Obligatory Tenth Anniversary Post

Holy cats, it’s Maser Patrol’s tenth anniversary! That’s right, the blog began on January 1st, 2013, the same day as the 50th anniversary of the Astro Boy anime. That show (and thus the entire TV anime format) is 60 today, so I guess that tracks.

To get it out of the way now, this post will purely be reflective, so no exciting announcement like there was with the 5th anniversary post when an intention to write Kaiju for Hipsters was declared. Another book is still something that could happen eventually, but right now things are purely ideational (at one point I had started working on gathering materials for a Japanese zombie movie guide, but I put that work on hold after discovering an individual more qualified than myself was already attempting the exact same project), and time’s been stretched thinner than it was back then.

Overall, it’s been a busy decade personally, as I completed grad school, changed jobs and moved multiple times, got married. However, this blog has been a great source of comfort, friendship, and thrills along the entire journey. It’s truly awesome and humbling to have been able to write so many posts, give so many panels, record so many podcasts, translate so many neglected stories, interview so many cool people. I’ve able to write a book, introduce film screenings, do liner notes for a major Blu-ray release; all far exceeding what I imagined at the outset. But what’s more personally rewarding is, forgive the cliché, the friends I made along the way.

The core of the blog comes out of both fandom and friendship; it was begun out of discussions among WashU’s anime club, and the same people who were part of it then are still part of my conversations every day (most notably Amanda, who in the ten years the blog has been around went from being a friend to being my wife, from a Japanese student to a professional translator interpreting for G-Fest and Kaiju Masterclass). Through the blog I’ve been introduced to countless others who have become close collaborators and comrades: Byrd and Matt at Kaiju Transmissions most obviously (I’ve been on that show more times than I can count at this point), but also Justin Mullis, Connor of Easter’s Kaiju Kompendium, the increasingly prolific John LeMay, Jared Faust at Xenofauna, Chris and Alex at Seismic Toys, Chris Marti of Cosmic Monster, John Bellotti at Robo7, Nick Driscoll at Toho Kingdom, Mike Dent at Vintage Henshin, Henning Strauß, Raf Enshohma, Jules Carrozza, Matt Burkett at Monstrosities, Chris and Jessica at Kaiju Kingdom, Avery Guerra, Kyle Yount at Kaijucast, Nick Poling at The Monster Report, and so many, many more… odds are if we’re Facebook friends, this blog had something to do with it, and it’s cool to know all of you.

It’s wild looking back on the circumstances of the blog’s creation, back in what kaiju fans call “the wilderness years”. In the very first post, I anticipated some titles that I had no way of anticipating would alter the landscape of the genre forever, including the then-upcoming anime adaptation of Attack on Titan (which arguably proved to be the breakout hit of the decade) and Pacific Rim, which, in addition to launching a powerhouse franchise on the strength of a single fantastic film, kind of ushered in a kaiju renaissance in Hollywood. Next came the MonsterVerse, which is remarkably still going strong, outlasting any prior American attempts at Godzilla by a wide margin. It also sparked a revival in Japan, so we have a concurrent Reiwa Godzilla series, typified by ambitious auteur screenwriters, to contrast the dumb blockbuster fun of the American features.

That rising tide has led to other franchises rising from their past dormancy as well, with new Gamera, Yokai Monsters (with Daimajin), heck, even a new Prince of Space and Voltes V! Chief among them, Ultraman is back in a bigger way than ever before, with a major international theatrical release, a popular anime series, and the New Generation of shows, also celebrating a decade, which is longer than even the successful 70s or 00s periods of the franchise managed. Better still, this is the decade when we saw Ultraman finally crack the US market, first with simulcasts on Crunchyroll, then on YouTube, and with the Chaiyo case resolved plus an aggressive commitment by the likes of Mill Creek, Marvel, and others, we’re enjoying the open floodgates of access to the world of M78.

Ultraman is the biggest success story, but tokusatsu in general is seeing levels of availability beyond our previous imagination. Super Sentai was once thought indelibly frozen due to the existence of Power Rangers, but now, even with a short Hasbro hiccup, we have everything from Fiveman to Dekaranger on DVD. We’re also seeing Kamen Rider getting releases, three shows on Blu-ray so far with another five on streaming, a far cry from the time when a V3 DVD from Hawaii was the only game in town. We’re even finally seeing Metal Heroes, thanks to Discotek, a company who’d previously sworn off live action titles due to low sales, creating an entire Toku Time imprint. There’s also Kraken Releasing, who did god’s work with making Garo available, and hopefully aren’t permanently down for the count.

Anime distribution has also wildly changed. When this blog started, Crunchyroll was a small independent outfit, but now they’ve fused with Funimation under Sony to become a kind of Disney for anime (though, Disney also now has a streaming service with its own anime). The streaming wars ramped up, with big corporate backing, and now anime conventions have a lot more glitzy polish of trade shows, though a few of the smaller outfits maintain the independent spirit that the likes of Crunchyroll and Section23 did in days past (I do miss the time when the power players could actually answer questions at their booths instead of just passing out promotional swag). We’re also seeing more theatrical releases than ever before, and they’re actually performing well at the box office. (Another title that I’d mentioned as upcoming in this blog’s first post, Dragon Ball: Battle of the Gods, might have been a catalyst for this trend.)

On the Japanese side, the landscape of major studios has completely shifted, with a new generation of brands like Mappa, Trigger, Orange, and Wit associated with marks of quality (plus Sola and Polygon on the opposite end of the spectrum). We’ve seen more titles produced per season than ever before, and a change in the format of adaptations; “forever” adaptations with tons of filler arcs gave way to seasonal shows that take breaks for a cour or two and come back the next year. Manga series are also getting shorter, as even paradigm-altering hits opt to wrap up their stories rather than continuing to milk their readership for as long as it can, which was the older model. Not to mention the rise and utter dominance of isekai programming nowadays…

Who knows what the next decade may bring? Perhaps we should have a podcast discussion to speculate more.

Looking forward, the blog has a few more neat things in the pipeline: articles, podcasts, convention presentations, and maybe another translation or two, but I’ll try not to give too much away for now, otherwise it’ll wind up like the half-year-delayed “Is there a figure of that” panel that I promise we still do plan to record and put up in the near future. In the meantime, the Facebook page is still the best place to look for up-to-date news posts and occasional other ephemera.

With that said, thanks for reading, whether you’ve been with Maser Patrol for most of this decade milestone or not. Looking forward to covering more in the decade to come, and to all a happy new year!

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