Nobody was more surprised than I was when I was picked to be a Crunchyroll Anime Awards judge. I’m not famous or in the industry, like some of the other judges. When I told my friends about the honor, I know they were happy for me, but behind that was a bit of “Why you?”
Let me try to answer that. I’ve known Crunchyroll editor Patrick Macias since I reached out to him for an interview on Otaku Journalist in 2010. Since then I’ve worked with him briefly when I freelanced at Otaku USA and published an article on Crunchyroll. The biggest thing the two of us did together was put out a print edition cosplay magazine. So when Patrick was tasked with finding some people to send a “judges needed” boilerplate email, that’s probably why he thought of me. (And since it was a general call for judges, it’s likely that not everyone he asked accepted, though I’m pretty sure I set a record for instantly replying “YES.”)
So there you have it. I’m old, I’ve been writing about anime for over 7 years now, and I’ve worked with a lot of different people so I’m well connected. Want to be selected to judge neat stuff? Don’t stop writing about anime for almost a decade and that could be you.
I was the person picked for the job. But am I the BEST person for the job? Definitely not. I never took a film criticism course in college. I don’t speak fluent Japanese. I am not an expert on sakuga or any other facet of how your anime sausage gets made. I am just a girl with opinions, opinions that have kept getting louder and louder as I applied for (and picked up) work at Anime News Network, Otaku USA, Crunchyroll, Kotaku, Forbes, and more.
As a result, the Crunchyroll Anime Awards have been met with some criticism. A lot of fans, including people I count among my friends, have been doing “write-in” votes because they don’t see their own favorites among the four selections for each category. I get that; not all MY own favorites got picked. Here’s what I submitted to Crunchyroll, which was then pooled with the six other judges’ picks in order to get the selection you see on the Anime Awards. Keep in mind this was blind voting—I didn’t sit down with LeSean Thomas and compare notes or anything. It was a group of seven people choosing their subjective favorites.
Probably most of the anime reviewers and bloggers you read on a regular basis are no more qualified than I am to do this, though there are some notable exceptions. (Amelia Cook at Anime Feminist has a college degree in Japanese Studies; kViN is a sakuga expert, etc.)
YouTube anime reviewer Digibro recently suggested that these experts, and the most established anime bloggers in general, should be the people with the loudest voices in his video “On the Need For A Cabal of Anime Gurus.” (He later expanded on this viewpoint in detail on Josh Dunham’s Senpai Coast to Coast.) The downside is that this looks a lot like gatekeeping, implying that some voices are more valuable than others. If that became the accepted state of things, I probably never would have started anime blogging. I struggle with imposter syndrome and I wouldn’t have ever felt like I was good enough.
Here’s why I do think I’m good enough—I’m persistent and reliable. I have been vocal about anime several times a week for almost a decade now. I didn’t start out educated about anime, but experience and reading other reviewers has made me better. I also think that by adding my voice to all the others out there, I bring my own experiences to the table. As it turns out, that’s the thing I value most in the anime reviewers I admire myself.
I love reading about the nitty gritty of animation—stuff like how the art director planned a show’s ED, or how Yuri on Ice doesn’t have a higher than usual budget behind its ice dancing choreography. But what I value even more is my favorite reviewers’ individual viewpoints on a show. I want to hear Isaac justify why he likes shows other people think are uncool because I think he has a unique perspective. I like Reverse Thieves’ joint reviews because I think their friendship with each other is just as interesting as the way they rate shows. Not to say that these reviewers aren’t educating themselves about anime more and more all the time, but I value their opinions, how they relate to these shows as people, most of all. And I want anime bloggers just starting out to know that no matter their anime knowledge level, they have an incomparable perspective on anime that’s unlike any other out there.
“I want people to be more educated about anime,” Digibro told Josh, and that’s a very laudable goal, and due to our language barrier with Japanese anime creators, the misinformation he speaks out against is definitely a problem. But I definitely think there are different degrees of being into anime, and there are people out there who just want to enjoy shows without thinking too hard about them. I think that leads to a pretty forgiving audience for anime blogging, one that cares about why you thought it was an episode worth watching, even if you didn’t know who the episode’s sound designer was. That would be an interesting detail, but it’s not enough to build a review out of. For me, opinions are still valuable. After all, there’s no way to objectively rate the best anime of the year, or else seven judges picked for being “respected voice[s] in the anime community,” as my Anime Awards Judge email read, would be able to accurately predict fan favorites without anybody doing write-ins.
If you’re on the fence about sharing your anime reviews because you don’t think you’re good enough, or anyone will read and find value in them, I’m encouraging you to think again. Your passion for anime is already giving you license to write helpful, entertaining reviews.
Photo via elderleaf