The Science of (Anime) Fake News: AnimeMaru at KuroCon

This is the first time I attended an online convention, and one that was handled in the US perhaps. I was supposed to attend the “Your Taste In Anime Isn’t Trash” panel but I missed that one but it’s a good thing I got this because I am familiar with AnimeMaru and its reputation and them giving the ins and out of writing anime fake news sounds interesting to me.

Kevo, one of the founding fathers of the site, and Vestro open the panel with how and when Animemaru was born.  He started the site in 2014 when he got bored of normal anime blogging the year before and started to think of ways of doing something unique and the best thing that he thought of is doing anime news parodies and this is the most fun method of writing.

He also reflects on how parody writing became popular during the past couple of years.

They also brought up some pointers for people who wanted to start their own publication/anime blog and here are as follows:

Typical American otaku.
  • Understanding The Audience

For the peeps at Animemaru, their first advice is to create content, they first must understand content and with that in mind, is to understand the audience. For them, the ideal audience is the following:

  • Decently familiar with the otaku subculture
  • Is aware of the current events, inside and out of the scene.
  • Actively follows in-season anime
  • Primarily focused on the scene in United States of America

They also understood that humor is subjective and not everyone can get the joke and they also pointed out that the most successful pieces they did are the ones that are common to the subculture and something that’s familiar to the majority of their audience, i.e. Evangelion or DBZ or Sailor Moon.

  • The Importance of a Good Title

This is something that is not only applicable to sites like Animemaru but to all publications in general. The thing is, to get people to read your articles, you need to hook them with the title. This is where clickbait titles come in and how they work despite the fact that people hate it. Kevo also points out that most people don’t even get past the header and the thumbnail images and that is why they introduced “shorts” wherein it just contains the image and the thumbnail.

A great example of a great Animemaru headline
…and a great example of a bad one.
The typical Animemaru news article. Notice how it is structured like a legitimate news article.
  • Style and Structure

This is where the meat and potatoes come in. The team at animemaru do a lot of research on what their potential topics are going to be. In a sense, they really have to dig in as to what is it all about by going into wikis and all such fandom related websites. Kevo also points that he read newspapers as a kid and that helped him make the fake news look like “news”. This section of the panel also details how they structure their so-called articles with this format:

  • Headline
  • Setup/Hook on the first few paragraphs
  • Establishing related jokes
  • Conclusionary punchline.

This kind of format works best with Kevo and Vestro and it also points out the articles they do with what guest writers usually submit which would, sometimes, appear to be too wordy to the point that it loses its comedic edge but at the end of the day, they ain’t CNN nor Fox News, they’re Animemaru. They’re a hobbyist site and shouldn’t be taken as seriously as legit news sites.

The panelists then delve into what articles are on Animemaru such as the standard “news” articles, op-eds, shorts, and other unused formats such as “Ahogamer Reviews”, “Deep Analysis” wherein they analyze “deep anime” and such.

Ladies and gentlemen, the people who believe in anything that is on the internet.

Kevo and Vestro now then discuss what made some of their articles a success like the infamous “Scientists Find That Running like Naruto Actually Faster”, wherein they explained that how everyone and their mother knows what Naruto is and how the ninja run became a trend and with that said, garnered them their first twenty trillion hits.

 Another trend they poke fun of is modern light novel’s trend to go with fully obnoxious long titles by releasing an article with the headline “New Light Novel Consists Entirely of One Long Title” and Hollywood planning to create a live action remake of the popular “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to” as well as unsuccessful ones like some Keyakizaka46 oshi overthrew the Diet to make herself the center.

                See what they’re getting into here? It brings us back to point number one: understanding your audience. Not everyone listens to Keyakizaka46 and not everyone knows who wrote OreImo and Eromanga Sensei but a lot of people know what the Naruto run is or how playing gacha games kind look and feel like playing a slot machine.

                They also showed the people who are gullible enough to believe the articles to the point that they send email about the show or comment with rage on Reddit or Facebook. Their articles are so believable, so much so that legitimate publications outside anime such as Casino.org or International Business Times and they even got their articles translated to other languages such as Chinese and Japanese. Some professors even use animemaru as a legitimate source for their PowerPoint presentations.

It all leads to Kevo recounting the lessons he learned about the nature of modern journalism:

  • News satire is becoming popular ever since the popularity of Weekend Update (there you go, Kevo) and The Daily Show as well as parody sites from other genres.
  • People tend to believe everything they see on the internet and this serves as a lesson because not everything you see on the internet is true. This is something people badly need to learn especially with today’s society as people with actual agenda can make a fool out of everybody and that there is no more remorse for it.
  • Modern politics is susceptible to the “witchhunt mentality”
  • Modern media is disposable because of how stories can spread to everyone within a matter of hours.

The panel ends with how the site is just an outlet of creative expression and how it serves as a passion project as well as a hobby and how they keep the spirit of writing out of love alive by making the site completely ad-free and how they can see a lot of potential as the popularity of parody sites grow as time goes by and how they have a much better grasp of writing news parodies now than what they have before. All in all, their main statement is to have fun in writing stuff like this and that they don’t have any agendas at all.

I didn’t bother documenting the Q&A stuff though..but that can change later on but once I heard the Q and A portion, most of these are answered on the main panel except for one, AnimeMaru does have a style guide. That’s it.

The End

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