Looking Back on 2018

rascal bunny girl senpai new year
The past year has been a busy one for me. A blur. Older people like to tell me that as I continue to age time will continue to speed up. My response? I’m in the grave tomorrow. But I found looking back over the year, particularly looking back at my writing, allows me to remember time passing more slowly than it seemed. Now if only that feeling could translate to the present moment!

2018 was a year of editorials on JP. I didn’t do as much research-based writing as I normally would. Part of that was because of time and energy constraints. My mental energy has flagged this year because of various work demands and social drama. As an  introvert, social drama–workplace or personal–drains me and even robs me of energy for writing or my other hobbies. Introverts remain aware of just how biased society is against us. It demands far too much of our solitude time as this past year has done for me. Sometimes you just have to schedule a weekend to stay home and be true to your introvert nature.

Despite this, I have managed to keep JP’s draft queue full with several researched articles in the lineup. Although Japanese culture and anime provide a wide range of topics, I’ve found myself struggling to find topics that engage my attention. Of course, some of the topics that have require a lot of research time. That’s the thing about writing, particularly ephemeral writing like blog articles. It takes far longer to research and write than for people to skim. And skim they do. I used to be a proponent of free information, and to a certain degree, I still am. However,  our culture of free ignores the time invested in creating the works we consume. It devalues writing and the arts. We used to subscribe to magazines and newspapers for the quality of their articles. Now we just go online and view the similar content for free. Inevitability, quality suffers. Only works of love, so to speak, can survive or thrive in a world of free.

Now, I’m not thinking about making JP a subscription model or sticking advertising everywhere. Advertising doesn’t pay for writing. It only hurts its quality as it tries to stuff keywords and other advertising-friendly nonsense into articles. But I do wonder how long the culture of free content can continue before the content becomes utter trash. Already, I’ve seen slideshow articles and other tweet-sized bits of content begin to dominate the few websites I visit. Some of that problem centers on our diminishing attention spans. In the past year, I’ve found my own articles shortening a little more–and performing a bit better than my longer projects.

I gained a pair of housemates this year. Meet Shikamaru and Midna.

 

This year I failed to publish a book. For the past few years, I’ve managed to publish one book a year. My last book was Under the Cherry Blossoms: An Introduction to Japanese Tree Folklore. This year slipped by without a finished release. This isn’t for my lack of writing. I’m revising two mystery novels in a new series (set in Japan, of course), and I’m about halfway through drafting a contemporary YA set in the US. But I’ve been pummeled by the agent hunting process. The publishing world is rough, and I’ve grown a bit discouraged. So I decided to put my head down and write and revise. Time is the biggest factor with writing. It’s easy to grow impatient with the process.

Recently, I’ve decided I need to be gentler with myself. I’m a workaholic. I often write and work well into the night after putting in a full day at the library (which demands more energy than many suspect; it is a social job). I really can’t sustain that anymore.  Outside of losing myself in The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild, I haven’t played much in the way of video games.  So I’ve decided to go easier and try to relax more. However, I have began watching more current season anime. I even wrote my first first-impression articles about Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Senpai and Goblin Slayer. I’ve also enjoyed That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime (seriously Japan, what is with the summary titles?). Because they only drop on certain days of the week, I’ve found myself enjoying the anticipation. It’s been awhile since I’ve had cable television, so I’ve developed a binge-watching habit that I took into anime (during the rare moments I wasn’t indulging my workaholism). I rather enjoy being forced to wait for each new episode.

My favorite articles to write in 2018.

Censoring Anime Nudity Increases Its Sexuality

If you are a long time reader, you know I dislike fan service. It’s not so much because I’m a prude (although apparently I am), but because fan service is degrading for characters (most of the time) and hurts the story. However, censoring can be considered a type of fan service too. I found it interesting how anime’s censoring techniques can make a scene even more sexual than if all the bits were shown. Imagination and mystery really excites the brain. And in the end, censorship defeats its own purpose. I’ve concluded it is better not to censor after researching this article.

The Reasons I Dislike Social Media as an Author and Blogger

Catharsis. Pure catharsis. I’m not a fan of social media or convinced it is a positive development.  I usually try to avoiding such rants, but this one felt good.

A Brief History of Japanese Paper Fans

I had fun researching this article. I hadn’t realized the humble paper fan had a deep history. I especially hadn’t realized Europe had developed a fan language while Japan didn’t bother. Articles like these have allowed me to remain interested in JP after more than 8 years of writing.

Undressing Anime Fan Service

I really need to settle on a consistent way of writing the phrase fan service. Fan-service. Fanservice. Instead of just beating up on fan service, I dug into the whys and hows of it, including the three purposes of nudity. I also drew parallels with pornography research because of the overlap between porn and anime fan service.

Felice Beato and Kimbei Kusakabe, Photographers of 1800s Japan

This was, perhaps, the most enjoyable article for me to write this year. I adore the hand-tinted photography that came out of Japan during the late 1800s–just as I adore woodblock prints from the same era. Digging up photos to use for the article was a blast.

And now for my least favorite articles:

Morioka's social exhaustion and flip out

Social Media, Kawaii Culture, and Body Image

I disliked this article because of the trends I discovered in my research. I find the facades social media encourages troubling, and the research also reminded me just how under-studied men’s body image problems are when compared to women’s image issues.

Transgender People and the Disabled Faced Sterilization in Japan

One of the goals I have for JP is to reveal the problems Japan has. Many anime and travel blogs gloss over the darker sides of Japan’s culture. And I get it. Many anime fans don’t want to hear about the negative sides. They prefer to focus on the escapist, ideal aspect of Cool Japan. This article numbers among my least favorite because of how troubling it is (but I also didn’t mind writing it). It reminds us of how people can see the other and the disabled as subhuman.

Death Threats, Waifu Wars: The Anime Community’s Poisonous and Childish Behavior

I don’t like to berate people, but sometimes I feel compelled to address childish behavior. Sadly, anime community isn’t exempt from it. For the record, I’ve seen more childish behavior out of customers when I was a retail manager than out of the anime community.

The Controversy Surrounding Goblin Slayer Episode 1

This was my least favorite post to write. I still feel like I need to wash my hands. But I had to point out how anime dehumanizes women, reducing them to plot devices or objects of lust. At the same time, I’ve also read worse scenes in dark fantasy novels. Either way, the first episode casts a shadow across Goblin Slayer.

Here’s to another 52 articles (raises tea cup–phew). I hope you found most of this year’s meanderings interesting and helpful. I have more ideas for researched articles in 2019 – 2020. My list sits in front of me as I write this, but I am always open to suggestions. I want to know what you find interesting or confusing or just wonder about in regards to anime, Japan, and our relationships with both. I wish you a blessed new year full of good events, good manga, and good anime.