The Summer of Our Discontent: The Anime Review's 2004 Saga

Recently, I received one of the first negative emails I've ever seen at The Anime Review. In the early days, I had a short discussion with a guy who just hated the idea of anime criticism completely, but since then, it's been pretty quiet on the negative side. But then it struck. One email complained that the last few months, the content that was being reviewed just wasn't interesting enough. Most of Spring and even a good chunk of Summer had been dedicated to lousy anime. Why was I going back and reviewing ancient titles that weren't any good?

Believe me, I know about it. Reviewing junk anime after junk anime has been pretty rough on my psyche. But there's been a reason for it that I can now reveal, not to spur on sympathy but to explain what's been going on around here.

In early January, I was accepted to seminary to begin a Master of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary just outside of Lexington, Kentucky. This spring and summer has been full of events - trying to sell two houses (one of which wasn't even ours), buying a new one, working 16-hour days between three different jobs to try and earn some money before school started, and so forth. My time, needless to say, has been limited.

At the same time this happened, the floodgates of old VHS tapes arrived. Due to various sales, I amassed a large collection of old shows at $1 each. This provided me with a true plethora of titles to review...short ones that wouldn't take up immense amounts of time but would provide me the opportunity to get everything I needed to do, done. I might even find time to review a full series or two! (Incidentally, that goal has been fulfilled, as you'll see in the upcoming review of Initial D.)

However, I really had no clue what I was in for. Some anime is merely good, and some is woefully bad, but I didn't expect the massive run of garbage I've come across in the last few months. The nice thing about a review site such as mine is that you can essentially watch what you want, when you want, and review it. Part of that has given me the opportunity, at times, to avoid reviewing really bad shows that I didn't have any personal interest in. Now, under the gun but determined to keep up a review a week, I went with what I got.

And what a summer it's been of crappy anime! It's been the kind of run that makes you nearly dread watching the next show. It just gets to be a burden when you're saddled like that. I've received comments in the past that my site didn't have as many negative reviews as others. Well, with this summer's work, that's changed!

What's also been difficult to track is the sea change in the anime market in the US. Back when I started collecting anime back in 1986 or so, movies and short OVA series were the way to go. They were easy for fan subtitlers to manage, and they required a lot less effort to collect than a couple of seasons' worth of TV episodes. I've gone through the majority of one-shot OVAs and movies on the US market; most of the remaining ones are actually endings or retellings of series I have yet to complete. In the past two years, the demand for movies and OVAs has given way to a market where buyers readily accept buying six or seven DVDs to watch a full series. It's great that long series are now so readily available...but not so great when you've got a weekly deadline.

This makes for a question I have to ask you, the reader. In the past, with some rare exceptions, I've reviewed entire series all at once. This has served us well (and avoided some of the complaints we've received about situations such as our still-as-of-yet-incomplete review of Neon Genesis Evangelion). However, when checking out popular sites with lots of reviews like Anime on DVD, each individual volume of a series gets its own review. So which do you prefer? Would you like to see reviews of three to five episodes at a time as per DVD releases, allowing for more regular reviews of TV series? Or do you prefer entire series to be reviewed all at once, knowing that reviews of series will continue to be more rare? Let me know what you think.

In the meantime, you're going to see some better shows on the horizon...I promise. There's a 3-week run of reviews for BlackJack: Incubation, Cosplay Complex, and Initial D Stage 1 that will profile some of the best (and worst) of the new stuff on the market. I'll still throw in an occasional relic from the past, but I'm committed to reviewing the shows you want to watch. Just remember that I'm now a full-time student again, and cut me a little slack if a review hits on Tuesday instead of Monday. Thanks to all of you who have been reading this site since it restarted five years ago...we're committed to keeping you informed about the best and worst of the anime world.