I’m Back into Anime! (What’s been going on with me?)

Hello! It’s been a while again, huh?

(This is going to be super lengthy, so I’ll post a TL;DR at the bottom.)

Since the Last Post

My last post featured an outlined plan that I was going to follow to get back into posting on this site, starting with a review as a part of a block called “Funimation February”. I even hinted at one of the shows I was going to be reviewing as a part of that post… obviously, that didn’t pan out.

Sooooo there’s been a couple things that happened since then. Let’s talk about this, and then try to take a frank look at what I’ll be doing from here.

So that last post, I published in December of 2019. There’s… something major that certainly occurred since that day. Still kind of ongoing in a sense, but yeah, there was this whole pandemic thing.

My experiences with the pandemic was not great, but not nearly as bad as others had it. But suffice to say, the job I had back then (in December 2019) is now two jobs ago for me. I’ve had other major changes in my life too, such as moving to a new place and getting a dog, and I’ve been thinking a bit about where I want to go with my life, given that I’m nearing the end of my 20s.

Those things alone are enough of a distraction for me to not really want to put time and effort into this blog. I’m sorry I didn’t come here to post more about it, but frankly, I had other things on my plate and I was worried about filling up the front page of my site with just update posts, rather than actual reviews (especially if I set a new date for returning in an update post, and then missed that date, prompting another update post, and… yeah). There’s already a number of update posts like these on my front page, and that’s after I went back and hid some of them. It doesn’t really look good for an anime reviewing website’s front page to… not have anime reviews.

Falling Out of Anime

Anyway, that’s not all. There’s also the ongoing issue of… me just kind of falling out of anime for quite a while. Looking back, that post I made about the Spring 2019 anime season, that was the last anime season that I actually tried to sit down and keep up to date on the new shows. And of those shows that I talked about there, guess how many I actually kept with all the way to the end… 0. (And some of them, like Ao-chan Can’t Study, I really enjoyed too!)

This has been an issue for me since like 2018, maybe even a bit earlier. Part of what kept me engaged in anime was the college life, where I had friends with me to talk about anime and enough openness in my schedule that I could sit down and watch these shows. And at the time, for me, anime was a relatively new thing too; I only really got into anime just before college.

By 2018, I was out of college and moving on to other things in my life: getting a job, finding a place to live, paying for things… you know, fun adult things. I was also running into the issue where a lot of the anime I was looking at, the new stuff coming out… didn’t interest me as much. There were some excellent, stand-out, and unique shows for sure, but there were also a lot of shows where I read the synopsis or even just saw the title, and I was like “okay, I don’t think I need to delve more into that one”. A lot of repeats, rehashes, similar concepts done again but with small twist that I’m sure made it suuuuuper unique (also a number of sequels to shows that I never watched the original season of, sooo yeah). There’s been a big influx of isekai-style shows in the past few years, for example, with lengthy and ridiculous titles, taking a page out of the book of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon and others. Which made for a kind of funny, unique thing when done once or twice, but when it’s every other show…

Anyway, I’ve ended up turning to getting entertainment from elsewhere. The Nintendo Switch came out in 2017; I was a casual fan of video games at that point (and still kind of am), but I’ve spent more time on the Switch than I have pretty much any other game console since, like, the Wii. That’s taken a decent amount of time.

I’ve also been watching Western animated shows, like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, She-Ra: The Princesses of Power, Amphibia, The Owl House, and more. I was hooked into one of these shows (Steven Universe) and from there, realized there was a whole slew of stuff coming out here that I hadn’t caught up on. I ignored Western animation for quite a while, as a number of shows coming out for a handful of years didn’t interest me (and many still don’t), but there’s been a number of gems to appear as well. So I slowly dropped more and more anime and instead started watching more and more Western cartoons.

I’ve debated a few times about posting reviews of these Western shows on this blog, and I even wrote up an entire review of Steven Universe (mid Season 2), but I never got around to actually posting them. I might go ahead and write up some at some point, but let’s not promise anything.

Life of a Reviewer

Part of the issue that I’ve had too is this internal expectation that when I watch an anime, I’m supposed to then turn around and crank out a review of it to post here. That’s partly because that’s what I’ve been doing for about 2 or 3 years, at least. Finished a show? Okay, let’s get that review over the finish line and into the backlog so it can be posted here in the near future!

Although my writing skills have certainly improved since I began this website, I’m not a quick writer and after starting the site, I was going through my backlog of finished reviews faster than I could write new ones. This, in turn, turned up the pressure for me even more to get a review out for any show I finish, because… otherwise, there just wouldn’t be a review to post. Part of being a content creator online is being consistent, right? Something new every week? What would I do if I didn’t have that something new?

(sigh)

I’ve said multiple times, in multiple places, that I ran this review site as a hobby, not intending to “make it big” or make this my job or anything. I’m not here for the numbers, although I did appreciate seeing people comment and like my posts. … But in a sense, it kind of did become a job. I couldn’t watch an anime without also thinking about “how am I going to word this concept” or “how do I explain my thoughts on this character”. Sentences and paragraphs would flow through my head, trying to formulate a review on the fly, while I was still watching an episode. Watching an anime without writing a review about it just wasn’t a thing. There’s so many anime that I’ve watched over the years that, right now, have half-written reviews. A handful of these reviews likely won’t ever see the light of day.

That’s probably also partly why I turned to Western animation for a while too. It was freeing, watching a well-constructed story with great characters and good animation… and without the expectation that I’d have to take my esoteric, fleeting, hard-to-define thoughts and shove them into words on a screen. The most I’d really ever talk about a cartoon online is a few tweets, which also has a much lower bar of quality to reach too.

Naturally, as I continued to write and write, my reviews got lengthier and my ability improved. But as my writing quality increased, so does the bar I set for myself and the amount of work that goes into it. With my earlier reviews, I could pound out a whole review the day after finishing a show without needing to look back or do anything extra most of the time. Sometimes if I wanted to reference a specific scene, I’d go back and rewatch it to make sure I wasn’t misremembering it.

But as I became more thorough and I set more of a bar for myself, writing a review went from taking a night or two, to taking multiple days, and then a week, and then even more. I created a checklist in my mind, things like “paragraph about the minor characters, discussing the color scheme, sharing thoughts on the BGM”, a review couldn’t be done unless I hit all these points. I’d rewatch multiple scenes or whole episodes, so I could reference them all in detail in my writing. I’d have to track down clips of the dub (or rewatch a few episodes dubbed) if I watched a show with subtitles – and vice versa if I first watched it dubbed. I’d go out and re-listen to the OP and ED songs, I’d pull up the list of voice actors on Wikipedia or ANN so that I could find a few I could “shout-out” in my review. I found myself going back and rewriting the words I wrote: I didn’t explain myself enough, I was too wordy, I didn’t actually get to the heart of what I felt, this paragraph could be written better to flow into the rest of the review more smoothly.

While, again, this was part of me getting better at my craft and me caring more about what I put out, it all added up. And again added to the pressure that this felt like a job, rather than just something to do for fun, because these thoughts were just swirling around in my head anyway, may as well dump them somewhere because… why not? That was why I started this.

But it kept adding up and adding up, and then… my Beyond the Boundary review came out.

I put my all into that review, and threw out any semblance of trying to stay within a word count. I read and reread and rewrote my sentences and paragraphs so much until I was fully satisfied with what was on the screen before me.

The Beyond the Boundary review got a decent amount of attention as well, at least comparatively to what everything else on my website had gotten before (or since). I chalk a lot of that up to being mentioned and linked on Crow’s anime mentions weekly post. Again, I’m not here for the numbers and I shouldn’t read too much into one review being mentioned on a larger blog, but… at the time, I was a bit swayed by the attention I got then and decided I had to push myself just as hard for every review since.

I’ve been proud of that review and every review afterwards. I feel like they all capture my thoughts and feelings exactly – not that I’m not proud of some of my earlier reviews nor that my earlier reviews don’t show my feelings, but these newest reviews felt like I put it all out there, precisely and completely.

But that review took multiple days, multiple weeks to make. Every review since then has taken multiple days, that whole process I outlined, to put together. And even if there was a show that I just finished watching and wanted to share my thoughts about… if I didn’t go through this whole process and check all the boxes in my mental list It was… then the review wasn’t done, it wasn’t ready, it can’t be posted. It became a bit draining sometimes.

Stepping Away…

The results of this sometimes played out right in front of my readers on this website. I’d make update posts saying that I was taking a break, and maybe sometimes referencing or mentioning a show I was planning to review soon… but then breaks would take longer than expected, and the reviews I mentioned never came about.

And when I did come back, I’d post 2 or 3 reviews and then disappear again.

My backlog was mostly dried up, I wasn’t writing enough new reviews fast enough, and I wasn’t in the mood or mindset to even watch anime, much less write reviews for even those.

After my review of Madoka Magica, I ended up planning a break, where I expected I’d take some time to reset myself, spend time working on some other projects I had, and then come back to anime with a refreshed mind and ready to write some new reviews. I watched shows like Little Witch Academia, Made in Abyss, Typhoon Noruda, and some others. I’ve started reviews on all these shows, but, like mentioned above, they’re still in a half-finished state, if even that.

I do have thoughts on these shows. I’d love to post reviews for them. But I just couldn’t get myself back into the headspace for going through the hoops and process I’ve done before to drag a review along to the finish line. Soooooooo I just continued to sit here, with half-done reviews, and no will to actually do anything with it or with this site.

And the longer I went without posting a review here, the longer that I felt bad about not posting a review and the guilt made me not want to return back to this website. Which then kind of snowballed and snowballed.

But I had 2 yearly reminders, when WordPress would send me an email about renewing the WordPress plan I had, and my domain registrar sent me a reminder to extend my registration for animebird.net. I recall sitting there for a week in 2021, thinking for a short while about what I wanted to do with this website. I could pull the plug on the domain registration and just kind of let this site fade into obscurity. I didn’t want to keep paying for this website if I wasn’t going to use it… Ultimately, I decided that I did want to return to doing something with this site, and so continue paying for it I did. But, clearly, nothing happened in 2021.

It was always a kind of “I want to get back to this at some point” thing in the back of my mind, but I never actually sat down at all and said “yes, I’m going to do this now”.

… And Stepping Back In

I’m not quite sure what changed, really.

I think what triggered it was the recent(ish) announcement that the Funimation and VRV brands and services are being retired in favor of Crunchyroll.

Throughout all these years, even when I wasn’t even using the service at all, I still kept paying monthly for a VRV subscription. For those outside the US (or in the US who don’t recall), VRV was put forward by the same media group that owned Crunchyroll, back in 2016. It was kind of awesome as it was a single streaming service at a decently low price, and it bundled other services with it: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Mondo Media, Rooster Teeth, Curiosity Stream, and more.

The website was attractive (even if it was maybe a bit barebones and occasionally buggy) and it meant a laaaaarge majority of anime released in the West was right at my fingertips in one place. They created original series with online content creators too, like Epithet Erased and Shadowstone Park. It was actually pretty nice, in my opinion.

But a lot changed between 2018 when I stopped with anime and 2022 when that announcement came out. Of course, with an aggregate service like that, services will come and go. Funimation was replaced with HiDive at some point. But when the announcement came out that VRV would be eventually shuttered and those with VRV accounts should move to Crunchyroll Premium, I logged into the site to start that process and was surprised by what I saw.

There was only three services available on VRV when I logged in in 2022. One was Crunchyroll, of course, and there was “VRV Selects”, which was the banner for VRV’s original content and some other stuff… and Mondo Media, randomly lol. The site felt empty, a kind of husk of its former self. I found since-deleted support articles talking about various services leaving VRV, with the vague promise of “we’ll still continue to work on delivering great content” every time. It was a little sad, but it wasn’t really surprising. The streaming landscape has changed a lot since 2016.

So yeah, I cancelled with VRV, and just got myself a regular Crunchyroll subscription. And once that process was done, I sat there, looking at the main siteā€¦ “You know, I’ve heard people talking about Spy X Family, let’s take a look at that.”

Where I’ll go from here (Welcome back!)

When I originally started with this website, years and years ago, the idea was that I’d post something every weekend, and if I had any additional thoughts or extra things to say, I could put that out sometime during the week. While that worked well while I had a large backlog to go through, that started to sputter out once the backlog started to dry up, and I relied more on stuff I was finishing writing that week.

Even after taking various breaks, and even now, I wanted to adhere to some form of schedule. Not weekly, heck no, but dialing it down to only posting monthly feels really unappealing. That’s only like… 12 posts in a year? What is that? So my goal for a long time has been trying to do 1 post every 2 weeks. It’s probably not wise to come back into this with an expectation of a schedule, but that’s what I think I want to aim for. This could be a review, me revisiting a show I reviewed in the past, or maybe some other kind of think piece or post.

There is the issue of me disappearing without warning from this site for months (or years), and while every time I come back, I’ll say that I’ll get better at reporting when I’ll be gone, the reality is… I still certainly could and am kind of likely to disappear without warning again. For sure, I’d expect there will be times where I’ll skip a month or two (especially when I have real-life stuff to focus on), but, for real, I’ll try to write a short update post when I think that time is coming.

I need to get the expectation out of my head of making sure I have something to post each 2 weeks, because even if I can push myself to get things out, I also don’t want to fall into the same patterns and issues I had before I took this lengthy hiatus. It’d be better to say I’m taking a break when I run out of pieces to post, rather than trying to pull something out of my butt to get put onto here.

I already have in mind what reviews and shows I’ll be posting about first, and it’d be great to build up even more of a backlog before I hit the ground running… so let’s aim for the first week of September for when I’ll begin posting! This gives me all of August to wrap up the multiple posts I’m working on. This will indeed include full on reviews like I’ve done in the past, but I also have plans for revisiting various shows that I had reviewed before. I’m also also considering a newer “quick review” type of thing, where I put out my thoughts on 3 or so shows, without putting in all the time and effort of making a large review. That way, I can try to cover shows that I have a review half-written for, but I doubt I’ll be able to quickly get over the finish line.

One other major thing I’ll be doing: retiring the @AnimeBirdTweet Twitter account. (Or more specifically, rebranding it.)

I originally set up the Twitter account around the same time I set up this blog, back when I thought it’d be cooler to have an alias and alternate identity and you didn’t know who was actually running this site. At some point along the way, I dropped that whole schtick, as I felt there really wasn’t much of a real reason for me to keep it up… and frankly, if this blog actually went anywhere, smart internet sleuths would surely be able to connect this back to me anyway.

Anyway, I haven’t had much to do with that Twitter account, even when this blog was in full swing. I had followed a couple fellow anime reviewers here on WordPress, but I barely went on that Twitter account often enough to actually meaningfully interact in any way. I had considered using the account to live-tweet anime shows I was watching, but putting in the effort to pause the show, take a screenshot, and write thoughts with it… multiple times in a single episode, that got old quick. During my hiatus from this blog, I used the account to live-tweet reactions to various online concerts I watched, like Miku Expo or some Hololive stuff… but otherwise, the account just sat there, dormant.

So I think I’m going to instead transition to having all of my stuff being posted onto my main Twitter account (@JaykeBird), and have that be my main social media base of operations instead.

I do have plans for what I’ll do with the AnimeBirdTweet account, but it’s going to be wholly unrelated to this blog, and so I’d rather have a few months break where that account goes unused before starting to transition it to something else.

Anyway, yeah!

I’m back, I suppose! I don’t know how much of an audience I have left here (how much of an audience did I even have before?), but hopefully people will enjoy once I start posting things here again in September. I’ll keep in touch about any changes I’ll need to make along the way with this blog, but I hope we’ll all have fun together!

For now, though, I’ll see you around!

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

I realize this was a super lengthy post. Here’s a summary.

I had a number of reasons to take a (super long) break away from this blog. Some of them involved becoming an adult and doing adult things, but one big part of it was how I just wasn’t watching anime much anymore. Adult stuff got in the way, anime wasn’t interesting me as much anymore, and the internal expectation I had of “you watched an anime, now write a review about it!” (along with the super high bar of quality for a review that I set for myself) all contributed to me dropping anime, and by extension, this site.

But I dunno, something happened, and now I’m back! I have anime to watch, thoughts to share, and I want to get going on it! I have ideas about what I want to post, and my goal is to start posting in September! Once every 2 weeks, I’ll write a new post, and I’m going to get better and sharing an update when I need to take a break away from this for a while.

I’m also dropping the AnimeBirdTweet Twitter account. I’ll be primarily using my main Twitter account, JaykeBird, from now on in relation to this site.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the stuff I have to share, and I’m looking forward to coming back!