Sailor Moon had three directors across its entire run and all of them were fantastic. The first of those, Junichi Sato, was already established as a great director of kids’ anime by that point. His ability to delicately handle manga, fleshing them out while also sticking to their core, is amazing. Sailor Moon, of course, showed this off the best, as most of the episodes in that series are entirely original but he’s demonstrated this time and time again in the period since. His sense of how episodic and disconnected events can build upon characters is wonderful.
In the two decades since working on Sailor Moon, he’s directed a number of anime. A circus-focused kids’ anime in Kaleido Star, a postmodern magical girl fairy tale in Princess Tutu, and an absolute iyashikei masterpiece in Aria, alongside many more works. He’s greatly under-appreciated given the number of amazing series he’s directed and contributed to. So of course, I had to make a video highlighting the fact he’s directing an anime right now.
As always, Sato brings his A-game with a focus on sincerity and exploring the connections between people and the world. He focuses on encouragement and trying your best, the value of opening up to others and talking about your problems, the benefit that can come from simply making friends with those who are open to doing so. By focusing on the characters and their emotions, using the plot as a mere connecting point and not as the central focus of the series, he’s given a lot of freedom in exploring the characters and themes as he wishes, which sets up for a show which is usually quite comfortable to watch.
I am, of course, talking about Hugtto PreCure. Certainly, Sato is working on Amanchu Advance right now as well. That is true. This was all a dumb joke. Or, the setup was at least. The encouragement to watch Hugtto is very genuine. This series is absolutely fantastic and its relative obscurity in the West, outside of the specific anitwitter circles I frequent, is very unfortunate. It has everything, from great fights and animation to encouraging characters who always try their best even in the face of extreme and understandable difficulties.
The best example of this so far is, of course, the wonderful episode 4. By using the setup of a normal “character becomes a Cure episode”, the show is able to demonstrate just how deeply rooted Homare’s traumas are, showcasing how simply cheering someone on, while worthwhile and a good use of your time, is not always enough, and how it can even be hurtful when the other person is aware of their problems and simply unable to do anything about it.
Ahh, I’m not happy with that paragraph. Lachlan already covered that episode in so much depth, with so much sincerity, what more can I possibly say that she hasn’t already? Well, like, surely there’s other parts of the show to talk about right? It’s not like she said everything there is to say.
If you’ve never seen Precure, it’s still absolutely worth it to dive right in here. I brought up Sato at the beginning, and while part of that was for an extended and probably awful joke, the other reason is that his sensibilities shine through here. Hugtto may be a 2018 anime but it carries a distinctly 90s feel. The comedic pacing, the designs, the general atmosphere, all of it reminds me very clearly of Sailor Moon’s first season and other works from the time period. Not that I’ve seen all the magical girl shows I should have from back then, but still. It just feels like a very classic anime in every way. I think the clearest demonstration of this is the use of funny faces. One of anime’s best traits is its ability to showcase wonderful facial expressions and Hugtto really nails that. This is just a great jumping on place for Precure, whether you have experience with the franchise, the genre, or nothing at all.
That paragraph was better but still. Hugtto has been mentioned by Lachlan, by Kamimashita, by Jack. What happened to last year? Even as a tiny channel, I was the only one promoting KiraKira. Sure, you could say Hugtto is shaping up to be a better series and I wouldn’t disagree but, like, KiraKira was damn good too. I dunno, I’m not upset that other people are paying attention to Precure now but it does kinda feel like one of my niches is being stolen. I was the one out here shilling for little girls’ shows before this. If these 50k+ subscriber channels start doing it, how can I possibly hope to compete? And I mean this with no disrespect, of course, I love all the other YouTubers, especially Lachlan, and I love that the show is getting more popularity. As anitubers, we do have some level of influence and pushing our audiences to watch these somewhat obscure anime is obviously a good thing. But, like, I dunno. It just makes me feel kinda mixed, y’know?
Well, that’s only one little girl anime. I’m starting a bunch this season. Surely, I can just go promote those instead. If Precure’s already covered, I can make it my job to look at the even more obscure series — again, outside of my little twitter bubble that loves them — and get them to the point that the larger people are willing to cover them. So, what have I started this season? The Layton anime? Well, I’ve never played the games and it’s not anything special. It’s fun, to be sure, and I’d recommend it to those who like kids shows. Katrielle is certainly a fun and cute protagonist. I’ll always love HanaKana. But the mysteries sure are simple and thus far it lacks any of the emotional or thematic depth that makes Precure so worthwhile to a general audience. Who knows, that could show up, there’s some foreshadowing about Katrielle’s relationship with her father. But I doubt this’ll appeal to most anime fans or even most of my subscribers.
What about Aikatsu Friends or Kiratto Pri-chan? Well, those are great so far. They’re both incredibly gay and incredibly fun, they come from long-running and popular franchises while being disconnected enough for new viewers. Unlike Layton, they’ll probably get into deeper thematic stuff and they’d definitely be palatable to people who enjoy shows like Love Live or Precure itself. But how good of a job can I really do at promoting those? I haven’t seen the original Aikatsu. I haven’t seen Pripara. I’d like to, sure, but hell if I have the time to do that right now. The amount of anime I watch for this job is already absurd. It’s not like I have the freedom to watch whatever I want whenever I want. There are upsides to that of course, it gives my watching a purpose, I never feel like I’m wasting time when I watch anime but the loss of my ability to view whatever I feel like is something I regret, just that little bit. I’d love to promote those shows and I know I’ll adore them when I someday get to them but how am I supposed to credibly promote these ones when I’ve seen none of the past stuff, none of the stuff that I know for a fact is great? Are they even going to get consistent subs? Not everyone is willing to watch these shows raw like I do.
God, thinking about that only brings more uncomfortable questions to the front of my mind. What even is my place as an anime youtuber? There are things I can do that nobody else can, of course. There simply aren’t any other people who know as much as I do about the yuri genre and also have any interest in making their job that of an anituber. That niche, at least, can’t be stolen from me. I snatched that up at the perfect time. And then, of course, there’s my big projects. Digi used to do those, but hell if there’s any chance he ever does that Shaft project at this point. No, I’m the only one who can fill that niche, because I’m the only anituber absurd enough to actually go out and spend that much time on one video. But even then, how valuable is that? The Ikuhara project is gonna be somewhere from 2 to 4 hours probably. Hell, it might end up as the longest edited anitube project in general. I’m going to make it, since it’s something I want to exist but is that valuable to this sphere at large? Are more than 1000 people going to be interested in that kind of thing? I would hope so, but at times, my doubts overshadow my optimism. And when you get past that, what do I have left? What makes me unique? Why would you come to Zeria over anyone else when you get past those niches that no one else can fill?
I mean sure, my taste is distinct. Most people don’t have Shirobako and Nanoha as simultaneous 10/10s. But how valuable is that, really? Having unique taste is a dime a dozen. Everyone has a unique opinion in some way or another. That I’m putting mine out there doesn’t make me special. Most the shows I like are beloved. Am I really going to contribute in any way by adding to the already massive and well-worn pile of Hunter x Hunter videos? It seems unlikely.
Fuck, I just looked at my subscriptions again. That sure as hell didn’t help. When I just have some ordinary-ass opinion on popular seasonal anime of the week, how am I supposed to get that out there? Can I make a video as good as one Lachlan would put out? Or as good as Jack? Can I match one of Subs’s videos? I can’t. Not in that specific space at least. Sure, my writing is more than competent. I hardly think myself a bad writer. But am I a great one? Is my style distinct enough to be worth coming back to purely for the sake of it? Is my prose even remotely interesting to read? I know for a fact that my delivery and editing are mediocre at best, so it’s my writing that has to stand out. And that’s fine, I am writer above all else but that doesn’t reduce the fact that, on this front, I just don’t feel like I can compete. I had ideas about Yorimoi at the end of last season. But my video on it would’ve been middle of the road at best. It wouldn’t have been worth making. I simply can’t say that I’m good enough to consistently make videos that meet my own standards for great content. Passable, sure. And when no one else is covering something, I feel fine in doing so. But I’m simply not as good as some other anitubers and that’s hard to come to terms with.
So, I have to ask myself; what do I do? Do I just leave my general and generic takes to Twitter, using my channel only when I have an idea that truly seems worth broadcasting to thousands of people? Do I fully abandon seasonal videos unless I have a truly unique approach? I never expected Precure would be the show I’d feel is over-saturated but here we are. That could happen to anything. Will I make a Cutie Honey video this season? I want to. After all, my last one was murdered in cold blood right in its prime, killing my views for 2 months and even after one episode I have some ideas. But what if someone else makes a video about it? Do I just devote myself solely to making videos on yuri and other incredibly obscure topics, working on my larger projects at the same time?
That doesn’t sound so bad in theory. But what if I just want my opinion on a show to be public? And how am I supposed to sustain myself that way? Speaking realistically, I need to make money in order to sustain the channel. It’s not like the Ikuhara video is going to be pulling in that much. I have to satisfy my patrons and make ad revenue and that requires making seasonal videos, at least for now. That’s just the way it is. And yet at the same time, I’m doing this because it allows me artistic freedom. I don’t want to be a mere slave to the algorithms. I just want to make videos I’d enjoy, contributing to the discourse and promoting stuff I’m interested in. Why is it so hard to do so? Why must I question myself so thoroughly when I’m doing nothing wrong? I’ve taken a normal video on Precure, albeit one with a dumb fake-out at the beginning, and transformed it into an annoying meta rant about how hard it is to be me, someone whose job is literally watching anime. Why can’t I just make a normal recommendation video, encouraging the audience to watch Hugtto? I’m sure I could’ve come up with unique reasons if I’d really tried.
And yet. In spite of all the questioning of myself, in spite of how down on myself I’m getting, I can’t exactly give up. I have a schedule to maintain, after all, there has to be a video every Friday. I can’t let my patrons down. I can’t let my subscribers down. I can’t let myself down by giving up just because these anxieties are floating around in my head. I can’t expect every one of my videos to be a masterpiece, that’s not how the creation of art works! Just last night I watched an episode of Hugtto and do you know what it said? “Don’t say ‘I can’t do anything’! Instead say ‘What will I do’!” Yeah! I can make videos that are worthwhile. I can promote the works that I want to be more popular! It’s not a problem that more people are shouting out Precure now. That just means I have to get even more inventive in how I write about it! This is just a challenge, one I can overcome if I put in the fucking effort. This is a video about Hugtto Precure and I’ll be damned if I let its messages go to waste! I know there are people who love my videos, probably even people who’ll love this video. At times, their encouragement could hurt me the way it hurt Homare but right now I’m willing to accept it. I’ve got to keep going, for them and for myself.
This video may be scripted but the emotional arc in it is all too real. I can’t say I’m always pleased with my content or the direction I’m going. I do sometimes look at my peers and feel shame for not being good enough, for being unable match their brilliance. But I won’t give up. Anime, including shows like Hugtto, can always remind me that it’s worthwhile to keep trying. That’s the greatest recommendation I could possibly give.