In many ways, anime blogging is a living relic. Born in the age when “Web 2.0” was a newly coined term and blogging in general was a young and exciting differentiation from the era of fan shrines and webrings, the anime blog was a way for writer-fans to establish an identity outside of enclaves such as forums and livejournal groups. Like the anime websites of old (and even the IRL anime clubs before that time), they filled a desire for information, appreciation, and criticism of anime and manga.
I think there’s a charm to the written word that allows it to endure and keeps it falling out of true relevance, and this applies to anime blogging. Certain ideas are better conveyed through writing (especially extremely complex ones that require a lot of small detail to fully explain), and certain people (myself included) are more comfortable with text than speech or visual performance. Writing will never truly go away because it’s just capable of so much with so little. Nevertheless, it is true that the amount of anime blogs have declined over the years.
I don’t have a falsely inflated idea as to the supposed “importance” of anime blogs in year past—it’s always been a niche. But where once an “Aniblog Tourney” existed not just as a popularity contest but as a sign of a loose “aniblogosphere,” the increasing prominence of social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and even something like Anime Amino have moved discussion back into more isolated communities. I think, on some level, “aniblogging” feels less like a distinct position than it used to. Perhaps it’s because so many anime fans these days are omnivorous consumers of pop culture that the “fan” is more important than the “anime,” but I think the rise and dominance of social media networks and alternative formats like YouTube also makes it less enticing for younger, enterprising fans to enter the field. In a “field” with a high turnover rate due to burnout and just the passage of time, not having new warriors to pick up the mantle means a gradual decline.
The anime blogs of today, whether they’re young and fresh or old and crusty, are contending with new ways to get one’s thoughts and opinions out to the world—alternatives that can be more attractive to would-be bloggers. In particular, the minor stardom that can come with YouTube can also mean potential income, perhaps even enough to earn a living. Anime fandom isn’t the only realm affected by this, but because anime is more niche than, say, gaming, it also means a smaller pie to share overall. Only a select few vloggers can get six-digit views, but it’s a lot likelier than accruing those numbers through blogging. For even the best and most charismatic writers, blogs are at best a partial or supplementary income. In other words, it’s never been easy to sustain a living just from anime blogging, for better or worse. At the same time, it’s also never been easier to actually make money from blogging thanks to platforms like Patreon. While I’m not exactly filling my coffers to the brim, my own Patreon has been a great boon.
All it really takes to write an anime blog is a genuine passion for anime and manga, as well as a desire to write one’s thoughts. It’s profoundly simple, which is why, even as anime blogging as a “thing” has waned, I think you still see the occasional challenger take on the endeavor. Writing is timeless. I don’t carry any illusions that it’s the path to fame and fortune, but it’s a space that remains open and welcome. If we want to rebuild the aniblogosphere, however, it’ll take a restored sense of “community,” no matter how nebulous and disparate it might be.
Once upon a time, anime bloggers debated the merits of “episode blogging” vs. “editorial blogging.” In hindsight, it seems so quaint.