Beneath the Tangles continues to expand, both in the quality of work our volunteers are creating as we seek to share our passion for anime, manga, and light novels, and in how we reach out to our audiences. So it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when we almost shut our doors for good. At the end of 2015, I realized I was burnt out, both creatively and from serving through this digital ministry. I was looking for new opportunities, ways to stretch myself as a writer and creator, and was also discouraged by the contraction of our readership. In sum, I was ready to let Beneath the Tangles go—if not permanently, then at least into a long hibernation.
Looking back, it would have been a bad choice to halt the momentum of the blog, but I was tired and needing rest. So what else was there to do?
I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went, and how everything developed, but I did realize that Japes would be the man to lead Beneath the Tangles in my stead, if he was willing to take the job. Thankfully, he did (or at least was kind of enough to accept my request!), and was soon joined by two of our other writers and trusted colleagues, Annalyn (who now usually goes by Lex) and Kaze. They took charge for more than a year, until I returned in spring of 2017, and instituted a number of changes that set a foundation for what Beneath the Tangles is now, including a more professional approach to our content and to editing; a heavier focus on more thoughtful articles; and emphasis on other media, including the podcast.
We four chatted recently about that year + of leadership—what it entailed and what it meant:
Twwk: When I left Beneath the Tangles, I was so worn out that I paid zero attention to the blog for months. It was a while, then, before I realized that Japes had asked the rest of you to step into a leadership role. How did this triumvirate form?
Kaze: I honestly don’t remember the exact details. I recall Japes approaching us with the proposal because he realized he couldn’t handle the task alone (a testament to how amazing Twwk is for doing it!). At the time, I was heavily invested in advancing the blog’s success, so I was very interested in taking up responsibilities beyond just writing.
Japes: I’m really going to have to jog my memory as well. It was only a few years, but, considering the sheer number of life changes I’ve experienced in that time, it feels like it was a lifetime ago.
Without getting too deep into matters (yet!), though, I know that Twwk first handed me the reins when I was in college. Personally, that period was the perfect overlap of my heightened desire to discover my faith for myself, my peak anime obsession, and an absurd amount of free time. Around graduation, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that running the blog like I had opted to was not one person’s job. Or rather, it wasn’t one working person’s job. I quickly found myself on the road to burn-out after I moved here to Tokyo.
At the time, both Kaze and Lex were extremely involved as well. The three of us naturally found ourselves working together, and between Kaze’s deep knowledge of Japanese and otaku culture and Lex’s writing and editing abilities, it seemed like a no-brainer to ask them to be a part of leadership.
Twwk: What do you remember best during that time you three led together?
Japes: I clearly remember the enormous relief I felt upon being able to share editing duties with two other people!
Kaze: I remember a lot of discussions about how to transition BtT from a simple blog to more of an organization with a stronger presence and sense of community. One of the ways we attempted that was making a Discord channel to connect with readers. It didn’t turn out as we hoped, since we shut it down after a few months, but I hear that’s been started back up again.
We passed around a lot of other ideas that never came to fruition as we always came to the same problems being a lack of time, resources, knowledge/experience, and as one might assume, money. Still, it was a memorable period brainstorming with Japes and Lex about how to accomplish our overly ambitious hopes for the site.
Lex (Annalyn): Goodness, there’s a lot to remember. Highlights include brainstorming and video hangout sessions with Japes and Kaze. Sometimes we talked BtT, but sometimes we just hung out—played an .io or Pokemon game as we chatted. We obviously knew each other before, but this time added a dimension to our friendship that I’m really grateful for.
I definitely remember my hesitation over some of the changes. I was very slow to get behind some of the ideas for growth. I was afraid that a more professional look could take away from the warm, casual, inviting look that first made me feel welcome in the comments. I also wanted to ensure that we grew in accordance with our mission and not for growth’s sake. Not to mention how I was concerned about our—and Japes’ in particular—ability to keep up with too many additions. But I trusted Japes and Kaze, and together, we were able to do some great stuff.
I remember bringing in some fantastic new staff members, who I now can’t imagine my online community without.
Oh, and writing posts on behalf of BtT on My Anime List. That was cool.
Each memory unlocks another one, so I’ll make myself stop now.
Oh, circling back to an earlier question: I believe we stepped up to at least some admin duties with Japes earlier than suggested above. I think as early as January, maybe February that year. Because by March, we had MDMRN on board, and I was scheduling Anime March Madness tweets.
Twwk: Ah, I have you to thank for Anime March Madness in addition to MDRMN! I had no idea. I love that tournament…so much fun to put together!
Lex: Well, it was MDRMN’s idea. We just said yes. And, in my case, scheduled tweets about it.
Twwk: I guess that leads to my last questions, which are 1) What led you all to put the site back into my hands and 2) What are you all up today—lifewise and related to this hobby / ministry, if anything?
Kaze: What led me to hand the site back over was the harsh reality of being a working adult. Between the exhaustion of a full time job and the daily *2-3 hour commute* I simply did not have the time or energy to be so involved with the site. I tried to keep up with writing blog posts, but nowadays, the time I spend on anime and games is far less than before while dropping writing almost completely, though some readers may have noticed that I now report on anime conventions I attend as that takes much less time and thinking on an event I was going to attend anyway. I still keep up with ongoing anime, but I amaze even myself at how quickly I drop things now when comparing to the habits I had only a few years ago.
Lex: I’m still writing and editing—but now, it’s as a career. I work freelance. I’ve been doing this for years, but I feel like I really got my business running on my terms in the past several months. Unfortunately, no otaku or similarly geeky clients so far, though I’d like that someday.
I don’t have the time or energy to write simply as a hobby anymore. I participate in NaNoWriMo every year now, but that’s pretty much it. I’ll admit I’ve drifted away from anime. I think all that blogging burned me out a bit. It’s not the escape it once was. It’s kinda weird to be on the fringes of that, unaware of the season schedule. I’m getting increasingly out of touch with current anime—a big difference from when I was blogging regularly and knew the current anime, the Twitter hashtags to use, etc. But I still enjoy it. Still watch it. Just not as often.
Japes: The more I hear from Lex and Kaze, the more I remember myself. My answer essentially echoes what Annalyn and Kaze said: life hit. It comes at you fast, and that’s a lesson I learned the hard way. Over the past three and a half years, I’ve moved across the globe, worked in three different industries, gotten married, and experienced numerous changes in hobbies. It’s made me appreciate not only the time and work you put into the site, but the balance you strike between hobbies, career, family, and ministry. I feel like I’m getting better, but it’s absolutely a lengthy process.
These days, I’ve moved into translating Japanese to English professionally, mainly in the gaming scene, though I’m hoping to move into a more administrative role in the near future. Though I’ve become a bit more disconnected from the anime community, I’ve found that my relationship with my wife and with my colleagues has broadened my horizons in the otaku community at large, if you want to call it that. Manga and video games have become more a part of my life than they were several years ago, certainly. Ironically, though, I think my current lifestyle has taught me to appreciate a lot of more mainstream Japanese media that would have once made me scoff.
In terms of ministry work, that has been quite the journey in and of itself. My first year here in Japan, my “job” job intersected heavily with ministry work, so that was the focus of much of my time and energy. After that year, when I moved into datacenter work, I experienced for the first time what it felt like to be totally spiritually isolated. My work and hobbies were no longer oriented around my religious beliefs, and there was nobody telling me to go to church, so I found myself just naturally slipping into a comfortable, but lonely, hole of apathy. I would go on far too long if I gave all the details, so I’ll just summarize by saying that my experiences here in Japan and in different career fields have helped me to balance different priorities and to discover the benefits of things in my life I once considered nuisances. That has led me to a refueled zeal for embracing Christianity in a more intentional way.
Now I know you’re supposed to be the one asking the questions here, Twwk, but I have to ask: How did you feel about Beneath the Tangles during those years of your absence?
Twwk: I’m on the spot now? Haha. Well, I could echo a common refrain here—burnout. I needed all that time away to rest, and I could rest knowing it was in your hands, and Kaze’s and Lex’s. I also underwent an apprenticeship of sorts in writing (though my editor doesn’t know I consider it as such!) and learned so much about social media, that when I came back to a site that was better structured and putting out stronger content, I felt I could contribute to this upward movement, to places the blog had never gone before and couldn’t with me as I was. So to put it into an anime metaphor, your time together was like a shounen manga where the hero (me of course? LOL) goes away to train and other heroes band together and train as well, and then everyone gets back together to fight the common enemy.
Except, of course, Kaze and Lex departed for the reasons mentioned, and you’ve also been too busy to contribute as I know you wish you could. And I really wish you three were still here helping guide the ship, as your strengths would make up for my weaknesses. But as I’ve learned, this ministry and our lives are points on a grid of this journey as we’reused to serve God in others’ lives. He moves us as he wills, and if that’s away of Beneath the Tangles, it’s for a reason, though the impact you three made will continue to feed this site and future iterations of it in profound way until the journey for BtT is finally done. So thank you for all you did—Beneath the Tangles would certainly no longer exist if it weren’t for all your effort, much less reach the audience we do now. I will always be indebted.