Look Back

Well, we made it through another year. And, in a bit less than two months, Animétudes will celebrate its second anniversary. So, as I did last year, I want to do a little, informal piece about the blog itself: a retrospective on 2021, and some thoughts about what’s coming for 2022.

The first thing I must note is how much the blog has grown. It was still really small in early 2021, but regular publishing, the success of topics like the Kanada school or my piece on 198X, and unfailing support from readers have made the daily number of visits on the website skyrocket. I really hope things will keep on that way and that one day, maybe, Animétudes becomes the place people go to when they want to know more about anime history. Maybe that’s a bit too much ambition, but that’s the hole I’m determined to carve for myself now.

Besides all the readers – especially you who’s reading this – there are a few people I must mention with whom I particularly exchanged, and/or who really helped me formulate clearly what I want to do with this blog now. The first one is Toadette, who co-wrote (and will continue to co-write) all the entries in the World Masterpiece Production History series. I’ll come back later on how important working on it was for me, but here I must say that Toadette and their endless wealth of knowledge has truly carried this blog – and this, since my History of TMS series, my first big research project. Then, there’s Awayfarer, who was kind enough to pen Animétudes’ first guest article, a wonderful meditation on the fascinating Heike Monogatari. I’ve really been moving away from theory of most kinds recently, and while I don’t regret it, I’m glad that people like Awayfarer are there to bug me with their theoretical inclinations so I don’t lose sight of the bigger, structural picture. Finally, I want to mention the wonderful hosts of the Mobile Suit Breakdown podcast, Thom and Nina: as I have repeatedly said over on Twitter, their work on the Gundam series has been and keeps being one of the most exemplar critical approaches to media that I’ve ever seen. It has been my greatest honor to help them with my piece on Char’s Counterattack’s animation, and I am very glad to say that I should be taking part in the podcast itself as a guest very soon. There are, of course, many other people I’ve tremendously enjoyed being with all over the year, but I’m going to spare you the long list.

I mentioned just above that I now know what I want to do and where I want to go with the blog. In last year’s retrospective, I said something similar: that I would move away from the theoretical pieces and dedicate myself more to history. The result of that shift was the History of the Kanada School series. With retrospect, of course, I wish I could completely redo it, reformulate certain things, explore some other aspects in more depth or under a different light – which is what I’ve actually been doing in many more recent pieces – but still, it was an incredibly ambitious project which seems to have found its audience. I couldn’t be happier that it did.

However, even though writing this series was incredibly fun and taught me a lot not just on anime but also on writing about anime, I feel that the real turning point for the blog was actually the World Masterpiece Theater series – that is, the article on Rocky Chuck in June and especially the one on Heidi in July. The explicit intent we had with Toadette was basically to do things as our mutual model Ben Ettinger would have done them – thus the general context-episode highlights-staff transcription format, directly taken from Ettinger’s pieces. This is what truly decided me to go towards a more Ettinger-inspired kind of writing: deep historical dives, staff transcriptions and translations, and the ambition to cover all the parts of anime history that Ettinger didn’t. But I also want to take things further: to keep thinking about what it means to write history and to write about art, and to never forget the political and sociological aspects of animation production. This is why I’m doing my best, and will hopefully strive to, write history not just about animators and directors, but also producers, in-betweeners, photographers, writers, all the technical and non-animation related staff that we sakuga fans tend to set aside. I’m aware that all of this makes the article much longer and denser, and probably harder to read – but I still hope that readers will stick on and that Animétudes can become a valuable resource for this kind of niche, technical information.

All this may sound very ambitious or, if you’re less charitable, even a bit self-congratulating. Basically all that I’ve mentioned yet has been in inception in the last few months, but I really hope to make it work on my next project: a new series, dedicated to studio Tatsunoko between 1962 and 1977. It will surely not be as big as the TMS and Kanada school series, but it is an important springboard for me to try and put into practice all of the ideas and ambitions I formulated above. There, I will do my best to approach anime not just as animation, but as a material object and a series of techniques – which primarily involve animation, but also painting, photography, writing and many other things.

One of the major elements that made this shift possible and, I hope, the quality of my articles increase, is that I have been increasingly relying on Japanese sources. This goes from essential anime databases sakuga@wiki and seesawiki, to actual Japanese blogs, magazines and books. This has of course opened incredibly wide doors to my research – the Kanada school series and my piece on 198X wouldn’t have been possible without it. But this also means more investment in time as well as money since I now have to start actually importing sources from Japan. I don’t mind putting all that into the blog, since it’s been driving me for next to 2 years now, but I’ve also been thinking of ways to make all this process easier for me. I’ve discussed this in a Twitter thread, and so for my next project I plan to try out crowdfunding to make it easier for me to obtain some of the resources I’ll need.

To tell the truth, I don’t have much else to announce – my hopes for the new year are to put out the Tatsunoko series, which should take most of January and early February, and then to complete the World Masterpiece Theater series. I don’t have topic ideas for anything beyond that, but I hope to maintain the publishing schedule I’ve had since last Fall – that is, one article every two weeks.

My plans for the next year are therefore both more and less ambitious than what they were last year. More ambitious, because I really hope to improve my writing and content; less ambitious, because in terms of scope, there shouldn’t be any major change compared to what I did in 2021. But that satisfied me, and I hope it satisfied you; so let’s keep going on and improve on that even more.

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