[Eleven] I want to discuss, but I don’t want to be an authority — Sarazanmai

My first foray into anime blogging was a Cardcaptor Sakura Angelfire fan site. I had recently discovered the internet — thanks, in part, to Sailor Moon — and with that discovery came the subsequent unearthing of Cardcaptor Sakura, not to be confused with Cardcaptors, since the latter was, according to other fan sites, an abomination and a tragedy.

I didn’t know this myself until I managed to buy a few VHS tapes and DVDs of the original, and didn’t take a hard line on it one way or the other. The way I saw it then (and still see it to this day) was that Cardcaptors had at least introduced me to Cardcaptor Sakura. It may not have been very good, but it was an important gateway. I couldn’t bring myself to fully hate it. Yet, upon discovering the original, I felt compelled to write about it.

The site was about as awful as any free Angelfire site of the early aughts. It was pale pink with dark pink and white accents. The homepage autoplayed a midi version of the Cardcaptor Sakura opening, “Catch You, Catch Me.” It had episode writeups of both Cardcaptors and Cardcaptor Sakura, organized in airing order, where I would give my opinions on each episode that I had seen.

I never worried about whether my opinion was valid or meaningful in any way. I simply wrote.

No small amount of hubris goes into blogging. At some point between your brain and your fingers on the keyboard or voice into a microphone, you (consciously or subconsciously) make the decision that your thoughts are worth voicing. Your opinion, in some way, actually matters enough to make an effort to express.

Based on traffic and attention, my opinion didn’t “matter” until I began blogging for the now-defunct Altair & Vega. More specifically, it didn’t “matter’ until I blogged Mawaru Penguindrum weekly. As the blog became one of the destinations for Penguindrum discussion, I balked at the idea that I was an authority but I also basked in the attention and discussion. People came to the comments section to argue and submit their own theories while I chatted about art history and Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad and the dangers of capitalism. Despite my hesitation, there was an adrenaline rush with every post and every comment response that I couldn’t ignore. I fell in love with Kunihiko Ikuhara’s works and style. Unwittingly, I had followed the man for years because he worked on almost the entirety of Sailor Moon.

When I left A&V and created this more personal blog one of the things I wanted to wholly distance myself from was a more academic “this is definitively how this is” tone. At the time, I couldn’t articulate why.

This year, I blogged Sarazanmai weekly for the majority of the series’ run. Before it even aired, I was researching kappa and otter lore, returning to Penguindrum and the kappa/otter motif Ringo Oginome’s parents. I tagged Sarazanmai’s local idol, Sara Azuma, as the series’ Greek chorus based on prior Ikuhara works. I desperately wanted to be part of the discussion as it was happening. Every week I watched the raw episode in Japanese as it aired, posted immediately after watching the subtitled version on Crunchyroll, and then wrote additional editorials during the week.

This amount of effort isn’t something you do if you wholly lack arrogance or self-importance.

It’s still difficult to articulate the difference between authoritative and enthusiastic. They all-too-often overlap. I still despise how the voices that make the most noise about objectively knowing are lifted far above subjective enjoyment. This isn’t to say that some people aren’t legitimate experts in things, but it’s how they’re viewed that sometimes bothers me. Then again, do I have a figurative leg to stand on in this discussion if I too am partially doing it for recognition?

I wonder how much people worry about whether they’re correct, or what they’re about to say before putting it out into the ether. Do they worry about “getting it right” like I do? Are they ever concerned that their opinion is silly or meaningless? These are things I worry about before every post, and it ties into the perfectionism that, for a while, kept me from blogging at all because nothing was good enough. If you’re going to do something, anything, wouldn’t you want to be the best at it?

Anime blogging is weird and, at this point in time, almost archaic. If I was doing it solely for the attention, I would have moved to YouTube ages ago. Yet I still want attention. It’s not all that serious, and perhaps ultimately meaningless, but I still am driven to write and sometimes I don’t know why.

Thank you for reading. It actually does mean a lot.

4 comments

  1. “I wonder how much people worry about whether they’re correct, or what they’re about to say before putting it out into the ether. Do they worry about “getting it right” like I do? Are they ever concerned that their opinion is silly or meaningless? These are things I worry about before every post, and it ties into the perfectionism that, for a while, kept me from blogging at all because nothing was good enough. If you’re going to do something, anything, wouldn’t you want to be the best at it?”

    BIG MOOD

  2. I don’t know if I can relate, sadly. I guess I can only share my feelings on the matter: I am perfectly confident in what I say and think about anime individually and generally. That’s not to say I can’t be wrong but I welcome the chance to be proven as such. And, again, not to say any one is necessarily “right” or “wrong”. Everyone’s opinion is as valid as one another. However, that doesn’t change that there has to be basis for why one person thinks the way they do and why they believe they’re right within the context of the subject.

    Even if you’re able to prove your opinion has more basis as to why it makes more sense it does not automatically make an anime “bad” unless the argument, in question, is a massive/core part of the anime and even then it depends on other variables of subjective scale. And EVEN if you feel that it does prove the anime is bad… It doesn’t mean you can’t still like it. Liking a bad anime is just a way more healthy relationship than hooking up with a drunk 30s leather-jacket wearin’ boomer having a mid-life crisis. I love watching Fairy Tail despite it consistently having glaring issues EVERY episode and it’ll make the exact same mistakes several episodes in a row; it’s just pure hilarity every time and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

    So, I don’t believe in any sort of “authority”. Just idols and mentors. Like anything else anime is a way-of-life. A versatile bag that is light to the casual viewer and heavy on those who’re willing to invest in it. And if you need help with the load there are those who know more about its contents that you can learn from.

  3. Emily, your essays mean a lot to me too, I love your insights. I rank you higher than Digibro. You are very thoughtful, articulate and concise… but you have a big plus, you kept your fan’s heart intact. When someone becomes an “(anime) journalist”, “(anime) critic”, “(anime) influencer”, much of that heart is lost. The same enthusiasm over something so trivial as anime, as foolish as it might seem… it’s sharing embers with strangers in the cold. It’s that bit of warmth and light that gets us through. Please never lose this innocence.

    What the future might hold for you, your heart knows. The writer is ready. I wonder what might grab your attention next, Emily, we will be waiting and cheering for you.

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