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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Three Things William Zinsser Taught Me About Anime Blogging

I expected, after reading William Zinsser's incredibly helpful On Writing Well, to learn a thing or two about writing non-fiction. That's what the book was written for, after all. What I did not expect were tips on anime blogging.

"But he didn't even mention anime!", those dear readers of mine who have actually read Zinsser's book might say. Well, yes, he didn't. But he did talk about reviewing the popular arts, and last time I checked, anime falls under that category with film, television, and books.
Note: I'm not saying these should be absolute rules about anime blogging, since everyone blogs their own way. And some of them are more refresher points than brand new revelations. But these are pointers that can be helpful to the process. Although you might think this post rather rich of me since I do not blog anime as often as others ...

She's probably watching Kuroko's Basketball.
1. Appreciate what's past, love what's coming up.
Yeah, you can review Madoka Magica without watching Sailor Moon or Card Captor Sakura or Utena. And you can review Gundam 00 without watching Wing or 008th MS Team or Seed. And you can definitely review a Studio Ghibli film without having seen all the ones before it. But that doesn't mean you can just vastly underestimate the importance of what has come before.
I'm not saying you have to watch every anime ever made. That's insane; anime is just too huge a medium, sub-genres inside of sub-genres, and quite frankly no one has time for that. But every genre, every director, every studio has their respective oeuvre and when you pluck one work out for review, you're plucking it out of a time line of works still in progress, each work impacting the one after it. It's nice to acknowledge that in your review, somehow.
Plus, don't automatically discount an upcoming work just because it's new. Every new anime is potentially bringing something new to the medium. I'd rather be excited about new things coming out every season that permanently dour about the state of anime. Yes, even if its moeblob nonsense. Hey - I did unironically enjoy NakaImo in the end, didn't I?
2. Don't give away the whole story.
Not pictured: that scene where [redacted] does [redacted].
When Toonami recently aired the Akira film, there were people who had never seen it before. Please, contain your surprise. No, seriously, when my Anime Connection radio co-host told me that it would be his first time watching Akira, my jaw nearly hit the floor. But did I immediately spill out the bulk of the story to him? Nope. Because I didn't want to steal from him the thrill of watching it with a pretty open mind, or with a open mind as possible in an age of cultural references in every medium.
So imagine if I wrote a review of the Akira film and gave away every major plot twist and nuance in my post. Imagine if I did that with any anime series. You could still watch the series - but the surprise would be gone, and you'd be expecting every twist I'd already told you about. You can probably give a good summary of the story in one paragraph and make it intriguing enough without giving the whole plot away.
Unless it doesn't have a plot. In which case, I can't really help you.
Note: this does not really apply to reviewing a series episode by episode. I expect that people reading a review of Bleach's 300th episode knows what is going on and probably watched the episode being talked about. Slap a spoiler warning on it if you want and leave it be.

3. Stand by your opinion or don't state it at all.
Anime blogging is a contemptuous business. People will disagree with you every day, whether you hate their favorite anime or love their least favorite anime or just say something that simply doesn't jive with their own way of thinking. And you know what? It doesn't matter. You can't change everyone's mind and that shouldn't be the point of your anime blogging.
YOU TELL THEM, random Reddit meme.
If you're gonna express an opinion, stand by it 100%. If you're gonna pussyfoot about it with 'maybe' and 'perhaps' and 'I think', then don't do it. I know I'm guilty of this several times a week, and it's a bad habit I need to get rid of. Especially with 'you think' - it's your blog, of course it's what you think. That should be a given!
So yes, the beginning half of the Saiyuki manga has mediocre storytelling. NakaImo is not a terrible series, and it's a lot better than a series that is pretentious and takes itself way too seriously (Guilty Crown, sup). Yoko Kanno's discography is way more diverse than Yuki Kajiura but they are both equally talented. Viz Media's IKKI is the best English language manga imprint you're not reading.
Be frank, be open, be honest. And yes, be polite about it - but if you're gonna stir shit in the anime blogosphere, at least stand by your immense shit stirring and own it.

All right. What things about anime blogging have you learned during these recent years?