Timeliness Versus Happiness

Me in my natural habitat, wearing lolita fashion at an anime convention while drinking bubble tea.

It dawned on me recently that I’ve been writing and blogging about anime off and on for about ten years. In those ten years, the landscape of anime fandom has changed dramatically.

Back in Spring 2007, I was still posting my thoughts about anime on Livejournal(!). That season was huge for new anime – over 60 new anime series, including classics that people still enjoy today like Tengen Toppa Gurren LagannLucky Star, and Big Windup!. There were also several sleeper hits and some lesser-known series that were great, but may not have been quite so influential, like Toward the TerraThe Skull ManBokurano, and Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. It was even the season during which my favorite anime, Dennou Coil, was first broadcast. If you want to read more about great anime from this year, you can check out The Fandom Post’s “10 Years Later” retrospective article series. As much as I’d personally love to talk in detail about all of my favorite anime series from that year, that’s not really what this post is about.

As I mentioned before, our ways of engaging with anime and anime fandom have changed quite a bit in the last ten years. In 2007, watching anime week-to-week was a lot less user-friendly or intuitive. Simulcast streams didn’t exist; keeping up with weekly broadcasts meant either living in Japan and watching them on television (not a possible reality for most of us), or finding a less scrupulous way of obtaining them via bittorrent, generally with some turnaround time built-in since unofficial translators needed to get the raw first. It was a pain in the ass to gain a comprehensive view of the anime coming out every quarter, just because the information wasn’t centralized and neither was the distribution. When I started my “S1E1” project (thanks forever to Boris for the catchy title), I did it because I wanted to keep up with the anime fandom, (selfishly) wanted to help keep my friends in the anime fandom, and had a strong desire to keep writing creatively about the fandom into which I was putting a lot of my energy. I decided to be that person who put in the leg work of checking out all the available anime shows and who had the “inside scoop” on what was worthwhile.

For a long time I think I filled that void. The Anime News Network seasonal preview guides have been around for a long time, but they didn’t always cover every season, so I felt that I was of some use there. Most anime discussion also seemed to take place in forums, too, so I wanted a different platform where I could share my thoughts. I started with a more typical website first (thanks again, Boris) and then ended up with the blog format that was a closer precursor to what I’m doing nowadays. I wasn’t a great writer then – I had one dude who liked to pick on me for my propensity to use the word “crap” to describe zero-effort junk shows, which was lazy (but kind of funny, let’s be honest with ourselves), but I was enthusiastic, and did my best to cover every anime that I could find. I gained a modest but friendly following of readers – many people I knew in person, but others who just happened to stop by and say “hi.” I interacted with cool people in the anime fandom over Twitter once Twitter became a “thing.” It was pretty awesome and I loved doing it.

It was a few years ago that many things started to change and I kind of lost my place. I started encountering a lot of personal setbacks in my “real life” that had little to do with anime and my fandom journey, but in reality were probably more intertwined than I knew at the time. I had also started getting harassed via the comments on the website. I remember one specific time very vividly – I had set up the commenting system to send an email to me from which I could approve or delete it as a moderator. I got a little bit giddy whenever I got a comment – people were reading and responding! One night while I was out at a restaurant with a group of friends, I got an email notification for a comment in the queue for approval. When I went to read it, the person writing it had used some of the most vile language I’ve read to tell me that I was wrong about an anime that they liked and that I deserved to die. I dropped my phone on the table, stunned, and then cried in the bathroom afterwards. I was getting called the “C” and “B” words fairly frequently, too. I’ll admit it; I’m a people-pleaser in my heart and ignoring the trolls wasn’t something I could do. That, plus the fact that someone I was close to at the time criticized the way I was doing things in the first place, spelled the death knell of my “career” in amateur anime blogging, at least for the time being.

In the couple of years between when the previous incarnation of this blog died out and when I came back online, the anime fandom landscape had become a very different place. With very few exceptions, new anime series are available same-day with subtitles legally and easily, at least in the United States. Crunchyroll and Funimation were definitely around a few years ago, but now they, and other services from Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, are ubiquitous. Tons of websites, from ANN to Kotaku to The Fandom Post, do their own variations on seasonal preview guides and have multiple writers weighing in on new shows. Feminism is no longer a unique topic of discussion, either; a while back I felt like I was a lonely outlier when I talked about fanservice in anime and a few others on twitter weighed-in. Now Anime Feminist does all that and more, from many different perspectives. In any case, I’ve taken this to mean that there’s really no longer a hole to fill in the anime fandom; where once I was one of a few people going it alone, taking my dumb vanity project and somehow making it work out, now anime fandom is slowly becoming mainstream, and most people know exactly where to find out about the new anime that they might like and how they can watch it.

It’s become more than apparent that I, working alone, cannot possibly be timely with my anime first impressions in the way that websites with multiple writers can (unless I take the first week or so of every new season off from my day job, which isn’t happening). Though it might not be readily obvious from the quality of my writing I can be kind of a perfectionist, at least as far as being able to get my true thoughts and feelings across in my reviews and previews. I will not be able to match the speed and consistency of a big website that has 8 or 9 writers pouring their energy into watching and reviewing new anime. I can’t do weekly episode recaps of the shows I watch, because I watch enough that I end up only getting to some them near the end of the season and then bingeing them before I have to speak about anime at my next convention. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I am not a superwoman, and I’m not going to consider quitting my day job (which I enjoy and find fulfilling anyway).

Why talk about all this? Well, since I took over control of the S1E1 domain name and finally reestablished the blog, I’ve been writing about anime in fits and starts without much consistency. With each new season of anime, I’ve tried to be more accountable, pledging (if only to myself) that I’ll get to each new show quickly and cover all of them within a certain amount of time. And each time I’ve failed to attain that goal and fallen back into a writing depression that lasts for a season or two. I even served a stint writing for The Fandom Post, which I thought would make me accountable to something greater than myself and perhaps counteract my depression and anxiety about writing – obviously I couldn’t make that work at the time, either. It sucks, but I think that the problem is more that I’ve been trying to meet a goal that’s not realistic for me and I’ve been setting myself up to fail time and time again. Failure is a great motivator for some, but to me repeated failures have almost always morphed into ugly reasons to quit. And really, my time is so, so precious – I still go to a weekly anime club. I like to go out with my family and partner. I like to spend time gaming and dressing in lolita fashion. I have more work responsibilities now and my work days tend to be longer. My life is very full, and it’s a happy life that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But that means that there are just some things that aren’t going to get immediate attention, and first episode reviews seem to be one of those things.

I’ve made it my more realistic goal going forward to cover all the shows of the season to the best of my ability, no matter how long that takes. I realize that this will mean that, by the time I’m writing about some anime, it might be a little bit late in the season. There will already be several other opinions out there for people to find and read days and weeks before mine are available. I’m deciding right now that that’s okay. Because I’m just one person, and the amount of anime writing I’ve done over the past ten years, and the speaking I’ve done in person about anime, and the conventions I’ve attended, surpass what many people have the ability and drive to do, and I am so lucky to have even been able to try. And I’m going to be proud of my accomplishments rather than ashamed of my perceived failures. And who knows? Maybe just getting the writing done will help me improve someday. I’m sure the next ten years worth of anime will carry with it so many things worth exploring – and writing about!

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