“The Anime Man” has a busy summer ahead of him. The 23-year-old, whose real name is Joey Bizinger, will be on the road over the next two months making stops at anime conventions across the United States and Europe. It sounds like the kind of itinerary a musician would embark on.
Bizinger has been lucky in terms of timing. He’s a YouTube personality at a time when that world is providing society’s newest celebrities, and he specializes in anime at a moment of renewed interest in the genre.
“I would say the past three or four years has been like an anime renaissance,” Bizinger tells The Japan Times from a cafe on the outskirts of Tokyo. “People are starting to embrace it more.”
On YouTube he’s known as The Anime Man, posting videos that discuss, review and rant about anime. He dabbles in other topics, too — Japanese oddities, learning the language, exploring the country — but his focus is there in his moniker.
When he started getting into Japanese animation, Bizinger says most conversations about it happened on small message boards, and the few anime-focused YouTubers that were around had small subscriber counts.
Today, his channel boasts over 1.1 million followers, making him one of the most prominent personalities in the burgeoning scene, and one of the most popular English-language creators in Japan, period.
“Anime is becoming a lot more mainstream, especially internationally,” Bizinger says, and he’s right. Not since its commercial peak in the 1990s has Japanese animation been more prominent in Western pop culture. Series such as “Yuri!!! On Ice” and movies like “Your Name.” have been embraced and written about by media outlets that previously only concentrated on “weird Japan” stories. Professional athletes openly talk about their love of “One Piece” (basketballer Steven Adams), while up-and-coming rappers use anime-style art to accompany new tracks (Lil Uzi Vert).
“I think people have become a lot more open about” their love of anime, Bizinger says. “Back when I started, it was a thing that was seen as shameful. There was the stereotype that if you liked anime, you were a loser.”
Bizinger grew up in Sydney, the son of an Australian father and Japanese mother. He learned Japanese growing up, and came every year to visit family.
“Every couple of months, my grandma would record all of this anime off of TV and send VCR tapes to us,” he says. “My earliest memory of anime was just me blankly watching the same ‘Doraemon’ episode over and over again.”
Sydney, however, lacked an anime community (“or I didn’t know where it was,” he says). Instead, in high school Bizinger turned to the internet to learn more about the series he was interested in.
“For a school project, we had to make our own website. I thought, ‘If I’m going to make my own website, I better do it on something I enjoy, and that nobody else would do,'” he says. The site focused on anime reveiws, and he called it theanimeman.com. He continued it even after the assignment was done.
“I look back at it now and it’s horrible, I didn’t know how to review properly,” he says. “2010 Joey was so stupid.”
In spite of any shortcomings, Bizinger developed a small but loyal following that encouraged him to try making videos. Thanks to a college video-editing class, he gave it a shot and registered The Anime Man on YouTube in 2013. He dove straight into the deep end on his first video, titled “Dubbed Anime Sucks!”
“It wasn’t until a year later that I learned it’s taboo to talk about that kind of thing in a video, because nobody ever wins,” he says with a laugh.
Bizinger’s breakthrough moment came with a clip called “7 Types of Anime Fans” in 2015. Half sketch and half self-aware rant, he ran through the archetypes that comprise the community.
“I was at 100,000 subscribers when I uploaded it and a week later I got another 100,000,” he says. “It kept growing.”
That video established many of the defining traits he’s gravitated toward as a YouTuber: informal delivery, brash language that can sometimes offend (a common approach on YouTube) and a critical approach to animation that has led some detractors to label him a “snob” or “elitist.”
However, Bizinger says criticism plays better than praise.
“Unfortunately, more negative content prevails in any community,” he says, “especially one that is critique-based, like anime.”
Don’t get him wrong, Bizinger doesn’t hesitate to gush about the things he loves. His review of Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” is titled “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ANIME MOVIE … EVER,” it’s just that his viewership “finds more joy in me ranting or getting angry about something.”
Bizinger moved to Tokyo last year after graduating university, partly to be closer to the anime industry and partly “because Australian internet is absolutely horrible,” he says. “It’s like the only first-world country that has third world internet.”
Since coming to Japan, he has been able to interview creators and score sponsorships with anime-centric companies. YouTubing has become a full-time job, though he’s not “putting all my eggs in one basket” — he has started a channel on the live-stream site Twitch as a parachute of sorts.
One thing that looks constant at the moment is the renewed interest in anime from the English-speaking world, which means Bizinger’s community is more visible than ever as fans seek out personalities to share their interests with.
“I wouldn’t even say the number has grown, just that the number of people who have become open about anime has grown,” he says. “I think the community has always been that large, but the majority of them have just kept hidden from the public.”
Check out The Anime Man’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/TheAn1meMan.