I want to end this year’s blogspotlight with a special guest, Artemis, who is at the heart of Japanese media. Stationed in Japan and armed with an inspiring blog, I ask Artemis at Otaku Lounge about her blog.
Question 1: Could you tell the readers a bit about your blog? What can we find on your blog?
“I’m interested in Japanese pop culture in general and have been for the past few years, but anime in particular has always been my chief fascination. So my blog is mostly made up of articles relating to anime, while every now and then I like to talk about things such as Japanese live-action films, music, street fashion and the like. Sometimes I write full reviews, sometimes I write more editorial or informational pieces, but either way, I generally try to keep things simple and/or entertaining enough that hopefully both long-time fans as well as newcomers will be able to easily read and enjoy the posts. It’s also a good platform for me to be able to discuss one of my main passions in a more casual way than academia usually allows for – hence the name of my blog, Otaku Lounge.”
Question 2: What made you decide to start your own blog?
“I had written as a columnist for other places both online and physical in the past, and after I moved to Japan and settled in here, I decided I wanted to write under my own steam. Starting an anime blog just seemed like the best logical step I guess. My goal was to begin writing in the hopes of engaging with other like-minded anime and Japanese pop culture fans – I wanted to create my own space where I’d be able to have actual conversations with people, i.e. talking with them rather than simply at them. ”
Question 3: How did you get in touch with anime and other Japanese media?
“Like so many other anime fans roughly around my age, my first exposure to anime was through the dubbed version of Sailor Moon. I didn’t know what anime was then, much less that I was actually watching it, but it drew me in like nothing else I had experienced up until that point. Fast forward about five years and I accidentally caught sight of the Evangelion series during a late-night babysitting job. After that, it was a very quick slide down the rabbit hole – one greatly aided by the internet and fellow fans. ”
Question 4: What is the element that you like most in anime?
“I’m sure many people have answered this kind of question in the same vein and I don’t want to parrot them, but I truly think one of the best things about anime is the enormous scope of variety it offers. I’m not even necessarily talking about specifics such as plot (although that too is obviously part of it), but rather all the ways in which anime can present a single story. To pick one example off the top of my head: despite the fact that there is a truly enormous amount of anime revolving around high school romance, the ways in which they put their own spin on things are often quite remarkable. Sakamichi no Apollon, Toradora!, and Ouran High School Host Club all carry some of the same thematic elements; the base plot of boy-meets-girl is overtly present in each. However, the execution of said plot between these titles is completely different. Sure, you’d naturally expect a dark psychological thriller to be wildly dissimilar from a high school dramedy, but when you get hundreds of titles revolving around any single stock storyline in a row, and you see that they all bring something new to the table, that’s when I think you really get to see the potential that anime has to offer. I’m not saying that every anime manages to be exciting and creative with their story, but the possibilities are basically endless, and anime definitely isn’t a medium that’s scared to make use of them.”
Question 5: Do you have a specific genre you love to watch?
“I’ll give pretty much anything at least a trial run and I have favourites from nearly every genre, but many of my top favourite anime titles have a good mix of genres going on. Straight action usually bores me, for instance, but I appreciate the action a lot more when it’s accompanied by supernatural or fantastical elements. I don’t tend to like melodrama, but I eat up slice-of-life shows when they’re mixed with intelligently-executed psychological themes or well-timed comedy. Of course, anime titles that mix genres are extremely plentiful, so needless to say, I never feel as though I’m lacking for material.”
Question 6: What is your favorite series? Can you tell us what made it so special?
“Cowboy Bebop. The main reason I’m choose it above some of my other top shows like Usagi Drop or Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is that it’s already proven it can stand the test of time, whereas most other titles of my favourites list are still a bit too new to be able to say that. But one of the things I notice about said favourites list is that the vast majority of titles on it are good all-rounders. It’s not just that the story is well-executed, or that I genuinely care for the characters, or that the productions qualities are generally very high; it’s a combination of all of these things. I both respect and like anime that can incorporate an enjoyable story with great pacing and solid characterisation, and also incorporate smooth animation, eye-catching artwork, and an excellent soundtrack. Cowboy Bebop epitomises that for me, and even better, I find myself appreciating it more with every single re-watch.”
Question 7: What do you dislike in anime?
“I don’t like it when anime has a lot of pointless dialogue, but it’s as though many shows are scared of having too much silence. Seriously, go ahead and pick any anime series at random. Then watch a single episode of it and count all the times in which people talk without managing to either further the plot or achieve any kind of meaningful character development.”
Question 8: What made you decide to go to Japan?
“I had wanted to live in Japan for at least a year since a while back – in part to prove to myself that I could (having never lived in an overseas country before and not being a particularly self-confident person), and in part because my love for Japan prompted me to experience the real thing as someone who actually worked there rather than as a tourist. As it turned out, I enjoyed my first year so much that it was no difficulty to decide to stay a second. My re-contracting forms come up in a couple of months, and I’ll more than likely be choosing to stay for a third year as well. ”
Question 9: You are stationed at the ‘core’ of Japanese media, Japan itself. Is anime and manga widely present in Japan?
“Anime is often seen as more of a ‘geek’ hobby than manga is, but both are very present even way out where I am in southern rural Japan. I see anime and manga basically wherever I go – kids doodle their favourite characters in class, convenience stores are forever promoting Tiger and Bunny or Attack on Titan or whatever it is that’s currently generating a lot of buzz, and there’s no missing the One Piece merchandise, be it pens or pencil cases, stickers or hair accessories, clothing or cellphones. It doesn’t matter if whatever is being publicised has nothing to do with anime or manga either, so I’m always seeing that general style of artwork being used for seemingly random things like public service announcements and roadwork signs. There’s literally no escaping this particular aspect of Japanese culture.”
Question 10: Can you give one example that sets Japan apart from any other country?
“I think what sets Japan apart from any other country is a combination of things rather than just one – I’m sure that I could name any single cultural point and have other people say that [insert other country here] has something similar. But I guess that if I were to cherry-pick something, it would be the customer service. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what country you’re from, you’re nearly always treated with a respect that borders on worship when you’re out shopping or eating in a restaurant. I’m not just talking about the obligatory bowing or shouts of welcome when entering a store, either – the heights that some workers will go to in order to make life easier for their clientele seem frankly ridiculous at times. Why am I given candy and/or a packet of tissues along with my change at the post shop when I send a package overseas? Why is there an elevator lady standing there ready to push the buttons for me? Why is the gas station attendant literally holding up traffic for me to ensure I get back on the road quickly after filling up? I know of no other country that has this level of customer attentiveness… which I sometimes love and sometimes just baffles me. ”
Question 11: What does the future hold for your blog?
“Honestly, I have no idea. I know I’d like to continue blogging for a long time to come, and I have a few new ideas that I think could work in pretty well with what I already have going, but my biggest hope for the future of Otaku Lounge doesn’t really have anything to do with any one specific topic. So long as I can continue to promote the open but friendly discussion about anime and other forms of Japanese pop that stem from my posts, then I’ll be happy no matter what else may happen.”
Question 12: To make this post a little more personal. Can you give us a random fact about yourself?
“If there’s any hobby I enjoy more than watching anime, it’s swimming. I love being in the water and have done since I was a baby splashing around in the bathtub. When I was around 8 years old I began swimming competitively, which is something I’ve kept up today. Although I haven’t had a coach since I was a teen and certainly no longer compete on the same kind of level that I once did, being able to continue that here in Japan is a huge joy. I like the ocean too, but on top of being my main form of physical activity, swimming laps in the local pool is my main source of stress relief and general relaxation. Anything less than three times a week and I start getting antsy, which I joke is the chlorine withdrawal symptoms kicking in.”
I want to thank Artemis at Otaku Lounge for participating and closing off the blogspotlight series for this year. I wanted to do something different and create a more engaged anime community. Discovering and sharing is what makes blogging so much fun. I hope I am able to spotlight more blogs coming year and I want to thank those who’ve participated this year.