4 Years of Mage in a Barrel

Exactly four years ago, I made my first blog post on the blog that would later become Mage in a Barrel. After all that time, it’s hard to think of any other personal projects that I’ve stuck with so long, had so much fun with, learned so much from, and met so many great people through— so this post is a celebration of four years of being an aniblogger.

I hope you’ll journey with me for a bit.

Mage in a Barrel

When I first started this blog, I called it “Life, And Anime,” (back then the url was http://www.reallifeanime.wordpress.com) with the hopes that such a generalized title would bring great SEO results with it and that it would inspire me to offer deep insights into the connections between anime and life. Neither of those goals panned out, but as a starting point it wasn’t a terrible one.

As for where I ended up, well, I don’t think I ever dreamed when I started blogging that I’d keep this up for four years. Having escaped Scamp’s legendary 2-year aniblog death cycle, I was rather satisfied with myself two years ago. But with writing for Crunchyroll and continuing to have to urge to chronicle other thoughts here, I’ve continued to write, to grow, and discover new anime. I’ve also witnessed what I feel is the slow decline of aniblog culture as group blogs, YouTube, and writing for paying sites have gradually become more prominent. That’s something I’m sad about, but in some ways it’s kept me motivated to maintain Mage in a Barrel—even if my output has declined over the past year.

But this post is supposed to be a celebration! And as such, I’m going to do something indulgent that I’ve wanted to do for a long time: Create a list of my favorite posts out of the 500+ pieces I’ve written over the past four years. Hopefully this will be fun for you readers as well.

Blast of Tempest

2013

Post/Series Title(s) Publication Date(s) Commentary
 Cowboy Bebop:
First Impressions
June 25, 2013  This post is possibly the only one on the blog that I’d say I’m embarrassed about, if only because of the many incredibly lame quips and genuinely terrible attempts at comparing Bebop to other things. But you only have one first post to show how far you’ve come, so here it is.
 Catholicism in Anime: Soul Eater’s DMWA Motto August 4, 2013  The “Catholicism in Anime” series of posts was supposed to be a headlining column of the blog, but never quite panned out that way – only returning when the whim hit me. Even so, I’m rather fond of this post as an early exercise in what would later become a my main anime criticism ideology.

Nisemonogatari

2014

Post/Series Title(s) Publication Date(s) Commentary
 Golden Time Response  March 29, 2014  The very first blog post I wrote that was primarily defined by my emotional reaction to a show rather than an attempt to review it. Somehow, I managed to put my feelings on Golden Time well enough into words that this piece still contains my final opinion on the show.
Spring 2014, Week 5: Highlights of the Week   May 8, 2014  A post less notable for its content than for being the progenitor of a weekly feature of the blog that I kept up for nearly 2 years. Rarely did these posts contain my best work, but they did bring in my best and most loyal commenters, which certainly made them worth it.
 Monogatari and the Extinction of the Harem (Part 2) June 8, 2014  In the summer of 2014, I was living in a tiny college dorm room, interning with a company in a city I didn’t know without a car…
 Art & Sport: Reflections on Chihayafuru (Part 2)  July 13, 2014  …in the midst of the loneliness, existential uncertainty, and boredom that ensued, I somehow managed to watch what would become three of my all-time favorite anime in a row…
 Sharing Haruhi’s Melancholy: A Reflection  July 26, 2014 …and put out posts on each of them that I’m still proud of today. These posts also marked my first real foray into writing reflections, instead of reviews of shows – and I’ll confess I got hooked.
 Zankyou no Terror, Episode 11 (End) September 25, 2014  The concluding installment to the first series I ever did episodic blogging for, and what a ride it was. Zankyou no Terror isn’t my best episodic blogging effort, but I sure am glad it was my first.
 Why Mage in a Barrel? October 24, 2014  Towards the end of 2014, I’d decided I was going to stick with the blogging thing for a while and so adopted the name that continues to adorn this blog today.

Avatar Fullscreen

2015

Post/Series Title(s) Publication Date(s) Commentary
 The Absence of the Church of Heaven: Junketsu no Maria and Catholicism  January 19, 2015 The first time I ever wrote a blog post angry. It’s possibly ungenerous towards Maria, but this wasn’t a time I felt I could stay silent, especially given the conversations I saw going on around the show related to the topic.
 Why Danmachi Works  April 16, 2015  A triumph of priorities: In some ways, this is a thesis spelling out what things a show could give me that would keep me watching no matter what else it did.
 Blood Blockade Battlefront, Episode 3 April 30, 2015  Possibly my most sophisticated application of cinematographic interpretation; this is a post I’m still amazed that I was able to write.
 Introducing Aniwords on Crunchyroll  June 2, 2015 The beginning of my weekly columns for Crunchyroll, which I produced all the way through the end of 2016. Not only was this a huge opportunity for me (thanks, Nate, for believing in me), but I’m also rather proud that my column paved the way for what later became the Crunchyroll Features team.
 Hyouka, Episodes 1-22 August 29, 2015 – February 14, 2016  My best episodic blogging effort, hands down. Having acquired some basic knowledge about cinematography in the preceding months, I exercised and expanded on that knowledge with Kyoto Animation’s masterpiece, producing a series of posts I’ll forever be proud of for their depth, sensitivity, and the growth as an aniblogger that they cultivated in me.
 Aniwords – Don’t Talk About Your Favorite Anime September 8, 2015 A seminal editorial campaigning for sincerity and genuineness in conversations about our tastes in anime – a topic I’d return to many times in the future. Still, I think this is the best articulation I’ve put forward of the idea.
 I Could Never Stop Time, nor Could I Hold to Its Passing: Reflections on Glasslip  November 14, 2015 This is a piece I’m particularly fond of, not only for its thoroughness and coherence, but also for how it embodies my ideology of seeking for sparks of beauty where they might otherwise go unnoticed. Never has my opinion of a show changed so much upon rewatching it as with Glasslip, and after 3000 words on it I wanted to make others feel the same.

Nisekoi

2016

Post/Series Title(s) Publication Date(s) Commentary
 The Universality of Particularity in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju January 19, 2016  Both an explanation of an aesthetic principle I’d long held as true, and the successful application of it to a specific show.
 Hanekawa Tsubasa and Me; or, Why I Blog about Anime February 6, 2016 I think it’s fair to say this post, written in the aftermatch of rewatching the Tsubasa Tiger arc of Monogatari, is the most vulnerable and personal I’ve ever gotten on here. I love it for that.
 No False Idol Shows Before Me: The Theology of Idols in AKB0048 April 18, 2016 An over-ambitious post trying to explain both my affections for one of my all-time favorite shows and the allure of idols. Probably could have done with another edit or two, but I’m pretty darn glad I wrote this thing.
A Comparison of Translations for Concrete Revolutio  June 26, 2016 Checked off “collaborate with Frog-kun” from my aniblogging bucket list.
 I’ve Updated My Top Anime List! August 20, 2016 This update of my top anime list was not simply a project of personal significance, but also a huge effort on its own – as it saw me rewrite and reorder the entire list in an attempt to form the definitive record of my tastes in anime.
 Love Live! Sunshine, Macross, and the Resonance of Franchise Lore September 10, 2016 I wrote a lot of Macross-related editorials in 2016, but this one applying the principles of Shoji Kamawori’s franchise to a modern idol property is perhaps the one I’m most fond of.
 A Sleepover in Space: Breaking Down Four Brilliant Shots in G-Reco 15 November 11, 2016  A very, very different kind of post from almost anything I’ve done – an intensely close reading of less that 20 seconds of a single scene of a single episode. It’s a bit of lightning in a bottle; I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other anime writing like this.
 12 Days of Anime: 2016  December 14, 2016 – December 25, 2016  After three years, I finally felt it was time to participate in the venerable anime blogger tradition. It was nice. ^^

Konosuba

2017

Post/Series Title(s) Publication Date(s) Commentary
 Kurokami, Kumagawa, and Christ: A Christological Interpretation of Power in Medaka Box February 12, 2017  Fully in huge idea-based blog post mode almost exclusively at this point in my aniblogging career, I made a return to my roots with a rare manga post combined with a bit of theology.
 You Must Save Yourself Before You Save the World: Tycho Science Leaves Everyone Else in Diebuster Behind and It’s Not Even Close  March 21, 2017  A post I spent a full month writing and editing. It’s still not perfect, but some posts you can only take so far. Regardless, I’m proud of this one, if only because it’s representative of a level of diligence and commitment to completing an idea that I’ve only rarely needed to draw on.
 I Haven’t Seen Evangelion, but I Will Someday: What I’m Looking for When I’m Watching Anime Now April 18, 2017 A rather appropriately forward-looking editorial that’s as much a promise to continue watching anime as it is a statement of ideology. Posts like this make me think I’ll never be able to quit this anime thing.

IMG_2865

And that brings us to the present day, and to this post. Looking back on these four years and Mage in a Barrel as a whole project, I’m honestly quite proud of it. It’s been a good few years, and on a personal level having this project has given me a valuable sort of stability and consistency in my life during a period of multiple transitions. And as I said before, the personal fulfillment this project has given me has been accompanied by all sorts of other benefits – professional opportunities, chances to make friends with great people, and a forum where I had the freedom to think about the sorts of things that are important to me and how I wanted to talk about them.

As for what the future will bring, I don’t have any immediate plans to retire from aniblogging. While it’s something I’ve considered more often recently (especially as I’ve gotten more into drawing – like the image that leads this article), there are still things I have yet to say. Can I really say I’m finished with my anime blog when I still haven’t written a single article about my favorite anime of all time? I don’t think so. Thus I move forward. I hope you’ll stick with me as I continue on.

And now, allow me to leave you with my favorite quote from anime.

AKB0048 First Stage

21 thoughts on “4 Years of Mage in a Barrel

  1. Hey, congrats on your 4 years of aniblogging! You and Bobduh have been my main inspiration to do my own thing, and you in particular have taught me some stuff, especially the part of talking about and defending the things I like or enjoy.

    So yeah, thanks for your hard work and thanks for doing that table. There were some articles I didn’t know existed. The Hanekawa one looks very interesting.

    Like

    • Thank you!! 🙂 & oh good, I’m really happy to hear that – talk about the stuff you like, love, and enjoy, and do so honestly and authentically… I really believe that’s the best way to do things.

      Hope ya enjoy(ed) reading through the articles.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Four years? Time sure flies! Though I think I mostly became aware of the little Honkers be Bonkers fan that’s you around early 2014? Good luck keeping it up, and more importantly, enjoying what you do 🙂

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  3. Congrats Bless! I started following you since your Hyouka essays, but you’ve already become one of my favourite writers. I find your opinion really valuable and insightful, specially in your more religion-focused posts and personal reflection articles.
    Enjoy your anniversary; find even more people to talk to and things to like!

    Like

    • Well, I hope you haven’t been disappointed in following me since the I think I kinda peaked with the Hyouka essays haha (half-joking). The religion and personal reflection ones are tough from me, usually, but I’ll keep on trying to do them!

      Like

  4. Conga-rats! It doesn’t seem at all that long.

    Oddly enough, I still have the first (well honestly the only) PM we ever exchanged on Crunchy in my inbox – dated Mar 29, 2014, me asking for your site URL. (Well, there’s only like 5 msgs in there, so I’ve never cleaned it out. 🙂 )

    I do find it odd that you didn’t include your magnum opus – the weekly analysis of KimiUso. That had a heck of a lot of insightful discussion, it’s what first drew and kept me commenting here.

    Like

    • I couldn’t find that in my inbox haha – but I used to have some really long chats with people that way.

      Hmmm, I suppose the KimiUso posts don’t stick out in my mind because of everything else I was doing around that time, too (and because I was always racing to finish them quickly so I could post them in Reddit threads for views). I did do some good work on those, though…

      Like

  5. Congratulations on 4 years of your blog, Bless!

    I’ll admit I haven’t read everything you’ve written but the stuff I have read I really so I’m looking forward to catching up on what I haven’t read as well as what you have in store for the future.

    Like

    • Hey, that’s alright! I always figure not everything I write is gonna be for all of my readers – and I’m okay with that. I’ll try to keep making things worth your time in the future!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Congratulations! This blog post was a great idea 🙂 I look forward to working my way through your recommended pieces from the past four years, and to seeing more from you in the future!

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  7. Congrats on 4 years! I’m happy to have been here for about 2 1/2 of them, and I definitely hope you have a few more left in you. I remember it was your post on Inou Battle episode 7 (aka the Hatoko meltdown episode) that first brought me here, and when I saw the thoughtfulness you put into that post, and others when I started digging through some of the archives, I knew I’d found a site worth bookmarking.

    Like

    • It’s always a pleasure to hear what posts of mine others remember, because it’s almost invariably different than the ones that stand out to me. It’s been great having you around all these years; thanks so much for your consistently thoughtful comments.

      Like

  8. The first post I remember reading was the one about Junketsu no Maria. I thought you weren’t getting the Show, but it was still a fascinating post. I didn’t reply because I don’t do drive-bys normally, and I didn’t know I would be back. Well, here I still am.

    Congrats on a good run. And, yes, your Hyouka posts are among the finest I’ve seen on all the web.

    Like

    • And here you are! As I said in the blurb, perhaps I was unfair to Maria at the time, but I said what I felt & it really did generate some fantastic discussion so all in all I can’t say I feel toooo bad about that.

      Thanks, though. I appreciate the congrats and all your comments!

      Like

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