In My View: Why the Otakusphere hates to love and loves to hate Answerman

(I want to thank The Animanachronism for this idea.)

So Daryl, Gerald and Clarissa may try. Scott and Rym may deserve it. Mike Nichols and crew may avoid it.

But no other non-blogger raises the amount of pure
emotion (either
for
or
against) in the Otakusphere as one man:

Zac Bertschy and his Hey Answerman column.

So the question remains, why? I mean there are a lot of reviewers on ANN who say bad stuff about shows. There are other people with just as loud of opinions and to be fair with worse opinions (though I won’t say who.) In fact the Internet in chock full of people with something to say and a soapbox to say it on.

But none of them have the type of credibility Bertschy does. Now I’m not going to go into whether he deserves that credibility or not, but I will say that when he speaks, we tend to listen for better or worse.

And he’s a jerk.

Now he personally might be a man among men. He might deserve sainthood and be a great guy to get a beer with after work. But as soon as the first words of Hey Answerman appear on the screen, I know I’m going to get an unequivocal opinion (whether it’s well informed or not). There’s simply no doubt about where he stands on any particular issue. There’s no gray area. And there’s certainly no wiggle room. So when he states that he thinks Seven Seas shouldn’t release Kodomo no Jikan in the United States (and calls the people who read it a bunch of names), there isn’t any doubt about it. And when he states that fansubbers are a bunch of entitlement freaks. It makes a large section of the Otakusphere notice.

And it makes it really easy to disagree with him. In fact, his arguments are generally so narrow that any slight deviation makes for a good column. All you have to do is change a number. For instance in a somewhat recent column he stated that three episodes was an adequate preview for a series. After that people should start buying the show. And if they aren’t buying it after that then they’re stealing. And if they are stealing then they aren’t really fans. Now parts of that I agree with. Yes, I think people should buy anime. Yes, I think freeloading off of the fansubs is stealing. But three episodes? Come on, I couldn’t tell that I liked Twelve Kingdoms until I watched the first eight episodes.

And that’s just one example. There’s dozens of them. In fact, there’s at least one Bertschy revelation every week. Even someone like me, who generally agrees with him, can disagree on some of his particulars. And if you disagree with more than just the particulars. Well then you’re in post heaven.

But all that said, he writes opinion columns. He should, well, have an opinion. I don’t fault him for writing his opinion, or stating his opinion. Granted, I do miss the short-lived Hey Ms. Answerman. But Bertschy’s columns aren’t bad, and I’m not going to fault the guy for making a living.

But I do think there’s at least a small case of Trenchcoat envy going around. I mean here’s a guy who gets paid for what bloggers do for free. Now personally, I think he’s put his time in, so I don’t really get jealous of him. Even worse than that here’s this guy who got a job that we’d kill for, and he’s not even a fan. He’s pretty much blantantly stated that. On top of that he’s got credibility that only the likes of a tj_han or a dannychoo or a darkmirage has the hopes of attaining. (Granted there are some people out there that are fairly well known and well respected but those are some of the biggest names I’ve seen in these circles.)

So it’s easy to dislike the guy and he’s got the dream job. I mean what’s to like. Well unless you agree with him and then what’s to dislike.

But believe it or not, I’m actually grateful for the Bertschy’s of the anime world. I mean without him, I wouldn’t have half the stuff I write about. He does provide some good insight into what’s going on in the industry. And whether I agree with him or not, I can usually get a good post out of one of his columns.

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7 Comments

  1. http://www.minaidehazukashii.com/hinano/2007/12/08/new-york-anime-fest-hanbun-desu/

    I suppose that should sum it up. Nothing like a first-person account to affirm that.

    Also, welcome back and start posting more.

    I’d go in a bit more about why I disagree with his stand (I do not disagree with his points, though), but that would be one heck of a post that would involve a ton of unrelated things like belief systems, religion and psychology.

    I cannot respect a guy who uses his fame and ability to insult people. That isn’t what the freedom of expression is all about. I may sound like Obama here, but even if we disagree on points, we can respectfully disagree without going to blows on any given matter.

    Unfortunately, you’re right. Without pricks like Zac, we wouldn’t be writing. I suppose there’s one thing to be grateful for. And I have to thank you for making me realize that.

    *goes off to bonk his head.

  2. Daryl from AWO had one of the best rebuttals to that 3 episode preview thing from my post about at that panel that Dreamy linked to where he was like “In a show like Naruto, the main plot doesn’t even start until like 40 episodes in” (which also showed how it’s impossible to even do reviews of single DVD volumes that us fans are “required” to buy.)

  3. I dunno. If I criticise him it will sound like some sour grapes “you’re getting paid to write and I’m not, whine, whine, blah blah, blah…” because he is very witty and articulate, and good at what he does.

    Unortunately, what he does is often acting like a jerk. If you take any regular blogger who does editorial or comment/analysis and does it well, the only difference is that they don’t get paid for it. I’m sorry, but while Zac is a good writer and all (considerably better than me, I might add), there are other equally good amateur writers around. So, why exactly should I put Zac on a pedestal above the likes of TJ_han and Jeff Lawson? He’s a decent columnist, but in my view at least nothing more. The fact that he’s a pro has no bearing on whether I agree or disagree with what he says more than amateur bloggers.

  4. @drmchsr0 – It really depends on the issue with me. I’m not a big fan of when he singles out a specific target group and applies a judgment label to them without backing up his point with actual facts. I mean I don’t find myself unconditionally opposed to him. But I do find myself thinking that sometimes he goes too far.

    And I think sometimes he says stuff and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about (jpmeyer’s post comes to mind here.)

    @jpmeyer – Yeah, for the most part I end up agreeing with Daryl on that. Honestly I end up agreeing with the AWO crew on a lot of things. Well except for moe. And Record of Lodoss War OVA.

    @ concretebadger – I’m not saying that you should put Zac on a pedestal. But when someone’s site gets thousands of hits (again whether it deserves it or not) it does lead to a certain amount of credibility. And to be fair, I think he’s a good writer, but I wouldn’t put him above anyone I’ve seen in the anime blogging community as far as writing ability. Just as far as reach. Which is largely what ends up determining credibility. (at least in part, getting your facts right helps as well.)

  5. 1: Zac (or Answerman) IS a jerk.

    2: There are careers out there where you can make money insulting people. In America, they’re called “rap artists” and “drug dealers.” And in Japan, they’re called “anime / manga / visual novel creators.”

    Tangent 1: I rely on one of these prerequisites before I make a decision to spend what little “walkaround money” I have: Plot and character development, FUNimation’s dubbing staff, Kitty Media, Adult Source Media, Critical Mass,I’m able to watch the whole series, and if the show is based on graphic novels I actually like.

    Tangent 2: Kodomo no Jikan would’ve been much more enjoyable if the girls were somewhere around 18 instead of 9; and the teacher wasn’t such a spineless loser. It’s been done before. “Five Card (H),” “Negima,” and “Seisen Gakuin (H),” were their names.

  6. I think what annoys me about Answerman is that he sounds like an anime pundit. I like that he has strong unyielding views that he promotes for better or worse (granted, I don’t agree with most of them), but he could present it in a way where he doesn’t sound like he’s beating people over the head with the point. And at the same time, because he has those strong views, it seems very hard for him to change those views.

    Based on what I’ve seen on the ANN forums, it seems that he does control a lot of sway over the forumgoers. It’s kinda scary when I think of it. 😛

  7. In purely technical terms, I don’t think he writes as well as some bloggers – though you’re the expert on journalistic writing, so I could be approaching this from the wrong angle. I mean to say, looking at his most recent column, there are a number of spelling mistakes (‘bizaarely’?) and (shock! horror!) at least one semi-colon where a colon would be better (that’s a personal preference, though). Looking at his most recent interview, I’m forced to wonder what a ‘cognitive disconnect’ is. (I’m fine with cognitive dissonance, mind.) He’s also prone to hyperbole and (as you note) being excessively precise (three episodes is a quarter of a twelve-episoder).

    To be fair, I like his rhetorical variation in sentence-length and it’s rarely hard to understand what he means. But – especially if you present yourself as something more authoritative than a blog – it’s good to get the basics right. Especially when a spellchecker can pick up on something like bizaarely.


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