2021 Was a Good Year to Anime Blogging
Back on January 21, 2018, I published the first Other Posts to Crow About. My goal was to share my favorite posts from other anime blogger with you. There’s a lot of good work out there, and I want as many people as possible to experience that work!
Since then, every week, I’ve shared my favorite five (or so) posts. I check all the sites on my Massive List of Anime Sites, which currently has 362 active entries (down from 366 last year at this time). I really like how it keeps me up to date with the anime blogging community.
Over 95 sites had at least one mention in my 5 Favorite Anime Blog Posts in 2021. The posts I read that did not make this list still made a favorable impression on me, so if you’re publishing anime posts now, please know that I have a lot of respect for what you’ve accomplished. Also, I can honestly say that I honestly enjoying reading the vast majority of the sites on my Massive List of Anime.
After having published Other Sites to Crow About for both 2018, 2019, and 2020, I can say this based on experience: The anime blogging community’s creativity and strength continued unabated through 2021.
My 5 Favorite Anime Sites from 2021
Okay, so it’s confession time. I have more than 5 sites in my list. I intended to give you only the top five, but unfortunately, there are ties for numbers three and and one. So you’re going to get seven sites instead of five!
For the record? There were seven sites tied for the next position. So it was either I give you seven sites, or fourteen.
So, in the spirit of “under promising and over delivering,” here are the seven favorite anime blogging sites for 2021!
Number Four (Tie): Beneath the Tangles
Branding doesn’t come easy to me, because for years I had negative connotations of anything to do with marketing. However, as I built out my own online presence, something became very clear: It’s better to be remembered than forgotten. Marketing’s goal is to help sure people remember you. And branding is an important part of that. This year, it struck me (and this probably applies to previous years, too) that each site in this list has done a great job of branding themselves.
When I think of Beneath the Tangles, for example, two things come to mind. First, the site features the perspective of Western Christianity (mainstream Protestantism, to be precise). Second, they use that perspective to analyze anime in a way that heightens the viewing experience. Like the other two sites tied for number four, this site showed up in Other Posts to Crow About/5 Favorite Anime Blog Posts seven times this year. I think my favorite post from Beneath the Tangles was Thunderclap and Flash: When Zenitsu Struck My Heart, which was about the character Zenitsu from Demon Slayer. That post struck me because of how closely it paralleled how my thoughts and feeling about Zenitsu have evolved.
Number Four (Tie): Jonah’s Daily Rants
Branding can actually get me excited to visit a site. I know a lot of folks use WordPress Reader to discover content, but I just don’t have time during the week. So, I set aside four or five hours every Friday night to go on a global tour. I actually wrote a post about how I can get to all 320+ sites in that time. But that aside, the purpose of branding is to not only help us remember, but to remember with a feeling of anticipation.
In the case of Jonah’s Daily Rants, I really look forward to what I’ve come to think of as this site’s specialty: Character dives. That’s not all jernahblunt, the site’s owner, writes about. I enjoy his other posts, too. But the posts I get the most enjoyment from focus on character. Last year, my favorite of his posts was called Gabi Braun: Creating a Controversy The Right Way. The post talked about Attack on Titan The Final Season’s character Gabi. A lot of folks wrote about Gabi and what she had done, but among all of those posts, jernahblunt’s had the most lucid and intelligent take. That’s why it stands out so clearly in my memory.
Number Four (Tie): Random Curiosity
If you read Other Posts to Crow About/5 Favorite Anime Blog Posts, you’ll probably remember that I just adore Random Curiosity’s seasonal anime guide. I even prefer their guides to commercial sites like LiveChart.me, and that’s saying a lot! But that’s not all Random Curiosity has to offer. Season to season, their team brings a huge number of in-depth and insightful reviews of seasonal anime. In fact, it’s among those reviews that you’ll find my favorite post of their posts from 2021! The post was called Kageki Shoujo!! – 04, and as the title suggests, it talked about the fourth episode of Kageki Shoujo!!. That series in general really spoke to me, and Gabie’s post captured the emotional agony that Ai Narata went through. This review helped bring the episode alive, and I think that’s a good thing!
Number Three: 100 Word Anime
It seems that branding is the theme this year, so let’s stick with that. What do I think of when I think of 100 Word Anime? I think of seasonal anime coverage at the rate that would usually require a team, delightful editorials that illuminate some interesting aspects of anime, and fun, unique lists. Karandi, the site’s owner, keeps up a publishing schedule that other sites would use a team to produce. But do you know what’s cool about her posts? They feel well-rounded and robust. In other words, they feel like the opposite of rushed! So I have no idea how she keeps up the pace.
My favorite post of hers this year was Why Vivy May Become My Favourite Sci-Fi Anime. As the title suggests, it’s about Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-, a series that I haven’t finished yet. I’m a bit of a science fiction snob, and that’s probably why you don’t see me review a lot of hard science fiction anime. But Karandi’s post has me reconsidering that position, because she spoke movingly of how the she saw the series. If I had to pick one reason I like this site so much, it’s because of that candor.
Number Two: The Magic Planet
When I think of The Magic Planet, I think of nuanced and well-considered reviews. I know “nuanced” gets tossed around a lot, so please let me explain what I mean. The site’s owner, Jane the Anime Witch, writes anime reviews. She’s not alone in that regard. But her reviews cover the show across such a wide spectrum of artistic considerations that those reviews actually got me to reconsider my own perspective.
Take my favorite 2021 review from the site, Let’s Watch TAKT OP.DESTINY: Episode 10. I loved that show, but I had no idea why. It broke rules of construction that I thought were important. Yet, I looked forward to each new episode! Reading the reviews on The Magic Planet gradually helped me see that I had assumed that looking at anime (or books, or movies, or any artistic work) from the perspective of the artist was the best approach. I’m reconsidering that now. Looking at an anime from both perspectives, artist and viewer, will help me understand how to write something with the kind of impact this show had on me.
I’ve written and reviewed material for most of my adult life, and what I’m about to say is a little embarrassing (because I’m super arrogant and stuff), but I think it’s important to say because it’s true. The material on The Magic Planet broadened my perceptions in a way that will likely help me be a better writer and reviewer. And I really should not be embarrassed, because I just proved an old axiom wrong. An old dog can, in fact, learn new tricks!
Number One (Tie): I Drink and Watch Anime
There was a tie this year for number one. The two sites that tied should not surprise anyone. Last year, they were numbers one and two. The year before, both were in the top five. That means not only did both sites impress me this year. They’ve been impressing me for years!
I Drink and Watch Anime, in fact, was number one in 2018 and 2019. Last year, in 2020, the 2021 site tied for number one briefly knocked I Drink and Watch Anime into the number two spot. So, what’s the brand for Irina, the site’s owner? I could be mundane about it and say that she publishes engrossing, accessible, and arresting reviews and editorials daily for years. That’s all true. What really strikes me, though, is how she can present wildly complex and subtle topics with clarity and humor. She makes communicating very complex and abstract concepts look easy. You know how an Olympic skater’s performance looks effortless and graceful, yet took years of effort to perfect? That’s the sense I get from Irina’s writing.
As proof, please let me present my favorite I Drink and Watch Anime post from 2021: Ergo Proxy – Balancing Act. Irina not only presented that show’s plot in an easy to consume way (which is not easy in the case of Ergo Proxy!), but she also deftly discussed the themes. Which i thought would be a chore, but which she made look like a breeze! And to top it all off, it was fun to read. That’s a master class in review writing!
Number One (Tie): Shallow Dives in Anime
It makes sense that Shallow Dives in Anime, a site tied for number one this year, also has one of the strongest brands. As soon as I see that banner, I know exactly what I’m in for. Dewbond, the site’s proprietor, has never failed to deliver on his brand’s promise. Actually, the brand promises two things. First, it promises a reader experience with the Bullshit-o-meter set to absolute zero. You get Dewbond’s unfiltered, honest impression. What’s more, that impression is not subject to the fickle winds of social media.
The second thing is that Dewbond’s perspective comes from a foundation of a solid understanding of story telling. That perspective is central to all of the reviews I’ve read on his site. Take, for example, my favorite post of Dewbond’s from 2021, Fate/Stay Night’s Shirou Emiya and Sakura Matou: Love bound by Duty and Protection. It talks about the experience of watching the trilogy of movies that starts with Fate/stay night [Heaven’s Feel] I. presage flower. He not only managed to capture the totality of the movies in a relatively small amount of space, which in and of itself is a major feat. He also managed to portray the tragedy of Sakura Matou in a way that enhanced my viewing experience.