It’s been a long time since I last wrote on this blog, but I felt like it was appropriate to dust it off for Zac Bertschy, the executive editor for Anime News Network and a person who changed my life forever.
Zac Bertschy passed away on May 21. There’s a memorial dedicated to him on Anime News Network, the site that he helped shape and guide for over 20 years. I suggest you read it to get a sense of the kind of person he was like and the absolute force of nature he was in the American anime community.
For the past three years, Zac was my directly supervising editor. We worked together on editorials and interviews.
I didn’t know Zac that well when he asked me to join Anime News Network. At the time, I had written about two or three articles as a freelancer for ANN. But right then and there, he told me that I was just what he was looking for in a Tokyo correspondent.
At the time, I was still in university and living with my parents in Australia. He had never met me in person. I had no career, and my only credentials were this blog and a handful of fan translations. Even so, he had faith in me even when I didn’t have faith in myself.
I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am now if it weren’t for Zac.
A common element I noticed when looking through the tributes by those who worked with or were friends with Zac: he never ended a conversation without telling you how much he appreciated you.
To this day, I’ve never met a person as earnest and as sincere as he was. We all know that the time we have with others is limited and precious, but no one acted on that the way he did.
My biggest regret is that I never told Zac how much I appreciated him and loved his writing. Right to the very end, I was always causing trouble for him. In our very last conversation, around two weeks ago, all I could do was apologise for the trouble I was causing. I never told him what I should have said: “Thank You.”
Nobody writing anime criticism in English put as much of their soul into their writing as Zac Bertschy did. Even when you disagreed with him, nobody could ever deny that he cared intensely about art and the people who create it. When reading his reviews and reflections, I never felt like I could ever hope to pour as much raw honesty and truth into my own writing.
Zac told me that the kind of editorial he wants to foster and produce at ANN is “emotionally intelligent media analysis.” The kind of writing where you can truly understand the human who wrote it. At the time, I said that I didn’t understand. I told him that other people can do that sort of thing better than I can. I should have told him that I was thinking of him when I said that.
I’m going to take the lessons he taught me and carve them into it my heart. Nobody will ever be able to replicate that unique voice Zac was for so many years, and nobody should. But maybe we can learn to be more honest with ourselves and with others like he was.
Thank you, Zac Bertschy.