The Content Creator’s Dilemma as Seen in URAHARA

Many anime fans have been quick to dismiss URAHARA, myself included. But if you look past the rough animation and the seemingly uninspired plot, you’ll find some insightful commentary which may resonate with anime bloggers and vloggers.

I won’t really try to defend the artstyle and animation for URAHARA – it is, like most aspects of anime, really dependent on personal preference, after all. Some individuals may like the unique look, appreciate the cutesy details, and enjoy how the screen resembles a cluttered session of ViewSync or Multi-Twitch from time to time. Be that as it may, I think many people will agree it’s rather unpolished compared to other titles.

However, I do believe that many people are overlooking how URAHARA has the potential to make self-referential statements regarding creativity and consumerism.

On paper, URAHARA admittedly seems to be just another “fight off the invaders and save your zany town” series. In this case, the foreign invaders are Scoopers, aliens who “scoop up” artwork and monuments to hoard for themselves since they lack creativity. As a result of these fleeting and superficial similarities, I’ve seen several individuals compare URAHARA to Akiba’s Trip. For such comparisons to even pretend to hold merit, however, a lot of key details are dismissed just so URAHARA can be dismissed as generic, mediocre, a “knock-off,” etc.

In other words, these detractors are ignoring how URAHARA can explore (and has been exploring) an important challenge that many content creators have to face, be they anime bloggers, anime vloggers, etc. They’re the focus of this article, but this can certainly apply to artists or novel authors or any individual within a creative field, really.

The Content Creator’s Dilemma

This particular topic is a universal question.”Do you listen to your heart or do you give the consumer what he or she wants?”

The enduring dilemma serves as a primary focus for the sixth episode of URAHARA as Rito struggles with her art. The girl has always drawn whatever she felt like drawing, but she ends up becoming worried that this will never make her popular as an artist.

Rito is shown to start having such thoughts after overhearing her friends (who double as her co-workers), Mari and Kotoko, chat about Kotoko’s success as a popular blogger. Kotoko talks about how she needs to include trendy stuff in the photographs she uploads to receive more hits and that she’s particular about when she uploads said pics. Meanwhile, Mari thinks back to when she overheard a classmate talk about similar things. Feeling smug after gaining some foreign followers, the classmate announces that she plans on adjusting her style to attract even more foreigners and concludes by claiming, “In this world, you can’t just draw what you want.”

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Perhaps you have been in Rito’s shoes before as an anime blogger or a vlogger. You might feel pressured to accommodate to provide the consumer (in this case, this would be the reader of the viewer) what he or she wants to read or watch. If you want a lot of hits, then you’re probably locked into writing or talking about seasonal content since that is what most people are concerned about. Such shows are new and discussed en masse! Talking about the same titles together makes you feel like you’re part of the community! It’ll be a shame to be left out, right?

But what if you dislike waiting a week for new episodes to come out? What if you are more interested in older shows, or if you think you can do a better job evaluating a series if you can binge watch a series all at once?

Those are all perfectly fine reasons why one would choose to not write content that covers seasonal shows, mind you. But the Seasonal Effect (a impromptu term used to describe the anime blogging’s focus on current titles) makes it harder to capture people’s attention. Be that as it may, the brave folk who continue to share their thoughts on completed series, classics, and obscure titles are to be admired for not compromising on their principals and preferences.

Rito doesn’t find an answer to the Content Creator’s Dilemma, but allow me to bring up three things anime content creators can consider. The individual points, I must note, actually support conflicting actions and trains of thought, which is rather apt consider how I’m divided on this “issue.”

In other words, I also don’t know the answer to the Content Creator’s Dilemma, just like Rito. People will tell you to just write what you want to write, but I’m not sure it’s that simple.

1. It’s just part of the job

Sometimes you’re forced to do things you’re not crazy about just so you can get by. I’d wager that most people aren’t completely content with their jobs, but they still have to show up, do what they’re expected to do, and receive money so they can pay the bills. They’re not being praised for doing what they’re supposed to do – they just do it.

In a similar way, you can see writing about seasonal shows as something that could be done if you’re desperate for hits. I for one am painfully aware that my most popular post (for 2017)  is a post I wrote about Princess Principal. I would never have been able to reach the same numbers by choosing to talk about an older show that wasn’t trending at the time. It really makes me acutely conscious of the fact that a lot of people really cling onto the present.

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Not even close, bby.

But it’s for the views, right?

2. Dedication is self-evident

However, if you’re apathetic about the titles you’re writing about, then your disinterest may become readily apparent through your writing. After all, bored and uninspired content means bored readers. Forcing yourself to write about things you don’t particularly care for can be laborious and simply not beneficial for anyone involved. Wouldn’t you rather write about things you actually care about? Wouldn’t your readers or viewers prefer to see your enthusiasm and passion?

Misery sometimes only begets misery, not character.

3. …Why not both?

Very few issues in the world are simply black and white. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably a Sith Lord.

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Or a naïve bookworm. He just wanted a date with his crush. Look where that got him.

There was a particularly striking moment in Bakuman where a certain manga-ka tries to request a different editor since his current editor wouldn’t let him draw what he wanted to draw. In response, the editor-in-chief for Shonen Jump replied, “Saying you haven’t been able to draw what you want to draw is the same as admitting your own lack of talent.”

To me, that scene represented a blending of two extremes. If what you like and what the public likes (according to the manga-ka’s editor’s opinion and preferences, at least) don’t align, then try to find a way to skillfully combine the two. Maybe you’re not actually all that fond of any of the current seasonal shows, for instance. But you are interested in fashion so you can perhaps write your observations about the kind of clothes that are popular in these series. Doing so would surely demonstrate that you have creativity, allow you to write about popular shows, and gives you room to talk about something you’re interested in. That’s certainly not the only example and the process is easier said than done, but it’s a start, right?

23 thoughts on “The Content Creator’s Dilemma as Seen in URAHARA

  1. Hmm, that is a very interesting topic. I actually gave this some thought. As you know my blog is a multicontent blog, because honestly I have so many things that I enjoy that it’a at times hard to pick only one subject. I do think that I might occasionally have written a post just because it’a about something a lot of people enjoy. On the other hand…it’s always about topics that I myself love as well. And, occasionally because of this you discover something new you otherwise might never have discovered. For instance if not so many people urged me to go and watch Yuri on Ice, I would never have watched it 😀
    In the end though…I write posts for things that I love writing about. If people enjoy it in the process that’s an added bonus. Great post man: awesome! 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Since others are doing it, here are my stats for 2017 so far:

    I’m always a bit conscious of this. My top post for the year is a (now slightly out-of-date) guide for Final Fantasy XIV’s last raid dungeon of the Heavensward cycle, Dun Scaith. Just behind that we have a couple of pieces I wrote that got widely shared when I got annoyed about various things, usually people being ill-informed idiots. It seems when I get at my most passionate and frustrated, my pieces are most likely to be picked up by others and shared widely… perhaps because said others feel the same way!

    For the most part, I try to cover what I want to cover on MoeGamer. The whole point of my site is to investigate both current and retro games that don’t typically get the attention (or the depth of coverage) that they deserve from the mainstream games press — I say this as someone who used to work in the mainstream games press and was specifically forbidden from covering certain things because ew, they had filthy dirty sexy anime girls in them, SHOCK. In doing so, I hopefully highlight the fact that many of these games — particularly those that are often written off as shameless fanservice — have a ton of depth to them that simply isn’t even acknowledged by professional critics.

    In that sense, I kind of feel like I have some “obligations”, but at the same time, the games I choose to focus on each month (my “Cover Games”) I tend to pick semi-randomly based on whatever I feel like at the time! Sometimes I’ll do current (or reasonably current) stuff; other times I’ll do something that is ten years old or more. Ultimately I’m aiming to create an archive of “timeless” articles that someone can read any time and get something out of… or that I can just look back on in a few years and be pleased with!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The fact that an older post is still very popular is wonderful in my opinion.
      As for how some of your more passionate pieces being shared around, I think that, too, is wonderful since you’re speaking up and people agree with what you’re saying. Nothing wrong with that!

      Oh, that’s a shame to hear. The more I hear about professional critics the more I lose faith in them. Do they imagine themselves as innocent maidens? I’m glad you’re putting in the time and effort to write about games that are being overlooked.

      I think you’ve figured it out pretty well, then. Keep writing lovely content!

      Like

      1. Thanks! Yeah, it’s quite satisfying to see older stuff consistently being read… even if the information in it is sometimes a bit out of date 🙂

        And yes, you’re right — more often than not the more passionate pieces getting shared is because other people feel the same way and perhaps haven’t felt able or inclined to express themselves in the same way. I know that’s certainly the case with a few things I’ve posted, most notably my response to an article on a commercial gaming site that literally said a game was “for paedophiles”.

        I still primarily write for my own satisfaction, to be honest, but it’s always nice to know when people appreciate what I do!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This might be surprising, but I haven’t actually LOOKED at the stats page on my blog XD
    And it’s been a year since I started. Yeah… Auri lives frivolously, haha… ha…
    (Well, I just checked, highest is 156, not that it really matters)

    Pretty much most of the things I do is for fun. As long as I have fun, I do it. And when I don’t, I well.. stop. Generally. (I guess it’s showing on this year’s report card too, haha)
    Till now, I haven’t written something on the blog that I do not like…
    Still, I can understand what you’re saying Remy-nii.

    As always, this was great to read, thanks!
    (We really need to work on different lines for opening and closing….)

    P.S- The new design looks good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not being a slave to numbers is great!

      (Yeah, it doesn’t really matter)

      Fair enough.I want to say it’s most important to have fun…but sometimes you gotta do less fun things (like in school). Faito, Auri!
      Keep writing about things you enjoy, though!

      Thank you!
      (Drastic measures have to be taken since we sound like robots, help)

      P.S – thanks, Auri c:

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As if to prove the point of your post, nobody in the comments talks about Urahara. Heh. I haven’t actually seen many people talk about the show, and even fewer have nice things to say about it. I’ve loved the show from episode one, was briefly worried at episode 2 that it wouldn’t keep my interest for its run, but I’m fairly re-assured at that point.

    The writing is simple but competent. The way the show treats Rito’s dilemma is actually a good example. There’s nothing at all in the episode you haven’t seen before, but it also doesn’t feel thoughtlessly thrown together. For me, two elements stand out.

    1. Popularity as a sign of “being useful”, or “being wanted”. When I compare western clichés to anime clichés this often stands out. A similar dilemma in the west might be about wanting to be special; in anime it’s usually about pulling your weight. The key scene here is when Rito’s weapon fails, because part of her feels vindicated that the scoopers show interest in her painting. That particular emotional core is something I keep noticing in anime: reacting positively to negative treatment, because at least it’s positive attention of some sort. (It’s the emotional core that underlies Chise’s central theme in Ancient Magus’ Bride.)

    Now, it’s easy to mess this up. It might come across as patronising: see, you’re useful after all. It might come across as by the numbers. But Urahara actually makes it feel natural. Part of it is the backstory, the image with thoughtful Rito in class you posted being a good example. It’s well anchored. But another part is the girls’ social dynamic. And this gets me to my second point:

    2. The character dynamics are excellently portrayed. From the division of labour to personal mannersims, everything fits seemlessly. The narrative doesn’t linger on key points, so if you’re not into the show and only watch casually, it’s easy to miss. Urahara is a busy show and doesn’t always actively draw attention to things that are important, or explain them. They do explain the important conclusions, like Rito explaining herself, but the details that give texture to their overall relationship are just… there. The important element that drew my attention in this episode was during a comment, I think targeted at the little girl whose name I forget. Where three are friends, often one is a latecomer. (My most prominent example of that sort of dynamic is Yuyushiki.) Here, we learn that Rito is the latecomer, as a throwaway comment in a story about the genesis of the shop.

    If you take (1) and (2) together, you get the feeling of a generalised worry triggered by a specific social constellation. The characterisation is rich, and its flowing. It’s not a psychological study – it’s really just a string of familiar tropes you may relate to or not. But as it’s never made a big deal of, it feels natural and easy. You can miss elements, or take them in but only process them unconsciously, and still get on board with the show (I wonder what I missed?).

    In many ways, Urahara feels like a children’s show: good character writing, minimalised threat, always re-assuring. Even the artsyle, with its many small details and object clutter and lack of background/foreground distinction works best if your at your curiosity maximum, actively looking for new things to see. Urahara may not be for everyone but it’s certainly for me. If you enjoy off-beat children’s shows (like, say, Mari + Galli), you might be fine with Urahara, too. (Or so says my hunch.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, they’re all avoiding the elephant in the room, hah.
      I was actually not a fan of the show at first, but I’ve been getting more and more into it. Definitely a hit or miss show.

      1. Ah, Ancient Magus’ Bride and URAHARA do share that similarity. I’m rather torn about that sort of dynamic between Chise and Elias, actually. I only feel bad for Chise since she accepts that he was giving her the words she wanted to hear due to being so starved for affection. Well, as you said, negative attention is still attention.

      2. I did notice that Rito was revealed to be the last to join their small group. The latecomers always have it hardest.

      Good points about how viewers can take in the details as much or as little as they want and how the situation just seems…natural. Viewers can certainly end up relating to the girls who seem to somewhat realistic in regards to their insecurities for the most part.

      If (off-beat) children’s shows comprise of these sort of elements, I might have to start exploring more of such shows, then.

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Children’s shows are as varied as any other; it’s just that when they’re good they tend to be simpler than others, but not less complex. For example, the way the girls escaped from the tentacles was fairly anticlimactic, if you compare it to shounen, but it’s essentially the same concept (solve your internal issues and power up). That sort of disregard for the usual ornaments works best for people who haven’t seen much, or for people who have seen too much (so that the variation no longer matters). It also works because the energy that didn’t go into complicating the story, went elsewhere: here into boosting style. Urahara is very deliberately stylish.

        Mari + Galli goes for style, too, while Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note goes for straightforward simplicity (and a minimalist style, as far as I can remember). There’s plenty of variety, as you’d expect. I just think that Urahara fits the mold pretty well. (I checked out the creators, and it turns out quite a few of them have actually been involved in children’s shows in the past. I was worried I was just bullshitting around the first time I said this, but I was glad to be at least partly vindicated.)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. That’s a good point. Simplicity does not automatically mean it’s not complex. I feel like a lot of people will lump such disregards for the usual ornaments, as you put it, to be “lazy” or “generic,” unfortunately. I wouldn’t say that Rito has resolved her internal issues yet, however – she only voiced her inner conflicts out loud for once and now her friends know she’s struggling with something she’s kept to herself for a long time. Her outburst of emotion and action was what allowed her to escape and the other two were able to follow suit out of concern for Rito, but her problems will probably not be fully solved until she talks it out with the other two (or Sayumin, but I think she’s a bit convenient and suspicious).

          Style, huh? I see. URHARA really does goes out of its way to capture the essence of what Urahara is – a colorful, expressive world found in the backstreets of Harajuku. That’s why the girls were so adamant about how a world without such vivid color wouldn’t be their Urahara in the previous episode, for example. This is an image that the series has been trying to cultivate from the very beginning through the background shots and the girls’ wardrobes. Some people will appreciate it while others won’t, unfortunately.

          Ah, I haven’t seen either of those, but I’ll have to give them a shot if you put it that way (wow, I’m impressed that your leap of faith was on the mark and that it was an educated guess).

          Liked by 1 person

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