The History of The Nihon Review

This anime has influenced The Nihon Review more than any other.

This is the official history of The Nihon Review, starting from its creation in 2005, up to the current day. I intend to update this page, which will become the new “About” page for this blog, every year.

2005: The end of AMGReviews, and the beginning of The Nihon Review

The beginnings of The Nihon Review go well back beyond 21 Nov, 2005, when the site adopted its current name. Before then, it was known as AMGReviews, where the AMG stood for “Anime, Manga, Games”, and was owned by Seven and managed, in large part, by he and Tamashii. Seven invited me to join AMGReviews in September 2005 after reading a review of Maburaho I posted in “The Library” section of the Anime Academy Forums (the current NHRV version of the review is a slightly modified version of the original I posted). At the time, the most prominent reviewers were Taleweaver, Kuma, DarkKanti, Genkisakura and of course, Seven and Tamashii (who was mostly responsible for the “M” in AMGR). My second review was My-HiME, which I wrote in the same month as I completed my Honours thesis, followed shortly by School Rumble and Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu. Desperately needing a change in name (on the count of it being undescriptive, and very similar to AllMusicGuide after abbreviation, which has, coincidentally, also undergone a name change and is now known as AllMusic), we adopted the name “The Nihon Review”, after it was suggested to us by our good friend Phate who, at the time, wrote for Anime Secrets.

2006: dheu and Sorrow-kun’s stewardship

In the moment of our name change, the make up of the staff also drastically changed, as we delisted ReadorDie and Zirilan for lack of activity and lost Taleweaver to Anime Academy (who were the bigwig anime review site at the time). We immediately set about trying to recruit new staff, which was difficult for us given our lack of exposure and visibility at the time. We published our first Year in Review article, an idea that was fostered by DarkKanti after I made a random post on the Anime Academy Forums listing my favourite anime of 2005. Kurier joined our site in January 2006, and instantly took on our toughest section: Soundtrack reviews. He was followed shortly after by dheu, who joined on my birthday, coincidentally. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that dheu, who wrote Music reviews for us and was particularly passionate about J-rock, was the most important person to join the NHRV in its fledgling years. This is also when Genkisakura submitted her resignation, but she never wandered too far, even submitting a handful of reviews for the site from time to time.

Still figuring out exactly what we wanted to do with The Nihon Review, we experimented with a couple of ideas. The core of our activity was still, for the most part, reviews, but we also posted random snippets of Japan- and anime-related news on the front page, alongside new review announcements. In March 2006, dheu and I officially become editors, and took over managing the site from Tamashii, who had become burnt out. We set about about smoothing over the review editing process and making sure we had a steady stream of reviews regularly being published. It was about this time that I became smitten by Suzumiya Haruhi, and my fervency for the anime has kinda left an impression on the design of the front page which still lingers.

In May 2006, Scoot joined the NHRV. I invited him after he won a “Student Review Contest” on the Anime Academy Forums (which turned out to be a reasonable recruiting ground back in the day). Scoot’s greatest contribution to the NHRV was the site theme, which he designed and coded, simply after playing around with the site’s layout in June (a “pimpin’”, as he called it). We continue to use his theme even now. Scoot wanted to use an image of Momen from Raimuiro Senkitan (a really bad anime I have fond memories of) for the front page, which is why he named the theme “Momen”. I insisted on Haruhi. I got my way.

We continued to advertise for more recruits (Seven tried a different route and instead asked for “mascots”) and Kurier left for his first of many trips to Japan in June 2006. Arguably Seven’s tactic worked, because shortly after Kurier returned (and submitted reports of his trip), Pachinko joined the site. Somewhere amidst all this, I managed to find the time to review iconic titles such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Monster (as well as its soundtrack) and… High School Girls, while Tamashii added to his catalogue of The Pillows album reviews.

In October 2006, we closed down our Games section after a long bout of inactivity and our inability to find anyone interested in reviewing video games. However, we opened a new section: Live Action, for reviews of J-dramas and J-movies. The idea for a Live Action section came from DarkKanti (IIRC), and we’d actually been debating about it in private since July. At first I was reluctant to the idea, but quickly came around to it, and after a series of votes and decisions about how exactly it would be implemented, the section opened with four initial reviews: Hana Yori Dango, Ju-On: The Grudge, GTO the Movie and Densha Otoko. A fifth review followed from Tamashii, who gave the section’s first “10″ rating to a minimalist three-and-a-half hour drama, Eureka.

I made a post about Rozen Maiden‘s Suiseiseki winning the Anime Saimoe Tournament in October, we celebrated our site’s first anniversary in November just before dheu departed for her tour of Iraq (don’t worry, she came back alive thankfully), and AC joined us in December, his first contribution being a review of Gankutsuou. On 28 December, 2006, TypicalIdiotFan joined our staff after ingloriously being banned from the Anime Academy Forums (which, in my opinion, was the biggest mistake they ever made). Kuma and Scoot were promoted to editors.

2007: Mass recruiting, and experiments in blogging

We published our second Year in Review article in January, heaping praise on anime like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nana, Honey and Clover II and Death Note. DarkKanti wrote the conclusion. Akira joined our team late in the month as a new J-pop music and live action reviewer, while royal crown and Shadowmage (the latter of whom had been resistant to my advances numerous times beforehand) followed in the early days of February. Shadowmage immediately set about adding a huge pile of anime reviews to the site, giving massive sprays to Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny. But he saved his most scathing review for Gundam Wing, which was posted on the site on his birthday in March. royal crown based his claim as being an authority on romance, giving a complimentary review to the Air Movie, but a less positive review to the Air TV series, and dheu kept submitting J-rock and live action reviews from Iraq. In April, I gave a “1″ to Shuffle! Memories, which remains the lowest rating I’ve ever awarded.

During this time, continuing in the tone of “experimentation”, a few of the staff members launched satellite blogs hosted on site subdomains. The idea behind the staff blogs originally came from Kuma as a way to answer Tamashii’s question of “what can we do to make ourselves more useful” (he was always good at asking questions like that). They were made to give our writers a place to express themselves more freely, outside of the restrictions of review writing, so readers could get to know us a bit better. Unfortunately they weren’t, in all honesty, very good, as most of them weren’t updated frequently enough, and the majority of them went into hiatus by April. But this experimentation laid the foundation for what would become Behind The Nihon Review later on. Figuring that we do our best work as a team, rather than individuals, I created Behind The Nihon Review in June, and made blogging on the NHRV a team activity.

Godai joined the NHRV in June, giving the highest possible rating to Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Ascaloth, who I first met at the Animesuki Forums, asked me about the site around this time and, inspired by the disappointed tone of my Sola review, joined us in July. In August Shadowmage resigned, and Ascaloth was recruited to write for Riuva… two events that I was not pleased with. Fortunately for us, the lure of writing anime reviews was too much for Shadowmage, and he was back writing for us a couple of months later. This, though, was when we said goodbye to Kuma, who left the site, contributing 47 reviews, the second most of any writer at the time. We gave him our heartfelt thanks.

In October, DarkKanti submitted the first of three completely different takes on School Days, and in December, the biggest mecha fan the NHRV has ever had, Kavik Ryx, climbed on-board. We proved to be not so good at the whole blogging thing, as Behind The Nihon Review went into complete inactivity until August 2008. I officially took sole ownership of The Nihon Review at the end of 2007.

2008: Stability and growth

We again opened the year with a look back at the one that preceded it. Our third Year in Review article was one of the oddest, as there was virtually no agreement about which was the best anime of the year, with Nana, Nodame Cantabile, Moyashimon, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Kaiji, ef – a tale of memories, Baccano and Seirei no Moribito all getting votes from different staff members. Shadowmage put the final “Nice Boat Fight Tha Timotei Rebellion” on the meme filled year.

royal crown wrote his first music review on Round Table Feat. Nino‘s April and then discovered a record low, becoming the first (and so far only) reviewer to find an anime worthy of “0″, Code-E. At the same time, Kavik Ryx handed a perfect “10″ to Cowboy Bebop. TypicalIdiotFan complained about both ratings. Genkisakura made a brief return in July to give us reviews of the live action Itazura na Kiss and Proposal Daisakusen: Operation Love, and Akira and I both wrote glowing appraisals for Kure-nai. It was at this time that we said goodbye to dheu, who left us with two last reviews for the live action section that she did so much to help establish, Hana Yori Dango 2 and Zettai Kareshi. I don’t think I can even begin to express how absolutely grateful I am to her for her contribution to helping us, and our humble review site.

We took one back from the internet, stealing zzeroparticle from Anime Instrumentality in August. (Seriously, when you find a dude that good, you don’t leave them alone.) Ascaloth was promoted to editor, Kavik Ryx continued quietly building a catalogue of sci-fi and mecha reviews and Godai watched Touch, and two of its sequel movies. Behind The Nihon Review awoke from its eight month slumber, and zzeroparticle made us an officially pro-iyashikei site with his review of Natsume Yuujinchou. I found time to slam Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, hard, repetitively and often, which didn’t exactly go down well on the AnimeSuki Forums, the setting of most of my slammings. Shadowmage also got caught up in minor controversy with his provocative review of Code Geass R2. Akira translated fansubs of ef – a tale of melodies, and I used the blog to lament “certain people“. After stabilizing the staff and publishing a total of 142 reviews, I don’t think it’s a stretch the say 2008 was the best year The Nihon Review has had so far.

2009: Stagnation

Another year meant another Year in Review article, and we again stood relatively divided about which were the anime of 2008: Code Geass R2, Casshern SINS, ARIA the Origination, Kaiba, Kannagi, Macross Frontier and Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei all listed among various staff member’s favourites. Ascaloth concluded by describing the year as anime studios playing Texas Hold’em, not laying out their cards until towards the end.

Godai fished through a heap of fanservice anime seeing if he could find some entertainment, but instead found Koi Koi Seven. I began attaching myself to the wider blogosphere, and discovered the wonders of Google Reader. A new, and much more professional looking site design was implemented on Behind The Nihon Review, and, after a change in management at Anime Nano, I took the opportunity to submit the blog’s feed to the aggregator. This time, thankfully, we were accepted, and our first ever post to get listed on the site, Five Memorable Themes From the Winter 2009 Season, got 18 comments, which was an enormous number for us at the time (still is, honestly).

In April, AC reviewed an Academy Award winning film, Departures. This, unfortunately, was about the time where we started making mistakes with our recruiting. Fuu, who seemed promising to begin with, joined us in April, and was followed by zeroxhour in May. Neither lasted long. We attempted an “Editor’s Choice” award, but it didn’t really take off. Scoot and Pachinko had long fallen inactive, Tamashii officially pulled the plug on his involvement in the site, and DarkKanti and Seven continued to linger on the staff list, despite both having very little recent contact with anime or the NHRV. The site was stagnating, and the blog was also stuttering. I took swift action in November, which resulted in resulting in DarkKanti, Seven and royal crown officially resigning, and Godai, Pachinko, Scoot and zeroxhour being delisted for becoming inactive. Our staff of 16 was cut to 9. I decimated the staff list, but I remain convinced that it was the best course of action.

2010: Rebuilding, and a new method of recruiting

We started the year with a bang, not just with a review of the year, as we usually do, but a review of the decade, inspired by our longtime supporter, gaguri of Ha Neul Seom. Monster was named the anime of the decade by three of our reviewers, Now and Then, Here and There and Planetes were crowned by two others, and Akira called Strike Witches the worst (of sorts) anime of the 2000s. In our annual Year in Review, Clannad ~After Story~, Eden of the East, Bakemonogatari and Kara no Kyoukai were acclaimed as the year’s best, and Akira finished 2009 off by noting that, despite the popularity of certain mediocre works, there’s still a lot to like in anime off the mainstream.

January saw a major change in how we did recruiting, as we set about rebuilding the staff list, and populating it with talented and committed writers. We ran our first (annual) staff contest to fill three positions on the list, starting in mid-January and finishing in the first week of February. At first, the applications came in as a trickle, leaving us nervous about the endeavour, but a few days before the end of the contest, we landed the big fish… the one who I really wanted: kadian1364. I had actually first invited kadian1364 to join the NHRV in August 2009, after noticing the intelligent comments he had left on our blog, and other places around the anime blogosphere, but he turned us down, explaining that he wasn’t really interested in writing at the time. Why he changed his mind, I don’t know, but boy was I glad he did. We ended the contest spoiled for choice and blown away by the quality of applicants. Along with kadian1364, we welcomed Kylaran and Buttercup to our site.

In January, we also brought a close to our long neglected Soundtracks section, but took the opportunity to officially affiliate with Anime Instrumentality, using zzeroparticle’s site as a place to post soundtrack and OP/ED reviews written by NHRV staffers. In April, Fuu left, and Behind The Nihon Review was thrown into the Aniblog Tourney, which helped increase our exposure. Unfortunately our time in the Tourney ended swiftly at the hands of Random Curiosity in the second round. TypicalIdiotFan resigned in June, but not without kicking up a storm first, ending his time at the NHRV with his 10 Things I Hate About You (Idiot Fans) Part A and Part B articles. Shadowmage reviewed The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya after seeing the San Fransisco premiere, while Kylaran and zzeroparticle attended Anime Expo. We obtained MK as a mid-year recruit in July, the same month that Akira and I recorded our first podcast, The Nihon Revue, and added Elineas to the list under the same deal in November. kadian1364 took part in the Reverse ThievesSecret Santa Project, gifted with Seto no Hanayome, Inukami! and Saikano.

We said “see ya soon” to Kavik Ryx in December, who wrote 63 anime reviews and 1 live action review, mostly about his pet love, mecha, couldn’t get enough of TypicalIdiotFan so we pleaded for him to return, and farewelled Buttercup. 2010 was a year of growth and rebuilding for The Nihon Review, as we seek to put together the group of writers who will take us into the future.

20 Responses to “The History of The Nihon Review”

  1. I’ll always see 2010 as sort of a watershed where we really actively tried to get more people involved, starting with the staff meetings and then branching out to covering live events through Ky’s work at AX as well as getting our name out through the PR boost that the Aniblog Tourney gave us. For that matter, we also tried a lot of stuff. Some worked better than others, but provided for great learning experiences all the same. And so, with our eyes on 2011, I’m feeling optimistic about how things are panning out.

  2. We need to archive this in the main site.

  3. This was quite the post. I like to think the NHRV has some of the highest quality review and editorial content out there on anime. Very interesting to get an overview of the journey until now and to see how the site got to where it is today. Keep up the good work.

  4. Wow, you are OLD. Congratulations.

  5. Let it also be known that in 2007 gaguri destroyed both Shadowmage and Sorrow-kun in AA review contest and took home the prize of Haruhi figure and FLCL ost albums.

  6. @zzeroparticle
    Yep, 2010 was definitely a step in the right direction. My personal priority is to make sure we have good people writing for us now and into the future. I’m of a strong opinion that if you want to have a good team, it has to be filled with good people. We’re very close, IMO, but not quite there.

    @Shadowmage
    Good idea.

    @Aftershok
    A lot of people, I think, don’t realize how long we’ve actually been around. There was an incarnation prior to AMGReviews, but I don’t know its story because I wasn’t around then.

    @Baka-Raptor
    We prefer the word “experienced”. :P

    @gaguri
    I’ll just partake in some history revisionism and say, well, I didn’t care about winning a Haruhi figure or FLCL OSTs.

  7. I look forward to more growth and more quality content on this site. It’s the first place I come too when looking for new anime to watch and you guys have given me quite the “to see” list. I’ll be eagerly awaiting your year in review for 2010 and I wish you all the best in 2011!!

  8. dheu really needs to drop by once in a while. I miss poking fun at the the Death Note “L”-groupie. I miss those days. And female voices. We need moar ladies here because there’s too much testosterone around here.

  9. Oh, this is good:

    “In a move which surprises exactly no one, Kaioshin posts ignorant nonsense and tries to pass it off as informed commentary. Not that I’d expect someone with such superficial preferences in anime to have a developed enough sense of taste to appreciate Natsume Yuujinchou, but, oh well.”

    This makes me feel a *little* bit better about losing patience with various internet dwellers back in my youthful days.

    Hopefully, this article will call out a NR reunion in the comments.

  10. @AuroraFlame

    Where is the quote taken from?

  11. @Kaikyaku
    Thanks for the kind words. We want to be recognized as one of the best places to go to for anime reviews. We’re not there yet, but we’re trying our best.

    @AC
    It’s the comment I left in this post which ended up “inspiring” (or more like “inciting”) this post back in 2008.

    @AuroraFlame
    It was all “kiss and make up” and promises of compromise after I made that post. But seeing some of his recent behaviour, I don’t think he’s learnt anything. This is one of these people who I think will just never get along with anyone in the fandom.

  12. Interesting that you’ve decided to leave out BtNHRV milestones. Perhaps in five years’ time we’ll write another article for that?

    Also, holy shit I’m old.

    Finally, it’s pretty horrifying that Haruhi has impacted us as it has. BUT WE LIKED IT BEFORE IT WAS COOL SO IT’S OKAY

  13. It is a real testament to the overall quality of this website and the continuing efforts of its writers that -in spite of a few past and current disagreements with certain statements or opinions expressed in both the reviews themselves and throughout other forms of content- I keep coming back to read and occasionally comment at the end of the day.

    Universal agreement isn’t necessary in order to recognize and respect a lot of the interesting work you’ve been doing here, not at all, so I sincerely wish you the best of luck for 2011 and beyond.

  14. OK, because of this post I have decided to break down and finally watch Haruhi. I held out for so long!

  15. Howdy, this reminded me about how long I’ve been checking around this website for reviews. I remember finding this site when I finished monster and desperately started looking for an anime that was as good as it. Never did find an anime as good as it but thats besides the point. The point is that this is a nice site.

  16. Wow, you guys set your standards way too high for posts on this site.

    Congratulations on staying alive and pumping for more than a fourth of the time I’ve been alive :P

  17. Say, would you mind giving me a short history on Anime Academy? I’ve never heard of the site but it looks like they’re old and your group seems to have had relatively close ties to them in the past. I gathered from their front page that they’re a really old review site that’s apparently still around, but what’re they up to these days? Is their any connection between AA and NHRV today? It seems odd that they’d still be alive and yet not have much of an online presence.

    Er, sorry if I’m digging up a can of worms here but I’m genuinely curious.

  18. In the beginning, AA was created.
    Somewhere in the middle, I joined.
    Somewhere after that, I got banned.
    Sometime after that, AA mostly died.

    That’s about all you need to know. They somehow even managed to fuck up Linuts’ brilliant work with the Annie-May character.

  19. An interesting history (of which I knew very, very little of, including Akira’s) which puts into perspective just how much the site has grown and how exciting it is to be part of the growth. Looking forward to a good year with everyone on the site, writers and commentators alike.

    @zzeroparticle

    If walking around for a bunch of days at AX, meeting bloggers, and (shamelessly) handing out name cards is something I can contribute, I’d do it very gladly every year. The fact that my writing is only a bare fraction of the sheer amount of work everyone else puts out on this site makes me think that it might be my true calling here at NHRV. :P

  20. After reading this I’ve come to appreciate The Nihon Review so much more. I originally found this site around mid 2009 and I’ve always been coming back due to the amazing quality you guys put into your reviews and just how much I agree with them. Before finding this site, I remember trying to find a good anime review site that gave me a simple rating scale with an easy way to get the highlights of what made the anime amazing/terrible. I can’t tell you how many sites pissed me off to no end with horribly written reviews and unorganized pages that made finding the actual reviews a chore. Thanks to the Nihon Review, I’ve found so many great new series to completely fall in love with such as Bakemonogatari; B Gata H Kei; Now and Then, Here and There; and just recently, Cross Game. I really can’t thank you guys enough for making such an amazing and professional site, more so than bigger anime sites such as Anime News Network. I’ll always be coming back to the Nihon Review for all my anime needs.

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