A Year with AniTAY – Reflecting on the Warmth of Online Friendships

As I sit down to reflect, there are a variety of conversations going on amongst the members of AniTAY. How would cars without windshields work? What anime would we kill for another season of? In the evening, some of us are chatting in voice chat as Kinksy plays the guitar. Late into the night, as we welcome new members to the Discord, we reminisce about Yu-Gi-Oh, Beyblade, and the build quality of late-90s to mid-2000s toys. The conversations flow fast, loose, and unpredictable, and if you want to keep up, you better have quick fingers and even quicker wit. Inside jokes stem from other inside jokes, and the history between our various members is palpable and endearing.

It’s been like this since I joined a year ago today.

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I applied to AniTAY on a whim. A casual reader of the site for a couple of years, I figured it’d be a good way to get some more anime-centric writing under my belt and get my name out there. A while later, some fellow named Protonstorm emailed me, invited me to the Discord, and I was in. My profile pic was Satoru Iwata at the time, which sparked some early conversation around his legacy and how we all missed him. I felt immediately at home, though still nervous because I’ve never really had a group of “online friends” before.

Some time passed, and I grew more accustomed to Discord and the natural ebb and flow of the community’s banter. Here is a group of people who can dish it out as well as they can take it, meme with the best of them, and engage in more serious conversation when it arises. What struck me most about the AniTAY Discord, however, was how readily people shared aspects of their “real” lives. School, work, family, relationships, daily goings-on, nothing was off the table and almost nothing is left without a response. Here is a group of people whose only commonality is anime no more; here is a group of genuine, often long-time friends, no less real than any other kind of relationship. I entered a community, I would later learn through a multi-hour group voice chat session, with a long and defined history, named eras and all. It initially struck me as mystifying but having been here for a year and forged lifelong friendships, I get it now.

I also found this show because of AniTAY and really that’s been the best part about joining

It took until April Fools Day for me to publish my first solo article, a comedic piece taking the announcement of the Japanese Reiwa Era and changing it to be about AniTAY and OreGairu. It was small, and I wrote most of it on the bus to my university, but the reception from my fellow AniTAY members and the larger community was invigorating. Later in the week, I published a satirical “Top 100 Anime of All Time” list by pulling from a Discord conversation that happened a few weeks prior. I learned GIMP for it, doing my best to make my new friends laugh. It made me laugh, too.

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A few months prior, I contributed to a group review of SSSS.Gridman, one of 2018’s best shows. I helped edit it and decide the format of the review, which would go on to become the standard for collab reviews. Since then, I’ve led reviews for The Promised Neverland, Hitoribocchi, and The Rising of the Shield Hero, three very different shows that garnered very different responses from the contributing authors. Disparate, seemingly cacophonous, but, like the Discord chat, ultimately harmonious in how our voices come together to create something wonderful.

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May 15th, 2019, though, was when I found my voice as a writer on AniTAY. I published a personal piece about how Cardcaptor Sakura and its English dub Cardcaptors shaped my identity as a youth and formed who I am. The reception was, for me, everything I could ask for and more. More importantly, however, it was cathartic to put my thoughts and personal history out onto the Wild West of the internet and find solace in those whose experiences ran parallel with mine. My next piece on the Kyoto Animation fire works almost as a thematic follow-up, dealing with love, loss, and letting go. Both pieces contain some of my favourite bits of personal writing I’ve ever done, and for AniTAY allowing me to publish these, I am eternally grateful.

I’ve also contributed to a few episodes of the AniTAY Podcast! Though I still dislike my voice and get incredibly nervous when Craig enters the chat, the sheer act of having a genuine conversation with people around the world never grows old. Once the podcast is done and Craig slithers away, the chat opens up: more people join like they were waiting at the door of a figurative recording studio to hear about how things went. People pile in, the drinks flow, and the cacophonous harmony of voices begins again. Oftentimes an hour-and-a-half podcast session turns into a four-hour group chat about anything and everything. AniTAY game nights are much the same, with Jackbox sessions that run late into the night and spawn endless new memes. Anyone for some Old Fashioned Lemon Squares? Who bought tickets to Chicky and the Lickies?

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A couple of review/mini-analyses for Promare and KonoSuba: The Legend of Crimson later, and here we are. 2019 is almost over and with it, the 2010s. The world is in a reflective mood, trying to gather meaning from a decade of growth, change, transformation, and progress. AniTAY itself is looking back at this decade of anime in a variety of ways, as befits our range of writers. I am, too, but not just yet. This community has done too much for me to not properly thank it in the best way I know how: c o n t e n t !

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Thank you to AniTAY for welcoming me into your midst openly. Our Discord oozes with love, and, honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without it at this point. It’s another home for me, a place to retreat to when I need a laugh, someone to vent to, or need advice. Moreover, like the club room in any good high-school anime, it’s a place to hang out, catch up, and just live. Political debates, NSFW discussions, bits that turn into hour-long comedy routines, conversations about all things Pokémon, or a simple “how’s everyone’s doing?” never fail to make my day better – or at least more interesting.

Thank you for encouraging my writing. Sometimes having two degrees in English isn’t enough to quash the imposter syndrome demons or the Am-I-Good-Enough monsters that sit on my shoulders, but you folks never fail to offer constructive feedback, positive reinforcement, and the occasional harsh but necessary words I need to hear. Thank you for letting me be one of your go-to editors. The seasonal and sequel collabs are two of our premium pieces of content because they gather the voices of so many of our authors and meld them into a cohesive work. Serving as a primary editor for both and for many of your individual pieces contributes greatly to the community’s feelings of togetherness and collaboration. You’re all great writers, and I’ve loved getting to help you improve and develop your voices.

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Thank you for being you, you crazy bastards. I’ve laughed harder in this past year than I have in my entire life because of you all. From Gugsy’s endless salt to Kinksy’s self-flagellation, Raitz’s puns to Req’s pictures and GIFs, Ed’s quick wit to Roro’s… well, nobody loves a Roro, and everyone else in the chat, I love you all (even Roro), and thank you for making me a small part of your lives. Thanks also to those of you who’ve reached out to me in DMs and continue to. All of you, those I’ve named and not named, know that your presence is a present and you make my heart feel beeg.

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AniTAY is a testament to the power of online friendships to blossom into genuine connection, and I am eternally grateful and incredibly happy I am a part of it all. I may have never met any of you in person, but my god do I feel like I have. And I hope someday I do, too, whether it’s at Anime Expo, Dex’s place for some famous Tex Mex, the land of anime itself to visit Proton-chan, or some yet-unknown focal point. Being overly sentimental doesn’t fit the wildness of the AniTAY community, but it’s the only way I can somewhat express how I feel. In a tumultuous time when Kinja’s fate is unknown, I know AniTAY as a collective will survive. We’ll still be making memes, getting into pointless arguments, and being jealous of Stin’s cooking. We’ll still fall asleep in voice chat, help each other through the nadirs in our lives, and grow along the way. Like the cast of your favourite anime, AniTAY survives through each other, through a living legacy that we all embody. Like the final line of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu asserts,