Elitists: A Reflection of Our Aniblog Tourney Run

Is Time a better publication because it is more popular? Is Foreign Affairs a better publication because it is more academic? Does the question even matter?

Our pithy little blog, Behind the Nihon Review, was pitted against Random Curiosity, the mother of all episodic anime blogs, for the second round of the Aniblog Tourney. To nobody’s surprise, we lost. This post should not be viewed as an attempt to justify our failure in the tournament, nor should it be seen as an exercise in hateful finger pointing. I intend to do nothing of the sort.

During our matchup, there were many comments which accused BtNHRV and its supporters of elitism, such as this one:

u ppl r just bashin rc cause ur afraid no1 @ rc cares bout this “contest” every1 knows rc can beat any blog here if they want how bout u become as popular b4 talkin big bout rc dyin

This commenter completely misses the point . We understand that we have a rather limited readership base when compared to Random Curiosity, and we frankly have absolutely no intention of “beating” anyone else. The blogosphere isn’t about “beating” anyone. Sophomoric squabbling over popularity and readership and which blog is objectively “better” than others is counterproductive in nature.

In addition, we often tend to attribute popularity with legitimacy. This is highlighted in the above comment, in which the commenter challenges blogs like ours to become “as popular” before bashing Random Curiosity. Criticism is criticism, and dismissive ad hominem attacks such as “You’re not popular enough to give legitimate critique” only serves to blind the criticized from potentially constructive comments. Most of the comments in support of Random Curiosity follow this line of thinking:

Amen brother. The guys running this contest think they’re the blogging elite. As if. How many of them have the dedication and quality that have built RC into the powerhouse it is? That’s what I thought…

Most of Random Curiosity‘s vocal fans criticize our blog for not having the legitimacy or the right to voice our criticism of Random Curiosity on the basis of a lack of readership. In addition, as the above comment shows, they also believe blogs like ours with small, limited readerships and more macro-level topics of discussion to be elitist. Comments such as the one above attribute our small readership to what they perceive as our “intellectually superior” discussion topics, which detractors of blogs such as ours claim alienates the majority of the fandom and creates ivory tower academic circle-jerks.

Nonsense upon stilts. We have a small readership not because we talk about things which fly over the head of the common man; we have a small readership because Kylaran, Sorrow-Kun and myself don’t have the drive and the dedication to turn ourselves into a bigger blog. As much as we would like to do so, other more pressing obligations prevent us from spending as much time as we would like with Behind the Nihon Review. In no way does this make us “better” than Random Curiosity. If anything, it makes us worse bloggers, and thus, our lack of popularity is a foregone conclusion. I highly respect the crew of Random Curiosity for their dedication and their commitment to excellence, and believe that if anything, RC is an excellent website which should be studied as an example of good blogging.

So why aren’t we the same as Random Curiosity? It’s not because we think we are inherently better than them, but rather, that we occupy a different niche. Objective comparisons across episodic and editorial blogs are impossible because the focus of each kind of blog is fundamentally different. When a given reader votes for RC or for BtNHRV in the Aniblog Tourney, he should not be making an objective judgment of which blog is better, but is simply an expression of personal preference.

Which is why hardcore supporters of both episodic and editorial blogs need to just relax. There’s no reason to go around flipping tables and accusing anyone of being elitist; just because I prefer something different from you doesn’t make me objectively better than you. The converse is also true. Learning to respect other people’s opinions, no matter how wrong they may seem, is an important part of creating a harmonious community. We here at Behind the Nihon Review are always willing to engage with our readers and offer frank, open discussion. We never blow off comments as irrelevant, and always make an effort to connect with our readership.

However, even if you don’t buy any of that, and still think that we’re a bunch of elitist assholes sitting in a tower jerkin’ it to our own articles, we’re still faced with the question of why such a mentality is objectively bad. Baka-Raptor has a very good criticism of this:

Face it, you guys are elitist—dare I say ivory tower—whether you realize it or not. You’re all so busy jerking off to each other that you don’t bother to think about what the casual anime fan looks for in an anime blog. I’ve had this complaint about the anime blogosphere ever since I stepped into it. Rather than getting defensive, you should take the RC fans’ criticism constructively.

Baka-Raptor‘s critique of elitism rests on the belief that elitists isolate themselves from the rest of the community and are too preoccupied with their esoteric academics to be relevant to the common man. This is the common critique of elitism: that elitists use giant words and confusing concepts in order to confuse and befuddle others, creating the (sometimes false) perception of authority. Elitism promotes appeals to authority and reeks of academic dishonesty.

Putting aside the question of whether BtNHRV is or isn’t elitist, I believe there is a big difference between being an elitist and being intellectual. There’s no reason why all blogs have to be asinine and vapid. Were it so, the blogosphere would have been a gone very long time ago. At the same time, however, when we sit around and jerk off to how cool we think we are, everyone suffers.

However, I do not believe that “appealing to the masses” is something that all blogs should strive to do. Certainly, there are blogs that do so (Random Curiosity is an excellent example.) These blogs serve to connect the community together, and act as open forums for discussion a wide variety of topics. It was stunning to me how many people said in our Aniblog Tourney round that Random Curiosity was the first anime blog that they stumbled upon. This is evidence of its near-universal visibility and respect within the English-speaking anime community.

There is place for deeper intellectual discussion without being self-congratulatory, however. blue cheez, in a comment about an article I wrote about moe, tells me disapprovingly (full comment here, scroll down):

Boy, you guys would really have absolutely nothing to talk about if moe wasn’t around, huh?… I think its amazing that the anime community can be so negative and so divided. How can we get our friends to be open-minded about anime when we can’t even be openminded to Sora No Woto when it has a cute girl in it.

He, and a lot of other commenters, view our hostility towards moe as a sign of elitism, of being “better” than the regular community that enjoys shows like Lucky Star and K-On! This is decisively false. Let me remind you once again that Strike Witches is one of my favorite series of all time. However, as a reviewer and critic, my job is to critique. We here at Behind the Nihon Review truly love anime, and we believe that we should never become complacent with the status quo. As Yamamoto Yutaka said, complacency is the death of innovation. If there is anything I can do to promote dialogue and debate, to spark criticism over the status quo, I will do so. It is all part of a never-ending quest for excellence, and I (and my colleagues) will continue to resist complacency and mediocrity with undying spirit.

<Akira> Sup kids
<Benny2> wassup AkiraB

31 Responses to “Elitists: A Reflection of Our Aniblog Tourney Run”

  1. I’ll chime in that even though I visited other anime-related news and review sites long before, RC was my first anime blog-thingy I regularly browsed. I don’t read it much now, but I’m very glad how RC still sets the bar for how a timely and cleanly run episodic blog should be.

    On an entirely different thought, I want to stress how important the difference between elitism and intellectualism is. Anyone with an honest thirst for knowledge can practice the latter; arrogance rules the former.

  2. I wonder if those commenters are truly representative of Random C’s readers, much less the ‘average’ anime fan that reads blogs.

    I think it takes a different kind of fan/reader/viewer to care enough to comment; and these commenters can distort our opinion of what ‘the masses’ are like.

    I can only speak for myself, but I read ^9000 more basketball related blogs than I do anime blogs. I’ve been doing so for half a decade. However, I’ve commented on a basketball blog only once during that time. I’m happy enough to read the articles on google reader then move on.

    I suspect this is how the majority of readers actually are. People who leave comments are there to create value for themselves in a different way: from connecting with others who feel the same way about something, or to debate others who disagree (or cynically of me, to beat others in debate as opposed to generate insight from conversation).

    Look at the comments quoted above. They are more or less dismissive even if provocative.

    This is relevant to the discussion:

    http://lelangiric.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/re-bateszi-on-blogging/

    To wrap up, in the future I wish to see a superior method or metric for evaluating blogging ‘success’ as page views, unique visitors, average time spent on page, and comments don’t really give a clear picture of how much we reach, or if we do reach readers the way we imagine ourselves to.

  3. Hey, look at this! I get to disagree with Akira for once!

    nor should it be seen as an exercise in hateful finger pointing

    This doesn’t apply to me at all! I’m all for hateful finger pointing, especially when someone’s in the wrong and they piss me off. Fuck you, fanboy RC supporters. Fuck you, and suck the fattest part of my elitist dong.

    You’ll be hearing from me soon. Have a nice day until then.

  4. I think elitism is a big problem online and in real life. I don’t care what people say what I should or shouldn’t watch because they don’t control what I watch… nor I care about what genre is better or which one is sh**.

    Random Curiosity winning means one thing… elitism. It has a influence on new bloggers because look, they are successful, why not I just copy them. The issue there is that the Anime Blogosphere would be flooded with RC copycats and there would be a lack of original content such as editorials and reviews. I am still subscribed to it only as a reference, but I don’t really read it since there are other blogs on my Google Reader that is far more interesting than RC.

    Editorials and Reviews are part of intellectual thinking. With editorial writing, writers have to formulate their own opinions back up with facts of some sort. This is why it takes a bit longer to write these kind of posts and which is why new bloggers will just do what RC does…. it’s easier for sure, but episodic posts are just the redundant synopsis and thoughts. These kind of posts are dull unless you put deep analysis without resorting to synopsis or adding meta stuff to the post.

    I don’t think Behind The Nihon Review is elitist. It’s pretty much like the 2008 election with McCain accusing of Obama being Elitist. I’m not elitist either since I think I have some areas that I should work on to improve myself on blogging. There is no such thing as a perfect blog out there. There are going to be strengths and weaknesses, but as long we take advantage of our strengths and produce content that readers will enjoy, I can say that we shouldn’t be concerned what people think about the blogger.

  5. I love this post. I’m not even trying to suck up to you. I always have problem with episodic blogs (the one that doesn’t have a soul behind it since it was things that we already seen, without giving anymore input about it). They kinda lack character.

    people seems to forget that a blog is a place for you to write what you want. It is not about being popular or shit like that. It’s cool if people read what you wrote but at the end of the day, it is all comes down to what YOU yourself have achieved as a blogger/writer. Unless of course if you are a popularity-attention-seeker whore.

    Those who loves moe tend to be rather nasty to people who is not a fan of moe. I swear K-ON is a mind-corrupting device.

    But yeah, having said all that, the diversity of anime fans have made blogging more fun than it used to be. At least we got something to talk about when we are bored XD

  6. Can I point out the elephant in the room? I think the pro-RC comments in the voting post weren’t directed at this blog. I think they were directed more at the tourney in general. I have a feeling that most of these commenters didn’t even bother looking at the blog. (And every time I asked for some sort of feedback from them, I got almost nothing.) As ghostlightning says, these people aren’t representative of RC’s fanbase.

    As embarrassed as we were when we exited, I’d say the experience was, overall, a positive one. We won as many as we lost, and gained a few things. I’ll be posting my own reflection of the tourney in the next couple of days.

  7. I agree in that this entire thing about elitism isn’t well founded at all. I don’t think that there should be a problem here. It’s just like news in real life. You have the articles from the New York Times or the AP that tell you the news, then you have Op Ed people like David Brooks or even Glenn Beck that tell you their take on the news. Episodic and Editorials are two sides of the same coin.

    The only real difference between the two is that they appeal to different parts of the anime community. The entire aniblog tourney thing in and of itself is an interesting experience because it brings together the multiple niches of the anime community. From editorial to episodic to seiyuu to music, it exposes people to different forms of thinking. I honestly don’t think the intention of the tourney was to actually compete for a top spot. Anyone who construes it as a hardcore competition is, I feel, missing the point.

  8. As far as I can tell, BtNHRV writes what it wants and writes for whatever audience is willing to read it. No circle jerk complaints here. The bloggers who primarily write for each other and then act like their opinions are superior because a bunch of their circle jerkers back them up, they’re the ones that piss me off. I’m glad to see them getting mauled in the Aniblog Tourney, assuming they were deemed relevant enough to get invited in the first place. The self-ordained establishment is crumbling. It’s beautiful.

  9. I just don’t care enough to follow the newest series (I’m one of those who watch an entire series in a few days type of people) because I’m really busy some weeks and not others. And because of that, I stay away from posts about series I’m not watching because I absolutely have to see it for myself first.

    The vast majority of anime fans who DO stay up to date with the newest series probably want to find a blog that’s seen the same thing they have the moment the episode came out, and want to talk about it with others. That’s perfectly fine. But such a way of blogging and commenting simply just doesn’t suit me.

    As Akira said, it’s simply a different niche. It’s like objectively comparing two different species of animals as one being better than the other simply because it has a bigger population in the biosphere.

    I believe that my writing reflects my own interests when watching anime. And that, in my opinion, is all that matters to me.

  10. I find the BtNHRW VS RC a little hard to swallow because aside from the vast difference in popularity, it’s basically an editorial blog against an episodic blog. It’s a textbook apples-versus-oranges contest, with “fruit” being the common theme (for us, it would be “anime”). However, I won’t ultimately use this to justify our loss; we did lose after all.

    RC’s a place I’ve heard about from time to time but I don’t visit the place quite often (call me a blog hermit if you will); however, RC is an attractive place to visit from face value, I would admit. Personally, I just find RC’s content distracting because of the screenshot dumping and comprehensive synopses.

    I have the same peeve about episodic blogs as kluxorious; but perhaps for a different reason. Over time, for a certain anime series, the blog may be subjected to differences in its opinion depending on the episodes. If an episode or two suck, the blog may vitriol all over its ass; when a few good episodes come by, the tone may change for the better. This inconsistent view of an episodic blog can rub me the wrong way, since this is something more suited for a forum instead (personally).

    Concerning elitism, it’s already in discussion how there’s a blur between “elitism” and “intellectualism” but I think there’s an another explanation for this. Elitism is the biggest prevalent problem in attracting average anime viewers into the anime community. My visceral opinion is, elitism is the negative flip side of the coin and the positive side is called “competitiveness”.

    When we blog, conflicts of opinions bound to occur and this is actually a good thing since it is a formula for discussion. It’s just that when dissidence for a particular topic emerges, our inner hardcore fan rears its ugly head upon and it becomes an elitist. TIF loves to hate finger people, and I find it amusing because there’s some truth in what he said. A cynic can even support his view: Why bother giving elitists a chance when it feels so much better to hate them anyway?

    Everyone is biased and so am I; it’s just the degree of that bias that sets everyone apart from each other. I do support BtNHRW both as a NHRW crew mamber and a reader; editorial blogs serve an important purpose of expressing our opinions for an anime-related topic in a less structured, more visceral form of writing. Reviews are our proper products, and they are the structured form of our work. Our forum is for interaction and discussion for a narrower topic (an anime by episode, mostly). Each part of NHRW complements each other, and I find this blend our most appealing factor.

  11. Heh @baka-raptors ‘not considered relevant’ comment. I wonder who that was aimed towards~~

    I don’t really have anything to add to the discussion though, beyond the fact that I’m glad that the tourney is at least sparking plenty of discussion. One good thing about twitter is that all of these discussions are open and available to see. Although most of the discussions are of the episodic/editorial divide that’s existed since the dawn of time. Discussing the value of episodic blogs is like discussing fansubs. It’s been done so many times that there’s really nothing new to read

  12. Weighing in my view on this issue, since it is quite interesting. I will say that I disagree with chikorita157’s view that episodic posts are redundant. Labeling a certain type of post as redundant is the main reason why certain commentators would think that it is elitism, due to the lack of understanding about the real issue down here: personality.

    In my opinion, it is really not about the format or even how intelligent it is. It is about the personality of the writer that is presented in the writing and how strong it resonates. I recently reviewed more than 30 aspiring bloggers’ entries for T.H.A.T and the main review I gave was how the writing lacked personality. You don’t have to be complicated in order to be provoking thoughts. You can say a single liner about something in an episode that can invoke thoughts. Episodic posts and impressions are generally seen as dull because people do not think deep enough on what they wish to portray in a post. It is not the format. It’s the writing.

    Once you get that, then it is no longer a battle of episodic vs editorial. It’s the type of writing that you dislike and the goal of the writing.

    p/s: RC is more of an impression/thoughts blog now that Omni has left.

  13. @Impz

    By epiodics being redundant, I mean having more than 2 paragraphs of synopsis and less on thoughts/impressions. Typing a long synopsis takes too long and nobody is going to read it because its too long. Nowadays, I only write my thoughts/impressions and including meta stuff to the mix. Episodics aren’t bad if they are done properly and the post doesn’t consist more than 30% synopsis.

  14. I mentioned this in the NHRV forums, but I honestly think writing episodic reviews is much harder than writing an intellectual editorial piece. Critiquing a single episode is like analyzing only one jigsaw puzzle piece for how round the edges are or how colorful the piece is or how much liquid the cardboard back can have before the piece is warped beyond use: there’s only so much you can talk about because anime tends to be a continual storyline format instead of a standalone episode format. It’s easy to weigh the merits of a single episode of Star Trek: TNG; it’s much harder to weigh the merits of episode 20 of Escaflowne. You can talk about “what happened” and offer your take on where the show is going, but trying to actually make sense out of everything is just a fool’s errand.

    Thus the criticism on redundancy has some merit.

  15. @The Typical Idiot Fan

    Indeed!

    Writing interesting posts on individual episodes is very difficult! I wish I can do it consistently, but alas it’s beyond my powers. I’m just glad I was able to do it for two shows in the summer of ’09. Otherwise I can only do it for shows that have episodes months apart (OVAs like Gundam Unicorn, and weird schedules like Katanagatari).

  16. I will say that a lengthy synopsis is important for raw viewers who just cannot wait to watch the latest anime the fastest. There’s an audience for that. However, if you are talking about watching subs, then sure, I see no need for a lengthy summary.

  17. Sorrow-kun is a douchebag. I should know. He fucked my girlfriend and stole my website.

  18. Everything is true except the “fucking his girlfriend” part. I fucked his mother.

  19. Like I said, you fucked my girlfriend.

  20. It should be noted that the “elitism” debate was the result of a small social experiment designed to shine the light on just how much of a closed circle the aniblogosphere is, how prone it is to group think, and how easy it is to manipulate.

    The “pro-RC posters” who started the discussion were in actuality sock puppets of a single individual, crafted to deliberately exaggerate the “elitism” angle. As to who that individual was, sore wa himitsu desu, but feel free to guess 😀

    If you have doubts, I’m sure Scamp or mefloraine can confirm that the “posters” used the following email addresses in the Aniblog Tourney thread, none of which actually exist — or if they do by sheer accident, their owners would have no idea about these posts.

    geass — salazar.miguelo@gmail.com
    Nirvaash — nakamanateki@gmail.com
    Dullahan — mikey_conagh24@yahoo.com
    naruhodo — naruhodoneechan@gmail.com

    tl;dr

    You have been trolled, ladies and gentlemen. Very successfully, I might add.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: No vote count manipulation was involved in this experiment. Whoever lost would have lost anyway, that much is clear.

  21. You have been trolled, ladies and gentlemen. Very successfully, I might add.

    Great. I’m glad that’s over. Now we elitists can get on to things that actually matter.

  22. As much as I hate circular redirects, apparently the discussion will be happening at the next post here, since that’s where The Typical Idiot Fan asked for my response.

  23. @geass: Keep your ID a secret if you want, but there’s one thing I’m curious about: are you currently or were you ever an anime blogger? I’d be thrilled to know that there are other bloggers who are dissatisfied with the state of the aniblogosphere. (That’s not to say it’s all bad. There’s just a lot of room for improvement.)

  24. For what it’s worth, the e-mails are correct.

    I don’t really see what you achieved from this though. Some people asked as to why people liked RC but nobody responded. At most, you probably scared off people who might have commented otherwise. As far as grand dramatic trolls go, this was on the level of ‘aha, I had your cookie all along!’.

  25. @Baka-Raptor: Do I really have to say? :) Of course there are bloggers who are unhappy with the circle jerk. It’s just not necessarily what one wants to get into discussing at one’s own blog, because frankly that kind of discussion only attracts “the usual suspects” and bores normal readers to tears.

    @Scamp: Clearly I accomplished nothing when you saw fit to quote me in the contest tagline. 😉 You’re wrong about nobody responding to why they liked RC. The whole reason I didn’t respond to that myself was because people had already covered the main points.

  26. Face it, you guys are elitist—dare I say ivory tower—whether you realize it or not. You’re all so busy jerking off to each other that you don’t bother to think about what the casual anime fan looks for in an anime blog. I’ve had this complaint about the anime blogosphere ever since I stepped into it. Rather than getting defensive, you should take the RC fans’ criticism constructively.

    As a person who plays video games, and as a nerd in general, I hate the term “casual.” What is a “casual” anything? Am I a “casual” masturbator because I don’t do it three times a day? Am I a “casual” anime fan because I have only seen three episodes of anything in the last two months? Or am I hardcore/elite because I can tell you how many times Asuka says “I don’t want to die” in the End of Evangelion?

    I personally think of myself as a fan, god forbid, with out a specific classification. I’ve never seen an episode of Code Geasse R2, but I have read Mw by Osamu Tezuka.

    Also, I am an elitist. For the most part, the general anime fan I run into annoys me beyond belief sometimes. I attend conventions for the sole purpose of finding those few fans who I can discuss Wings of Honneamise with or who will laugh at a Space Runaway Ideon joke. My modern Japanese literature professor had the class bring in examples of anime / manga we could justify as significant in Japan, and I brought in the Daicon IV opening animation and discussed it for 15 minutes (I was following a showcase of Helatia and that shitty show about a red and blue samurai).

    Akira made me this way, he is an elitist as well. Don’t let him fool you. SK is by default, he’s Aussie.

  27. “Akira made me this way, he is an elitist as well. Don’t let him fool you.”

    But is he an arrogant elitist like some of us? I hope not, or he’d be really pissed about falling for an unsophisticated baby troll and critiquing the troll’s comments that were certainly not worth paying much attention to.

    Here’s your cookie, Akira, I had it all along.

    Whoa, is it me or is it echoing around here? 😀

  28. The silliness above was brought to you by a certain arbitrarily unapproved comment.

  29. Well, hell, I will ask because I certainly will never figure it out (I read two anime blogs, this one and Hashi-hime). Who are you almighty troll master and culture jammer of the ani-blog-land?

    I think if you’re chivalrous enough to tell us you did this on purpose to prove your well crafted observations, you should have no problem pumping your own self-worth more by telling us who you actually are. I am actually curious.

  30. I joff to get out of bed and before I go to sleep. Masturbation is NOT casual.

    *noms on cookie*

  31. Elitism is only the label readers give to bloggers that possess certain specific trait. While the bloggers are simply expressing themselves in their own ways. It’s nothing important, really.

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