The Secret Origins of The Critical Otaku

In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, The Critical Otaku forged, in secret, a master blog to control all others. And into this blog he poured his… oh wait wrong backstory.

Growing up with an utterly unremarkable childhood, The Critical Otaku unwittingly consumed vast quantities of anime and manga- he eagerly awaited the day where he would become trapped in an MMO but sadly, that day never came. Unfortunately, this direct and concentrated Eastern pop cultural infusion left him uniquely vulnerable: he was tricked into signing a contract to be a Magical Girl by a strange small furry animal, whereupon he realized the creature’s duplicity after he was almost decapitated by what looked to be a Paper Mache project gone horribly awry. Hoping to make sense of his trauma, The Critical Otaku did the only sensible thing: he googled it, and started reading. But in that one act, The Critical Otaku found his worldview irrevocably changed:

He had become critical.

This horrified The Critical Otaku to no end because it exposed a seemingly insurmountable paradox: he had a deep and abiding love of Japanese pop culture, but at the same time very little of what he so loved held up to critical scrutiny. Overcome with angst and self-loathing to the point where he could no longer get into his giant robot, The Critical Otaku gathered himself and vowed to KILL ALL THE TITANS scour the vast and infinite net for the examples that did hold up- to find the shows that were good.

He would dedicate himself to his cause; and in sharing it he would (hopefully) find some measure of fortune and self-justification.

Or at least he would try, before the core contradiction between fan and critic gnaws away and destroys him…

Hi everyone, and welcome to The Critical Otkau, my blog about anime, critical assessment of art and geek culture. Pardon me for the long introduction, but I figured that if you took the time to read the “About” page you deserved a preview of the tone of this site: highly irreverent, hopefully funny self-awareness coupled with a burning desire to peer under the hood and find out why things work the way they do.

The impetus behind this blog is really simple: I just want to talk about stuff that interests me. Right now I’m starting small and focusing on anime in particular, with an incredibly modest schedule of one or two new posts a week. I’m hoping to make up for quantity with quality, and in time I hope to branch out a bit (I really, really want to talk about stuff like Mr. Robot and Android: Netrunner), but for now I’m just going to focus on Anime and its attendant fan culture. Which leads to the next question:

Why Anime?

Well, because I think that animation, out of all visual media, is capable of telling incredible stories unfettered by temporal constraints like props or special effects- and in many ways can better visualize the human imagination and render it into a tangible filmic form. Think about the works of Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli fame, and how those movies tell magical tales of fantasy and adventure with meaning and depth: you would be hard pressed to convince me that those feats of storytelling magic would be replicable in a traditional live-action film with traditional cinematography. And that I simply think that the Japanese are very good at this particular type of storytelling, with their particular concentration on animation as part of their commercial media culture. (Not to disparage the rest of the world their animated achievements- Pixar has become a box-office powerhouse for good reason, and I’d love to discuss Avatar: The Last Airbender and Wakfu some day too. But we’re very quickly expanding the scope of this blog, and you haven’t even left the About page!)

I think animation can be art, and I think Anime can be art.

How This Blog is Organised

  • Impressions – These articles are where I throw in all my off-the-cuff first impressions. Mostly for the usual start of season post.
  • Review – Reviews on complete works aimed primarily at readers who aren’t already familiar with the material.
  • Analysis – An in-depth examination of a given work for readers already familiar with the material.
  • Opinion – Editorial pieces about particular issues or topics, or even favourites lists and the like.

And that’s basically it- nice and simple. Read on if you’re curious about my methodology.

How We’re Going to Talk about Stuff

Since this website’s purpose is to talk about stuff, let’s take a moment to talk about talking about stuff.

Firstly, I’m going to be talking about a lot of subjective things: art, what is or isn’t art, the nature of it, and who is Best Girl what makes a given piece of media work or not. This means that, sad as it may be, we might disagree on things. I’ll do my absolute best to walk you through my line of reasoning, and I’ll try to keep things light and funny, but there will be times where I as a reviewer or critic completely fail you. Maybe because our life experiences are just so different that you can’t see my subjective point of view, or maybe even that we simply have conflicting opinions on deeply held issues, such as who should be the seme and the uke. And that’s ok! The world would be a boring place if everyone agreed with each other. So please keep this in mind: any criticism of your favourite thing isn’t an attack on you or your person. I’m not (and do not seek to be) some arbiter of culture, hoping to impose my own narrow worldview. I want people to read this blog because they think my words have merit, not because they identify with me or because my review provides some form of self-validation for their own tastes or choices.

So make use of that: find out what my critical voice sounds like. See if something I consistently dislike or criticize is actually something you appreciate, and use that information to make informed choices and find more things you like. Heck, drop me a comment and let me know what you disagree with me on, and we can have a nice chat about it.

Secondly, I studied literature and I’m an aspiring writer (what can I say? I like big words and I cannot lie) so I’ll talk at length about things like narrative and theme, but I have no formal education in either film or animation. I’ll try and talk about things like direction and scene composition and the process of animating a picture as best I can, as anime in particular is a visual medium; I’ve done what I can to educate myself by reading up on the subject in books and online, and I hope my past viewing experiences (here’s my slightly out-of-date hummingbird account if you’re curious) will be useful to that end as well. That said,  if you’re not quite as keen on unpacking visual metaphors and exploring how those then tie back into a given narratives theme and its impact on an unfolding plot, well this is pretty much a warning that I’ll be doing a lot of that- I will have a largely narrativist focus, since my interests are in how stories are put together.

Thirdly; no review scores. To reiterate what I said above- if I’m going to take the trouble to articulate what i think about a given work, I sure do not want to undermine my own thoughts by trivializing it into a single numerical score or arbitrary grade like 7.8/10 Too many words. The best I’ll provide is a recommendation. Also- I tend to prefer reviewing completed shows and dislike episode-to-episode commentary; any and all such would be tagged under Impressions.

Contact Info and Patreon

First of all, thank you so much for reading all that and getting here. Congratulations!

If you like the cut of my jib and want to support me, I have a hastily set up Patreon account. Please consider donating- oh god I need to pay the bills every dollar helps with the maintenance of the website, and with enough donations I can spend more time writing and less time starving. No pressure, though.

If you’d like to get in touch, I can be reached at criticalotaku@gmail.com. I’m available for editorial or review writing commissions, or if you have a particular project in mind feel free to shoot me an email so that we can discuss it.

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