Recently, Kriz on Baka Laureate wrote a lengthy piece questioning not just his blog, but aniblogging as we know it. He challenges himself to hone his craft, and our community to do the same. We at O-New do not know how to back down from such a challenge.
So it happens that another blog has issued a challenge. Over at The Beautiful World, Kitsune and Neko asked for our Genshiken Diaries. In other words, they would like to hear about the real world experiences that led to our involvement in modern visual culture. Perhaps one might interpret this challenge as a mere request, but again we do not accept such questioning and will respond in kind.
That’s how we arrived here, where we will attempt to answer both challenges at once. To do this, I’ve ask Mushy to help me by talking about O-New’s history and my own. Without further ado, here is the result:
redball: I have to say from the start that I’m envious of the part of the O-New crew that knows each other. I’m one of those guys who started watching anime on his own, with very little input or interaction from other fans. The core of O-New seems to be built around real life friendship and shared interests. Plus, you guys are still pretty young.
When I was your age… well, I can’t talk about what I was doing back then. Suffice to say I wasn’t watching anime or focusing on school. In fact, I didn’t start watching anime in earnest until I was in my twenties. For me it was a very average story, I’d never quite lost my love for cartoons and when Cartoon Network started showing dubbed anime on its Toonami and Adult Swim blocks, sometime around the turn of the century, I started picking things up. I know you weren’t watching this stuff then, so when did you pick it up?
Mushyrulez: Pick up anime, eh? As a child living in Canada (for Canadian children are quite different from American children both in television programming and in being children of Canada/America), watching YTV (the Canadian version of Cartoon Network aimed specifically for Canadian children, that is to say, ‘Dragon Ball Z’ became ‘Dragon Ball Zed’) was a daily part of my after-school routine until I eventually ‘grew out of it’.
Of course, nobody can really lose their love for cartoons (especially not a child, and doubly especially not a Canadian child), and so two years ago, I resolved to watch anime for no apparent reason whatsoever other than because I could. It’s like a generation shift; your generation watched cartoons and then dubbed anime on television, my generation watched dubbed anime on television and then subbed anime online. Funny how that works…
redball: I like the sound of Dragon Ball Zed. I watched most of that one, at least up until the point where they were fighting that ridiculously overpowered bulbous pink guy. I don’t even remember when I watched that. It seems like a lifetime ago. I certainly didn’t put the thought into what I was watching then as I do now.
I remember when I made the switch from dubbed to subbed, though. It started with the Cowboy Bebop movie. In the mid aughts I was burning through Netflix’s anime DVD selection, but I was always watching the dubbed versions. When I put the Cowboy Bebop movie in my DVD player it started playing with the original audio track and subs. I thought that sucked at the time, but I watched it that way. Then, and this is rare for me, I watched it again when I realized that I’d stupidly not checked for other audio tracks. The next DVD I rented I switched to the Japanese track on purpose and I never really looked back.
I can also recall the moment I started watching anime online. It was Naruto. That wasn’t my favorite show, by far, but once you get into it you get hopelessly sucked in. I call this the Shounen Sunk Cost Fallacy, where no matter how mired in filler and predictable the story is you simply have to move forward until one day you snap and quit. Still, the show was important because it made me finally break my vow against torrenting and grab some stuff online. Also, one of the two meatbag, anime-watching friends that I’ve had in life was the reason I did it.
He was a huge, unabashed Naruto fan. He only watched the Dattebayo releases, though. So eventually he convinced me that I should stop keeping with Cartoon Network’s airing schedule and grab the files online. This had the benefit of feeding me episodes as fast as I could watch them and also the added pleasure of DB’s liberal translations. I miss those. I don’t know of any groups that do long term character reinterpretation like that. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I think the community benefits from added creativity.
Mushyrulez: It’s interesting that you jumped immediately from Netflix to staying with sub groups. I never had any anime-watching friends when I started, so when I started watching anime online, I had no idea who was subbing what, or even that there were people subbing them. Yes, it’s childish, but I assumed that the ~magical anime producers~ just subbed everything, and ~super evil pirate scum~ uploaded them online for me to watch.
Actually, I also have to admit that my memories are failing and my failures are memorable: apparently, the Canadian version never was Dragon Ball Zed. Take everything I say here with a grain, no, a mouthful of salt. Not sure what taking anything with a grain of salt will do, you can hardly taste a grain of salt…
redball: Salt’s chemical reactions are varied, so it would depend on exactly what we were taking it with. Don’t overlook the power of salt, especially for enhancing the flavor of meat.
I don’t know that jumped is the right word. For a few years I was only watching DB’s subs and whatever I could from Netflix. There was a long transition period where I was consuming the back catalog. Granted, the back catalog of imported anime isn’t the Library of Alexandria, but I’ve always seen anime as something to watch while I relax. Sometimes I want to be challenged, but normally I want something fun.
I should probably note that there was a time when I thought the Naruto dub censored the characters and that DB’s translation was more accurate. Sort of related to your early beliefs about fansubs. You live, you learn.
I have to take a step back and talk about my friend, we’ll call him Marc. During this same time that he’d pointed me toward fansubs he was staying up, watching anime constantly and playing RPGs into the night. His wife hated it. Passionately. I watched his marriage crumble, in part due to anime, at the same time that I was starting to do the same things he was. That wasn’t the only reason, but it was the one she focused on. Fortunately my marriage is stronger than that. Also, it was a win for him because his next wife was able to enjoy those things with him instead of holding them against him.
When he started going out with his second wife he stopped having time to hang out and basically disappeared from my life. The result was that I had absolutely no social network that cared to listen about what was becoming the majority of my cultural consumption. I wasn’t watching television, and I only watched movies sporadically between anime series. It was like that for a few years until I started reading anime blogs.
Mushyrulez: I hear you there, bro (redbro? redbrall? redbrawl?). Actually, my excursion into the world of ~online anime~ was fuelled in part by online forums I was already hanging out at; specifically, Ichigo’s Forum (an anime and game-music transcribing community) and Maidens of the Kaleidoscope (a western Touhou community).
I hung around these forums before I started ‘really’ watching anime, and since they were already pretty connected to anime, I eventually decided to watch anime, online. During this time, none of my real-life friends watched anime, and eventually, I moved away from those forums for some inexplicable reason. If you chose to call your friend ‘Alms’ instead of ‘Marc’, and if I had a fancy British accent, and if I regularly visited four forums instead of one, then I can say that my forums are the equivalent of four Alms. Ha ha haaaaaa
But anyways, I had absolutely no social network that cared to listen about what was becoming the majority of my cultural consumption (because I left them). I wasn’t watching television, and I also only watched movies sporadically between anime series. It was like that for a few weeks until I… uh, actually, started tweeting. Just a further note before we continue, though: my memory’s pretty messed up right now. I know that sometime two years ago, I moved away from those forums, started tweeting, started reading anime blogs, and created O-New, but I don’t remember the exact order they happened, so..
redball: My memory is hazy about all of this as well. I have a pretty good idea of the order in which all this happened, but the timeframe is less clear. I know that I hadn’t quite discovered any anime blogs before 2007, based on some old forum posts. Up until recently I’ve been quite active in an independent hip hop community and the meandering forum found anime as a topic a few times, so I know I had something to say about it back then. Just not too much. (Also, my old opinions are always hilarious.)
At that time I’d recently heard of THEM on G4 (or was it TechTV back then?) and would occasionally visit the site to check for reviews of shows I’d watched to see if they might lead to a decent suggestion. It was later when I forgot the name of THEM that I ended up at THAT, which is the first aniblog I subscribed to and read on a daily basis. To this day, I don’t believe I’ve ever commented on THAT. So, sometime around four or five years ago is when I started to take note of the community, not that I had any will to actually join it then.
I finally decided to stop being an anime shut-in late last year. I’m pretty sure it was during those 12 Days theme posts that several of the blogs I read wrote at length about their experiences with the community. Off the top of my head The Cart Driver and SnippetTee’s blog each had posts that encouraged participation. I’m sure there were others.
For the new year I didn’t make a resolution, because I don’t do those things, but I did disable my Facebook account. Instead I went to twitter, like you had a few years before. Only my twitter account was created in 2007 and I never bothered to use it before now. The formula for interacting with the aniblogging community on twitter is pretty easy:
1) Have an anime related avatar.
2) Follow people.
3) Tweet at people and comment on their blogs.
Mushyrulez: Ah, lurkers. The thing about them is that you never know whether they’re there or not: maybe people actually lurk on O-New and read our posts? Perhaps we should make some participation-encouragement posts to draw them out…
As for twitter, my formula was even easier:
1) Have a touhou related avatar.
2) Follow people.
3) Tweet at people.
In fact, I didn’t even comment on their blogs because -Spanish shock- none of them had blogs! Somewhere after that, anime-related people started to leak into my Twitter, and now, the majority of people I tweet at are anime fans who’ve never even heard of Touhou. Have you ever had one of those big changes in your Twitter followings, or were you always anime-oriented after you went on Twitter?
redball: I think it depends on how you view your blog. I know that there is a big community surrounding anime, aniblogging, anitweeting, etc.. If you view your blog as successful by the interaction it creates then yes, I would consider passive readers to be lurkers. Personally, I never considered myself a lurker. I considered myself a reader and I read blog posts much the same way one might read a magazine. While I knew I was missing the community portion, I didn’t feel the same way I would about lurking in a chat or a discussion board.
In respect to Twitter: I wasn’t really using Twitter until late last year. I was primarily using Facebook and a message board. I did have followers, but they were largely from that message board with a couple people from real life thrown in. I consider the switch to using Twitter a switch in community for me. For the last 7 years my online identity has centered more around underground hip hop and politics. Before that I was involved in a few other communities over a decade. Now, I’ve somewhat redefined myself and become active in a community centered around anime.
As for lurking, I’ve never been a fan of that. When I decided to change from a reader to a member of the community I jumped right in. Twitter became a base for my interactions with others in the community. I think it works nicely like that, Twitter is where you hang out and eventually blog posts, comments, etc. all lead people to Twitter for spontaneous interaction. The conversation is a bit more decentralized when you do that, but I think there is usefulness in that. It takes a special message board to replicate the kind of depth that the blogosphere generates, and even then it is missing the sense of self that writing for a blog entails.
Mushyrulez: It reminds me of the general perception of twitter being a cesspool of shit updates and meaningless interaction. ‘After all, what can you say with 140 characters?’ and ‘What, are you going to just tell everybody every single time you take a dump?’ (hence the term, ‘shit updates’, ha ha haaaaaaa). A strong comeback to this would be that a) we do not have to tweet every time we shit, b) I’m not sure if anybody follows people who tweet every time they shit c) Twitter is a great way to meet new online people because of how meaningless the interaction is.
With things like Facebook (of which I don’t have, because my face is ugly and I never read books), meeting new people isn’t as simple – after all, Facebook is a social network meant to connect us to people we know in real life. We talk to people on Facebook to talk to the person. Twitter, on the other hand, connects us to people halfway across the globe who couldn’t care less about us as a person. Instead, we talk to people on Twitter to talk to /ideas/. Twitter is awesome for sharing ideas; you can jump into (almost) any discussion without feeling awkward, and there’s bound to be an interesting discussion going on any time of the day. Metaphor time: Facebook is a classroom of similar people you know, while Twitter is a diverse stranger-filled bar.
redball: I’m going to be cliche and say that Twitter is something you have to get to like it. The problem with this is that Twitter doesn’t help you to define it. For example, I hate the thought that it’s a “microblog platform.” That’s not how I use it. The way I use it is the same way I used online chat back in the 90’s at TheGlobe. When I figured out that’s what it could be, and I started having conversations with this community (and talking to myself) I lost a few of my previous followers. I’m not worried about that, because the result is that I’ve gained an entire community. Without that, I wouldn’t be at O-New today.