Today, exactly five years have passed since I did my first interview. It feels like it was just yesterday, yet I’ve already been writing about anime for half a decade. I share this feeling about every aspect of my journey in this field: I’m under the impression I went through a lot, and at the same time, I can’t help thinking I have achieved so little.
I thought this anniversary was an excellent occasion to look back on everything that has gone by, how it all started, sharing some of the memories I’ve made, and why I decided to start fullfrontal. I will be covering the first half until I founded fullfrontal.moe here, and will write about the other half for the website’s third anniversary this summer.
This post is very personal, but I think it will help to give a better insight into the mindset behind fullfrontal.moe.
I wish to inspire some of you to start writing, creating your blog, and helping our wonderful community grow.
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On Sunday, February 7th, 2016, at the Paris Manga convention being held at Portes de Versailles, at about 5 P.M. I am sharing a seat with four other bloggers to conduct my first interview with somebody involved in anime production. None other than Cowboy Bebop fame director Shinichiro Watanabe. At that moment, I consider my journey as an anime blogger officially starts, although I had already been writing for a couple of months.
I’ve started writing by getting involved in two different projects, both around the end of 2015.
Back then was a rough time for me. I was facing depression, which had led me to drop out of college despite my good start in the year. I had no purpose in life, and I was in a constant state of self-deprecation. I watched a lot of anime back then as a form of escapism and to help pass the time through my insomnia.
That’s when Dylan, an acquaintance of mine who had been building up a big community on Facebook and was looking to capitalize on it, contacts me. He wanted to start a blog. He came towards me, telling me: “You’re the person I know who’s most knowledgable about anime, so I want you on my team.” Back then, I had been interested in sakuga and anime production for about a year and a half. Because I was a NEET for most of my last two teenage years, I had spent some time digging for knowledge about anime production, watching anime, and getting in a ton of arguments online. Back then, I despised people misusing the word Otaku and had pledged a full-on war on weeaboos. I sometimes come across my publications from back then, and they’re cringeworthy. But at the same time, I can’t help feeling nostalgia towards them because I would never have started writing about anime in the first place if it hadn’t been for it.
Dylan was one of those people I first met while arguing with people on Facebook about Sword Art Online and how terrible I thought it was.
I accepted his offer since I thought it would keep my mind busy. Also, I was reading a lot of Wave Motion Cannon‘s publications at that time and Ollie Barder’s interviews for Forbes, which inspired me to get involved in the anime community on a larger scale.
On January 12th, 2016, following the premiere of Mamoru Hosoda’s The Boy and the Beast, I wrote my first review online; a gut reaction to the movie, which I felt started strong, did not convince me in its latter half.
The second project, I applied to myself. A friend of mine who had a Youtube Channel about anime (who coincidentally ended up writing the essay we published last year about Cyberpunk) got involved with Otacrew, a French collective of anime content creators I offered to write about anime. It was pretty much at a blank state at that point; the website was still being built. Mid-January, I wrote a review about the One Punch Man anime. It was mildly sakuga centered. Rather, it incorporated some discourse about the show’s production, staff, and visuals into an article trying to appeal to a broader audience. Mainly, how Yoshimichi Kameda and Yutaka Nakamura made the show look amazing and the implications of Shingo Natsume’s position as a director. Otacrew’s website wasn’t online yet, but I begged our chief editor to publish it while One Punchman was still relevant. So we published it then, five months before the site’s definitive version went online, as a preview of what could be expected from Otacrew.
The article was pretty well received, which motivated me to start writing on the next one.
Because I am a procrastinator, finding the motivation to start writing is the most challenging task. I’ve been working on it throughout the years, but back then, I would usually go months without writing a sentence and suddenly becoming obsessed with a subject and writing as if I were possessed. That’s also when I realized writing gave me a purpose, and it helped as a coping mechanism against depression.
I had found my next subject, which was correlated to my previous article, I would write about the best anime TV-series ever produced: Space Dandy. I had started doing some research, but quickly finding resources on the show’s production became an issue, and I lost directions on my piece. That’s when it hits me! Why bother spending hours looking for sources online when Shinichiro Watanabe is coming to France next week.
Because Otacrew wasn’t online yet, I couldn’t ask the event for press accreditation and an interview through them, so I asked Dylan. He took care of the process, and the event agreed to give me the accreditation, but I had no news about the interview. I was determined, though, and alongside my home mate, who is also my mentor, to some extent, we prepared questions, and he translated them into Japanese. Because I didn’t know what to expect, I wanted him to tag along as he is a fluent Japanese speaker and helped me prepare for the interview. Since I only had one accreditation, he had to smuggle himself into the con as my translator, which was surprisingly way easier than getting the wine bottle we had picked as a gift for Mr. Watanabe’s past security.
Thus my quest to get an interview began, which practically consisted of harassing the con’s Press Officer every 10 minutes to know if she could find us a slot. I also happened to coincidentally meet an internet acquaintance of mine who also had started blogging. Today he hosts a fairly popular French podcast about manga and anime. Witnessing my struggle, he had a few words with his chief editor, asking if he could help me out. I wasn’t aware that his chief editor had good relationships with about every manga publisher, anime distributor, and even film distributor in France. The irony is that his blog is called The Illuminati.
I owed him because on the last day, on the last interview slot, I ended up sharing a seat with four other bloggers. We each take turns asking questions, and we were last in order. We ask our first question about Watanabe’s relationship with director Takahashi Ryosuke. He’s surprised, and before even answering, he tells us, “You’re well informed.” Also, because we were asking our questions directly in Japanese without going through the translator, we jeopardized the other bloggers’ coverage. The interview was supposed to be 30 minutes long, but we ended up taking about 45, with the last quarter consisting solely of my home mate and me asking questions.
After the interview, we gave him a bottle of French wine, and he jokingly tells us, “You guys are scary! You know too much stuff!” with a big grin on his face.
I couldn’t be happier about our performance. I went to thank the Illuminati’s chief editor for his help, who had been quite impressed and offered me to try writing for him. At that point, I’m glad to take any opportunity to write. I send him a couple of reviews that he felt were convincing enough, and I join their team. It’s an experience that went on for a few months, and it had its highs and lows.
Although I intended to write mostly about anime, which is my area of expertise, I also wrote about manga, movies, and video games. I would attend a lot of premier events, about one to two each week. Quickly, writing became a burden. I was still dealing with depression at that time, and although writing had helped me crawl out of the hole at first, it was now dragging me back in.
I started writing out of love for anime, but now I was expected to be a street vendor for all these publishers. I was able to keep my integrity, and I always spoke my truthful mind, but that also meant that I had just nothing interesting to say about most stuff.
Back then, I was presented with the opportunity to interview Eiji Otsuka, a manga script author but most and foremost known for his sociology works on Otaku culture.
This interview is probably my biggest regret and a total failure. I was presented with the opportunity last minute. Back then, I did not know who he was, and I barely had the time to do some research, nor had I read any of his manga. His two latest mangas were centered around Yukio Mishima, who I had not read anything of yet.
In hindsight, the interview isn’t as bad as I remember the experience; I was so nervous because of my lack of preparation. But now that I have read his works – be it his essays on the political roots of Otaku culture or on Narrative consumption, as well as the mangas he wrote. I highly recommend reading Unlucky Young Men, as it is one of the most impressive experiences I’ve had reading manga. I can’t help but see it as a missed opportunity. Back then, I had nothing to tell him; now, I wish I could talk to him for hours.
I also shared great experiences, especially at the Japan Expo convention in July 2016, where I conducted about thirty interviews in four days. Among them, an interview with Mahiro Maeda, who came to promote Khara’s 10th anniversary. On which occasion, I also met Animeland writer Bruno who has given me some great advice over the years. I also remember Mitsuo Iso coming unannounced, accompanying Studio Yapiko founder Eddie Mehong, who I asked to interview last minute, hoping I’d also get to interview Mr. Iso – who did not attend the interview. I was lucky enough to meet him again in Germany a year later.
But eventually, I became disappointed about the environment in which I was writing, and coupled with my unhappiness; it led me to shut myself in. I ended up ghosting everybody, my chief editor, my family, and most of my friends for the whole summer. Without any surprise, I got kicked out from writing for the Illuminati. I was happier this way, although I wish I had handled the situation better by not putting such high expectations on myself and just spoke out from the moment I felt uncomfortable.
All in all, this experience also helped me understand why I wanted to engage with writing about anime. I’m interested in the art, not the consumer product. I don’t want to sell out to a company, and my writing is not intended to be an advertisement but to engage a dialogue between the artworks and their public. But because the line between art and consumer good is thin within the anime realm, it’s not always an easy task.
In September, I would find my next obsession. Gainax CEO Hiroyuki Yamaga and Neon Genesis Evangelion character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto attended the German event Connichi.
Connichi’s staff is among the kindest and most considerate I have encountered, and I quickly got an answer. I would be interviewing Yamaga and Sadamoto just before my other French colleague, Manganimation administrator Rukawa, who I had known for some years.
I was accompanied by my friend Ludo who has assisted me as a translator and through his knowledge about anime for several interviews throughout the years. Working with him allowed us to conduct the interviews fully in Japanese, which helped save some precious interview time.
I first met Fabrice, who Rukawa had brought as a translator at that time. I’ve stayed in touch with Fabrice ever since, who has contributed a lot to fullfrontal, for example, by organizing our interview with Terumi Nishii.
Yamaga and Sadamoto were quite intimidating. They radiated a mighty aura. Ludo had already interviewed Yamaga a few times at this same event. Hence, they shared a bit of history – I remember Yamaga complaining to him about how he phrased his questions, which he had already told him a few years back.
At the time, I was thrilled about interviewing them, and I still believed that Gainax could push another project. They had been struggling to produce Aoki Uru for years then and had started pre-production on Akubi. Looking back, and especially since Anno published this article about his relationship with Gainax at that time, the Studio was not even sinking; it was already at the bottom of the sea.
Still, as back then, we were unaware of all which happened backstage when Yamaga casually dropped that he had finished writing the script for Aim for the Top! 3 we couldn’t believe our ears.
The rest of the interview was interesting, but I was disappointed to notice that Yamaga and Sadamoto had no interest in Evangelion anymore, even showed some disdain towards it to some extent. Then again, now that we know the context, it makes a lot more sense.
Once I made my way back home, I was confronted with a problem. Considering the content of the interview, I wanted it to be published as fast as possible. However, Ludo would not be able to take care it for a while, and the Otacrew staff did not have a translator at hand.
This pushed me to contact Wave Motion Cannon founder Josh Dunham for the first time. I looked up to their work and very much agreed with their approach to anime critique, which is why I decided to approach them rather than anyone else. I offered him the interview with Yamaga and Sadamoto, as well as another interview with Studio Gonzo founder Shouji Murahama, as long as he was able to find a translator.
That led to my first contribution to WMC and the beginning of a strong friendship with Josh. He is a great mind, and I’m admirative of his writing.
The interviews I did at Connichi also confirmed it was my preferred way of creating content about anime. Until then, I had mostly written reviews, which was not a style I was satisfied with.
Interviews allow you to create a bond at the same time with the artists and the community at the same time. Your role as a bridge between the two is most noticeable this way. In my opinion, it’s also the best way for me to make use of the knowledge I’ve acquired to add value to the discussions around anime and its production.
Between the end of 2016 and June 2017, I would attend several France and Belgium events to do some interviews. The highlights from that period being a two-hour-long interview with Oban Star-Racers director Savin Yeatman Eiffel, and an interview with Kabaneri the Iron Fortress director Tetsuro Araki, during which we shared our love for Tomino and Gundam.
June was approaching, and I was prepping for the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. It’s one of the most important events for animation worldwide each year, home to the International Animation Film Market, where many animated shows and movies get signed. It takes place each year for a whole week in one of the most beautiful cities in France. It’s the event I love the most, the atmosphere is so lovely and everywhere in town people who love animation just as much as you do surround you. I had already attended the event the year before, although I did only as a regular visitor. It still allowed me to witness how many opportunities there were to meet animators and make contacts.
I attended the event representing Wave Motion Cannon. I had secured an interview with director Sunao Katabuchi, who had his movie In a Corner of this World run in the festival’s competition. Meeting with director Katabuchi was lovely, as he detailed all the work that went into the making of his movie.
So much happened during that week, I should take the time to write only about it. But I’ll share some highlights:
- We were riding the bus home with the former president of Telecom Animation, Mr. Koji Takeuchi, who stayed just in front of our place. During the ride, we would talk about Little Nemo’s production, Oshii’s abandoned Lupin movie, and how Hayao Miyazaki was getting bullied by Takahata, Otsuka, and Kotabe during their times at TMS.
- Ilan Nguyen, a close friend of Isaho Takahata and one of the most renowned experts about Japanese animation history, praising Wave Motion Cannon for their work, particularly this interview with Masaaki Yuasa.
- Drunk Masaaki Yuasa hugging me twice while celebrating his prize for Lu over the Wall.
- Meeting Go Nagai, thanking him for creating Devilman, one of my favorite manga, and getting his signature.
I had a great time and made many good memories and friends there, among others animator Yukio Takatsu who I’ve stayed close friends with to this day.
A month later, I would attend the Paris Japan Expo leading Otacrew’s small reporter team composed of Ludo, Arnaud (who created our mascot, Fufuro-chan), and myself for a couple of interviews. Both have since been repurposed for fullfrontal; one was with director Kenji Kamiyama and another with Gainax producer Yasuhiro Takeda.
Unfortunately, several disagreements during Annecy and Japan Expo lead to my relationship with other Otacrew members going sour.
Because I also had decided to follow a new studies path, which required a lot of time and investment, I ended up quitting Otacrew after attending Connichi once more. At Connichi 2017, I met Mitsuo Iso once again and Yamaga and Takeda, who were promoting the Zero Century project.
Mitsuo Iso is a singular character. He’s got a weird sense of humor and is very awkward in his interactions with people. During his panel, he explained that he posted a compilation of scenes he animated, which included missiles because it was fitting the news of North Korea launching a nuclear missile into Japanese waters. When I presented him the settei of Dennou Coil I had acquired for him to sign, he joked around, saying I was not allowed to own such production material since I’m not an animator and that he would take it back.
After the event, I took a break from writing and anime as a whole for several months. I had lost purpose, and my disagreement with Otacrew didn’t help. I remember I had planned to write about the history of French-Japanese co-production in anime, as I had gathered many resources. I felt it was a subject that the English-speaking community was not necessarily much aware of. Circumstances had me abandon the project, but I might put some thought into writing about it here now that I think of it.
My schedule back then was already packed with my studies and the part-time job I had, which would hardly have left any time and energy for writing even if I had found the will.
Eventually, I dropped out of school once more after half a year as I couldn’t see myself working as a developer. I still consider those months to have been a very positive experience for me because they helped me build the mindset which led me to create Fullfrontal.moe
Once I found myself with some free time on my hands, the urge to watch anime and write about it came back. But this time, I wanted to feel free and unrestrained about my approach to it. I needed to own a personal space where I would be able to share my vision and thoughts.
As this feeling emerged, Arnaud approached me with the same idea in mind. He shared some links to Zimmerit.moe and told me: “These guys get it. That’s what I want to aim for.” and I fully agreed. I loved their approach as well as their aesthetic. The inspiration to use a .moe domain came from there. Arnaud and I have shared the same passion for Gainax, Daicon Films, and General Product ever since we met, and we wanted to infuse our blog with it.
We brainstormed for a name, which we felt had to reference an SF anime. We hesitated between several names, considering Gelgoog and a few other Mobile Suit names. But it wasn’t convincing. I had thought of Full Frontal, which sounded like the perfect name. The alliteration makes it impactful, and it references a charismatic Gundam character while also conveying the idea of committing 100% of ourselves. Yet, I was reluctant At first because of the expression’s other meanings, which would mess up our SEO and eventual branding.
I made up my mind and decided that first and foremost, I should go with what I love and let passion lead the way. Soul matters more than metrics.
My past experiences led me to have a rigorous code regarding my approach to administrating Fullfrontal. Passion matters more than metrics; thus, our motivation to write about a subject should be none other than our will to talk about it. Also, reader experience should come first, and we should have as few disruptive elements as possible. We would run no ads, which was even further motivated by the fact we do not want to be sellouts. I would even delete our ko-fi button, to be perfectly honest, but I thought it would be the best way for our readers to support us while staying true to those predicates.
On July 4th, 2018, the fullfrontal.moe domain is created.
All said, what should you retain from my experience? Most importantly, that if you want to write, you should dare to start. I’ve always felt that the only quality that led me the ways I went was guts. Sure, being knowledgeable is important but given time to research, anybody can acquire said knowledge. Don’t be afraid to start, commit yourself, and most importantly, go all the way. I’d love the community to grow, to have even more formidable people engaging in discussions and reflections around anime, sakuga, and the other spans of Otaku culture.
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