Evolution of the Barrel

Hello, dear friends and readers! Right now is an exciting and fun time for me to be writing here at Mage in a Barrel. As you all should know by now, the blog succeeded in reaching (and surpassing!) the goal of upgrading to WordPress premium and I recently closed out one of the biggest projects I’ve ever attempted on here with my final episodic post for Hyouka going up last Sunday. As always, I’m hugely grateful for your readership and support—you guys make it a lot of fun to keep this project running.

(If you want to get to the part of this where you tell me to do things, scroll to the bottom of the post.)

Mage in a Barrel hit two years old earlier this month (February 10th is the official date I consider the site in its current form to have come into existence, even though there are posts that date back to earlier than that), which means I’ve escaped the dreaded two-year anniversary death as observed by Scamp over at The Cart Driver (although I’d argue aniblogging culture is in a much different place now that it was when he made that post back in 2010). In that time, this project I first started to keep myself from dying of boredom while studying abroad with a mere two hours of class each day and no homework has catalogued 434 posts (at least 400 of them containing what I’d consider to be “proper content”), nearly hit 4000 cumulative comments, eclipsed 200,000 unique visitors, and (by the time this post has published) will have surpassed half a million individual page views.

I don’t bring up all these numbers to brag—I still consider myself a relatively small fish in the aniblogging (and overall online anime fandom) pond—only to note that Mage in a Barrel has turned into something I really didn’t expect it to turn into. Despite a handful of short breaks, I’ve been pretty consistent about posting—and this over some major life transitions like living alone for the first time, graduating from college, and learning how to be an adult. This site has been something of a stabilizing factor for me; I honestly cannot imagine how awful my transition from college to a full-time job would have been for me had I not had this site around to give me a never-ending cycle of short term goals for self-improvement and creativity.

All this is really to say that Mage in a Barrel has wound up being pretty important to me, and to say I’m not proud of the work I’ve done here would be a lie. I am proud. I think I’ve written some good things, and the feedback I get from people has let me know I’m appreciated and that my work has meaning for people beyond myself. That’s an incredibly precious thing for me to be able to have.

However! I’d also like to note that Mage in a Barrel would not exist as it is now without me continually trying to reinvent what I do here and to stretch my boundaries. That’s both so I don’t get bored and so I can continue to offer you, my readers, interesting stuff to read that isn’t just rehashes of the same things I’ve always said. My Hyouka project (which essentially ran for half a year) was really, at its core, a concentrated effort to do exactly that—and on that front I feel it succeeded marvelously (at least from my perspective). I’m also finding that my urges to rewatch things I love but haven’t seen in a while (see my recent Nekomonogatari: Shiro post) are helping me to pull out thoughts and feelings I had, but wasn’t able to articulate at the time. And discovering older and different kinds of show, like Macross, has continued to expand my personal taste and give me different things to write about.

To this point in Mage in a Barrel‘s existence, these kinds of reinventions have mostly come from my own direction, but I’ve recently come to believe that limiting myself solely to what I’m thinking is silly and unneeded. There are so many other perspectives and thoughts out there—and some of them show up in my comments on a weekly basis. In other words, I’m saying I’d like to hear back from you guys—you people who read this blog on a regular (or even infrequent!) basis—what kinds of writing would you like to see from me in the future?

To let you know what I’m thinking on my end, here’s kind of my vision for Mage in a Barrel right now. I want to start up a new episodic series (more on that below), but I’m going to switch its publishing schedule to Thursday/Friday instead of Saturday/Sunday. The reason: episodic write-ups are easier to focus on in the middle of my work week because they are so pointed towards a specific twenty-odd minutes of content. This will leave my weekends open for more conceptual, editorial kinds of writing—for the times when I’m less harried to finish writing stuff in the short time before bed and more able to let my ideas breathe (or just execute them!).

So, what do I want to hear from you guys? A couple of things:

  1. Suggestions for shows you’d like to see me cover episodically in the future. Right now, I’d really dig getting to dive into a shortish robot show (Giant Robo or maybe some Gundam OVA series).
  2. Types of editorial-ish writing you’d like to see. This can be as narrow as “I’d sort of like you to write on X topic” or be as broad as “what if you did X structural thing?”

Fair warning, of course—nothing’s guaranteed since I still have to be personally interested in writing about a particular thing, but as I’ve said: I’m looking for new and interesting stuff to do (I’ve been spending a lot of time on a handful of blogs I like for pulling out ideas and philosophies on blogging, too).

Wow…what I intended to have just be a simple request for suggestions really turned out to be a full-sized post thing. I think I have a problem…

20 thoughts on “Evolution of the Barrel

  1. Shows I’d like for you to cover episodically: Aria, The Tatami Galaxy, maybe The Big O. Also watch Steins;Gate Bless. And since you like TTGL and mecha in general now, you may like the Getter Robo manga, which is the inspiration for a lot of later Super Robot stuff including TTGL.

    Don’t have editorial suggestions unfortunately.

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  2. Congrats on two years! 😀 Hmm…I guess if there’s anything I’d wish you’d cover, maybe Nagi no Asukara? The animation in that show is gorgeous and I’d like to know your thoughts on it.

    But really, just keep doing what you’re doing, because I enjoy your content! 🙂

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  3. Man, congrats on the 2+ years with this blog! You’ve always been a source of inspiration for me, and it’s quite amazing to see how much your writing and this place have been growing in those past years! I don’t have any specific recommendations, sadly, and asking for writeups would feel weird anyways, seeing how rarely I comment on here… but I just wanted to say: Thanks for doing this all. Your recent Nekomonogatari post has been one of my favorite things you’ve written so far, and the Hyouka writeups had me seeing whole new sides of that show I never even considered. It might just be time for a rewatch now… Anyway, keep up the good work!

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  4. Congrats on two years!

    As for things to write on, perhaps more “short takes” of things. It feels like you are only posting “long” thoughts on things here. Which is fine, I like reading your in-depth thoughts. But it feels a bit like you think that if you don’t have 2000+ words on a topic, it’s not worth posting about here. So your blog is losing the “bloggy” feel, if that makes any sense.

    Now, maybe Twitter is occupying that space for you, and you want this site dedicated to long-form, in-depth posts. But I think, for a personal blog, there’s a lot of value in shorter posts about smaller topics.

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  5. Hey Bless,

    congratz on two years! I really enjoy your Blog, even though I cannot always agree with your opinion/taste. But it would be boring if we would share the same opinion/taste.

    I would really love to read your opinion about “Hanasaku Iroha” !
    Or why not do a “Macross Delta” episode per episode Blog, when it starts airing? You are so looking forward to this (according to your Twitter account), so why not do this ?

    And it would be great if you continue the cinematographic stuff from your Hyouka-Blog. That was awesome.

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  6. I loved your treatment of Hyouka! I went to read some other of your articles and they reminded me of two of the common troubles I have reading anime blogs: 1. The titles of the anime are always given in transliterated Japanese; and 2. The target demographic of the anime is seldom stated at the outset.

    I bet a lot of anime readers are, like me, rather casual about it, but “we know what we like”. If you would translate the title of the subject anime at the outset, AND state whether it’s shounen, etc., at the outset also, that would help me and maybe some others greatly. For all of us who don’t keep close track of the anime scene, the Japanese titles convey nothing. Translated, and WITH demographic stated, they would be ever so much more informative.

    It would greatly help me at least, and I bet lots of others, to decide whether to go on reading. For example, being a man, and an old one at that, I’ve almost never met a shoujo anime I liked. I’d like to be able to skip them!

    But on the other hand I’d LOVE to be able to know when you tackled other kinds—again, because I know you’ve got what it takes, from that Hyouka write-up.

    Keep up the good work!

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  7. Congrats on the anniversary!

    I’d enjoy seeing a post or two on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It’s an interesting show in regards to religion and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about it, especially since it’s ranked pretty high in your top anime list.

    Aside from that, maaaaaybe a top character list? Along with some slight analysis of what you like best in characters? Seems like it’d be fun to read, but I dunno.

    Thanks for the blog, your posts are always enjoyable ^^

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  8. Congrats on two years! I thought keeping the Wall going for one was a chore, can’t imagine doing the work you do.

    I think you should check out Yamato 2199, high adventure space opera isn’t something I’ve seen you take on. Besides, even though it’s a reboot, the basic show lies at the very foundation of anime as we know it today.

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  9. Watch out, Bless! You’re being swarmed with anime recommendations!

    As for me, I don’t have any particular series I’d like you to watch, but I would like to see more coverage of older anime on this blog, and maybe some more focus on shorts, movies, OVAs and other things that don’t appear in the TV anime schedule. I think that sort of thing tends to go under-recognised by most bloggers and reviewers, but they’re just as important to the world of anime.

    As for editorials, this might sound a little weird, but I’d really like to see more posts written through a Christian perspective. You’ve done a few of them in the past and I really enjoyed them.

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  10. Nice! Two years is a good long time to be doing anything essentially for fun, and it’s great that you’re still enjoying it and motivated to keep trying new things. I’d kind of echo what Derek and Rohan said. Sometimes I see you throwing out comments on anime shows or other unique thoughts on your twitter that would make for interesting brief blog posts in-between the bigger ones, if you cared to go there.

    As for some show suggestions, if you’re really looking for short mecha in particular, Gunbuster could be a good one to review. It was Hideaki Anno’s directorial debut, and sort of an incubator for a lot of the themes and story ideas that he’d come back to later with Evangelion. A few non-mecha shows I might suggest for future reviews are Haibane Renmei, Gunslinger Girl, Kurau Phantom Memory (Bones animated), and Usagi Drop. All of those have plenty to sink your teeth into, and I’d be interested in reading your thoughts on any of them, either episodically or as a full series review.

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      • I’ll concede that’s one where someone who’s been a parent, especially a single parent, or has lots of experience being around kids would probably have more to talk about. Still, I think there’s enough there to unpack, albeit not at the 2000-words-per-week level we were getting with Hyouka. But frankly, there aren’t many other shows that are deep enough to inspire THAT level of scrutiny anyway. Besides, we’ve gotten pretty spoiled here, you know. The average aniblogger doing episodic reviews writes 300-400 words per episode and considers it a job well done, while our Bless thinks he doesn’t have enough to talk about if he’s only writing 800 words per episode. 😉

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  11. For short robot stuff, I watched Gunbuster a while back and enjoyed it, and there’s a 12-episode Gundam series called The 08th MS Team that I’ve been meaning to watch. Other than that, I think episodic writeups of Kids on the Slope or Ping Pong the Animation would be interesting to read.

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  12. Congratulations. This is quite an accomplishment. I think Ghost in the shell SAC would be a great series to cover, given it’s very dense and rich in societal and philosophical themes. I can’t imagine much self ever racking up comparable numbers to yours.

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  13. Good luck and congrats! I personally don’t hold much for “recommending topics” or shows for someone to write about, because I believe you should write what comes naturally to you, and what naturally draws your interest.

    But I do think, somewhat like Froggy, that you should focus a bit more on older shows. I don’t think you need to cover them on the blog, necessarily (and if you do, maybe in the form of 1-2 paragraphs, or whatever), but you, even more than most other recent anime fans I speak to regularly, have a very distinct lack of older shows watched. I know you’ve been working on it some, but still, I think the perspective you’d gain, and be able to offer, by having watched more than a couple handful of shows (and movies) that aired before, say, 2007, would do you, and your writing on anime, good.

    Recency bias is very much a thing in the anime crowd, who rarely check out shows more than a couple of years old at the time they started watching. But it’s not a good thing.

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  14. Good luck! I’d love to hear your thoughts on Wolf’s Rain, since I think it’d be a very good show to analyze, but you take your time and do what you love.

    I do really like your writing and your insight, and you’ve sold me on many shows that I was a bit unsure on why I liked them so much. Your Concrete Revolutio write-ups were something I looked forward to every week, and I still like reading your seasonal stuff. Here’s to two more years of Mage in a Barrel!

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  15. Two years is long on the internet. Congrats, and all the best in the future. I won’t make requests, since I like to read things I didn’t know I could have wanted to read.

    But still… Older shows, Idolm@ster picture, robo shows… A show is rising up in my head: Behold the strangeness of IdolM@aster Xenoglossia, where the Idomaster girls pilot IDOLs (= giant robots) to fight… whatever it is they fight (2007). I haven’t seen the show myself, so I have no idea whether the show is the good or bad sort of awful. (26 episodes)

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