Cultural Intermediaries on Anitube: Vernacular YouTube Anime Reviewers and Critics

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation at conference/workshop/seminar


The rise of user generated content sites has significantly broadened opportunities for cultural criticism. Online reviews and analysis represent an emerging form of cultural production, one that differs significantly from journalistic reviews and academic criticism. This has led to a small flurry of academic studies on the changing state of film criticism in the digital age. But not only have personal and aggregator websites focusing of film proliferated; video sharing platforms have facilitated the review and a critique of goods, services, and other forms of mediated culture. As a transnational, vernacular form of cultural production, online reviews and analysis reach and originate from people who would not have been consumers or producers of traditional criticism, and therefore pose important questions about taste, legitimacy, authority, and community.

In a series of articles, Maarit Jaakkola has analysed vernacular reviewing practices on YouTube, Instagram, and Vimeo, illuminated the insufficiency of the amateur/professional paradigm, mobilized the concepts “co-consumption” and “intramediaries” to foreground the different practices through and position from which online reviewers operate, and stressed the necessity for specific studies of different forms and platforms for online reviewing. This paper builds on Jaakkola’s work and contributes to studies of cultural intermediaries by researching vernacular anime reviews on YouTube. The online anime YouTube community, known as Anitube, is an apt object for study as it mediates a national popular art for a global audience. Though it operates outside of the Japanese anime industry, as anime consumption has popularized Anitube content creation has become popular enough for users to transition to fulltime cultural producers, necessitating increasingly complex forms of content individuation.

Through analyses of videos and interviews with Anitube creators, my research demonstrates that though anime reviewers are non-institutional content producers who actively produce reviews (i.e. value judgments of anime), they do not conceive of themselves as reviewers or as intramediaries, but rather as cultural critics. As Anitube creators negotiate their position as consumers, critics, and producers of anime fan culture, they must compete for views, sponsorships, and patronage and distinguish themselves through analysis and debate, leading to impositions of cultural distinction within the community.
Period19 Mar 2021
Event titleSociety of Cinema and Media Studies
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational