Reflections on Animanga Blogs: What’s in a blog?

“Somehow I cannot hide who I am, though I’ve tried. When will my reflection show who I am inside?” –Reflictions from Disney’s Mulan

Having missed some of the previous blog carnival action going on over at The Beautiful World, we thought it would be fun joining in on the most recent Reflections on Animanga Blogs carnival. The cool thing about this project is that you get to see just how much variance there is in the types of blogs people like to read; we get a chance to learn a bit about each other by writing this post, and that alone made participating more than worth it. Special thanks to @FoxyLadyAyame for hosting this event!

Why not get to reflect on what we like to read and for what reasons? (reviews, commentaries, editorials)

zzeroparticle Reading is like going on a journey where the end goal is to leave feeling like I’ve become more enlightened. I particularly love it when the author takes something from his or her domain of expertise and guides me through the concept to form the knowledge foundation or the basis for the author’s argument, and forges a connection to the anime in question. Get me to explore and nail me with a delightful reveal!

In the realm of anime blogging, the type of writing that succeeds in accomplishing that very task most often is editorial writing. Episodics can do it to some degree, but coming up with a new idea or connection for every single episode of a certain show is really really hard.  The overwhelming majority of writers who blog episodically are not of the caliber where they can consistently turn out enlightening material week in, week out.

Kylaran Editorials are closest to the type of content I consume in general: opinion pieces, academic articles, and insider blogs. This is the complete opposite of someone who might read for personal and social growth, but it also helps save time while maximizing amount of knowledge gained.

zzeroparticle Reviews also earn a spot on my reading list, but for a more pragmatic reason: as I get older, my time becomes limited.  I can no longer indulge in every single show, week in, week out, like I did during my college days, so I need a quick and easy way to find out whether an anime is worth my time and reviews serve that role really well. That said, the author’s tastes have to correlate strongly with mine or allow me to ascertain, by reading the review, whether I’ll like an anime or not regardless of the author’s tastes.

Shinmaru This is a difficult question to answer, because I often won’t know if I want to read something until I actually sit down and read it. I find that what I enjoy most is an article that reaches out of the screen and slaps me across the face with something I hadn’t considered before, whether it’s an alternate view on an anime or a piece of humor that makes a funny point. It’s nice to be surprised by writing. Sometimes, though, it’s also fun to see someone get creative and entertaining with how they view anime; it’s the journey, and not the endpoint, that is worthwhile there. Reviews are the exception to all this: the value of those is in knowing whether I’ll be interested in a series.

Reckoner I have to agree with Shinmaru’s sentiment here in that it is really hard for me to ascertain whether I want to read something until I actually go and do it. What I love to see in any blog though is an ability to delve beneath the surface of a work. Analyzing the different components of a production such as the writing, directing, animation process, or musical composition can be very enriching. This is why I also tend to value editorials, but for me this does not mean episodic blogs are inherently worse; they just have to able to provide this sort of content on a consistent basis in their posts.

What do we do when we stumble across a new blog?

Shinmaru Quick confession: I barely read anime blogs; in fact, I discriminate like crazy. I presume anyone else in my position does, as well. I work full-time, have some responsibilities beyond that, and I indulge in my hobbies/vices (anime, video games, some TV, reading, etc.) whenever I have the time. There’s likely a fair number of good blogs I don’t read simply because there’s a limited amount of time I want to give to engage them. Even in my own RSS feed, I read maybe a tenth of what pops up. If I didn’t operate with that level of discrimination, I’d spend all my time reading silly thoughts on anime instead of writing them.

With that in mind, when I come across a new face, I try to give that person a chance. I scan the site for something — anything! — that might interest me, whether that’s on the front page or buried in the archives. (A good, clear categories list is a must for me. It’s a quick peek into someone’s most valued interests.) If I find something I like, then into Google Reader the site goes, hopefully to be followed by more Things I Like. That’s as fairly as one can operate. I try not to expect anything more when the tables are turned on me.

Kylaran There are some other bloggers that do a lot of commenting on people’s sites, and that’s absolutely fantastic because it helps all different kinds of bloggers gain necessary feedback. Unfortunately, I just don’t watch enough anime to offer input; I often wait until an article on a particular topic becomes popular on Twitter before checking out the site the article’s from and seeing what it offers. It’s not the best method, but a personal one.

Reckoner Unlike my fellow writers I am probably the least involved in the aniblogging sphere, partially because I’m new, but also because I tend to be highly involved in anime forums such as AnimeSuki. Usually when I read a blog the first thing I look to see is if the content is something more than what I can find in a typical forum conversation. It can be a focus on a niche, a collection of interesting editorials, or even just a general ability to communicate an idea or message in one’s articles. Just anything but the straightforward, dime a dozen episodic anime impressions and we’re golden.

zzeroparticle I’m afraid I’m also in Shinmaru’s boat in that I also discriminate like crazy. I’ll scroll through AnimeNano and click and read on articles I find most interesting (so make your article titles compelling, people!).  If I start to notice that I click on your blog a lot, congratulations! You’ve demonstrated that you’re worth my time and your blog shall go into my feedreader where it shall reside forevermore unless you start sucking really bad.

From right to left: Sorrow-kun, zzeroparticle, Shinmaru, Kylaran, Reckoner, and kevo.

What must a good animanga blog have and do?

Kylaran It’s really hard for someone such as me, who doesn’t watch anime as it airs, to keep up with blogs post after post because I simply don’t watch enough anime. So, while I can’t offer my opinions on blogs in general, I can say that every article I’ve enjoyed reading has taught me something new. Sometimes these pieces are long-winded diatribes, while others are short comedic ones brimming with personality, yet regardless of the manner in which the words are written, I’ll comment or respond if the article gets the gears in my head moving. Generally, such writing focuses not on the world of a single anime, but draw from numerous different sources to make their argument.

Good writers will be able to form elegant sentences out of their thoughts. Good thinkers who write well almost always offer an interesting connection or perspective on a topic in addition to making their statements coherently; they draw on analogies from other media genres in terms of formal analysis or their personal knowledge of a particular subject that is being discussed.

In other words, it’s not writing style or ability to make arguments that’s the most important, but rather a willingness to engage with a topic critically from different perspectives. For example, when I read an article on fashion in anime, Yi of Listless Ink is the first person I think of. Another person who I loved to read back when they were active in the blogosphere was Gaguri of Ha Neul Seom, whose knowledge of art blew my mind away when I first started blogging. I recently discovered Benjamin Ettinger’s Anipages, which has opened up a world of insight into the animation process that I knew very little about. Even if you’re just talking about plot, I still like to know what inferences you think has inspired a scene or development. And that willingness to go beyond the work at hand, I think, is the most important thing in anime/manga blogging.

zzeroparticle At the end of the day, I want to feel like my mind has expanded.  If your article manages to provoke any thought from me, help me see things in a different light, or realize what I’d always known but didn’t know how to express it, then kudos to you.

Reckoner I can pretty much only echo what has already been said here in that I think an essential piece to any blog is the ability to communicate something that either expands my point of view in some way, or articulates something I already thought about in an interesting manner.

Shinmaru The most valuable thing a blogger can do is make me consider another angle to a story. I’m like any other person: I have a limited, biased point of view. Anything that can widen the vista is worthwhile reading to me.

What blogging behaviors annoy us (anonymously of course)?

Reckoner I figured there is no better way to talk about this than to just simply list the types of blogging behaviors that annoy me.

The Iron Blogger – This sort of blogger typically has a very strong opinion, but is extremely uncompromising even in the face of outright contradictory facts and evidence. Just like iron, he/she is very hard and strong, but brittle. They will break before they bend. Bloggers that are uncompromising with their inherent bias towards a genre or concept and can be very narrow-minded or unfair also fall under this category. Being too stubborn makes any conversation seem like a one way street.

The Vanity Blogger – The blogger who devotes a lot of time to his layout and design, but forgets blogs are meant to be read. These blogs are typically shiny and pretty to look at, but are not worth all that much at the end of the day. A blog needs to have actual substance for it to be a worthwhile visit.

Feel Good Blogger – This is the sort of blogger who is only around to have a good time. Will rarely add any critical thought to a discussion, and will almost never take a position that is not neutral or positive on a show. They are just there to joke around and share a few laughs. Some writers are also into fun and games; their writing  may boil down to creating memes. Some of these blogs may have nothing more than a picture and a caption. It is very mind numbing and senseless writing that belongs on places like 4chan.

The Hipster Blogger – This sort of blogger is just too cool for school. For whatever reason thinks anything hyped is positively terrible and will try to propagate certain less well known shows as examples of true quality. Very disingenuous writing rarely gives a honest and fair take on anything remotely popular. This blogger ends up feeling like a parody of himself.

The Social Blogger – This blogger writes with only one thing in mind: being accepted by his peers. This is different from the feel good blogger in that the writing may not be inherently neutral because his position is usually determined by what the more general anime sphere thinks about a show. Everybody hates on a show? I’ll hate it too. Everybody loves this show? I’ll love it too. Pandering to the lowest common denominator in readership is boring.

Shinmaru I don’t have many pet peeves. My main thing is that I want to see people be honest about their purpose in writing and where they’re come from. None of us has all the answers to anything; we see only what we can see. I see too many ready to denigrate some folks as “pretentious” and others too willing to sneer at others for being fluff. I may not read everyone, but I can at least respect someone on some level for being true to what they want to put into and get out of this silly business.

Kylaran Can I mention the pretentious blogger that tries to use big words to sound smart? When I go back and read some of my first blog articles, I realize just how unpolished and unoriginal my writing style is. I’ve had a hard time adapting to blogging, but I hope people don’t make the same mistake as I have with usage of meaninglessly big words.

zzeroparticle Given my particular (peculiar even) tastes, I’d like to add one more persona I despise to the mix: the Mindless Music Sharer.  This blogger has nothing of substance between their ears and only serves to share awesome things like an opening theme song, ending theme song, or a BGM track and yell out to readers to “TAKE A LOOK AT THIS!”  If I’m lucky, the author will squeeze out 2 sentences of thoughtful commentary, but more often than not, it’s a terse “I like this” before moving on to other pastures in which to graze and take a crap.

For those authors at whom I’m directing my scorn, please give me a reason to actually care about that piece of music. I honestly do want to know why you like it and what it means to you, so don’t cut off the conversation before it can even begin.

7 Responses to “Reflections on Animanga Blogs: What’s in a blog?”

  1. Can I get some recs of your favorite anime blogs? Only Kylaran suggested any, and I like vetted blogs the same way zzeroparticle & Shinmaru likes to get vetted anime from other blogs.

    I’ve been looking for animanga blogs with good editorials (not that hard, admittedly), but I haven’t found any beyond this one.

  2. @Matthew

    Some of my favorites …

    Moe Sucks: Despite the name, E Minor is one of the most fair, open-minded bloggers around. He judges everything — and I mean everything! — with the same amount of scrutiny, and he produces some of the best commentary around. He’s also good at going deep into stuff without burying readers in jargon.

    Mecha-Guignol: Confession: I’ve got a mad blogger crush on Landon. His approach and style are EXACTLY what I would want to possess in a perfect world. He’s basically the Hunter S. Thompson of aniblogging, a crazy dude with crazy views writing on the fringe. No matter what he writes about, you know you’re getting something entertaining and something completely different than what anyone else will write.

    We Remember Love: If you have even a fleeting interesting in mecha, this blog is a must read. Ghostlighting is without a doubt the most passionate blogger around, and his work ethic is fucking bananas. The dude has boundless energy. It’s insane. He’s also incredibly smart and has a wealth of experience with the mecha genre, so when he writes something, you know for sure it’s coming from someone who knows his shit.

  3. My biggest pet peeve may be bloggers who are frequently apologetic for their opinions. While I can take a relentlessly neutral blurb on an episode or an always negative hipster blogger, apologizing completely undoes everything that they just wrote. Not only does it show someone clearly begging for acceptance, it’s also a sign that a writer doesn’t have any real personality, which can never really be good, especially when it comes to reading that said person’s thoughts.

    @Matthew

    The Untold Story of Altair and Vega has a wealth of great editorials. A lot of their articles have forced me to reconsider how I looked at a certain character and shows. They have plenty of writers, but they’re all as deep and insightful as the next.

  4. What advice would you have for the new anime blogger or those who are trying to find their voice within the anime blogging community?

    I ask because, as one half of two new anime bloggers, I don’t want to end up as someone who’s viewed as a try hard or any of the categories that’s listed above.

  5. @Lily

    One piece of advice that seems to be the consensus among participants in the blog carnival is be yourself. I took a look at your blog and you guys definitely seem to have your own writing style going on, which is great.

    If anything, I’d say don’t worry about what others think of you for now; focus on the kinds of things you want to write. Then you can start thinking about ways to improve yourself. If you’re an avid reader of anime blogs, take the opportunity to comment around so people can get to know you. Twitter is also another good method of doing this.

    Best of luck with your new blog!

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