“Flukes”: Competitive Rigor vs. Sustainability in Esports

The question of whether or not to stratify different groups of competitors occurs in any competitive setting, but it tends to be ground zero for debate in gaming even more than in traditional sports or fields such as Chess. For this reason, a recent tweet by veteran League of Legends and Overwatch commentator MonteCristo lamenting the lack of “pros-only” tournaments for fighting games garnered a significant backlash.

There’s one core reason for the negative response to MonteCristo: those who consider themselves part of the fighting game community tend to consider the ability for “gods” and “mortals” to meet in open competition—and for god slayers to emerge at any moment—as one of the strengths of fighting games. In particular, people latched onto the use of the word “flukes” as evidence of the esports works being afraid of “true competition.” If esports could be compared to tennis, then to the FGC a world of invitationals (and nothing else) would be akin to the pre-open era of tennis—when pros and amateurs were not allowed to compete against each other at major tournaments.

However, having followed esports for over ten years now, I’ve noticed that this seeming incongruity in values stems from a difference in what aspects of competitive gaming are prioritized. Is it about competition and camaraderie, or competition and sustainability? While the two are not wholly incompatible, the esports side has long expressed a desire for recognition, expansion into the mainstream, and eventually a reverence similar (but not necessarily identical) to traditional sports. With respect to this, figures in esports have emphasized the importance of “narratives,” and seeing how big a deal they are is very telling as to how esports tends to try and achieve sustainability.

In 2010, StarCraft II ushered in a new era in esports, and tournament circuits such as GOM Starcraft League in Korea and the US-based Major League Gaming were established to give players a chance at competition. While there were many differences in their formats—GSL participants played only a handful of matches per day over the course of weeks and months, while MLG pitted hundreds of players against each over a single weekend—both came to the table early on with a certain goal in mind: to create stars.

GSL created a distinction between the cream of the crop (Code S) and the almost-greats (Code A), where players from the latter could earn the right to be promoted to the former. However, in the first few incarnations of the GSL, it was purposely made difficult for players to fall out of Code S. Essentially, the players who performed the worst in Code S had to compete against the best of Code A in a potential changing of the guard. The number of players who dropped down to these “Up and Down Matches” was restricted, and the Code S players could still end up defeating the hopefuls from Code A and send them back down. The reason? To make sure that recognizable faces remained on camera so they could establish fanbases, and by extension garner a sense of celebrity—to be people that fans and players could remember and look up to.

This was also the reasoning behind MLG‘s seeding system for its multi-tournament season, which saw players who did well at earlier tournaments get byes into much, much later stages of later league tournaments. Going on a tear in your first tournament could pay off down the line. If a player earned a top-32 spot in one tournament, they could keep getting place into a high spot for the next, and then play just well enough to not tank out, it meant a stable spot for increased visibility.

Eventually, both GSL and MLG revised their formats to encourage less ossification of brackets and more chances for rising stars to make a name, but that still doesn’t erase the fact that their initial versions tried to create a delineation between the “Pros” and the “Joes.” Central to all of this was the idea that “good narratives draw viewers in.” What better way to encourage a good narrative than to have a consistent cast of “characters” for the audience to know and root for?

Examples of the benefits that heroes and heroic narratives provide to competition are numerous, but one that stands out in particular is the story of basketball legend Larry Bird. At the time, basketball was seen in the US as largely a “black sport,” and thus had a relatively small white audience. Larry Bird helped to change that, as could be seen from one nickname of his: the Great White Hope. Was this racist? Yes, to a degree. Did it also help pull basketball into the mainstream? Yes it did.

(Is there a comparison to be made between this example and the fact that esports vs. FGC exists along something of a similar divide in terms of racial demographics? Also yes, but that discussion will be for another time.)

Narratives do not have to be manufactured whole-cloth. Seeing an underdog defeat a champion, or watching a winner cement his place with an undefeated streak happens just from competition existing. However, in a world where visual presentation can often be confusing to those unfamiliar, presenting these bouts as being between humans with wants and desires and emotions (especially simple ones like anger) can bridge that gap. So it’s no wonder why esports organizations frequently try to control it through player perception, delineations between pros and amateurs, and so on. But one question that arises is, does setting things up so conveniently end up compromising the integrity of competition? The answer is that it can, but it largely depends on severity.

Take professional wrestling, which has been predetermined for many decades precisely because the promoters understood that most audience members cared more when the wrestlers had charisma. Famously, when a bland 1940s wrestler named George Wagner dyed his hair blond and became the arrogant and effete “Gorgeous George,” his antagonistic demeanor drew audiences in droves to see him in the hopes that they’d get to witness George getting destroyed. Pro wrestling isn’t a true athletic competition precisely because it becomes easier to control the narrative and get viewers invested.

But even in a legitimate sport like mixed martial arts, the desire for narrative can influence decisions. While the results of matches aren’t fixed, the media and advertising machine surrounding MMA are there to try and produce the best narratives they can, either by using what’s there or cooking up some controversy. That’s because they know that narratives make people care. Athletes will be brought out to drum up a sense of animosity between the two. Is it real? Is it fake? Does it matter if it sells tickets? A guy like Conor McGregor, who’s naturally antagonistic but also an amazing fighter, puts butts in seats. People are eager to see him be on either the giving or receiving end of an ass-kicking.

At the same time, leaving things to chance can be scary for those who have substantial amounts of money riding on the success of their investment. Conor McGregor is in some ways the ideal, but he also has a tendency to get himself in trouble and make the UFC look bad in the process. One can even compare those blunders to the number of players caught blurting out racial slurs onstream. Just because someone’s a winner doesn’t mean they’re a good spokesperson, especially if they have no media training and are just kids plucked out of online lobbies and given an environment to train in. When there are so many variables at play where something can go wrong—quality of the game itself, image of competitive gaming to the outside world, the perception of “nerds”—it’s understandable (though not immune to criticism) why teams, tournaments, and organizations would want to control what they can.

The divide between FGC and esports, or the perception of it, has largely to do with community vs. respectability. The former looks inwards, and believes that having a solid core, a group of passionate players who can weather any storm together through a love of competition, is paramount. The latter looks outwards, and aims to establish itself as a permanent fixture in the world, something that cannot die because it has the size and backing to keep it going forever. The two are not irreconcilable, but finding a balance (if a balance is desired at all) requires parties that can trust each other to not abandon the other side’s principles.

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Does “The Simpsons” Really Have a Problem with “The Problem with Apu?”

The Problem with Apu, a documentary by comedian Hari Kondabolu about growing up Indian with the well-known Simpsons character as the most prominent representation of his people, has been the center of a new and energized discussion about stereotypes and tokenism. Recently, an episode of The Simpsons referenced this debate, and it was criticized, including by Kondabolu himself, for being dismissive.

But the more I think about this scene, the more I’m uncertain that the writers of The Simpsons are actually opposed to Kondabolu. What I believe happened is that the writers tried to be a little too clever for their own good in trying to explain their stance.

The last scene of the episode has Marge reading Lisa a bedtime story while trying to censor all of the unsavory parts, only for Lisa to ask for everything to be kept in. She proceeds to say, “It’s hard to say,” Lisa responds, breaking the fourth wall. “Something that started decades ago, and was applauded and inoffensive, is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” She then looks at a photo of Apu, which says, “Don’t have a cow, Apu.”

Reading this one way, it seems as if Lisa is saying, “Oh well!” and that the people finding Apu “politically incorrect” are wrong. The “Don’t have a cow” can be thought of saying, “This isn’t a big deal. However, the scene, especially the use of that classic Simpsons line, sticks out to me in two important ways.

First, it’s a famous catchphrase from the earliest episodes of The Simpsons TV series originally meant to show Bart’s rebellious attitude, but is now viewed as a relic of its time. As far as I know, it hasn’t been used on the show in years except maybe ironically, and it dates any episodes in which it is used as being of the fairly distant past.

Second, it’s being attributed to Apu, a Hindu. With that in mind, the line can be interpreted differently. “Don’t have a cow” now references the fact that it is morally wrong to eat beef according to Hinduism.

Together, I believe the scene and that photo are highlighting a couple of things. For one, there are parts of The Simpsons once thought irrevocable that in hindsight had to change with the times. The “bad boy” Bart Simpson and his once-signature catchphrase have been supplanted by even more controversial characters with mouths that are far more foul. The Bart of the early 90s wouldn’t last today. The Simpsons is not as immune to cultural shifts as might be assumed for a show that’s been on TV for decades.

The Apu-Hinduism aspect touches on another consideration: cultural context changes how words and phrases are interpreted. A culture that assumes America and whiteness by default has classically resulted in The Simpsons and its particular portrayal of life, but if the presumed target was an Indian demographic all along, how might it have changed?

Together, these two points reveal to me a desire from The Simpsons to approach the criticisms brought up in The Problem with Apu with a degree of subtlety, and the issue is that The Simpsons has never been a vehicle for nuance. Sure, it’s been extremely clever, sure, and some of its humor in the past has required viewers to think a little harder, but an age of social media and the speed at which online discourse occurs means it ended up vulnerable to the harshest interpretations, with no real way to defend itself.

Being “True to Oneself” and the Necessity of Criticism

Ever since my teenage years, I’ve believed it important for nerds and geeks, otaku and gamers, to be proud of who they are. Back then, from seeing my own experience as well as that of others both online and off, it hurt me to witness people continuously talk about how they have to hide their hobbies. You’d find posts on forums of people talking about how they had to abandon their nerdy interests in order to make friends and get a significant other. And while I’m sure there are more than a few who found greater happiness this way, I could also see plenty who basically lived as frail shadows. As frivolous something like a love of RPGs or an attraction to anime girls could be, I saw it doing subtle psychological damage to those who forced themselves to abandon their passions, and I didn’t want to see people like me be hurt.

A lot of things have changed in the years since. Gaming is undoubtedly mainstream. Shows like The Big Bang Theory have, for better or worse, made the lives of nerds “hip” to watch. People needlessly worry about “fake geek girls.” One of the consequences of the prominence of geek culture is that, where once the main issue for many nerds was trying to get their voices out there, now the latent misogyny of gamer culture has become a real problem. Given this current environment, is it okay to just say, “Be confident and declare to the world that you’re proud to be who you are!” if it means that people are incentivized to harass others?

I understand that there are some generalizations I’m putting forward that are inevitably full of exceptions. Geek culture and fandoms are many-armed and camaraderie across different interests can be fractured. One does not even need to be a “social outcast” anymore to be considered an avid player of video games. Perhaps most importantly, it’s not like asking people to have confidence automatically leads to influencing people to attack others. Nevertheless, I think there is a potential path from self confidence and pride to anger towards and mistreatment of others, one that is dimly lit yet still visible upon closer observation.

To some extent, I think this wraps into the idea of variety of expression as a strength, be it in fiction or in, say, speech and dialogue. Much like freedom of speech, the difficult thing about supporting and celebrating it is that you have to accept that you can’t agree with every opinion or belief, even if you swear that it’s wrong with every fiber of your being. It is the constant potential for change that gives both art and speech strength, and for every poorly conceived anime that might exist there can also exist a work of endless wonder, broadly speaking.

That being said, criticism is necessary, and dissent towards ideas believed to be harmful should not be silenced just for the sake of variety. And I think this is where I find myself when it comes to people found in fandoms who continue to espouse racist, misogynistic ideas. I disagree vehemently with those ideas, but they are beliefs legitimately held by people, and to silence them is to build resentment. At the same time, giving them license to run their mouths and spread hate and harassment isn’t the right thing to do either. Ideally, conversations on matters such as the portrayal of male and female characters in games should happen in the open, rather than as rocks volleyed from across a chasm, but that might be wishful thinking.

I’ve increasingly thought about how wanting to make the world a better place and embracing all the beauty and ugliness of the world requires living a contradiction. However, I don’t believe that this is inherently a problem. Perhaps we try too hard to make every aspect of our life consistent, or to expect our thoughts and beliefs to line up perfectly with each other. If that’s the case, then I can continue to cheer for those who are able to express themselves, while putting more effort to guide those who I believe need it.

Approaching “Isle of Dogs” as an Asian-American Anime Fan

Wes Anderson’s Japanese cinema-inspired stop-motion film Isle of Dogs has been the subject of controversy. Accused of racism (or at the very least racial insensitivity) towards Japan and Asian cultures in general, the movie comes at a time when Hollywood has made numerous missteps in their handling of Asian-themed works, such as the casting of non-Asian Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. As an Asian-American, I initially came out of the film without feeling offended or bothered by its contents and dressing. I still do not believe it to be a nasty film, but as I’ve reflected on my experience with Isle of Dogs by way of my long history as an Asian amd an anime fan, as well as the criticisms others have written, I find that the core issue isn’t so much racism in the “hatred or marginalization of a people” variety. Instead, it’s that the exoticization of Japan in the film can leave Asian viewers feeling we’re being othered, that we’re not the “intended audience.”

As an anime fan for the past two decades, I’ve seen both the anime being produced and my own experience with them change. When I first got into it, anime was something very foreign, very different, very exotic. Compared to the cartoons I was familiar with, it did seem like a new world, made all the better by the fact that I, as an American living in the US, was not its assumed audience. While the anime industry is increasingly aware of the global market (see the whole “Cool Japan” push by the country’s government), some of that “otherness” persists, reflecting the 99% ethnically Japanese population of Japan.

For example, in many anime set outside of Japan, the main character is often still Japanese, or at least half-Japanese—as if to assure the target audience that there is a relatable point. The spacefaring Macross franchise, now decades old, reflects this tendency in its many protagonists’ names—Ichijou Hikaru, Isamu Alva Dyson, Nekki Basara, Kudou Shin, Saotome Alto, and Hayate Immelman. So when the American exchange student Tracy Walker showed up, I saw her in the same light as those Macross characters, even if she isn’t the protagonist. While I don’t agree with the notion that she’s a “white savior” character, but rather an awkward yet well-meaning character with a bit of a self-righteous savior complex, I registered her in my mind as that American audience stand-in character. However, thinking about that moment was when it clicked for me: if she’s supposed to stand in for the American viewer who’s stepping into this film ostensibly about Japan, what does her presentation say to Asian-Americans watching it? One potential interpretation: Asian-Americans are second-class Americans in the theater.

That’s not the message that Isle of Dogs communicated to me, and I think that the lack of Asian actors playing the dogs themselves isn’t too big a deal, but I can definitely see why the film’s presentation can make Asians like myself feel like strangers in our own home. By extension, I can see why non-Asians could be sensitive to what they’re seeing as affronts of cultural appropriation. The film’s decision to leave the Japanese untranslated (outside of a literal interpreter character summarizing what some of the characters say on occasion) didn’t affect me too greatly; I’m fluent in Japanese. But the decision to not subtitle them means that direct engagement with those characters is lost for the assumed audience, and for non-Japanese-fluent Asian viewers, it can potentially create a greater sense of alienation. Again, for me as an anime fan, something like “Megasaki City” isn’t offensive because it doesn’t sound too far off from “Tokyo-3” (the 3’s pronounced “three” like in English) from Neon Genesis Evangelion, but the film is rife with imagery and symbols that might end up feeling less like loving homages and more like snarky plundering if the Asian-American audience already feels like they’re being told to “stand over there.”

I’m not familiar with Wes Anderson films, so I can’t speak to his auteur style. I’m also not an expert on Kurosawa Akira, so I have only a vague sense of how Anderson references him and other Japanese filmmakers. At most I’m very familiar with Miyazaki Hayao. Within this limited personal context, my feeling is that Anderson through Isle of Dogs tries to exoticize not Japan, Japanese culture, or Japanese people, but rather the feeling of wonder and difference that he got from Japanese film and filmmakers. One of his core staff members, Nomura Kunichi, was apparently brought on specifically to help with authenticity and treating Japanese culture with respect.

Because those films are so associated with foreign interpretations and expectations of Japan, however, drawing from those sources so readily while unabashedly acknowledging them through the Japanese setting of Isle of Dogs can make audiences, such as Asian-Americans who have to deal with the challenges of being Asian-American, bristle with suspicion. Bringing up the question of cultural appropriation is important, and I think the film itself has enough teeth (no pun intended) to stand up to the doubts and concerns, but those questions should not be ignored or assumed to “not really matter.”

 

Canon vs. Fanon vs. Headcanon

“Headcanon” is an interesting term to unpack. It’s essentially an oxymoron that says, “I want to believe in how I interpret a given story over whatever the official narrative says,” making it a contradiction with a strongly postmodern bent. Headcanon, by meaning, lies outside of “canon,” but it’s also a different beast from “fanon,” which often carries a communal element.

As it has gained traction, headcanon increasingly butts heads with the other two. But while the battle of headcanon vs. canon might appear to be the more prominent fight for fans, I think what really defines much of the fandom divisions of the current age is the struggle of headcanon vs. fanon, and how this conflict plays out contributes to the extreme reactions seen in fandom online.

The creation of fanons requires two elements. First, much like headcanon, fans need to prefer some aspect of their own interpretations over something that is unsatisfying in canon by way of quality or omission. If Pokemon fanfic writers prefer a grittier world, it’s because the franchise is geared towards a kinder vision and they want something else. Second, there needs to be some kind of consensus. Not every fan needs to agree about a pairing, but enough fans must exist for a romantic coupling to gain traction, especially if it’s a dominant part of the fan discourse.

Headcanon, however, obviates the need for mutual agreement. The use of the term, though not inherently confrontational, carries with it a notion of the individual over the group. While fans might cross-pollinate ideas, it comes down to each and every fan, instead of what a community thinks.

This potentially leads not just to differing views of a work’s value, but also a disparity between what it means to be a fan and what it means to be in a fandom. Speaking from personal experience, over the years, I’ve gradually moved away from large, online communities to a closer circle of friends. Now, when I encounter “the fandom” of something, it can be like stepping into a foreign country, even down to being exposed to unfamiliar lingo. I wonder how my interpretations, headcanon or not, can differ so much from the dominant ideas in a given fandom collective.

In hindsight, this is rarely surprising. It’s uncommon for a single person to arrive at the same conclusion as a group, and even one group’s ideas will not align with another’s. A person who is truly alone, in the sense of not having others to talk to, would only have themselves to debate with. Moreover, when people form communities around a hobby, they have a high chance of bringing in like-minded peers; all the more so when fandom is a catered experience via Twitter or Tumblr.

Fanon isn’t some monolithic creature. There are multiple fanons, much like how it’s impossible to have every headcanon be exactly the same. One can even argue that a single property can have multiple canons, as long as it never fully defines which version is “official.” But the conflict between fanon and canon is generally old and fairly easy to understand. There’s what the creators say, there’s what the fans say, and even the most tightly controlled work will have moments left to interpretation. Moreover, because the Word of God, so to speak, carries a kind of authority, fanon is positioned as a kind of rebel entity.

But when the fight is headcanon vs. fanon, it’s the fanon that turns into the empire. If a lone fan wants to be accepted, they’ll have to take on enough of the assumed truths of the group, or be willing to encourage debate and disagreement. Because of how fans are so capable of tying their fandom to their personal identity and values, disagreements can hit close to home, or be seen as an affront to one’s beliefs. This is why a focus on social consciousness and progress, even though those concepts aren’t bad ones, can lead to a kind of zealousness that can create a negative image. The way a fandom thinks, even if it’s ultimately in a positive and beneficial direction, can become very hostile to outsiders, i.e. those who have not been baptized in the fires of fanon.

I think one of the major factors contributing to the ways in which headcanon, canon, and fanon clash is, likely to no one’s surprise, social media. It simultaneously allows people to connect while also in a sense isolating them from each other, while the internet itself has long been a space where beliefs, no matter how big or small, are defended seemingly to the death; one set of words vs. another. There’s no sign of it stopping any time soon, but I hope to see a greater awareness of the value of both individual and group mindsets in fandom.

Recovery of an MMO Junkie’s “Alternate NEET” and the Question of Responsibility

Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a charming anime about a romance that develops between two MMORPG players, only without the need to trap them in the game. It’s a refreshing series in many ways, with one notable reason being its portrayal of its NEET main heroine.

NEET (“Not in Education, Employment, or Training”) is originally an English term that migrated over to Japan and is one of the many terms used to describe Japanese youths as a way to admonish their lack of drive. In response to this negative image, many anime, manga, and light novels have NEET protagonists rise to the occasion, get the girl, and save the day. However, even when they’re portrayed as lovable losers who become winners in a new world, they still have that aura of initial failure about them.

However, Recovery of an MMO Junkie‘s main character, Morioka Moriko, is not portrayed as being a sad sack who never went anywhere. Prior to her becoming a NEET, she actually had a lucrative office career. While they never explicitly say why she quit, it’s implied that something about the job wore her down over time, and that she left it for her own sanity. Where other series’ NEETS are often presented as people who never even try to enter adult society, Moriko is someone who could have walked down that path but didn’t.

The reason Moriko being a former working adult is important is that NEETs, hikikomori, freeters, etc., are viewed as irresponsible and lazy, as if their lack of employment and romantic success falls squarely on their shoulders. MMO Junkie suggests that maybe there’s something wrong with the corporate and societal culture that grinds people down. It’s similar to the arguments we see about millennials, except it’s been going on in Japan for even longer.

The English title, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, can sound misleading. It’s not about an MMO player getting over her online addiction, it’s about an MMO player using an MMO for self-therapy to help her recover her life. When she worked, it was her nightly reprieve. When the job became too much for her, she needed more extensive healing. Even adults need time to recuperate mentally and emotionally.

10 Years After: Ogiue Maniax 10th Anniversary

10 years. What kind of fool keeps blogging about anime for an entire decade? It’s a milestone, but not the end of the journey. Still, looking back on my time here, there’s a lot to reflect on. That’s why I’m devoting this celebratory post to writing a not-so-brief history of Ogiue Maniax.

The Birth of Ogiue Maniax

Back in 2006, I had already been interacting with my fellow anime fans online for years. Long, essay-style forum posts were the norm in my communities, and it was just fun to read and write them. However naively, it felt like we were pushing critical thinking about anime and manga. However, the spaces in which I wrote began to dry up, or saw a new generation of moderators too afraid of what outsiders thought, shrinking beneath the judgment of their peers. I wanted a place where I could write what was on my mind.

At first, I didn’t think to start my own blog, and tried my hand as a “guest contributor,” a charitable term for “asked friends if I could post stuff to their sites.” The otaku news blog Heisei Democracy agreed to post an odd essay I had originally wrote for class, titled “Moe as Commodity”-—perhaps more relevant a topic today than ever before. Shiro, who ran the blog Toward Our Memories, offered me a chance to write about Gurren-Lagann and its connections to giant robots of years past. It was thanks to these opportunities that I thought maybe, just maybe, I could go off on my own.

I did not write the first anime blog, of course. The “scene” was well established when I started, with many more cropping up alongside my own. However, as I began to write in those early days, I noticed a tendency for other bloggers to slow down. Sometimes it had to do with real life—something I understand more than ever 10 years later. But in other cases, I heard a common refrain that there simply wasn’t enough to write about. Too many anime were too similar. Yeah, there’s some good stuff, but how much is much is out there, really?

I saw this as a challenge. I truly believed that there was always something worth writing about when it came to Japanese pop culture, and I wanted to see if I could keep it up. My ideal was to publish at least one post, long or short, once a day for seven days a week. It was an odd thing to get stubborn about, looking back.

While I’m no longer writing every single day of the week (I simply don’t have that amount of time or mental energy to devote to Ogiue Maniax), I think I’ve kept the flame of that original desire alive. Sure, I’ve sometimes talked about things that aren’t strictly anime or manga—esports theory, fandom and politics, and mahjong—but I see those topics as an extension of how I’ve grown as a writer, scholar, and human being. Anime isn’t isolated from the rest of the world, and even the decision to draw back and “heal” through media interaction carries effects and consequences.

Blogging as Blessing

Reaching a greater level critical thinking and expressing it through Ogiue Maniax is itself the product of the good fortune that has come from blogging. Back when I first started to gain some traction among online fans, I actually ran into one reader named Erin. At the time, she and her boyfriend (now husband) Noah had their own anime podcast called Ninja Consultant. While I’m naturally introverted and loathed the act of networking, meeting Erin and Noah was enormously beneficial. I didn’t even really consider it networking; it was just meeting new people. That encounter helped set me on a path to working various media jobs over the next few years, and was a catalyst for positivity in my life.

Not long after, I met through my blogging the woman who would one day become my wife. While writing Ogiue Maniax had been beneficial for a number of reasons, I never considered myself a particularly good writer. I just saw myself as someone who wanted to think more deeply about entertainment and media, with the blog being the conduit through which my thoughts are shared. But my wife helped foster in me an unusual, unfamiliar feeling: confidence. She told me that my ability to make complex and difficult ideas accessible and comprehensible to a wider audience was an admirable skill that reflected both my writing ability and my outlook on life. Last year, I decided to take a Harry Potter Sorting Hat test online and it put me in Hufflepuff, the school focused on humanity and providing opportunities for all. In hindsight, it makes sense.

Eventually, this led me to actually living abroad in Europe and taking my academic interest in manga and anime to the next level. For four years, I poured hours and hours of research into manga to an extent I didn’t even think possible, and it filled both my waking hours and my dreams. Even during this time, however, I still blogged. I looked at all that Ogiue Maniax had allowed me to achieve, and I loved the site too much to want to abandon it, even if might have preserved my sanity more effectively. This is the point at which I had to dial back my daily posts into something more manageable: two to three entries per week. Even with the reduced schedule, the constant swirling of ideas and readings and attempts to articulate labyrinthine thought processes brought about a change in Ogiue Maniax. I found myself compelled to delve deeper into my musings on anime and manga as it relates to not just pop culture or subcultures, but human culture in general. It forever changed the way I approach Ogiue Maniax for the better (at least in my opinion).

A Measured Success

More recently, I started my Patreon, and I make a modest amount every month. It’s not enough to make a living, but it supplements my existing income quite nicely. I’ve never had the largest readership around, and it’s even declined as anime blogging itself has dropped off. The Ogiue Maniax path is certainly not what you should try if your goal is to make writing your career, but I think my modicum of success is a reflection that I’ve held onto those core beliefs that originally fueled this blog at its inception even as I, the anime industry, fandom, and the world have changed. More than ever, I believe that there’s always something worth saying about anime and manga, and I hope that I’m able to inspire others to think the same as well.

Focused practice is supposedly the ideal way to improve a skill; knowing your weaknesses and drilling them into strengths is how one should approach the honing of a craft. I did no such thing. I brute forced it by making myself adhere to a schedule and making myself put out something—anything—on a regular basis. While I don’t always produce the best-edited pieces (a string of typos over the years can attest to that), I like to think that it’s made me unafraid of putting my thoughts and feelings out there in the world. Courage is a flower that needs to be nurtured.

Shout-Outs

Seeing as Thanksgiving is around the corner, I’d like to express my gratitude to the following:

Kio Shimoku: Although I know you’ll never read this, thank you for creating Genshiken. It’s been an inspiration in more ways than one, and has helped me grow as a human being. キオ先生は多分読まないけれど、本当に先生の事、感謝します。『げんしけん』のお陰で人として成長しました。

My fellow Genshiken fans: Whether early on in the blog’s life, or later as I did my chapter reviews, I’ve received much love for my Genshiken musings. Thank you for reading.

MrShadowAnt: My friend for many, many years, you were one of the first people I could truly nerd out with. Thank you.

6th Floor: There are fewer times I look back on more fondly than those afternoons and lunches spent playing games, talking anime, and just being friends. I believe those conversations became a major cornerstone of how I approach the world and my writing. Thank you.

Alain: Thank you, Al, for being someone to bounce ideas off of, and for providing a measured perspective on things.

Anime World Order: To Daryl, Gerald, and Clarissa, thank you for providing a template for how to talk about anime and manga while being entertaining and informative. You’re one of the reasons I even considered starting Ogiue Maniax at all.

Arco: When I think of ridiculously long posts, I think of you. Thank you for writing.

Jeff Lawson: Although you’ve long since left the aniblogging game, thank you for linking to Ogiue Maniax way back. It was the first boost in views I ever got, and I consider it a major cornerstone in the blog’s history.

Shiro: When I first felt that itch to blog about anime, you were one of the first to give me a platform to tackle my ideas. Thank you for providing me that opportunity. That Gurren-Lagann post became one of the two pivotal moments that prompted me to start Ogiue Maniax.

Shingo: Thank you, Shingo. I wrote the article “Moe as Commodity” many years ago at this point, and I think it stands as a precursor to what Ogiue Maniax would become. Also, I want to give an even more personal thank-you for showing me around Akihabara in 2005. I still haven’t forgotten!

Johnny Trovato: Thank you for believing in me and my Patreon more than anyone. I look forward to your requests every month.

Dave Cabrera: It’s funny how we met years before seeing each other in person without realizing it. You’re definitely one of the funniest writers I know, and as you strive to get out there and make yourself known, it inspires me to push ahead. Thank you, and Rosa GIgantor forever.

Veef: Thank you for being an ally in measured mecha fandom, eager for dialogue and civil even in disagreement. I always look forward to podcasting with you.

Patz: Another robot ally, thank you for helping to show the world that robot fans can be more than their stereotypes. Let’s do more con panels together.

KRansom: Whether we’re working together professionally or just for fun, it’s always great to get your thoughts on goings-on in Japanese pop culture and scholarship. People still read the Nausicaa article we translated. Thank you.

David Brothers: We first met on a fighting game forum, but at some point I began to see you not just as a friend, but also as a writer whose strength of voice and desire to do good in the world was something to aspire to. Thank you for making me want to better myself.

Divine: Thank you for having my back in the Netherlands. I do not underestimate how much it helped to have a familiar face abroad.

My friends and colleagues in Europe: Thank you for challenging me and pushing me to improve how I construct and express ideas.

Mitch: I know life has you busy, but I’m still grateful for when you’d take the time to catch any typos in my posts. Thank you.

Erin and Noah: Thank you for reaching out to me. I still owe you a lunch or dinner or something.

Ed Chavez: You’re still the smartest person I’ve ever known when it comes to manga, and I value our conversations. It’s always a pleasure to pick your brain. Thank you.

My wife: You saw something special in me, and encouraged me to recognize it. We’ve been through some interesting times together. Thank you.