The Future of The Anime Review: Part Two

3. It's all TV shows, all the time. I understand why TV is important to anime. You can tell ongoing stories. You can weave intricate tapestries that you simply don't have time for in film. Done well, TV anime can be great. The problem is, there's nothing else on the landscape. Other than the rare treat and the occasional Ghibli event, films are rare and OVAs are dead.

Since I was a kid, I've loved the movies, and I still follow the news about what's coming out. Anime films were my passion. Akira, Wings of Honneamise, Only Yesterday, Grave of the Fireflies...those are not just among the best animated films ever made, they are among the best films ever made. Truthfully, I even enjoyed the B-grade stuff. Give me the original Silent Mobius or Vampire Hunter D and I'm a happy man.

That isn't to say that I don't enjoy new anime films. I got a kick out of Redline and Summer Wars, and I am eager to see the new EVA installments and the Berserk series. While it's not quite my thing, I have even enjoyed Garden of Sinners. But these are few and far between, and there aren't many more new cinematic anime treasures for me to discover.

From a reviewer's perspective, TV is a very different beast. The best shows have clunky episodes; the worst shows have a bright spot or two. However, there's no telling where they will wind up. Recently, I watched Durarara!!, which started off as one of the brightest lights in recent memory only to shoot itself in the foot and struggle to a conclusion. While FMA: Brotherhood worked its way into something decent, I struggled to make my way through it. It can take a while to figure out if a show is going to get good (or bad).

That leads into another thought...TV shows require a lot of your time. To watch a thirteen-episode series requires a commitment of at least five and a half hours. More content means more to analyze. That tends to lengthen the time it takes to write a fair review of a series. For a twenty-six episode series, double the commitment to at least ten hours.

For teenagers with lots of time on their hands, this will seem like a stupid argument. If you're not busy with after-school stuff like band or sports, you might be able to find six hours between the time you get home from school and the time you go to bed and still find time for dinner and two hours of homework. From reading some of you out there, I know you do this. You can clear a couple of series a week easily. But for an adult, unless you are paid to review anime as your job, this can become a real problem.

4. There is no sense of scarcity or cost. You can pretty much watch whatever anime you want whenever you want. The legal streaming outlets alone carry more anime than any one person could watch in a month. Very little is truly impossible to find except items that are of interest only to archivists and obsessive collectors. The vast majority of it is totally free. Even if you upgrade your accounts at Crunchyroll and Hulu, you'll spend less on anime in a month than what a DVD with one movie or five episodes cost not five years ago.

If you ask me, the availability and cost of anime is pretty awesome. I'm glad that a serious fan can see tons of anime at little personal cost and (if you stick with legal channels) no ethical issues. But that also reduces the need for anime review sites from a value perspective. You can watch the first few episodes of almost any anime series at no cost but your time. If you don't like it, all you've lost is an hour or so, not $25. An anime review site may save you from wasting your time on an awful movie and can steer you towards something great. But likelihood is, you're going to trust your friends' opinions on the latest anime series more than mine.

Anime reviewing is now about a very different purpose - starting a conversation. It's not about saving your cash. It's about figuring out your interests and talking with other like-minded people. That's not a bad goal, but it means that crowd-sourced sites like MyAnimeList may be better suited to it. On a site like that, you can find folks with similar interests and see what they like. Others, like THEMAnime, offer forums where you can discuss the reviews. That too is a good thing.

Realistically, though, reviews no longer serve many of the higher purposes they did when seeing any anime at all was an investment, often in something you might not even like.

5. There's no personal stake in reviewing for me any more.  When I started updating The Anime Review regularly, DVD was nascent, and no one was sure it would take off. I became an early adopter because I saw the fantastic possibilities - subs and dubs on the same disc, the possibility of having 6 discs for a series as opposed to 13 videocassettes, better price points, and so on. All of us who were anime fans at the time wanted and needed DVD to succeed. While the industry fell apart spectacularly after an all-too-brief heyday, there is no going back.

Anime is everywhere. It's referenced in American shows consciously and subconsciously. We might be disappointed it never went mainstream, but these days, what is mainstream, anyway? The reality is, there's nothing further to be done in terms of making anime understood and accepted by the portion of the American population that ever would buy into it. New reviews still promote better anime and steer those on the fence away from the crap, but it's not going to help the overall state of anime in the US.

And for me, I realize that the recognition of beloved older shows isn't going to do much for their release in the US. Of my "top ten desert island anime," three are still unavailable on disc in the US, though only one (Only Yesterday) has never had a release of any sort. Of my extended thirteen "honorary mentions," only one has had no US release (Arion), and the rest are on disc. On one hand, I'm glad that so many of them can be purchased easily. On the other, there's no doubt in my mind that the others have no hope of an official American DVD or Blu-Ray release. Nothing I can do will change that. My work was once a tiny sub-current in the wave that helped get anime released en masse in the West. But that's over.

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