Imagine Fourteen Balls on the Edge of a Cliff: Ogiue Maniax 14th Anniversary

14 years is a strange milestone—it almost doesn’t feel like one. As the date approach, I kept wondering what would I even talk about. Then came the death of disgraced Something Awful founder, Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka. I never knew the man, but I definitely knew his site, and as I reflected on it and my earliest days blogging, I came to a realization.

If not for Something Awful, I might have never started Ogiue Maniax. 

I never contributed directly to Something Awful, nor would I say that it gave anything directly to me, but I found a community of fellow anime fans through various unofficial offshoots of the site. Chatting and posting among them were some of the early bloggers and podcasters who helped inspire me to start blogging myself—in my 10th anniversary post back in 2017, I thanked numerous people, and more than a few of them I came to know through these communities. For that, I have to be thankful in some part.

Many words have been written these past few days about how Something Awful’s complicated legacy defined much of the standards of internet humor and discourse we see today. In terms of the good, my favorites include the disastrous video game attempt known as The Zybourne Clock and the man who tried and failed to hike across America, both of which were kneecapped by unbelievable amounts of hubris. 

But while the big achievements and the major consequences are more visible, I can’t help thinking about the ironic combination of personal authenticity and endless posturing that defined interactions on that site and its descendants. It’s been a very long time since I looked at Something Awful on a regular basis, and a major part of my walking away was the frustrating degree to which posters there would become increasingly afraid of their own shadows, too eager and desperate to chase the crumbs of a specific kind of “respectability” that would provide at least a moment of respite from endless mockery. Irony was both the sword and the shield, and I assume that’s still the case today, given how the responses to Lowtax’s death turned out.

Something Awful’s community liked to create scapegoats to make its users feel safe and superior. Anime fans were one such group, with furries getting arguably the worst of it. It’s very easy to slip into these mentalities as well, and in hindsight, the fact that the furry community ended up being famous for encouraging inclusive behavior without allowing bigotry to permeate its ranks makes me reflect on how wrong Something Awful got it as a whole.

Even then, the joy of seeing people genuinely communicating their likes and dislikes at length despite an often-caustic environment—a scenario common to more than just Something Awful—made me appreciate when such discussions could occur. Even if someone vehemently hated a particular series, I appreciated when it didn’t come from trying to maintain a position of specific standards of taste one was supposed to have. Part of what motivated my blogging in those early days of Ogiue Maniax was the desire to present myself authentically, and while I hope I’ve changed for the better 14 years later, I’d like to think that desire is still there.

I also find myself reflecting on the fact that writing and communicating in a “real” way is a challenge for so many, and I think about those toxic environments that have and still exist where the toxicity is, in part, a product of defensiveness. Evangelion talks about the “hedgehog’s dilemma,” and so much of the nastier parts of the internet 20 years ago through today is influenced by the degree to which people are afraid to get hurt and expose themselves. In fact, I think many of the problems of today related to discrimination and communities rooted in fascism comes from people taking advantage of those vulnerabilities I mentioned, exploiting the hurt of people to a foul end. Funnily enough, absolute intolerance for Nazis has become a common trait between furries and Something Awful.

I still wish to write and share with little pretense, and I hope that comes across in what I still do. Next year is the 15th year of Ogiue Maniax, and I hope to see you there.