, I published Grant’s guest post on Kill La Kill and the way our families make us who we are. Later, Mike Rugnetta of the PBS Idea Channel saw it as an ill omen about the future of wearable technology.

It’s a very deep story open to many analyses—but it still centers around two girls who are frequently wearing little to no clothing while cutting peoples’ limbs off.

Loldwell had it right in a comic (top) about the difference between anime fans and outsiders watching the show. You can’t expect people to grasp any other message when a show is utterly and unapologetically sexually and violently explicit on the surface. Intentionally or not, Studio Trigger made a character design decision that severely limits Kill La Kill’s audience.

Kill La Kill blurs the lines between anime that’s designed to make you think and anime that’s meant to turn you on. A new fan asks me about it and I’m twelve again, standing in the local Blockbuster, trying to explain to my parents that anime isn’t porn even though the store groups tentacle sex and Pokémon together in one section labeled “Anime.” Usually when an especially sexual or violent anime comes out, you can tell people to ignore it. But Kill La Kill is too important to ignore. I don’t want to disparage it, but I don’t want it to be anyone’s first impression of what anime is.

I decided to start off my Twelve Days of Anime with Kill La Kill because it is the quintessential 2014 anime, the one we will remember. But not necessarily for purely positive reasons. It brought an adult-content anime into the spotlight, and with it my old feelings of defensiveness when called upon to explain what anime is all about.

This post is the first installment of The Twelve Days Of Anime, a blogging series in which anime fans write about shows that inspired or impressed on them this year. For all the posts in this series, visit my table of contents.

‹ Previous Posts