But look a little closer at the headlines, and your eyes goggle: “Anime Reviewer Actually Likes New Show, Summarily Beaten to Death by Coworkers,” “Syrian Jihadists Continue Feud Over Question Of Subs vs. Dubs.”
I started reading Anime Maru after I saw a PSA not to believe a word of it—just like parody blog Literally Unbelievable has shown with The Onion, it’s important to make sure it’s not a fake newspaper article before you rage about it. Probably the reason people are getting confused is that it’s so new—Anime Maru only launched this spring.
I spoke with Editor in Chief Kevo about this new project in otaku fakery:
Otaku Journalist: How and when did Anime Maru get started?
Kevo: The site officially launched on March 1, 2014, but I have been developing and researching the concept since last year. I began recruiting writers in late January and I bought the domain in February. As a team, we’re pretty happy with our performance in our first month, but I still believe we have just gotten started and we still have a lot to do and a long way to go as a website.
What inspired you to fill in the fake anime news gap? Why make a site like this?
I used to run a more traditional anime blog called Desu ex Machina (kevo.dasaku.net) and I tried a few posts in “fake news” format. They were incredibly fun to write and were really popular with my readers. Towards the end of last year, I began to lose interest in blogging. My site grew pretty substantial over the last few years, but I wanted to try something different and stand out from the crowd.
I remembered how much fun I had writing those satire news posts and I realized that this niche was completely unclaimed. The military, sports, entertainment, and even E-sports have satire news sites, but anime doesn’t. Our hobby can be incredibly goofy and strange by nature, so I knew there would be plenty of things to satire. So one thing led to another and here we are.
Where do you look for inspiration for your articles on Anime Maru?
Everywhere. I notice that I have been actively reading the news more often. CNN and Al Jazeera are my favorite sources of current events. Of course, I keep an eye on Twitter and Reddit to keep tabs on what’s trending and popular as well. Anime News Network and Crunchyroll News are also good sources of ideas, as well as Japanese sites like Yaron blog. More often than not, ideas come out of the blue and I race to the nearest piece of paper to jot it down. If I am on a deadline and try to force a parody concept out, it is usually pretty lame. The best ideas come naturally, but it definitely helps to seed my brain with a bunch of ideas beforehand.
Your articles mimic real reporting to an extent that people sometimes mistake them for actual news stories.
Do you have a background in journalism? I do not. One of members of my staff, Shinmaru, works for a newspaper. Besides him, we’re just a bunch of regular dudes fooling around. I’ve been reading newspapers since I was 10 years old, so I have a decent feel for the dry, often deadpan tone journalists use. Oftentimes, when I am parodying a specific concept of news, I will look up a real article to use as a guide and mimic its tendencies and buzzwords. It’s pretty important to us that we imitate “real journalism” as closely as possible; it’s part of the joke after all.
On the same note can you tell me about some interesting responses from readers who mistook your articles for the real thing?
This is easily the most entertaining part of Anime Maru so far. We think we make the articles outlandish enough that no one would believe it, but it turns out there are some pretty gullible people on the world wide web. It’s big enough of an issue that a mod on the r/anime subreddit helpfully put up a PSA explaining that we are a parody news site. I still find forums where someone posted a link to one of our articles claiming that they “have no idea if this article should be taken seriously or not.” …Really? You have no idea?
Specifically, Neontaster wrote up an article about the Japanese Navy renaming ships to avoid confusion with the Kancolle girls a few weeks ago, and it got shared on some Indonesian Facebook group and we got like 20,000 hits overnight and legitimate debates started springing up. Even better are the completely serious comments and others claiming the story is a hoax with the same feeling of epiphany had they just disproved the existence of bigfoot. I don’t know if it’s a language barrier thing or they just don’t have news parody in Indonesia.
Thanks for the interview. Before I end I should acknowledge my staff, without whom Anime Maru could not possibly have come off the drawing board. These guys are the first four people I called and all four eagerly signed on. Neontaster is known for starting the “famous politicians holding up Madoka pictures” meme on Twitter a few months ago, and he shares the Photoshopping duties with me. Shinmaru is a blogger at The Cart Driver and editor of The Nihon Review. Emperor J is also a blogger at Lower Mid-Table. Usny was on my team back at Desu ex Machina. It’s like the anime blogger equivalent of the Avengers, except with fewer skintight costumes. I am ever grateful of the work that these guys put in; their writing experience and hilarious ideas make Anime Maru what it is.
(Photoshop via “Durarara!! Season 2 Announcement Deepens Tension Between West and Russia“)