Anime Blogging Echo Chambers

Anime Blogging is a weird hobby. It introduces you to all sorts of perspectives that would never occur to anyone otherwise. This can be good but it can also be not that great.

Lately, I have been thinking that one of the problems with our Brave New World isn’t only the fact that information comes at us at such speed and in such amounts that we don’t have a chance to process it, but also that it’s heavily curated.

We fill our feeds with people and sources that tend to validate our biases. When we read something we consider nonsense we take it out. We end up with very partial views of the world that rarely challenges us.

winner!!!!

Up to a certain point, I think that applies to us annibloggers in a very peculiar way. The fact that anime fandoms are stilted and a bit weird is nothing new. But even when you don’t account for those, anime bloggers breathe a very rarefied air.

See, I don’t keep up much with what the greater anime fandom does and thinks. I’m not super active on Reddit and MAL or even anime Twitter. I don’t watch anime YouTubers and I usually get my anime news from other bloggers. So what I hear from the bloggers I follow ends up being my general impression. And once in a while, it was skewed.

For instance, I really liked Demon Slayer. I reviewed it with Crow and we both had a blast. But when reading a lot of my fellow bloggers, they were less than charmed. A few liked it but in general, most of the bloggers I followed were not into it and got less and less into it as the season progressed.

Similarly, I saw a lot of negatives about both Tower of God and the God of Highschool among bloggers. For the record, I thought GoH was fine and I really enjoyed ToG.

In any case, I was left with the impression the all three of these animes were flops. In fact, I have seen my fellow bloggers declare ToG and GoH huge flops so it’s not just me.

Taking this into account, I was a little surprised that the last anime convention I went to was absolutely bursting with Demon Slayer merchandise and cosplays. Since then I realized that it actually was quite successful. Something I should have figured out by how much interest my Demon Slayer screencaps were getting.

I got curious about the GoH and ToG anime as well. Since these were interesting projects on many levels. Some of the first anime directly funded (produced) by Crunchyroll and based on webtoon originals, the outcome of those series will probably have some impact on the future of anime. Both on how source material will be regarded and the likelihood of foreign funds getting injected into the industry on a production level.

people love this screencap

I quickly hit a sort of soft wall in my research. What the heck does flop mean in anime? Like how many people liked it? What the critics thought? How many people watched it? Is it moving merchandising or generating interest for the source material? I couldn’t find what metric my colleagues were using to measure the success of any given series.

Now I know anime bloggers weren’t crazy about these shows but well, anime bloggers aren’t exactly the core audience. Most of us are a bit older than the middle school to early high school demographic. Moreover, a lot of us tend to watch a lot of anime and have developed peculiar anime palates if you will. Finally, a lot of anime bloggers are specialists. They started their blog to discuss particular types of anime or particular aspects of anime. Therefore series that fall outside of their specialty don’t interest them as much. This tends to play heavily against shows produced with a general audience in mind and that don’t cater to any particular niches.

But still, there was a span of several months were I couldn’t open my computer without having a blogger I know either post or tweet about how bad these shows were or how bad specific characters were. It had to have a grain of truth, right? And yet, they were still watching these shows.

Anilist tells me that ToG and GoH were respectively the 3rd and 4th most popular animes of 2020, with only Kaguya-sama and Re:Zero getting more viewership in the entire year. However, when we look at average ratings they are considerably less impressive. ToG has the same rating as Somali. Higher than SoA, BOFURI, Love Live, ORESUKI, DanMachi, Villainess… All of which were regarded quite positively. GoH is considerably lower but still above the midpoint for the year.

I preferred both God shows to re:Zero…

Ok, so I know that both shows also did generate huge interest for the webtoons. But does that mean they are a success or a failure? I don’t know because the limited impression I hear about doesn’t match the numbers.

For the record, Noblesse is an abysmal 10 points rating under GoH and is much less popular as well, but I have read that it’s a success? I mean I like Noblesse.

I use this information in my posts occasionally and I realize that I have no way of backing it. I sometimes read bloggers discuss latest controversies and am under the impression that most fans are foaming at the mouth over something only to have my readers tell me they either never heard of it or that most people don’t actually care at all.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with bloggers writing about subjects they are passionate about or presenting impressions and information from a personal standpoint. On the contrary, I think it’s a good thing. It’s up to me to do the work if I want to get a more global understanding of a situation. That’s perfectly normal.

she came up when I searched for a normal anime character and I liked her

I’m just saying that sometimes I forget that I am actually the exception as an anime fan. I don’t necessarily represent the majority of watchers and neither do my fellow bloggers. As such, if we just talk amongst ourselves we can get the wrong impression sometimes.

My little example about those specific anime was just to illustrate the situation. I just went to get numbers. If I really wanted to get the entire idea I would also have to collect the impression of viewers keeping in mind that viewers who have negative thoughts are usually exponentially more vocal online than those who have positive ones. And then, I would have to somehow figure out what the studios and producers were hoping to achieve.

So bloggers and dear readers, I do hope you keep on reading my blog and all the other ones you are enjoying. But remember, that we are not necessarily the authority on a subject. Many times, we are sharing personal impressions and subjective musings. And that’s what makes the posts unique but it also means they are up for debate and interpretation…

I guess what I’m saying is, fellow bloggers, don’t listen to me too much!

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

44 Responses

  1. RisefromAshes says:

    It kinda makes me chuckle about your Demon Slayer comments. That series, despite the fact it’s finished, is still THE SERIES to know in Japan. My students read/watched it, my co-workers read/watched it, my Japanese friends who don’t care about anime or manga read/watched it. Several of them went to see the movie multiple times, despite the pandemic and never going to the movies! It’s still super popular, and the running joke with all those people is I’ve still never seen it despite it’s popularity. So to hear that other’s didn’t like it/didn’t think it was that good, boggles my mind a bit. Then again, popularity rarely indicates the quality.

    But it is interesting to see how the blogging community does have a bubble. It’s something I never really thought too hard about. Or at least, I didn’t want to acknowledge it. The freedom of blogging, means not only curating your audience but curating who you follow. In that curation comes bias, since it’s all fun and games until someone expresses (usually politely) an opinion about your favorite series that doesn’t completely match your opinions. Then it’s exactly like you said, I suddenly start second guessing how I could follow a blog with such an opinion. A lot of good food for thought here, and it’s been interesting to read through other people’s thoughts and opinions here and elsewhere!

    • Irina says:

      I know what you mean. It’s getting to a point were we occasionally have to actively make an effort to avoid echo chambers

  2. Sad OldGuy says:

    The fandom always is in flux and the experiences of people with decades of anime watching (me) can have a different opinion than someone new. You watch your first isekai (The Vision of Escaflowne or the Wizard of Oz) and think “How cool” and the twenty-first is “another bland OP protag, ugh).

  3. stillcircle says:

    I think what you’re describing in this interesting post is an example of what I think of as “enthusiasts’ bias”. That is to say, the opinions we tend to hear are from people who are motivated to create and share them. It doesn’t matter if the opinions expressed are negative or positive; the point is that the creator of that opinion, generally speaking, has a higher motivation to put it online than the “typical” or “average” viewer. And that’s because they are enthusiastic about the particular field about which they are posting. And that in turn creates “enthusiasts’ bias” – which is a reference, not so much to the particular preferences of any given poster, but about the skewed impressions created by the fact that it is enthusiasts and not “ordinary” consumers who are, in the main, creating the content and putting it online. “Ordinary” people watch anime – whether on TV, on their device, or at the cinema – and talk about it with their friends or acquaintances they know are into anime – but don’t typically post about it online. Enthusiasts, on the other hand, do. Indeed, they probably do it before they even talk about it with anyone! Demon Slayer is a very good example. As a regular watcher of NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, I was well aware of how phenomenally successful it was, if only because stories of its success featured on NHK’s news bulletins. But if you were reliant on social media posts to determine it Demon Slayer was a hit or not – well, as you say, you might get a very different idea! (Same goes with the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines!) So, when I read posts about anime, (like this one!) I am less interested in whether the poster “liked” a given show/episode or not, as I am about whether they “get” anime – that is to say, whether they can relate their own experience of anime back to (at least some of) the meanings that the consumers of anime find in it as an artform, and what those meanings supply to their humanity. Indeed, what anime as a story-telling medium says about what it means to be human in our day and age.

  4. Scott says:

    I’m late to responding because I planned on responding during the afternoon (yay for being able to sleep in), but this is why I always say that my opinions are bad. I try tp keep the thought of me not being any sort of authority in terms of anime as much as I can and even ask people to say “will, I don’t have to watch that” for the most part to at least try it for their own takes because I don’t think my opinions line up with a lot of other peoples most of the time. Just a blogger that enjoys watching and talking about anime here. Nothing more or nothing less.

    I really don’t like people who try to become a beacon of authority in one way or another in regards to anime either and tell other people what to watch. Everyone has the right to watch whatever they want to watch and enjoy whatever they should enjoy. Having disagreements and conversations over different pieces of media is fun. I like knowing people have different opinions then I do because it’s a perspective that I want to know more about. (Depends on a few things of course, but you know…)

    • Irina says:

      It’s so cute that you plan your responses. I’m honoured.
      As for becoming an authority. I do think some people truly want that, but I also think that sometimes small groups just get together and kind of decide their reality. It’s weird but we’ve always been that way

  5. In terms of getting information that is factually accurate regarding the objective qualities of an anime, I would echo what Fred said. reading multiple sources, especially in the internet era, is extremely important to having a view of the world that is tied to reality. Not that I don’t love the content of my fellow bloggers (yourself included), but I would always double check something with other sources of information before believing or echoing anything I have heard.

    As for more abstract qualities, I would say its important to express thought out opinions, but at the end of the day we are all influenced by our surroundings, and that includes our opinions on anime.

  6. Echo chambers… social bubbles… where have I hard those terms before?

    What you have described is a universal trend. All aspects of society seem to be headed that way. Some are far more important than anime, I’m afraid.

    You’re right about bloggers not being representative of overall anime viewership. Shounen, the largest genre, is targeted at middle school boys. Most anime bloggers are not middle school boys. One should not be surprised that their tastes can be different. We are, after all, self appointed experts, cognoscenti, and aficionados.

    They just like a character they can fantasize about being (or being with) with well choreographed kick-ass action from the guys and improbable curves on the girls. That’s not a bad thing. Just not the same thing that people who take the time and effort to write and illustrate blogs tend to focus on.

    We could compare the Critics Choice Movie Awards vs. the People’s Choice Movie Awards. Often they do not agree.

    • Irina says:

      I remember hearing so many bloggers talk about how everyone was shocked about Funimation pulling an anime and when I talk about it a bit to other fans, they really did not care at all.

  7. “I guess what I’m saying is, fellow bloggers, don’t listen to me too much!”

    I’ve spent my life analyzing how people speak and present information. And unless you’re state-actor level trained in propaganda, that statement right there would incline me to trust your perspective.

    Of course, if you _were_ a state-sponsored propagandist, that’s exactly what you’d want me to think…

    When I say I trust your perspective, I mean a couple things. First, I trust you not to try to pretend you know what’s best or most popular or what’s worthy. Those are declarations that we can’t really make for someone else. I’ve never read you try to force your opinion on others or misrepresent your opinion as fact.

    I know you know this, but for the sake of full disclosure, that’s astoundingly rare. No, you know what? It’s precious. There’s a reason you get the level of engagement that you do.

    Second, I trust you to honestly give your perspective. That’s why I read your site and the sites of several of the people who commented here. I don’t want to read what someone thinks I want to hear. I want to hear what you want to say.

    And as an aside, I really liked Tower of God, too.

  8. Johnathan says:

    As someone that’s super into story telling I find it very interesting to see why/ what someone like or dislikes. I mean sure 9 times out of 10 you get the general “they used CG” or others but I want to understand why certain story types appeal to certain people.

    My end goal is to take those parts of a story they liked and didn’t then re-watch something in that head space. For me its a bit of a pallet cleanser/ broaden of genres. I know what I like, but if I can grow another level of appreciation I’m always open to it. But ultimately most of the time when its someone reviewing, or looking at a review, it is for confirmation. Added I think there is a certain charm in that as well.

    I really enjoyed this post (don’t get me wrong I like a lot of your stuff) but as a sociology major this struck on a chord I wasn’t expecting to find, real great work!

    • Irina says:

      Thank you so much. I’m afraid I tripped over my example though and a lot of people seem to think it’s a post about gauging the value of specific anime. I appreciate hearing someone get it.

  9. Blue Hawk says:

    “Most of us are a bit older than the middle school to early high school demographic.”

    I think the words you’re looking for are “smarter,” “more experienced,” or “more intellectually developed.” 😉 Not that we weren’t all middleschoolers or early highschoolers ourselves once and thought we knew everything then too!

    When it came out, I saw a FB post on Demon Slayer that said it was the greatest anime ever. I rapidly reminded myself that this person was probably 13 years old and just started watching anime last year all while I held my sides and choked back my laughter. Demon Slayer has the best action sequences I’ve ever seen in it, but everything else is fairly ordinary. The characters are fun, but the story isn’t very engaging, nor is the dialogue memorable. I think people react to something that could be seen as outstanding rather than the thing as a whole at times. Hey, a 10 rating for artwork and a zero rating for story works out to an average of 5 overall, all other things being equal. So it can be misleading.

    But hey, if all art was according to a standard, it wouldn’t be art. Whether that be imposed as an echo-chamber or some sort of pseudo-academic standardization system, such things will always impact our experiences with art. If I had to put it in a nutshell, I’d the best art is that which can’t easily be described. Hence any attempt to pigeonhole any kind of art revolves around some
    communicated definition/description. I’ve gotten way off topic.

    A good, thoughtful post as always!

  10. goatius says:

    I think it’s important to remember popularity is often tied to good marketing strategies by companies looking to sell merchandise. If the manga or webtoon is doing well, production committees make the anime. Those entities operate completely outside the anime blogosphere. Echo chambers aren’t going to change that unless the negative attention means less viewers, which leads to less ad revenue and less merch.

    That said, it’s okay to be different. Diversity can make fandom more enjoyable and a healthier community. Echo chambers are only bad if they promote intolerance.

    • Irina says:

      Since echo chambers isolate us from differing points of view, it’s almost inevitable that they will make people a tiny bit less tolerant to those differences simply by virtue of novelty, I think. I could be wrong.

  11. Nick says:

    I try to go into most season fairly blind. I just watch episode 1 of anything that seems remotely interesting, and base my decisions on that. I’ll check other people’s opinions after I’ve formed my own.

    The webtoon adaptations are quite interesting, I wrote a post about that a while back myself, since I’ve seen all three (GoH, ToG and Noblesse) and have since read all three webtoons as well. To make a long story short, I think each of the adaptations was missing something important from the source material, which made it fall kind of flat. ToG was the biggest success I think, but Bam is a super boring character early on (which is kind of the point). He grows tremendously as the webtoon goes on, but the anime doesn’t cover that.

    I thought the GoH adaptation was very chaotic, and although some of the fight animation was pure art, I never got invested in the story until I started reading it. Noblesse to me was the most painful adapation, because by far the best part of Noblesse is how funny it is. Rai being basically tonedeaf to all of modern society makes for some amazing comedy, and the anime seemed to skip a good majority of that in favor of forgettable fights.

    I feel like I went on a rant, but I think what I want to say is that it’s important to try and form your own opinions first whenever you can, to avoid other people talking you out of liking a good show. (and for the record, I loved Demon Slayer, and one of my best friends bought all the volumes, she loved it that much).

    • Irina says:

      The ability to curate information does have a lot of great advantages but it also limits our ability to get a real range of opinions and that’s true in anime just like in everything else.

  12. MangaHub says:

    I guess everyone at the end of the day should decide for themselves if they like something or not. I tend to read reviews only after I watched something, so I don’t get too much prejudgment. Also, spoilers

  13. Mari says:

    Internet echo chambers are very weird. When Demon Slayer came out I was in an anime discord chat and I remember everybody there HATED it. I actually loved it so much, I read the entire manga after 😅

    I’m definitely more out of the loop on current trends, but I do like to read articles on Kotaku or other nerdy sites. It’s interesting to see how the anime community’s tastes change over time and how they react to certain things.

  14. jarilissima says:

    I enjoy your blog and your unique personal perspectives 🙂 Just had to say that!

  15. Pinkie says:

    I personally do not believe in a factually good anime. Nor a factually bad one.

    I hated Tower of God, but that is from a me stance. I disliked how little liberties it took within its shonen identity. I saw these types of characters before doing the same types of things…I think Tower of God or Demon Slayer are great entry anime, that also work if you do not mind seeing a similar tale to what you have seen before.

    However due to how anime like Bleach, Hunter x Hunter and One Piece changed my life, stuff like ToW or DS cant match those and IMO they dont try to do new things but rather focus on bringing that same energy to a new generation.

    I rate Code Geass significantly lower than Märchen Maedchen for example. Based on scores or general reception that makes no sense, yet neither am I wrong for believing something that is against the majority. Good or Bad are strictly subjective terms ( aside from maybe in ethics)

    We all watch anime form different origin stories and with different goals, one of mine is, to see something new, while people like Jon and anitwit people watch it to have a discussion or to look what lies beneath ( not saying that is the correct motuvation, just an example)
    Indigo from my blog may watch anime for a cool factor. That already means we might watch the same things, but on very different outlooks.

    Which brings me to you Senpai.. in my eyes you watch anime from one of the puresy motivation possible, watching anime because it is anime, you have less genre bias than most, you, to my knowledge, seem very focussed on the watching anime , where Lita for example is more of a I wanna build comunities and share it focussed person in my eyes… Simply put I’d say you are one of the biggest Simps for anime in our community, which I find a good thing.. you are like love for anime incarnate… So I think your reviews are among the most pure to read and more reliable in general.

    The flipside of that coin being that it is really hard to find an “anime soulmate” that is as pure. You for me are a great unbiassed pallet that puts anime on my radar, after which I look up Bullettoon/Galvanic and Mari opinions whom I feel are very up my alley taste wise. Regardless of any opinion though an anime only becomes good or bad after watching it yourself

  16. Artemis says:

    I guess I might be something of an exception in that if I don’t like a show, beyond writing my first impressions post (assuming it’s a brand new airing show), I’m never likely to blog about it ever again. Unless any given anime makes a truly, uniquely appalling impression on me (as in, I loathed it with every fiber of my being and feel like I’m going to explode if I don’t express my thorough hatred), I never bother to write a dedicated post about something that I just didn’t like it much or didn’t happen to be my cup of tea. I can’t even remember if I actually used to blog like this or not, but if I did, it must have been some years ago now.

  17. ospreyshire says:

    This is certainly a conversation that needs to be had with the aniblogging community. I do wonder if I only want an echo chamber for my posts and whatever. Not going to lie, when I saw another aniblogger give a negative review to Haibane Renmei, I was shocked not just because of our respective opinions, but with how critically-acclaimed it was despite never being a popular show. There were certainly times where I do have contrary opinions like finding Weathering With You average as of recently. It’s surprising when people respect my opinions on different movies or series even if what I say isn’t always popular. I used to follow other reviewers and Rotten Tomatoes very much when I was younger before I was disillusioned.

  18. Jerome says:

    I’m not surprised about Demon slayer because a lot of people argue that is part of the new big three along with Black Clover and Boku no hero. I think Demon Slayer is very good and you are the first person to state people thought it was bad. The animation is top notch and for me its rare for an anime to look so good, the last for me was Fate/Stay Night unlimited bladeworks and that was kinda bad. I think God of High school was good but a bit confusing and didn’t explain much I found. Tower of God got so many bad reviews I never even tried watching it so I can’t say much.

    What I will say is that you shouldn’t in trust ratings at times because your general taste may differ so what some people view as bad you may love and I have many anime which I could use as a personal example

    • Irina says:

      Perfect ilustration, you had never heard anything negative about Demon Slayer because your echo chamber is different. Curating information is very useful but it does make for an incomplete picture

      • LitaKino says:

        Bad? Demon slayer well I like demon slayer for brother sister sibling story which I’m never sold on at all usually. Haha you start saying bad about demon slayer you’ll be sliced and diced by fans but I didn’t like the time skip part at the beginning where 3 years has passed of training for Tanjiro for me felt out of place and could have waited a couple more of episodes. I don’t like that butterfly girl much, silent types like her don’t always make me fan girl much, we’re getting season two might change my mind.

        Demon slayer I class as good for animation, sibling story but oversaturated hype for it now gets bit much for me.

  19. LitaKino says:

    If someone tells me these days to not watch an anime saying it’s trash or low score, every time I’ll just ignore it because I’m the one who will decide. In the latest podcast episode I did with my hosts I talk about how outside influences ruined my experience with your lie in April. People meant well by saying “you’ll cry in this episode 8” “be prepared for the end”. When people say things like that to me I take them as hint spoilers because it became apparent quickly what people were saying. Outside influences like blogs, twitters I limit to when I begin a show now, all the time now though I go in blindly without reading nothing but foot notes for synopsis. I don’t pay attentions to ratings on ani list following pure instinct interest.

  1. February 18, 2021

    […] to all the anime I was consuming by the mile stone, without walking into a new internet chamber: Irina’s recent post addresses. The digitised explosion of the internet in any interest, area has more influence over us than we […]

  2. February 21, 2021

    […] Anime Blogging Echo Chambers by Irina – Irina’s being her circuitous self again…which means just her usual self and that’s not a bad thing at all. Is it wrong to think we – anime denizens of the internet – are actually wrong in comparison to the general consensus?…that’s hard to say anything about, depending on where you stand, geographically, anime intake-wise and so on. […]

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