Anime Journalism?

Anime is probably a unique hobby that has a large number of publications, even excluding manga, but very few published magazines. What am I talking about? Well, let's take a look at another hobby of mine - firearms - the NRA publishes American Rifleman, as well as independent publications such as Soldier of Fortune and Guns and Ammo as well as a variety of other smaller magazines. Marital artists have publications like Black Belt Magazine, Kung Fu Illustrated, and FuRyu - The Classical Budo Journal-. Even video games and personal computing, all based upon the current evolution of technology, have numerous old-fashioned print magazines.

While making a forum post, I was searching Slashdot for an article I read to back up my opinion and I ran across another article: So, you want to be a games journalist? [gamecareerguide.com] and it got me started thinking about anime journalism. I ended up reading it because the idea of journalism has been something that has interested me since I was in my teens, although, I never pursued it until I started Akihabara Renditions. I don't even have much of an interest in games, but entering games journalism cannot be too much different than anime journalism. But this is when it dawned on me - anime journalists seem to be a rarity.

Anime has a fanbase growing towards the hundreds of thousands in the United States right now. The fanbase is larger and more known than I could have expected it to be since I myself declared my own fandom in 1996. Even though there are enough enthusiasts in the above several times over compared to the anime fanbase, print magazines are surprisingly absent. In this article, I'd like to look at various anime print magazines available in the US over the past twenty years as well as their problems or faults as well as what they've done right that seems to be absent in some contemporary publications.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As one can see from the photo above, print magazines haven't been completely absent from the scene of fandom. These four magazines date back to the late 1980s up until current (well, 2003). But aside from nation-wide print magazines, publishing in anime fandom most likely originated with self- and/or circle-published fanzines and newsletters.

What did they do right?
Well, to top it off, what they did right was made anime a central topic and produced a variety of articles ranging from history, news, reviews, and previews. Different publications, along with their individual writing staffs, all have their own styles. Because anime is still a growing fandom in the US, anime publications, especially those before the 1990s did not enjoy a long lifespan. The negative of this is that the voice of the publication really could not gain an audience. Contemporary magazines, such as NewTypeUSA and Animerica (which recently went out of print) have garnered criticism for a bias in reviews. However, these magazines contained very detailed and well researched main body articles. Animerica especially, but NewTypeUSA can be included as well, balanced a tightrope with these main articles to include anime both released and unreleased in the US. What I thought Animerica's strong suit was their ability to take an anime being released in the US, like Captain Harlock: Der Ring des Nebelnugen OAV and have their article not only cover the OAV, but the back story of Harlock's character in the Galaxy Express 999 movies, Space Pirate Captain Harlock TV series, and My Youth in Arcadia film. With older publications like Animenominous and Animag and the lack of a large industry of Japanese animation being licensed in the US much of the content was focused on the largely popular movies and series and their impact on US fandom ranging from the seventies up until the same year the magazines were published.

What they did wrong
While financial situations were the ultimate killer of these previous anime magazines, there were several factors that led (or lead) up to poor sales. NewTypeUSA was originally marketed as publishing the Japanese magazine of the same name in English (or that's how I understood it to be) but instead opted for just the format and lay-out, which isn't a bad thing. However, being published by ADV Films, there is a perceived bias in the fan community that the magazine softballs a lot of ADV's releases and that the articles are awfully ADV centric. What's more, since beginning to be published in 2002, NewTypeUSA has gone through two content revisions, namely cutting article space and replacing it with ad space and removal of the free DVD from news stand editions and maintaining a constant price at about $10.00. Animerica could be said of the same thing; it was published by Viz, but instead of softballing Viz title's reviews, they softballed all of the reviews. While its cover price wasn't as high as NewTypeUSA's; there was little content outside of the main articles that simply was not worth a cover price between $6 and $7. Even less so since the magazine itself is 80 pages cover to cover. Most likely to cut down on production costs, but in a hobby where aesthetics play a large role, having an entire magazine printed in grey scale are Animag 's and Animenominous's most noted flaws. Can you imagine a gaming magazine trying to pump Final Fantasy XII without color pictures?

But over all, what I think has been most detrimental to publishing anime magazines is not only cost related - but being able to stay current. The Internet has undoubtedly changed how people relay, exchange, and gain information and anime fans are certainly included in this. News sites like Anime News Network, Anime News Service, and Anime on DVD ( as well as others, I don't mean to play favorites) are updated with the news of the day as it happens almost like watching the tickers at the bottom of the screen on CNN or Fox News. A magazine published once a month cannot keep up with that and even the alternative of publishing longer stories related to the news can be difficult. Even Internet fanzines that had a monthly publishing cycle found it hard to keep up with other websites who updated news blurbs every few hours. As far as reviews go, even titles that had multiple reviewers on them rarely had a large variance of scores, thus a bias is insinuated. Not to mention, with proliferation of anime websites on this vast information superhighway, everyone seems to be doing reviews of one thing or another.

There is a pinch on a lot of mainstream news outlets though, thanks to the Internet. Mainstream television networks are witnessing a shift in ratings to a competitor - at best - or people tuning out - at worst. Newspaper circulations are down as people can look up information up to date and at their fingertips. In fact, new media based on the Internet, such as news sites and blogs, have pointed out corrections, errors, and even bias in mainstream media. It seems that anime journalism will move completely to the Internet within a few years. The anime fan community, who have been ahead of the curve as far as technology is concerned for a number of years now, certainly has the potential to turn a blogging community into a news community. However, go take a look at Anime Blogger's community. I don't mean this to poke fun at them specifically; however, reading through a number of blogs listed on the site, everything gets repetitive. Not that they are recycling ideas without credit or are unoriginal, per se, but a lot of layouts and topics are nearly identical. And all of them seem to be an episode-by-episode update of a small hand full of shows airing currently in Japan. Which I think is a good start for the reader looking to find new series to check out; however there's more to journalism than episode-by-episode thoughts and updates. The one thing I will credit them with is their use of pictures - there is an over abundance of pictures on those blogs and it is an area that I know I could probably use some improvement on.

So, does this mean that anime journalism is dead? The cost of outputting a professional, journalistic product to too prohibitive however the replacements found with cheaper technology aren't exactly equal in quality. I'm not one to call the idea of anime journalism dead yet. I think there is a bit of indecisiveness in what those changes need to be. There are already excellent sites on the web for general anime news but once more people find their own niche and should those individuals decide to take up the responsibility of maintaining their own site with news items. The true tradgedy for news though would be if these growth opportunities remain unused and this potential was wasted.



At 10:25 PM, November 12, 2006 , Blogger HSaabedra said...

I have to say thp some very good that your article brought up some fond memories of Animerica and Newtype Japan. After seeing the fall of one and the subsequent revisions of another, I had often thought of what those magazines could do instead of trying to compete directly with news services. I had often thought that the magazines should focus on aspects of our fandom like the history, culture and different types of anime for different fans.
It seems to me that while more and more fans are becoming vocal, less and less know how to view a series technically and objectively, only caring about their access and exclusivity, quality be damned. At least that's how I see the current state of the fandom. I rarely have seen other fans buy publications on anime save for myself. Until the fans start actually caring about the entire industry as a whole instead of just worrying about the newest series, then we might see a resurgence of publications.

At 4:52 PM, March 18, 2007 , Blogger Unknown said...

You seem to have missed "Protoculture Addicts", OK it's Canadian, but very much in print.

In earlier years it was so authoritative (IMHO) that I purchased the entire set of back issues, unfortunately it seems to have somewhat dumbed down (as has AnimeNetworkNews which owns it) but still has good articles & occasional classic reviews.

Since this is my first comment, may I thank you for a very informative & well-written blog! There is far too little coverage of 'serious' 'classic' anime, please keep it up.

At 11:00 PM, March 22, 2007 , Blogger Drew Sutton said...

Thanks for the comment, Humberto. I think it's a great addition to what I wrote in the initial post. I appreciate the readership and hope to hear more in the future (so sorry for the delayed response, too).

Nico, great comment as well. I had forgotten about Protoculture Addicts in a momentary lapse, mostly because I've never purchased or been able to read a full issue. It being Canadian really had nothing to do with it as a lot of news in the US effects Canada and Canada itself has a lot of interesting developments as of late (not to mention probably some deeper fandom roots in francophone sections of the nation).

I hope you enjoy the articles here and also hope you'll keep reading! Any and all viewership is appreciated.

At 4:44 AM, June 12, 2007 , Blogger Isaac Alexander said...

You might enjoy this article I wrote here.

As for older anime magazines, there was V-Max, Anime UK, B-Club, Animeco, Mangajin, Animenominous, Anime FX, MangaMax, etc...

You might like this site.
Old School Anime

At 4:45 AM, June 12, 2007 , Blogger Isaac Alexander said...

You might enjoy this article I wrote here.

As for older anime magazines, there was V-Max, Anime UK, B-Club, Animeco, Mangajin, Animenominous, Anime FX, MangaMax, etc...

You might like this site.
Old School Anime


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