Otaku Journalist is 12 years old!

Twelve years ago today, I began posting on this blog. One of my professors at American University’s School of Communication encouraged us each to secure our name as a dot com for portfolio purposes. So when I started this site on November 14, 2009, it was initially a generalized showcase of my writing on topics related to journalism. It was the middle of the  Great Recession, so anything to get hired right?

I got disillusioned when I graduated and found myself working minimum wage retail… with a master’s degree. I changed the name to Otaku Journalist, began posting exclusively about fandom reporting, and the rest is history. It’s safe to say the opportunities I’ve gotten through this blog have determined the course of my career in internet culture and fandom journalism. 

Now I have mainly put my career aside for various reasons, most obviously that I’ve become a stay-at-home-mom to my toddler daughter and I’m expecting a baby boy in spring. And thus, this blog has been a bit lost at sea for the last couple of years. But twelve is my lucky number and I couldn’t let this milestone pass without celebrating the year’s highlights. Though I haven’t been posting much, I HAVE been keeping track of work stuff I do just to remind myself that even if I spend most of my time at the playground, I haven’t completely left the game. In a different year, these would all have been separate blog posts! Here’s a list of every Otaku Journalist-worthy thing I’ve done this year, with commentary:

Started a Gunpla 101 Instagram

Beginning this list on a low note, since I definitely haven’t updated this in months. But it felt good to try a new direction for my most profitable blog. While this didn’t stick, what did work for me this year was expanding my monthly shopping update into a semi-news post. 

Was on AnimeCons TV

Doug invited me and my slightly offscreen husband John to talk about Otakon’s future, which was tenuous at the time. But it just turned into an informal discussion between three friends who really miss going to cons together. 

Guest on The Bebop Beat

I had huge imposter syndrome about being a guest on this podcast. Other episodes had guests like legendary voice actor Wendee Lee and graphic novelist E.K. Weaver. I did my research in advance and was able to share at least two fun facts about the mecha of Cowboy Bebop.

Reviewed Fruits Basket the Final for ANN

This was the only anime I reviewed weekly in 2021. I’m not sure how well my reviews were received because I never read the comments. I felt generally positive about the series though; it was wild to finally see these last chapters of the manga get animated for the first time. 

Expert source for Rolling Stone Brony article

EJ and I were colleagues ages ago and I’m touched that when she wrote about bronies she thought “Lauren would know something about this.” A long time ago I dedicated thousands of words in the Daily Dot to my brony coverage, and I outline some of the fandom’s history here.

Began curating the ANN newsletter, ANNouncements

Out of everything on this list, the newsletter has altered my year the most. I’ve built my weekly routine around curating articles and choosing, with much indecision, each week’s featured post. Even though it’s not a ton of work, it ensures that I remain uncommonly informed about anime news. At a time when I worry about losing my identity to parenthood, the newsletter makes me feel like I’m still very much part of this community. I already told Lynzee I don’t want to take a break after my new baby is here; that’s how much I credit this gig with keeping my brain from turning into mush. 

Appeared on PBS Flyover Culture’s Gunpla episode

I think this is the only time all year I did a full face of makeup. I don’t consider myself a Gunpla expert (my site is called Gunpla 101, not Gunpla 400), but I’m glad Payton asked me to be on the show anyway so I could demonstrate that you don’t have to be good at Gunpla to enjoy it. Watch it to see me share the ONLY Gunpla model I built this year (an HG Momokapool).

Washington Post article

My name, in print, in a major newspaper! This was above and beyond the most impressive accomplishment of the year. I wrote a blog post about the details and what it means to me. 

Wrote a talk for Otakon and didn’t go

This talk is completely finished and really good, I DEFINITELY need to share it! But I was too panicked to go to Otakon, even though it was not only not a superspreader even, but not one of the 20+ people I know who attended contracted covid after (and yes they got tested). Good job, fans. 

Ladybeard interview for Crunchyroll

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to interview Ladybeard both on video and in person, and it’s always a fun conversation. Speaking as a reporter, naturally charismatic people like him can be difficult to interview because you get swept into feeling you’re just chatting with a friend. I don’t mean that he’s doing this in a manipulative way; I mean that Ladybeard has never met a stranger. Usually my interviews with people in Japanese media are fairly dry (like this email interview with Fruits Basket director Yoshihide Ibata) but Ladybeard was willing to talk on the record about all kinds of interesting things, particularly his genderbent stage identity. 

Reviewed Reconguista in G the Movie for ANN

This movie wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either, and for me that’s the most challenging type of review to write—much easier to praise something or really lay into it. 

Wrote Yoshiyuki Tomino Doesn’t Want You To Read This Article for ANN

Usually, when I write an article, I don’t get to write the title, too. But with both this feature and my Washington Post article, I wrote my own title! I used to have my editors write my titles and then go on Twitter saying “No, I didn’t write that clickbait title, who do you take me for?” but in this case the title I came up with is absolutely clickbait, and I absolutely did write it myself.

Expert source for Rolling Stone cosplay killing article

I helped with some details about Danganronpa and what yandere means, but I obviously didn’t know the details of EJ’s reporting until the article came out. When I read it and realized it was a touching emotional tribute to the deceased, I cried. A lot of coverage of this incident focused on the sensational “costumed killer” angle, and this is definitely not that. 

Appeared on Baka Banter podcast to talk about journalism 

This invitation sat in my inbox for nearly two weeks, which makes me seem super ungrateful, but I was feeling so overwhelmed when I got it! I was thinking, “Why do you want to interview me, a person who has barely worked this past year?” It’s hard for me to remember sometimes that I have 10 years of experience in reporting before that! But this conversation actually turned out really well and I think I had some decent advice for aspiring reporters.

Appeared on Keepsakes podcast to talk about my book

I wrote Otaku Journalism 7 years ago, and started writing it 10 years ago. Jay gave me the perfect reason to reread my own book: such a weird experience to revisit the person I was nearly a decade ago. I am often hard on myself about this book because I wrote it before the internet morphed into the horrible form it has today, but amidst some outdated references to the “new Homestuck fandom,” a lot of the advice still stands up. After the podcast went live, 20 new readers downloaded the book, which feels like a lot to me. 

My theme of 2021 has been an inability to see beyond what I did over the past 24 hours. But listing it all out like this reminds me that I haven’t been quite as dormant as I think. As I’m writing this, I realize the 2021 list isn’t finished yet; I’m working on two article assignments for ANN now. I hope that if you have a similar tendency to mine, you’ll consider writing it all down. My brain may not be able to comprehend time anymore, but at least my records don’t lie. 

Whether you’ve been reading Otaku Journalist for 12 years or this is your first time visiting—thank you. I’m not finished with this blog yet.