A beginner’s guide to losing your mind — the musings of a neurotic anime fan

Letter from the Editor is both a departure from the usual type of story published here and a return to form. You can think of it as a text version of a podcast. I know what you’re about to say — “This motherfucker thinks he invented blogging!” What I mean is that I wrote this with the same approach I use for extemporaneous speech but took the time to edit it afterward.

Similar to a podcast, this is not intended to be consumed in one session. At nearly 6000 words, it would take most people about 20 minutes to read. That is why I’m providing a table of contents with a summary of each section.

  1. My misguided pursuit of happiness by way of anime journalism
    An introspective essay on why I write about anime and the goals of this column.
  2. Where are the demons? Bring on the pain!
    This is the newsroom. This week’s topics include anime conventions risking closure, transphobic union-busters, offensively low wages for translators, cosplay copyright laws, and — ugh — Redo of Healer.
  3. You must be new here
    A look at the unprovoked hostility that anime fans show each other in online spaces.
  4. An unlikely addition to a dwindling collection
    A humorous story about my first anime purchase in over a year.
  5. The seasonal anime roundup
    A series of unorganized thoughts about the seasonal anime I’m watching. Shows that come up are EX-ARM, Otherside Picnic, Yashahime: Half-demon Princess, Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Skate-Leading Stars, and World Egg Priority, and Suppose a Kid From the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town.
  6. “Reborn” by Ryoko Aoyagi
    Last call! Finish your drink and get out of here.

My misguided pursuit of happiness by way of anime journalism

Writing is making me anxious. When I sit down to work, I’m overwhelmed with dread. Each sentence becomes a battle. Don’t use that word. That phrase is cliché. This headline is too generic. Using a word more than once in the same paragraph makes you sound like an idiot.

Everything I write feels homogenous and uninspired. How is it possible that I can watch four episodes of a show and struggle to convey my thoughts beyond “I liked this; it was good”?

I’ve been able to ignore this feeling for a while, chalking it up to being out of practice. However, the feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing only intensified the more I wrote. After three months of churning out boring news posts and editing contributor stories — trying to compete with websites I’ll never catch up to — I lost the plot.

GONZO.MOE was created because I was upset with the state of anime journalism. Now that I was falling into the same trappings, I had no one to blame but myself. People weren’t sharing my stories anymore because they weren’t worth sharing.

Traffic was increasing, but that’s only because there were more things to click on. Engagement was at an all-time low. My writing was no longer evoking the response I desired. Even if it were, it wouldn’t mean anything if I wasn’t happy. The party was over. What I was doing was no longer sustainable.

I considered giving up — leaving GONZO.MOE to burn in the pile of my failed attempts to be relevant in the anime community. This would have been the most efficient way to resolve the stress I was feeling. However, it wouldn’t have solved my problem.

Instead of taking the easy way out, I decided to take some time off to refocus and identify what I was trying to achieve. Do I truly enjoy writing, or am I just bored? Do I really want a team, or do I enjoy control?

What I realized is that I desperately miss podcasting. Written journalism is something that has always interested me, but speaking is my preferred format. If anime morning show host were a job, I would have had it by now. In some ways, I already did; I just didn’t get paid.

For a brief time in 2015, I hosted a live daily anime podcast on YouTube called Super Happy America Morning. It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had talking about anime. If it weren’t for the fact that my work schedule got in the way, I would still be doing it.

It was a strange premise with a limited demographic. There aren’t many people willing to tune into a daily anime podcast at 7am, but I still managed to attract a small audience each day. For a handful of people, I became part of their morning routine. I gave them a reason to get out of bed on time instead of hitting the snooze button.

The format was simple. I just talked about whatever happened in the news the day before. It was Last Night This Morning with Gary Piano. How I managed to stretch that to 45 minutes every day is anyone’s guess.

The goal of this column is to rekindle that passion. I want to write, but I’m tired of putting arbitrary restrictions on myself. Show me in the style guide the rule stating that I can’t talk about news and review something in the same article. If I only have two things to say about a show I’m watching, that’s all I’m going to say.

I’ve spent so much time stressing about word count and thesis statements that I stopped having fun. That’s what GONOZ.MOE is supposed to be about. If I’m not having fun, what’s the point?

Where are the demons? Bring on the pain!

Longtime followers of my shenanigans will recognize this phrase as the clip I would play before the news segment on my old podcast. Not the morning show — my very first podcast. It’s from Episode 3 of Rune Soldier, an only okay spinoff of Record of Lodoss War. I’m not sure why I chose it back then, but I will forever associate it with anime news.


With how poorly the United States is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that anime conventions have begun canceling their 2021 dates. Anime Detour, the convention that inspired me to host Anime Lockdown, was the first I noticed; however, AnimeCons.com lists 12 others, including Sakura-Con and Anime Milwaukee.

Choosing not to hold an anime convention during a pandemic may be the right choice from an ethical standpoint, but it’s not a decision that organizers can afford to take lightly. Many of these events are bound by multi-year contracts that require a minimum guarantee for the venue. Without a government-mandated ban on large gatherings, there’s little preventing the venues from enforcing these terms.

A large percentage of conventions make just enough money to cover their operating costs. Missing two years of revenue is not something most conventions can afford to do. When discussing the option of canceling the Providence Anime Conference over lack of badge sales, Co-Founder Patrick Delahanty said it was “actually less expensive to hold the convention even if nobody showed up than to cancel [their] contracts.”

This is the unfortunate reality for Otakon. Last Thursday, Otakorp, Inc. President Brooke Zerrlaut said in their newsletter that “in the next few months [they] will have to make a decision to continue planning for Otakon 2021, or potentially close [their] doors forever.”

COVID-19 shed light on the numerous cracks in our way of life. Most people can’t afford health care. Our employers put more value on productivity and profit margins than the safety of their workforce. A startling percentage of people choose to believe in conspiracy theories at the risk of their own lives. What I didn’t expect to learn is that an anime convention that regularly attracts 25,000 attendees is effectively living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Otakon risking permanent closure is a big problem — and not just because it’s one of my favorite conventions. If one of the largest anime conventions in the US can fail this easily, it almost guarantees the smaller shows will follow suit. If they do manage to survive, the business model needs to change moving forward.

The volunteer-run, non-profit way of doing things is honorable, but it’s not sustainable. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the larger cons are bailed out by anime companies. These events may have the purest of intentions, but you can’t ignore the fact that they double as mass marketing campaigns where fans do all of the work for free.

Look no further than the Dealer’s Room at Otakon or Anime NYC for proof. It’s a small city, and the only reason it exists is to sell you something. If the big anime conventions shut down for good, fans would survive. Anime companies, on the other hand, would lose a crucial revenue stream.

Otakon will probably be alright. They’re big enough that raising the money they need to cover the cost of canceling should be easy. Holding a convention of their size is still too risky. If smaller conventions like Anime Detour can do the right thing and wait another year, so can Otakon.

In other bad news, this week brought us two unsettling stories about labor. First up is Toei Animation refusing to cooperate with the Precariat Union, citing that the trans union representative handling the negotiations used a fake name on their paperwork.

I’ve seen people suggest that a legal name change would resolve the issue. Talk about missing the point. This isn’t about a lawyer concerned with a non-legal name potentially invalidating the contract. This is about people in power dehumanizing their employees. We are commodities to them, and they will stop at nothing to avoid paying us more, even if it means violating our identities.

So that was a lie.

Not to be outdone by Toei’s inhumane labor practices, manga localization company MediaBang was called out for offering a starting wage of $1/page to their translators. Instead of disputing this claim, they doubled down with the “you knew what you were getting yourself into” argument. This excuse is bullshit because it preys on newer translators that don’t know any better and veteran translators that may not have the leverage to negotiate a higher rate.

In lighter but still troubling news, Japanese lawmakers are discussing whether cosplayers who generate income violate copyright law.

Cosplay is an important part of fan culture that should theoretically be protected by fair use. Most people that dress up are doing so as a celebration of their favorite characters. They aren’t doing it to make money. However, with the advent of social media and services like Patreon and OnlyFans, it’s becoming more commonplace for people to monetize their cosplay.

There’s no easy answer to this problem. It would be incredibly shitty for companies to attempt to collect damages from independent creators. Most would be forced to settle out of court to avoid drowning in legal costs.

However, there is an argument for protecting your brand. I don’t read or watch Jujutsu Kaisen because I have difficulty dissociating the series from its former translator, Stefan Koza. Ever since Koza was arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography, it’s the only thing I can think of when I see a picture of Kento Nanami.

I’m sure it’s a good series, but I just can’t.

Lastly, someone famous for writing a series of rape fetish novels is unsurprisingly unable to take no for an answer. Redo of Healer author, Rui Tsukiyo, revealed on Twitter that when he tried to publish his light novel in English, it was “refused by an overseas publisher.” He is encouraging English speaking fans to reach out to localization companies and ask them to change their minds. Irony is dead.

You must be new here

Despite actively participating in anime fandom for nearly 20 years, I often feel like an outsider in my own community. I’m never up to date with the latest trends, and I struggle to memorize obscure trivia. My knowledge of Gundam is limited to knowing that Yasuhiro Imagawa put a sombrero on a robot. Everything I can tell you about Neon Genesis Evangelion’s plot I learned from the YouTube video “MICHAEL BAY’S EVANGELION.”

This otherness that I feel is mostly self-inflicted. I’ve never been pushed away for not being a sentient anime encyclopedia. That’s because gatekeeping is often rooted in hatred towards marginalized groups. Spend enough time online and you’ll find people claiming that women only pretend to watch anime for attention or that black people should only cosplay black characters.

As a straight white male, my love of anime will seldom be called into question. That’s why it caught me off guard when it actually happened, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it bothered me as much as it did.

Where does this attitude come from? Why are members of geek communities so readily hostile towards strangers? Being an asshole has become a personality type. For some, it’s a brand.

Harassing each other over anime preferences has been monetized. YouTube personalities will conduct keyword searches and instigate fights with strangers. The sole purpose for this is so they can make highlight reels documenting how “triggered” people are about the topic of the week.

There’s a sense of depersonalization that comes with being in front of a computer screen. Because the people you’re talking to aren’t in front of you, they don’t feel real. That’s why it’s easy to hate them. Social media has inadvertently normalized sociopathic behavior. Sympathy is lost in online spaces, which only furthers to enable the problem. It’s the internet — what did you expect?

Some people are born cruel, and others are radicalized, but I’m not only talking about sadists and GameGate. Social media rewards obsession, narcissism, insincerity, and insensitivity — and we often don’t notice until it’s too late. We laugh at pranks on YouTube and TikTok, but the reality is that many of these “jokes” are people assaulting strangers?

It’s not only immoral people that act this way. Those who believe themselves to be just fall prey to this behavior, as well. Too often, I witness someone with a massive following publicly shaming a child over something benign. We join together in laughter. We share the tweet and move on our with our lives like nothing happened, never considering the consequences of our actions.

It doesn’t matter if Jimmy is wrong about Sailor Moon. He’s 12-years-old, and now 10,000 people are making fun of him. Dunking on someone’s bad take may seem harmless, but an experience like that can have lasting effects.

Deprogramming these tendencies can be difficult. The avatars on your timeline are real people with real feelings, and sometimes we need to be reminded of this. It’s also important to consider the power dynamic. Making a joke about a politician is different than making a joke about someone with 10 followers.

We aren’t saving lives when we watch My Hero Academia. No one is going to die if someone prefers to call it Boku no Hero Academia. Someone disliking your favorite show or having a different interpretation of the story is okay. It’s just anime, and the only experience that matters is your own.

Social media is a wonderful thing. It unites people from niche communities in ways that were once impossible. The entire world now fits in the palm of your hand, but god damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

An unlikely addition to a dwindling collection

When I moved to New York in 2017, I stopped buying anime. I don’t mean that I started pirating everything, only that I converted my viewing habits to a digital-only paradigm. My new living space was barely 1/6 of what I was used to in Minneapolis, which meant that I had to part with my home media collection.

Over a thousand anime discs and VHS tapes. Several dozen volumes of manga. A never-ending stack of anime magazines. Two decades’ worth of collecting, gone in an instant. Fortunately, more anime is available streaming than a person can watch in their lifetime, so the effect of this transition was only physical.

Streaming anime apps were a game-changer for me. Not only did it solve the problem of minimal real estate for my collection, but it reduced the financial investment involved in watching a show to almost nothing. I no longer had to worry about wasting money on something I didn’t like. If a show wasn’t doing it for me midway through the first episode – no big deal.

Turn it off. Watch something else.

It also made it easier for me to jump from show to show, something my ADHD demands during most viewing sessions. I work unusually long hours at my job, so my free time is precious. No longer having to deal with disc switching and unskippable menus shortened the time between episodes of different shows from minutes to seconds, allowing me to watch more anime.

The rush of serotonin that results from opening a new boxset can’t be denied. The sound of the Right Stuf branded cardboard packaging being torn apart. The way that light reflects off the glossy cover art. The excitement of successfully removing that pesky security tag in one move. It’s a feeling like no other. However, I still find myself opting to stream the series I own. Those boxsets collect dust on my shelf.

In spite of this behavior, the urge to buy anime when its put in front of me remains strong. That is probably why most of my recent purchases have been at anime conventions. This also explains why it’s been over a year since the last time I bought anything.

Because of the limited space I have, more thought goes into each purchase. Have I seen this before? Is it something I will actually watch? Does this title have sentimental value? These are questions that I ask myself when deciding to buy anime now. Almost as if each title must pass a test before I open my wallet.

Prior to last month, the last two shows that passed this test were Gurren Lagann and Cowboy Bebop — two series of great importance to me. The same cannot be said of my most recent purchase. All semblance of order and any system of checks and balances was tossed aside when, without a modicum of deliberation, I added Ninja Scroll The Series and Beast Fighter The Apocalypse to my Right Stuf shopping cart.

I can’t blame impulse either, because I did this more than once. Due to a complication with my debit card that arose from someone trying to steal my identity, I had to cancel my order and resubmit so I could pay with PayPal instead. During this experience, I learned that Right Stuf uses the Boogiepop Phantom soundtrack for their on-hold music. An unimportant detail in this story but still cool.

Something I didn’t learn during this experience is when to cut my losses and turn back. I still don’t have a good reason for why I resubmitted my order. An argument can be made for Ninja Scroll. The movie was the first anime DVD I had ever purchased and nearly my first DVD of any kind — beaten only by Boogeymen: The Killer Compilation and The Slim Shady Show.

I regret to inform you that Boogeymen is not a feature film starring “the scariest boogeymen to appear on film.” It’s a virtual museum full of trailers and trivia. I did not know that when I bought it.

Ninja Scroll has an important place in my history as a fan, setting the stage for my taste for years to come. I still have that DVD, as well as the Blu-ray release that Sentai Filmworks put out in 2012. I’d never seen the series, always avoiding it because I heard it wasn’t good. Discotek Media’s 2020 reissue was finally the kick in the ass I needed to investigate this claim for myself.

However, I didn’t wake up that morning with the urge to buy Ninja Scroll The Series. In fact, Ninja Scroll was the impulse purchase. I only added it to my cart to meet the minimum requirement for free shipping — something I didn’t qualify for in the end because when I resubmitted my order, I separated it into two orders on account of BoBoBo-Bo Bo-BoBo being out of stock.

Beast Fighter The Apocalypse is what brought me to Right Stuf that afternoon. It’s an obscure series from 2003 based on a manga by Ken Ishikawa that I learned about after half-listening to the Anime World Order review. Seeing the DVD cover, which is a picture of a shirtless man with wings and what I assume is a bear’s head instead of abs, was enough to solidify my purchase

I’m not sure I understand why they made a Ninja Scroll TV series. I’d always heard that the film performed poorly in Japan. That’s why we never got a sequel. Maybe it was produced with an American audience in mind like with Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

So far, Ninja Scroll The Series is a poor imitation of the film I love. I’m at the halfway point, and I still don’t really know what’s going on. It has the core parts of Ninja Scroll down — Jubei fights weird ninjas with superpowers — but the execution is lacking. It’s also full of weird allusions to Trigun, possibly due to Takahiro Yoshimatsu being the character designer for both shows.

Ninja Scroll The Series (left) and Trigun (right) character comparison. I refuse to believe this was a coincidence.

When the late Zac Bertschy reviewed Ninja Scroll The Series in 2005, he remarked that it was obvious that “a lot of money was dumped into this production.” Ultimately, our opinions align in that we both agree that this show is so ridiculous that you can’t help but enjoy it. However, if this was considered high budget when it came out, it may be time to clean my rose-tinted glasses.

While the world Ninja Scroll is a strange one, it’s honestly pretty tame when compared to Beast Fighter The Apocalypse, which is a torrent of incomprehensibility.

The hero of Beast Fighter, Shinichi, can shoot lions out of his hand and does so with alarming regularity. This, of course, is so he can fend off the many and varied dinosaur people who wish to take his life.

Beast Fighter is the kind of show where the surreality of it sneaks up on you. It lures you into a false sense of security with awkward dialog and a cheery soundtrack. Once your guard is down, that’s when a talking dinosaur gores a homeless child to death.

There’s no turning back after something like that happens. You begin to notice all the biblical references. Is Shinichi going to fight God? Is he God? Why did only part of Japan experience the apocalypse? Why does that dinosaur have tits?

I’m only three episodes in, but I get the impression that Beast Fighter The Apocalypse is not concerned with answering those questions. I’m okay with that.

The seasonal anime roundup

It seems like I’m the only person not gleefully riding the Egg Train. World Egg Priority has my Twitter timeline on fire each week. I get it. It’s a beautiful show, but the story continues to put me in a state of discomfort.

As if it wasn’t obvious enough, I’ve struggled with mental illness and existential panic for the better part of my life. So watching everyone get excited for the new episode of the suicide show rubs me the wrong way.

The audience reaction reminds me of when I left work early one day and went straight to the doctor because I was suffering from a crippling episode of depression and anxiety. My boss did his best to understand, but I knew he didn’t get it. He attempted to comfort me by saying, “I know what it’s like to be sad sometimes. You’ll feel better tomorrow.” He suggested that a night out with The Boys might help.

World Egg Priority has yet to convince me that it can handle its subject matter with the delicacy it requires. So far, it feels like it’s heading towards a redemption arc for people that bullied others into suicide, and I’m just not here for that.

Speaking of shows with an uncomfortable premise, I watched more Redo of Healer. Why did I watch the second episode? Why are other people watching it? I understand there’s a certain subsection of people watching it in protest against an imaginary SJW boogieman. They want Redo of Healer to be as gross and offending as possible.

However, most of the second episode is censored. Anything even remotely sexual is obscured by darkness or played offscreen. Presumably, Sentai Filmworks will put the uncut version on home video, but most people will have moved on by then. My heart goes out to the voice actors who will inevitably have to dub this nightmare.

Dr. Stone still fucks. Not that I was worried. Dr. Stone is special to me for the same reason Weather Report Girl is special to me. The first season reminded me of why I love anime. To paraphrase Senku, it got me excited.

I was in a rut. My job was killing me. Every workday was 16 hours long, and the turnaround was short enough that I was lucky to get five hours of sleep between most shifts. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to watch anime. I didn’t want to do anything. I just drank and complained.

I found Dr. Stone during a rare night where I actually had time to have fun before bed. My job that week was out of town, so I was in a hotel with my laptop as the only form of entertainment. Dr. Stone caught my attention because of Senku’s ridiculous hair. It was my first anime in nearly half a year.

Senku looks like if Farfetch’d was a person.

I’ve made a concerted effort not to read the manga. This type of story works really as an anime, so I want it to keep surprising me each week. We’re three episodes into the second season and it’s maintained the momentum of the first, so I expect that to keep happening.

Science class bored me in high school, so I would have never imagined finding a series like Dr. Stone so entertaining. I’m definitely not retaining any of the lessons it’s trying to teach me, but I’m having a blast watching Senku and his team puzzle their way through the post-apocalypse.

Skate-Leading Stars is a show I didn’t think I would still be watching after everything else premiered. I’m still not convinced I’ll make it to the end, but the premise of “but seriously — fuck that guy” still makes me chuckle.

Continuing with the trend of “fuck that guy,” I’m also watching Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation. Rudy is not a good person. He’s a good mage, but he’s a garbage human being.

You can try to handwave some of his behavior because he was bullied his entire life. I probably wouldn’t be very nice either if everyone treated me like shit. However, that doesn’t excuse his pedophilic tendencies and inability to understand basic consent. Every time that bastard opens his mouth, it brings the narrative to a halt. It’s the moments in-between that keeps me coming back.

The sequence in Episode 1 where Rudy learns how to cast water magic is an excellent example of how to tell a compelling story with a simple premise and minimal dialog. It’s like watching a short film.

His struggle with social anxiety is also something that I relate to, so it’s gratifying to see him work through those issues. So why the fuck does the writer have to ruin everything by having him sexually assault every friend he makes‽

Rudy’s obscene tendencies aren’t even necessarily what bothers me about the series. Yes, I don’t want to watch a show about a sex-crazed child, but people will write whatever they want to write. Stories that I find personally offensive will always exist. I can always choose not to engage with them.

What I don’t understand is why the writer chose to characterize Rudy in this way. He could still be a lame 40-year-old reborn as a kid without being a creep. The horny parts (to put it lightly) of Jobless Reincarnation always feel out of place in an otherwise competent fantasy story.

Rudy could just be chilling and practicing his magic and then walk in on someone masturbating in the hallway. For no reason. It doesn’t make sense in the context of the scene. It’s never brought up again. It just happens, and we move on.

His parents are also always aggressively fucking off-camera. Why?

Is it too much to ask for a non-NSFW show about a kid disrupting the system with unprecedented magical power and mending the relationship between humans and elf people? Statistically, that kid probably jerks off once and a while, but we don’t need to write a whole chapter about it. I would say that scenes like this hold the series back, but Jobless Reincarnation is one of the most popular light novels of all time, so fuck me, I guess.

Note: Episode 4 of Jobless Reincarnation had not been released when I wrote this. I will discuss the problematic elements of that episode next time.

I’ve watched four episodes of Otherside Picnic, and I still don’t know how to put words to my feelings about it. The first episode was unusual and disquieting. It only featured two characters, and I found that fun. It almost felt like an experiment in storytelling.

I’m not familiar with its source material, but I get the vibe that it’s more sinister than it’s leading on. It feels like it’s exploring many of the same ideas as World Egg Priority, but in a more subtle way. Characters are battling with grief and codependence, and many of the monsters they fight seem to represent something that they don’t like about themselves.

Yasahhime: Half-demon Princess is a case study in how to fuck up a well-known property and get away with it. It didn’t bother me so much when they started doing Yokai-of-the-Week. Inuyasha used this formula to great success, but those demons ostensibly served a purpose. They were fighting on behalf of Naraku, intending to steal Inuyasha and Kagome’s jewel shards.

The enemies that the heroes in Yashahime face are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’re unrelated to the plot and defeated with ease, so there’s never any tension. My biggest problem is that they sprinkle plot-relevant information during seemingly unimportant moments, so the execution always feels weightless.

After 13 episodes of generic nonsense, your attention begins to waver. When they finally reveal the identity of the demon responsible for causing the fire that separated Towa and Setsuna as children, you don’t care anymore.

The episode — subtlely titled “The One Behind the Forest Fire” — had me too distracted by the fact that the arsonist was an incel and a pedophile to consider the implications of what he did in the past. It turns out that it doesn’t matter because this information has no impact on the plot moving forward. He also kills himself after the big reveal, eliminating any opportunity for our heroes to get revenge.

There’s also the part about Rin being Sesshomaru’s wife. It’s gross, but I’m not as bothered by it as the rest of the internet. We all knew she was the mom when the Yashahime was announced. It doesn’t make it okay, but I think people are upset because they convinced themselves that it wasn’t possible.

Some people hoped that Kagura would be their mother instead, which doesn’t make sense because Towa and Setsuna are half-demons. Sesshomaru is a demon, so his partner would have to be human. She also died in Inuyasha!

Considering Yashahime is uninterested in exploring any of the other plot threads it’s presented, it’s curious that they didn’t leave their mother’s identity a mystery. It’s almost as if they’re trying to hurt us on purpose.

One of the funnier moments last week came from EX-ARM when they censored a kiss between two women. While some initially speculated that this was due to homophobia, a more likely explanation is that the animators were unable to animate two characters kissing. They weren’t censoring the kiss; they were censoring their ineptitude.

God, this show is a fucking mess.

What’s the terminal velocity of someone launching themselves into an aggressive public blowjob? Suppose a Kid From the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town attempted to answer that question in Episode 3. It left me wondering what this show could possible do next.

I don’t know what to tell you.

The answer was to conclude a storyline that would take most light novel adaptations an entire season. A lot of anime has trouble with pacing, so this is a welcoming approach. Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World – took so long to get to the point that I had to give up. Last Dungeon Boonies, on the other hand, adapted the entire first light novel in four episodes. It really goes to show just how light these novels are when it comes to the story.

“Reborn” by Ryoko Aoyagi

If you’ve listened to any podcast that I’ve produced in the last 12 years, there’s a near-100 chance that it closed with me talking over the ending theme from the first season of Grappler Baki. Because that’s trickier to accomplish in this format, I’m going to need you to pick up some slack and cue the music yourself.

This has been one of the most intensive pieces I’ve ever written. It’s nearly 30 double-spaced pages long in Microsoft Word when using Times New Roman at 12-point font. That’s three times the length of the final paper I had to write for a 400-level clinical psychology class. It’s also the most fun I’ve had writing in years.

It’s a big ask to expect someone to read a sub-6000 word anime article, so I’m a little concerned that no one will. I did my best to keep things interesting by covering a wide variety of topics and breaking them up into more digestible sections.

If you read it all — or even just a chunk — I would appreciate it if you left a comment letting me know what you thought. It’s okay if we disagree. My goal was to spark discussion. I also want to know if anyone survives climbing this ridiculous anime mountain.

I want to make this column a regular thing. It probably won’t always be this long, but I’m not making any promises. So until next time…

Gary Piano
GONZO.MOE Editor-in-chief

When satire doesn’t feel satirical — a critical look at the humor of Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!

Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! is dangerously close to being my first anime. It was fifth or sixth on a list of recommendations from a friend. Five of us — four relatively inexperienced in anime and one veteran — decided to watch anime together once a week.

As one of the newbies, I was excited to watch pretty much anything after falling in love with our first few shows. So here I am, on my friend’s couch as Konosuba’s opening rolls, and it introduces us to the main character. Five episodes later, I realized I was in the wrong universe.  

What immediately struck me is that Aqua doesn’t wear underwear. I thought it would be temporary, so I gave it a pass and chalked it up to the weird overly-sexualized way that anime often portrays women. However, her lack of panties persisted throughout the show. As the night dragged on, Konosuba quickly felt longer than it’s 10-episode runtime.

Our “heroes” are useless. Kazuma Sato, the lead, seems only to possess the ability to steal underwear. Aqua, for being an all-powerful deity, is beyond inept. Darkness, the masochist paladin, feels uncomfortable as a recurring character. Finally, the archwizard Megumin is drastically underwhelming and overhyped.

After 234 excruciating minutes, the other anime newbies and I finished the season with a mixture of disgust, confusion, and disenfranchisement. Later, the veteran anime watcher asked me how I liked it, and I broke it to them that I disliked it. Quite a bit, actually. It made me uncomfortable, and I found it almost offensive. 

“What do you mean? It’s satire.”

I was stunned. I had no idea that Konsuba was supposed to be satire. All I could see was the overdone JRPG party setup, the trite missions, the excessive fanservice, the shut-in main character, the lack of real relationships, and the thick coats of plot armor. Surely the community didn’t think that Konosuba was a good anime, right?

I couldn’t be more wrong. Konosuba is a big hit — popular in the community and rated highly by its fans. Since this conflict between the community at large and myself happened, I have spent more time than I care to admit rewatching it and thinking about why it doesn’t sell as satire — marking a paradox in the show’s mission and perception. 

We need to start by separating satire and comedy. Comedy is trying to be funny — pure and simple. If your cheeks don’t hurt after watching a comedy, you are left wondering why you didn’t watch two overpowered guys smack the shit out of each other instead. Entertainment is essentially the only goal.

Satire, on the other hand, is purposeful beyond its entertainment value. We seek change through satire. We all know the difference. We may roll our eyes at Saturday Night Live’s cringy skits, but they aren’t just trying to make simpletons giggle after work. They serve to comment on the world around us.

Satire is a form of frustration and an attempt to embarrass its subject with pointed jabs. If Konosuba is going to share the room with things like A Modest Proposal or Pride and Prejudice, it needs to be held to the goal that satirists worldwide strive for — to comment on the industry and push for change. 

Konosuba is undeniably popular, and I see it consistently recommended to new viewers. Yet, for being a self-proclaimed piece of satire, we don’t see it moving the ticker away from the stereotypes it claims to lampoon. I would venture to say that it functions more like an introduction to the tropes that reaffirm an outsider’s perception of anime. When the conclusion drawn by new viewers is nowhere near the point the author is supposedly making, the mark is missed, and the satirical medium fails.

That isn’t to say that satire needs to be immediately accessible. I regularly read classic works and have to put them down because I don’t understand them. However, fifty or more anime later, and Konosuba has gained zero satirical value for me.

Why is that?

It’s because Konosuba is one of the most egregious offenders of almost every anime trope. It does such a poor job of mocking the isekai genre that it inadvertently becomes what it claims to hate. Therefore, it can no longer be considered satirical. Part of satire is actually getting your point across. How can we say that Konosuba is getting the point across when they keep producing more of it? Clearly, the target audience isn’t in on the joke.

The answer is simple. Satire has a point to get across. Comedy has a story to tell. If a single season/manga/light novel cannot get the point across, the point was bad. If your audience doesn’t get it, even with an abundance of context, the point was bad. I would keep going, but this point doesn’t need a second season. 

In addition to its unapologetic performance of tropes, Konosuba shows us that satire is not the priority through how it’s marketed. It only takes a quick skim of their Twitter to see that the merchandise they advertise is largely posters and figurines of women scantily clad in bunny suits, wrapping ribbons, and bikinis.

If I was any wiser, I might think that they were capitalizing on a community that doesn’t care whether it’s intended to be satirical or not but instead loves the sexual and comedic elements. But surely, this is also satire — like when George Orwell sold Soviet flags on the Facebook marketplace to promote Animal Farm

Besides its advertising and merchandise, how they portray their characters also lacks any satirical value. Just a week before I wrote this, they made a post out about Kazuma tripping over a rock. I can hear the furious mustache twisting of armchair critics on my shoulder saying, “Why, Marshal, it’s obviously satire because heroes aren’t supposed to trip on rocks.”

Well, mustache twisters, where is the satire? Ironic? Perhaps. Funny? Situational. Purposeful? Not in the slightest.

Their Twitter runs like every other isekai Twitter. If this is supposed to be satire, there should be cheeky allusions and digs at other shows, established and otherwise. But it doesn’t do this. That is because Konosuba is just another paint-by-numbers isekai that follows the tropes of a stand-alone work. Simple, comedic, and without the satire it claims to have, it is purposeless beyond entertainment. 

Let’s put the jokes aside for a moment — arguments like this matter. Anime is a passion, and the community treats it like one. People invest their lives, their money, and their time to identify with the medium. If we care so much, we need to insist that the anime, the people who create it, and the community that watches it stop lying about a show’s true nature.

The popularity of Konosuba alone warrants that we look critically at its message and how its creators hold themselves. Hiding behind the guise of satire is cheap and intellectually dishonest. It is okay to love the show. It is not okay for the show to hide behind something it isn’t. 

The Super-Serious Totally Unbiased 2020 GONZO.MOE Anime Awards

I know what you’re thinking? I can feel the sidelong glance from the other side of the internet. What gives us the authority to hold our own anime awards? As if GONZO.MOE is some omnipotent arbiter of good taste.

Relax. I just wanted to write about the anime I watched this year and gave the article a superlative headline. Nothing is stopping you from doing it, too. There are no laws when drinking Claws.

Let me make something very clear. These are strictly my opinions. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the GONZO.MOE staff as a whole. I wrote these categories and chose the winners without consulting them. The only exceptions to this are the “Best Live-Action Manga Adaptation” and “Dokkoida?! Best Anime of All-Time” categories provided by Luna Hollenbeck.

I implore you not to take the winners too seriously. They are only based on the anime that I watched this year, not everything that was released. I encourage you to share your picks for the winners in the comments.

Alright! Thumbs up! Let’s do this!

Anime I Didn’t Expect to Like — Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is not a show I would normally watch. I chose it during my morning commute as part of a 5G test on my new iPhone (nice humblebrag, ass). Watching new anime on the subway is always a gamble. The last thing I need is to get caught looking at giant anime tits. Then again, I live in New York — someone is probably jerking off on the other side of the train car.

On the surface, this is just another isekai show — except that it kind of isn’t. The main character, Yuna, is just playing a video game in her apartment — she’s not even trapped in it. In fact, she stops playing mid-episode at one point.

The reason Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is so fun is right in the title — bears. Everything Yuna does is bear-themed. It’s dumb as hell, but I laugh every time. I’m sure it will get old eventually, but for now, I’m eagerly awaiting the next season.

Anime the Internet Was Wrong About — Akudama Drive

This award category is a cop-out. I only saw one person on Twitter say that Akudama Drive was going to be bad, and boy, were they wrong.

The setup for this show is so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but fall in love. A young woman is arrested for the crime of not being able to pay for food. Not content rotting away in prison for the rest of her life, she does what any person would do in her situation — she breaks out and joins an elite gang of criminals and robs a train.

If there’s one thing that Akudama Drive is guilty of, it’s being too awesome. It’s hyper-stylized with a breakneck pace. There’s tons of action and neon everywhere. If that’s not your thing, you probably weren’t watching it anyway.

Biggest Disappointment — Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon

Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon has been a real bummer. After a promising start, it hasn’t done anything exceptional in over a month. It’s almost like the writers gave up.

Inuyasha took some time to get going, but they established an end-goal in the second episode. Yashahime is following a similar demon-of-the-week formula but without a purpose. Ostensibly, they’re going to fight something called the Dream Butterfly, but it rarely comes up in conversation.

There’s also some dickhole named Kirinmaru that keeps trying to steal these magic pearls from our heroes’ eyes, but he’s not doing a good job at it. He’s also so forgettable that I had to look his name up on Wikipedia.

Best Twist — Deca-Dence

Admittedly, I haven’t finished Deca-Dence, but that’s okay, because this award is for the first two episodes.

Don’t worry; I won’t spoil the surprise. All I will say is that when I started watching the second episode, I clicked out of it because I thought I accidentally selected the wrong show.

I haven’t experienced that feeling since I rented Kite Liberator from Netflix.

Most Squandered Potential — ID: Invaded

I know what you’re thinking — isn’t this category the same as “Biggest Disappointment?” Kind of, but my disappointment with ID: Invaded is more nuanced than my disappointment in Yashahime.

Yashahime is the sequel to a behemoth of a series. It has a pedigree to live up to. Yashahime couldn’t afford to fuck around, and it did. ID: Invaded is a show with a cool premise that I watched on a Tuesday.

The world of ID: Invaded has a serial killer epidemic, almost like they’re being created in a factory (wink). It’s such a problem that a device was invented that allows people to astral project into the killer’s subconscious minds so detectives could hunt for clues to stop them. The catch is that you need to be a serial killer to use the device.

ID: Invaded thrives in its episodic content. Once it transitions to a longer-form narrative, it drops the ball. The big reveal feels rushed and without logic. Maybe things would have been different with more episodes.

Best Anime Called Baki — Baki

2020 was the year that Grappler Baki finally got the respect it deserved. I’ve been screaming about how awesome this series is for over 12 years and no one believed me. Sure, some people saw the light when it was rebooted in 2018, but the Great Raitai Tournament Saga is when I started to notice a shift in popularity.

People like to say that violence never solves anything. Those people are cowards. Do you have a fractured relationship with your father as a result of him murdering everyone you love? Have you tried punching him until he respects you? Infected with an incurable Japanese death poison? No problem — you can punch it out of your system.

The characters in Baki are not concerned with making sense, only punching. After lying dormant for over 17 years, Grappler Baki became one of Netflix’s best performing anime titles. With how well it’s doing, maybe we’ll get a better adaptation of the first manga.

Biggest WTF Moment — Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train

This category is more about the success of the film than its content. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train — a sequel to a run-of-the-mill shonen action show — became the highest-grossing film of all-time in Japan and the fifth highest-grossing film of 2020. During a freaking pandemic!

Mugen Train broke so many records, so quickly that I had to see what the fuss was about. I powered through the 26-episode anime in a quest to understand. The series left me underwhelmed, but my determination did not yield. The movie doesn’t come out in the US until next year, so I was left with no choice but to learn Japanese and fly to Japan to see the film. Yeah, they’ll believe that.

I don’t know what to tell you. And I won’t tell you, because you can’t watch it yet. If you like the show, you’ll like the movie. This is fortunate because you have to watch it if you want to complete the story. That’s probably why it’s doing so well. It’s the next canon arc of the series.

It’s anyone’s guess why Ufotable decided to make a movie instead of another season, but it paid off. It should be interesting to see what their next move is.

Best Live-Action Manga Adaptation — Alice in Borderland

Alice in Borderland is a major hit across the globe. It’s about a dude named Arisu who gets teleported into an empty world that resembles Tokyo. In order to get home, he needs to compete in a series of life or death games.

Most of the cast resembles characters from Alice in Wonderland. It also features a transwoman, which is rare for a TV show. It’s faithful to the original manga and was just renewed for a second season, which will likely cover the rest of the manga.

Biggest Controversy — Interspecies Reviewer

If you logged onto Twitter the day Funimation pulled Interspecies Reviewers from their catalog, you would have thought something much more serious what going on. Did John Ledford bankrupt another anime company? Did Vic Mignogna sue someone else? Is anime illegal now?

I’m not saying that I agree with their decision, but things could have been worse. Funimation could have censored their release, but they didn’t. They just said “We changed our mind. This one isn’t for us.” They aren’t trying to cancel horny anime in the US. Interspecies Reviewers ran into similar problems in Japan.

By the end of the year, Right Stuff Anime announced that they had picked up the series for release through their Critical Mass label. That should be the end of it, right? Not a chance. People will use this moment as evidence for conspiracy theories for years to come.

Dumbest Controversy — Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out

If the Interspecies Reviewers controversy wasn’t dumb enough for you, just wait until you hear what happened with Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out. With updates from Vic Mignogna’s lawsuit drying up, drama channels on YouTube were desperate for the next big story.

Somehow they landed on Uzaki-chan, an only okay ecchi comedy. The roots of this controversy can be traced to 2019, when women in Japan raised concerns with Red Cross Japan using the titular, Hana Uzaki, to attract blood donors. They claimed that using an over-sexualized character like Uzaki wasn’t appropriate in this context.

When it was announced that Uzaki was getting her own show, drama channels assumed that the same people would be furious. Except that they weren’t. No one cared. What resulted was a dozen people making videos about how mad people were going to be and how Funimation might censor their simulcast (they didn’t).

The series also sparked a debate about whether 5’0″ tall adult women with large breasts exist (they do) and whether Uzaki-chan was a child (she’s not).

The peak of this mountain of misinformation was when Monica Rial was cast as Uzaki in the dub. Once again, people claimed that Funimation was going to censor their release (once again, they did not).

Best Boy — Inosuke Hashibira from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train

Mugen Train translates to Infinite Train in English. It’s the perfect title for a 2-hour film. As someone with an aggressively short attention span, I felt every minute of those two hours. Fortunately, my boy Inosuke Hashibara was there to make it easier. His many and varied hot-blooded diatribes, combined with his incredulity regarding train technology, was undoubtedly the highlight of the film for me.

Best Girl — Moroha from Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon

Yashahime may not be living up to expectations, but that could be because there isn’t enough Moraha. It wasn’t long before people noticed the correlation between the quality of an episode and the amount of screen time given to Moroha.

While Towa and Setsuna are busy trying to find the Dream Butterfly or whatever, Moroha is focused on what really matters — food and money. Whoever decided that the sequel to Inuyasha should be about Sesshomaru’s dumb kids should be launched from a catapult.

Worst Boy — Muhammad Alai Jr. from Baki

Keisuke Itagaki must really hate Muhammed Ali Jr because his counterpart in the Baki-verse is the worst guy. Alai Jr. juggles his short time in the series between getting kicked in the balls and being a fuck boy. I swear there were five episodes of him trying to fuck Baki’s girlfriend and her being too nice to blow him off. For the son of a legendary fighter, you think he’d be more perceptive.

Worst Girl — Hana Uzaki from Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out

You don’t have to believe me, but this choice had nothing to do with the controversy. I like Hana Uzaki’s character design. If she were a real person, she’d be my forever WCW. The problem is that she’s a bad person.

I don’t care how kawaii you are. If you can’t respect personal boundaries, we’re going to have a problem. I had difficulty getting into Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out because she is the only one that wants to hang out.

All Shinichi Sakurai wants is to be left alone. He gets used to Uzaki forcing herself into his plans over time, but he shouldn’t have to. Maybe she learns some chill by the end of the season, but I didn’t stick around to find out.

Dokkoida?! Best Anime of All-Time — Dokkoida?!

Obviously, the winner is Dokkoida?! If you disagree, it means you haven’t seen it. It’s about a bunch of superheroes and super-villains who live in the same apartment complex. What’s not to love?

Most Fun — Appare Ranman

Appare Ranman is one of the most over-the-top things I’ve watched in a long time. It’s anime as fuck and doesn’t apologize for it. The character designs are so outlandish it makes Yu-Gi-Oh! look like Mr. Tonegawa: Middle Management Blues. What’s that red stuff on Appare’s mouth? Who cares? It doesn’t matter, and it’s never addressed.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you tried to drive from California to New York in a steam-powered boat that was converted into a car? No? Too bad, because that what we’re doing.

This would have been a contender for “Anime of the Year” if it wasn’t for the abrupt tonal shift partway through. They made it work, but I wish they would have stayed on track with the racing storyline.

Best Anime from Another Year — Reign the Conquerer

Reign the Conquerer is about Alexander the Great’s rise to power during the Hellenistic Age. Most of the story revolves around the Battle of Issus while Alexander dodges various assassination attempts. If this anime came out today, it would be an isekai and Alexander would be a tsundere with enormous breasts.

But because it came out in the 90s, he’s a hideously lanky dude with his junk hanging out.

Reign has had a bad rap in the US ever since it replaced Inuyasha on Adult Swim in February 2003. This is partially because “How dare they!” and partially because of Peter Chung’s freakish character designs.

As I got older, I couldn’t help but wonder if Reign was actually a good show. Maybe I was just too narrow-minded back then. This year, I finally watched it after holding onto a DVD rip (relax, this show is long out of print) for over a decade.

While the artwork still took some getting used to, I found the unsettling designs reinforced the tone of the series. Alexander is a bad dude, but I couldn’t help but cheer him on as he rode his man-eating horse into battle. It was also fun watching the writers play with the narrative structure, with entire acts taking place inside of Alexander’s mind.

It’s really too bad this didn’t get another season.

Anime of the Year — Great Pretender

Part of why I enjoyed Great Pretender so much is that it caught me by surprise. Due to it’s staggered release in the US, I didn’t know it existed until it was on Netflix. It was like The Anime Fairy came to my door and said, “You remember 91 Days? Well, Hiro Kaburagi directed a new show, and you can watch it right now.”

On the surface, it’s a standard heist series. Each arc features a team of con artists stealing millions of dollars from rich dirtbags. It’s kind of like an anime version of Leverage, but without the computer hacking and alcoholism. It’s a story that’s been done a thousand times, so even though the narrative hits its beat with grace, if that’s all it did, we wouldn’t’ be talking about it right now. Where it really shines is its presentation.

Great Pretender keeps things fresh with an explosively vibrant color palette and a diverse approach to storytelling. When I first turned on the dub, I was confused. The characters were still speaking Japanese. Did I make a mistake? When they leave Japan for America, they start speaking English. Whoa.

This trend continues throughout the series as our heroes travel around the world, conning anyone stupid enough to fall for their tricks. It’s rare to get an anime with such a melting pot of character backgrounds and settings. The only shows I can think of that come close are Cowboy Bebop and Black Lagoon.

Kaburagi credits Netflix’s deep pockets as the reason he was able to experiment and tell an international story. It reminds me of the 80s OVA boom, where it was common for a creative team to be given a bunch of money and told they could make whatever they want.

Do I want every anime to be like Great Pretender? Of course not. But after nearly 20 years of watching anime, it’s nice to get a show where they didn’t have to worry about the budget and just made something fun.

We did it!

Hot damn! 2020 was quite the year. Even with the world working against us, we still got an overload of great anime. It really is a testament to the creative talent that drives the industry.

Remember, just because I gave something an award that doesn’t mean that I’m right. If we agree on any of the categories, that’s awesome. If not, please let me know what your choices are in the comments.

It’s complicated — my relationship with Toonami, the anime gateway drug for a generation

Toonami, the legendary after-school programming block, launched on March 17, 1997. It was hosted by Moltar from Space Ghost and featured episodes of ThunderCats, Cartoon Roulette, Voltron, and The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest. Jason DeMarco and Sean Akins were in their 20s when they pitched the idea to Cartoon Network using a mashup of skateboarding clips, giant robots, and bootleg footage of Dragon Ball Z.

Despite anime being in the initial pitch, it wasn’t always part of the schedule. Toonami needed to prove itself first with content already owned by Cartoon Network. A year later, DeMarco and Akin were given the green light to acquire broadcast rights for Robotech and Sailor Moon. However, it wasn’t until August 31, 1998, that anime had what DeMarco refers to as the “Big Bang.” That’s when Toonami debuted The Ocean Group’s dub of Dragon Ball Z.

The importance of Toonami can’t be stressed enough. It was the anime gateway drug for the majority of fans of my generation. We may not have known that we were watching anime at the time, but we found out soon enough. 

Toonami became the reason to rush home after high school. Rurouni Kenshin was on 30 minutes after the final bell, and I didn’t want to miss it. My friend Kirsten and I could hang out over the weekend instead.

They moved the block to Saturday in 2004, a year before I graduated. I was not happy with this change, but it makes sense when I think about it now. The Toonami generation was getting older. We had jobs now. We didn’t have time to watch Mobile Fighter G Gundam after class anymore. The anime they were airing was also starting to get too violent for a weekday slot.

After an impressive 11-year run, Toonami was canceled on September 20, 2008, due to poor ratings. While I mourned the loss, it had been several years since I tuned in. I still loved anime, but between working full-time delivering pizza and playing shows with my band every weekend, I was usually busy during the broadcast.

Things had also changed too much. The schedule kept getting shorter, and the programming became less diverse. My beloved block had been gutted and turned into the Naruto Power Hour.

Fortunately, I had a regular income at this point and didn’t have to rely on TV for my anime fix anymore. I could just buy the DVDs. High-speed internet was also becoming more widely available, which led to the rise in popularity of downloading fansubs.

But Toonami wasn’t gone for long.

On April 1, 2012, Adult Swim revived the programming block as an April Fool’s Day prank. I was running a panel at the Minneapolis anime convention Anime Detour when the news broke online. 

After two months of people spamming #BringBackToonami on Twitter, Toonami was reimagined as a Saturday night block on May 26, 2012. Devoted fans organized weekly hashtag campaigns during the broadcast. Getting Toonami trending on Twitter helped bring it back, so they wanted to keep it trending to ensure it stayed.

While I was happy for them, the cult-like fervor was exhausting to deal with. For years my timeline would be flooded each Saturday with Toonami related hashtags. Sites like Toonami Faithful continue to encourage this behavior by reporting on the trends.

Things might have been different if I was watching along with everybody, but my work schedule continued to make it difficult. It’s been eight years since Toonami came back, and even though I have weekends off at my current job, I’m still not watching.

Something just doesn’t feel right. It almost feels too late to reconcile. Cartoon Network broke up with me as an anime fan in 2008. That moment is at the top of my list of Anime’s Greatest Betrayals. Why should I take them back now when I’ve already moved on? Sure, they’re playing good shows again, but I can’t get the sour taste out of my mouth.

It doesn’t help that Toonami currently runs from 12:00am – 3:30am. What’s the point? I’m not staying up that late to watch anime I can stream on my iPad during my commute to work.

At the same time, I feel bad not supporting something so critical to my becoming a fan. In an attempt to make sense of these conflicting feelings, I started watching Toonami again. Not for the whole lineup, but for whatever was on when I remembered to tune in. Maybe seeing T.O.M. introduce the latest Fire Force episode would trigger some nostalgia, and I could make peace with what happened.

That’s when I learned something about myself that I should have known all along. I was never a Toonami kid to begin with; Adult Swim was my anime gateway drug.

My family didn’t get cable until 2003. Cartoon Network was a treat that I only got to partake in when we visited my grandparents, so it was exciting to finally have it at home. So exciting that it was the only channel I watched for weeks.

That’s how I found Adult Swim. The logo in the corner was confounding. Apparently, the concept of a branded programming block eluded me when I was 15. I thought I left my TV on Cartoon Network. Why does that say Adult Swim? If this archive of the schedule is correct, it was February 5, 2003.

That was the day I became an anime fan.

Inuyasha was playing when I turned on the TV. It was the first episode, and I’d only missed the opening scene. Yu Yu Hakusho was on next. While it wasn’t the first episode, it was the beginning of a new arc — Beasts of Maze Castle. To round out the night was “My Funny Valentine,” the episode of Cowboy Bebop that tells Faye’s origin story. I couldn’t ask for a better anime entry point.

The unique art style and non-American character names had me captivated. I went to bed having no clue what I had watched, but I knew I needed more. I spent the next day searching frantically online for more information. My unfamiliarity with Japanese made it difficult to remember the names of what I had watched. They were part of something called Adult Swim, I think — maybe I’ll try searching that.

Found it!

This is what Adult Swim’s website looked like on February 7, 2003 (Source: Wayback Machine)

Once I learned that what I was watching was anime, there was no hope for me. I immediately became obsessed, and my timing couldn’t have been better. It was the Golden Age of Anime on TV. Adult Swim was playing new anime every night. I actually found out about Toonami through Adult Swim when Yu Yu Hakusho changed time-slots.

Toonami was okay, but Adult Swim had more and better anime. It was hard to beat Adult Swim when they had heavy hitters like FLCL, Trigun, Paranoia Agent, and Samurai Champloo. By comparison, I usually skipped the first hour of Toonami which played SD Gundam or Justice League.

And let’s not forget about Tech TV’s Anime Unleashed block that aired at the same time as Adult Swim. They had serious bangers like Boogiepop Phantom, Serial Experiments Lain, and Last Exile. Each night I had to make a difficult choice — do I watch Reign the Conqueror or Gungrave? It was like the fucking console wars for anime on TV.

Then something happened.

Just like with Toonami, the anime started to disappear from Adult Swim. Ratings weren’t what they used to be, and I remember hearing that management changed at Cartoon Network. I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is that they stopped spending money licensing anime and started making their own shows. It was probably the right call for business, but it still burned.

My break from Adult Swim echos my break from Toonami — real life happened. Instead of going straight to college after high school, I spent two years working and focusing on writing music. Moving out of my mom’s basement was more important to me than getting a degree.

I was finally able to do that after I got a job working the second shift as a janitor. The apartment was a converted office space that I shared with seven other people. We didn’t have cable, so watching Adult Swim or Toonami was out of the question. Not that it mattered, they stopped playing anime anyway.


Wait a minute. That doesn’t make sense. I moved into that apartment in 2006. Toonami wasn’t canceled until 2008, and Adult Swim was showing anime until at least 2010. Sure, I didn’t have cable, but nothing was preventing me from ordering it.

It’s not like I grew out of anime either. If anything, I was at peak consumption. I watched all of Fullmetal Alchemist in five days, and there was more than one all-day Bleach session. There were two weeks where I made a point to get up early to watch Grenadier and Lamune before work. I also put episodes of Chobits and Yu Yu Hakusho on my iPod 5th Generation so that I could watch them in bed. If I wasn’t watching anime, I was listening to anime podcasts like Anime Pulse and Weekly Anime Review Podcast.

This whole time I’ve been blaming Cartoon Network for the death of anime on TV, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Cartoon Network didn’t break up with me; I broke up with Cartoon Network.

Anime on TV will probably never see another Golden Age, but that’s okay. The way people consume media has changed a lot in the 17 years I’ve been a fan. Toonami will still attract viewers with dub premieres and exclusive titles like FLCL Progressive and Alternative, but most people will still choose to watch things on-demand.

I may not be a fan of how the block is being handled, but I don’t doubt that DeMarco and Akin are doing the best they can given the circumstances. The fact that Toonami went from being canceled to producing original anime content again is pretty incredible in itself.

Anime on TV’s biggest strength will always be…that it’s on TV. It’s just on. You turn on the TV at a certain time, and it’s there. It’s how I became a fan, and it’s probably how you became a fan. That’s why things like Toonami are still important even if I’m not watching anymore. If they can only do one thing in the modern era, I hope they can still make people feel like I did in 2003 when I first discovered anime.

AnimeLog unlikely to destroy Funimation and Crunchyroll with its 360p release of Fantastic Children

“Japan’s first official anime channel on YouTube” AnimeLog opened it’s doors to the rest of the world on Friday. When the channel was first announced in August, the darker side of AniTwitter cheered. Would this finally be the death of the US anime industry?

Misinformation spread quickly. The most common claim was that anime companies in Japan were tired of American politics being inserted into English dubs. AnimeLog was their way of taking matters into their own hands. By cutting out the middleman, they could release their content directly to consumers without having to share the profit.

When the service launched with mostly classic titles for Japanese residents only, the discourse mostly faded into obscurity. Now that some titles are no longer region-locked, it’s safe to say that AnimeLog is not going to change the world.

Currently, six titles are available:

  • Ahare! Meisaku-kun
  • Hello, Anne Before Green Gables
  • Hungry Heart
  • Fantastic Children
  • The World of Golden Eggs
  • Jungle Emperor Leo

While it’s always great for more people to get access to more anime, AnimeLog in it’s current form is a mess. The landing page is an unorganized, low-effort affair that I would expect from a college student that just got into vlogging — not a partnership of 30 anime companies with financial backing.

The About section is only in Japanese, which means that non-Japanese speakers that stumble upon the channel will have no clue what its about. Episode labeling is all over the place in terms of consistency, and include multiple formatting and punctuation errors.

Video quality for some titles is laughably low. Fantastic Children, for example, has a maximum resolution of 360p. They also can’t seem to figure out how they want to implement subtitles. Some shows have subtitles burnt in, while others use YouTube’s closed caption feature. The subtitles for Fantastic Children are auto-generated and based on the dub.

Something that’s particularly funny about the narrative surrounding AnimeLog is the claim that it was created so anime companies could “own the American SJWs.” I’m going to go on a limb and say that wasn’t the case because they put a trigger warning in the summary of almost every video.

The warning reads:

This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions. However, we respect the historical value of the works and the historical background of the time when they were published, and we decided not to change against any of them. Thank you for your understanding.

This is similar to the disclaimer that Discotek put on their Blu-ray of Lupin III: The Pursuit of Harimao’s Treasure. Despite this being common practice when older titles are reprinted, some fans revolted. One person was so incensed that they issued a trigger warning for the trigger warning. You probably shouldn’t click that link.

Despite the writing on the wall, some people are still holding out hope that this is Japan’s attempt to kill off the localization companies that provide them with millions of dollars of revenue each year (because that makes sense). One commenter, Yang Wright, claims they’ve spoken with the people in charge, and they were told that the channel will eventually contain “all anime” and not just family animations and nostalgic masterpieces.”

Even if this were true, I can’t imagine a world where someone would prefer to watch anime on YouTube unless it’s their only option. The channel is clunky enough with only six titles. If they achieve their goal of 3000 titles, navigation would be a nightmare

While it’s entirely possible that some studios dislike working with overseas companies and would instead prefer to have complete control of their products, this isn’t the way to do it. The lazy implementation of AnimeLog proves what I suspected from the start — this is just a cheap and easy outlet for ad revenue. Throw a bunch of titles online that no one is interested in licensing and see what sticks. Considering what the channel looks like now, it’s anyones guess what they spent their investors money on.

AnimeLog is planning to upload 100 more titles by the end of next year. Unless they step up their game, I don’t expect them to survive that long.