Reki Kawahara is well known for Sword Art Online and Accel World, but if you ask me, his best work is The Isolator, a sci-fi thriller and psychological drama series that only gets a new volume once a year. It’s based off a web novel Kawahara began writing in 2004, but he has rewritten the story heavily for its light novel release, and it is easily his most mature work.
2016 was the year anime and reality started to mix.
Until this year, I had been careful to keep my online identity (and, by extension, my anime fandom) separate from my real life. This was mostly for privacy reasons, although if I have to honest, it was also because I’m more confident expressing myself through writing than through speaking. I still don’t put pictures of myself online, and that’s probably for the best.
Eventually, however, I ended up identifying under my real name for Anime News Network and Crunchyroll, and I’ve met several internet friends in person throughout the year. The result? Nothing really changed. On hindsight, I realise that there was never a clear separation between “reality” and “online” in the first place.
2016 was the year I finished writing my honours thesis and graduated from university. The thesis, which drew heavily from my personal observations as a light novel fan translator, was called “Exploring Foreignisation/Domestication Post-Editing Strategies in Machine-Assisted Fan Translations of Japanese Web Novels” (what a mouthful!). Later this year, I published two articles based on my research on Anime News Network, explaining the basics of the subculture.
And now, for some inexplicable reason that I can’t quite fathom, I’m known to the fandom at large as… “the light novel blogger”.
It’s that time of the year again. In the 12 days leading up to Christmas, anime bloggers around the world write a post every day, reflecting on the year as a whole. It’s called the 12 Days of Anime Christmas, but for some strange reason, it doesn’t coincide with the actual 12 Days of Christmas at all. Oh well, don’t think too hard about it.
The usual format is to write about 12 moments in anime that stood out to you, but in most years, I don’t watch enough anime in order to come up with 12 distinct moments. However, because this year has been eventful in so many other ways, I can actually come up with a list of things that happened in the anime world that impacted my life in some way, for better or worse. This is the first year I can actually do the 12 Days of Anime properly. Huzzah!
So here we go. Let’s do this!
During my adventures on the Japanese web, I rarely see people say anything good about the recent trend towards isekai (“stuck in another world”) stories, particularly in light novels and web novels. The stories are frequently dismissed as shallow, masturbatory and full of cheap wish fulfillment. It’s overdone, they say. It’s trite and cliche. Stop adapting so many of these stories into anime.
Japanese readers have even come up with memes to make fun of the recent trends. 「俺TUEEEE」(“I’m so stroooooong”) basically means “Overpowered MC”. When a story is filled to the brim with all the various wish fulfillment tropes, it’s referred to as a narou-type work. Narou comes from Shousetsuka ni Narou! (“Let’s become a novelist!”), which is far and away the most popular website for posting amateur web novels. If you check out the top-ranked series, the vast majority are isekai stories where the MC does pretty much nothing to earn his 俺TUEEEE status.
The Japanese fandom is like the English fandom in the sense that the majority of internet commentary about this trend is snarky and negative, but a significant number of people are hooked on these stories nevertheless. There are plenty of netizens who attempt to explain the appeal of the narou genre, but because they’re clearly disdainful of it, their explanations occasionally seem condescending, even pathologising (e.g. “it’s a shallow power fantasy aimed at nerds who will never find a girlfriend!”) Nevertheless, there are bloggers who articulate why they like the narou genre quite thoughtfully, so I thought I’d focus on their perspectives in this post.
Because I cannot accept their points at face value, I’m going to respond to them critically in this post. However, I invite you to come to your own conclusions.
Happy New Year, everybody! Here’s to a wonderful 2016 for all of us. I sincerely hope you’re all resting well and taking good care of yourselves.
As always, January 1st is the best day to make a bunch of half-baked resolutions and never follow through on any of them. In lieu of that, here is my list of New Year’s Resolutions!
- Don’t watch Idolm@ster
- Get better taste
- Become a magical girl without having to sign a contract
- Pick up a girl in a dungeon
- Destroy Twitter
I’m kidding, of course (…or am I?!) But seriously, I do have some cool things in store for this blog in 2016, so let me tell you all about it.
Today, I turn twenty one.
I don’t feel old. I used to fear growing up, but I’ve come to the conclusion that even if the passage of time causes me to lose things, there are many more things that I will gain, simply by being alive.
At the same time, I’m amazed at how quickly time flies! It only feels like yesterday when I started up an anime blog with a stupid name. My blog still has a stupid name, but now it gets well over 1.5k views every day. I don’t post as often as the more dedicated bloggers, but I’m glad my readers have found something to keep coming back to. I still blush whenever someone leaves a kind comment.