Recharging the Batteries: Summer 2006 Sabbatical Discussion
The anime world is changing. When I got into this hobby over twenty years ago, it was all about the movies and OVAs. Sure, my gateway into anime was Robotech, an 85-episode television series, but that was the exception, not the rule. Collecting television series was far too expensive for anyone who didn't have major connections. And for years, short OVA series and movies ruled the scene in America. Until the advent of DVD, television series were a novelty in American fandom; yes, some of us had seen all of Kimagure Orange Road or one of a few select titles that the early fansubbers released, but they weren't a big deal.
That's no longer the case, and I can no longer ignore it. Of the 219 titles that have been released to date in 2006 according to AnimeOnDVD.com, only three of them are movies. That's less than 1.5%...and all three are Miyazaki films I'd reviewed much earlier! There are only two non-hentai OVA or OVA compilations I spotted...less than even 1%. That means that, again skipping hentai, probably 95% of what is released in the US today are anime TV series. Compare that to 1997, when 100% of the anime DVDs released were OVAs or movies...in 1998, the only TV title listed was the first volume of Pokemon. Of course, the rise of anime TV in America has come over time, as I noted in my 2004 analysis of anime trends...but looking at the 840 titles released in 2005, the number of TV shows is just huge. It is the future of anime.
And why not? The Japanese market for OVAs has dried up considerably, and anime films are becoming rarer. There's also something to be said for television shows. Done well, they can display much more character detail and plot weight than a film. They can be more complex without being confusing. And on top-shelf shows, the animation need not suffer. What's more, teenagers are the central market for anime, and they often have the free time most of us adults lack to take in a hundred-episode saga. Grab somebody's attention for a film, and you've got one DVD sale, two if there's a decent sequel. But grab somebody for a television series, and you could sell them anywhere from four discs for a short series into the hundreds for a runaway behemoth like Dragonball Z.
This is where the truth comes in for me. I've been so focused on producing a review for my readers every week that I have neglected focusing on what has become the core of modern anime fandom. I have yet to watch past episode 8 of Neon Genesis Evangelion or episode 4 of Escaflowne or Trigun. I've missed Excel Saga and Outlaw Star, El Hazard and Last Exile. I still get requests on a monthly basis for a review of Berserk and Paranoia Agent and Haibane Renmei. I haven't even finished the second halves of Gantz and Elfen Lied! Though I've loved being the only "lone gun" anime review site to update every single week for the past seven years, it's come at a price...a huge investment waiting to be watched of discs that have never been touched because of the weekly grind. And I've decided that it's going to stop.
For the summer of 2006, I'm going to lay low for a while. Besides taking 10 hours of graduate level classes - an insane amount for summer, as most folks would tell you - I'm going to start tackling the series I've wanted to see personally...the TV series that every fan should see. I'm going to finish up Fullmetal Alchemist and get through Evangelion. As I progress, I'll make site updates. When I finish a show, a review will go up. I make no promises about what timeframe I'll follow...if it takes three months for a review to go up on the site again, so be it. But the promise I make to you, my readers, is that I will no longer update just to have an update. I'm going to focus for a while on the shows I want to see and things you've told me you want to see reviewed. I believe that it will ultimately make The Anime Review a more well-rounded website. I may not have as many reviews going up, but I hope they will be better reviews that help you decide whether or not to invest your time and money into a new series.
Will this pattern of "get a review when it's done" continue after the sabbatical is over? I don't know. Right now, I am less concerned about returning the site to a once-a-week operation and more concerned about it meeting my own needs and the needs of the average anime fan who wants intelligent, legitimate, well-written reviews they can trust. It may mean that I don't get preview screeners from some of the anime companies who need press for their new releases, and that's OK with me. I just want to provide you with a site that is all quality, all the time. I'm hoping that the three-month sabbatical will help me do that...and I'll keep you posted on it along the way.