5:55 PM on 11.14.2012

Dear Japanator,

What do you lack: brains, guts, or both?

If you need at least six figures to count your unique visitors per month, then congratulations! You’re a major anime blog! Many anime blogs are only read by maybe dozens of people, many of them anime bloggers themselves. But not you! You sure must have something interesting to say. I mean, would all those people come to your site if you had nothing but trite pablum? Let’s take a look:

Annotated anime is a lot like Random Curiosity, only with fewer pictures and somehow even less opinion about the episodes. Japanator at least doesn’t try to get a separate post out of each episode, but this is really the bare minimum of an episodic post. One image and an episode summary and maybe a line or two of opinion. Is... is that it? Really? I can get episode summaries off of Wikipedia, and I can get barebones “it’s good/it’s bad” statements anywhere. Am I supposed to put more value behind that because it comes from someone on a byline instead of just some random username? That seems flimsy, so there must be something else that makes your opinions especially relevant, right?

Of course! You do reviews! This must be what you’re saving up all your opinion spouting for, right? Let’s take your latest review of Shakugan no Shana. Your two grafs above the jump are just fluff. You could skip right over them and miss nothing about the show. And then two grafs after that are all plot summary. Oh. Okay. I still don’t know anything you thought about the show even though we’re four grafs in, but sure, let’s keep going.

The next graf is the teensiest bit of opinion about a seiyuu’s performance, a summary of character relations covered in the thin veneer that they’re generally good since they’re “the thing that makes Shana work so well.” Well, at least you never elaborated on why that’s so. Unless you thought just describing the relationships counted as an explanation. But come on, nobody could be that naive, right?

The next graf and the concluding graf have more vague opinions with no explanation, all largely just “it’s good/it’s bad” in more verbose form. It’s a whole lot of words to say a whole lot of nothing. And review’s over.

You have something else, right? Is this really what people come here for? Just to look for a review that echoes their own opinions without offering any substance? Ha. Ha ha. No! That couldn’t be!

Oh, of course! You have pictures of scantily clad idols! And each images on its own page, too. Just think of the ad impressions. So you have opinions that could be expressed in fewer characters than a Tweet allows and PG-13 Sankaku Complex style posts. But where the effort really shines is when you post YouTube videos and images you grabbed off of Pixiv. Not just anyone can do that. You have to be able to both copy and paste. Throw in random offbeat Japan and otaku related stories that you’ve aggregated, and that’s it! That’s Japanator!

So why? Is it that you cannot do better, or that you are afraid going for something beyond these pandering, lowest common denominator posts will cost you readers and upset daddy ModernMethod? If you cannot produce better than this, why should any of us come here? But if you could, and you just will not, that is something that can be fixed.

What could be done? Lots! I’ll give you two very roomy examples. And I assure you, there is an audience for all of this:

1. Many in the fandom frequently complain those who aren’t otaku don’t take anime and manga seriously. So why don’t you lead by example? These aren’t just cartoons, they’re texts. You can critique a show from a feminist standpoint, analyze the cinematography, review how it reflects culture via class, race and a host of other factors. Really, anything more than saying “I thought it was good!” would be a great step up.

2. These shows and manga aren’t abiogenetic. Why not profile interesting directors/animators/mangaka/etc. and show how they’ve evolved and tell us why they’re worth paying attention to? Maybe describe how some people have had a profound impact on the industry? I’d rather hear about the people who make the media I like than see this week’s “Woman’s breasts barely constrained by swimsuit!” post.

I’m sure you could come up with more. I’ve only held back more ideas because this would become a wall of text otherwise, and my point is already made. You don’t even have to give up the posts you have now if you don’t want to. You could have those popular posts and these deeper pieces. You’d think if not your own integrity would inspire you to be more ambitious, at the very least your own sense of shame would compel you to.

So the question is: Why don’t you? Which is it you lack? Is it the brains to write articles like that, or the guts to reach higher?

(Oh, and if you do start writing more engaged posts, could you not drop it after 5-10 weeks as is the usual lifespan for a Japanator column? Thanks!)