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15 Questions with the Administrators of MyAnimeList.net

It's MAL's 15th birthday this month, so we've got an exclusive interview with the site admins about their connection to MAL, thoughts on anime, and more!

by Shymander
Nov 14, 5:57 AM | 11,358 views

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Users, moderators, and site owners have come and gone in the long 15 years since MyAnimeList.net was created by Xinil, but its current administrators, who started out as mere users, have been around for most of the site's history. Some of you will have interacted with them through events, some of you will only know their names, and some of you will not know them at all.

So with 15 questions for MAL's 15th anniversary, I'd like to take a moment to headline some of the oldest members of the community and their deep-rooted connection to MAL and anime as a whole over the years.

How and when did you first come across MAL? For Xinil, how did the idea for the site first come to you?


Xinil
Back in 2004, there wasn't an easy way to share or list what anime you'd seen. As an avid watcher, I frequently discussed anime in IRC chat rooms, especially those that were run by fansub groups. Most anime fans like to share recommendations, and the easiest way I could do that was to create a very simple Excel-like website that displayed the anime I'd seen. So I started sharing my "list" with a few friends, and eventually, one person asked if I could make it so they could create their own. I was up for the programming challenge! Eventually, more people found out about the site (lots of word of mouth) and made their lists to share with their own friends.

Kineta
I joined MAL in the summer of 2007 during an internship in Europe. With some extra time on my hands, no access to an English library and a waning interest in North American television, I found myself back into anime/manga. After marathoning a number of shows on Crunchyroll (back when it was still illegal), I went looking for recommendations and stumbled upon MAL.

Luna
I stumbled upon MAL around May 2008 when someone linked a MAL signature on another website. Back then I was on an anime/manga break so I wasn't interested in joining. In August, I slowly started watching anime again and first listed all the shows I watched in a simple text file. A bit later I remembered MAL and finally registered an account.

cyruz
I discovered MAL around November 2006. My first encounter with subtitled anime literally saved my life during my time in the military that year. Looking for more anime, I came across a green MyAnimeList.net and immediately wanted to sign up. However, most of the time, I couldn't even access the website properly. I think the tiny servers MAL was on back then had trouble connecting to the EU. I eventually managed to sign up in January 2007. That was 12 years ago.

What's the origin of your username?


Kineta
Kineta is a girl's first name of Greek origin. My best friend and I mistakenly thought it was of African origin due to an erroneous baby book and named my invented character for Mummies Alive! after it. We even made a proper '90s-style geocities website for our characters and got involved in the online Mummies Alive! fandom for a bit, too :'D After a year or so, we moved onto other invented characters, but somehow Kineta stuck.

Luna
I love the moon and the character Luna from Sailor Moon, but both of them are not the true origin of my username. Back when I chose the username (long before I joined MAL) I was playing a PC game and one of the characters was named Luna. I didn't particularly like this character but I loved the sound of the name and so I decided to make it my username.

cyruz
The name "cyruz" is stolen. The first time I actually used it was when I signed up on MAL because my previously used online name didn't feel suitable, haha! I don't remember where I got it from, but I heard or saw the name "cyrus" somewhere and I liked how it sounded. It's short, just like my actual name, so I went with it after adjusting the final letter. To quote Ben Stiller, "Oooh I can put a 'z' in my name. I'm bad!"

Xinil:
My first ever usage of Xinil was for a character I created in the original EverQuest game, back in 1999. I believe I was a Gnome wizard.

How did you first get into anime?


Kineta
Sailor Moon began it all, followed closely by CardCaptors, Gundam Wing, and Escaflowne. To be able to watch the shows on TV I wanted to, I convinced my brother (7 years younger) that he definitely liked Gundam Wing too, and probably started him down a path to the anime-life from there :'D Home internet was just gaining traction around that time though, and Neon Genesis Evangelion was all anyone online could talk about. So through high school, I also managed to watch this, along with Fushigi Yuugi, Fruits Basket, and a few other movies.

When I started university, I had a super old computer and a bad internet connection, so downloading anime was out of the question (modern streaming had yet to kick off). In 2005, I stumbled upon Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE at the bookstore, and picked it up after recognizing Sakura on the cover. Eager for more TRC, I found the world of scanlations and read Fruits Basket until it finished in 2006. However, it wasn't really until 2007 (shortly before MAL) that I really moved from "casual fan" to invested anime fan. If the internet had been further along when I was in high school, things probably would have been different.

Luna sailor
As many other people, I watched anime as a child without realizing it's anime. But I remember watching the first season of Sailor Moon in 1996 and how fascinated I was by the style and the story. In 1999, I found some Sailor Moon comics in the paper trash and got a lot of information out of them. This is when I started realizing what anime is and when I started watching more shows in the afternoon TV program. For several months, I was mostly focused on Sailor Moon (I still have tons of merchandise) but in 2000 I discovered another TV channel showing anime during their late-night program. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bubblegum Crisis, and Silent Möbius were anime that had a very big impact on me back then and that opened a whole new anime world for me. I started buying anime magazines and dreamed about watching all the anime they were talking about. Back then it was really hard to watch anime. You were limited to what was on TV or had to buy extremely expensive VHS tapes (I remember paying around $200 for my Neon Genesis Evangelion VHS tapes...). Thankfully, anime and manga became more popular in the following years so I had more variety, and with discovering fansubs on the internet it also became easier for me to access more anime.

cyruz
I used to watch anime on TV after school. I probably came in contact with anime way before anime meant anything different than TV cartoons to me, but I don't really remember much from so long ago. There was one German channel that showed anime all afternoon. I wasn't super into anything from back then but it was entertaining enough for rainy afternoons. They showed anime like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Ranma ½, Digimon, Pokemon, InuYasha, Beyblade, and some other stuff. It was never really the latest and greatest in anime, because Germany loves dubs and dubbing used to take more time.

noir These shows never really kept my interest for long and it didn't matter if I skipped one or more episodes or missed the first story arcs. Later, in high school, I discovered more shows on a different TV channel and got into a habit of watching some anime before bed every night. Lupin, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, and Noir got me back into it. Exceptional series, all of them. Especially Noir impressed me a lot. Without Kajiura Yuki's music in Noir, I wouldn't be the anime fan I am today. However, all those anime were still only German dubs. After I graduated from high school in 2005, I went to look for more anime and came across fansubs. It was a whole new world! A few months after graduation, I started a year of military service. The first months were super rough and, even though it seems silly now, watching those weekly fansub releases every other weekend helped get me through my military time. Anime has been a part of my life ever since.

Xinil
I can't remember specifics about what first interested me in anime, but looking at my anime list, I see that Princess Mononoke is what I've credited as the first show I watched. From there, I remember a friend showing me Neon Genesis Evangelion... and it's down the rabbit hole after that, with Akira, Cowboy Bebop and Trigun solidifying my love for the genre.

What are your specific responsibilities as an admin on MAL?


Kineta
To put it simply, I have two major responsibilities: 1. Management of the moderator teams. This includes many things, such as recruiting and retiring, writing guidelines, setting expectations, solving conflicts and trying to maintain an environment they feel satisfied being part of. I began recruiting moderators in late 2010 and have been managing the moderator staff solely since about 2012. 2. Representing the community (users and moderators) to our owners and giving feedback regarding site changes, problematic bugs, user reception, and MAL brand awareness. Sometimes that means compiling large amounts of feedback from users and moderators about a specific topic, redesigning a feature or image so it fits more with MAL, or sharing news to the community that I don't necessarily agree with. Mostly it's trying to listen really hard to everything I read and hear from users and moderators, and digest that into easy to understand and/or decisive feedback. This has been my second main task since early 2015, after DeNA acquired the website.

The moderators do all the work users see firsthand: the database edits, forum moderation, review moderation, news writing, SNS post creation. Likewise, the developers and owners do all of the technical and business work that users see; site changes, partnerships, the store. My role exists somewhere in the middle, bridging the gaps between business, development, moderators, and users while trying to ensure the site can progress smoothly.

...That might sound lofty or abstract, but it basically comes down to a lot of grunt work with a spattering of difficult decisions, haha.

Luna
I am dealing with tasks related to the community. As a former forum moderator, I have a lot of experience with the forum and its moderation, and now as an admin, I work closely together with the forum mod team. A big part of that is giving input on difficult cases and organizing the recruitment for new forum mods.

Another large task is handling the support board: I forward bugs to the developers, report back in the threads when a problem has been fixed, and help users with general problems and questions. In general, I try to keep an eye on the community to see what users are thinking, if there are any problems that need to be dealt with or if there are things that can be improved.

I had other responsibilities in the past like recovering accounts (which is now done by the customer support) and dealing with illegitimate accounts (which will be done in code in the future). Since I'm not doing these account-related tasks anymore, I will be focusing even more on community-related things in the future.

cyruz
Whereas Kineta and Luna handle the community side of things, I mostly deal with the database, merging anime, manga, character entries and so on with the help of our database moderators. The occasional user approaches me with account problems because my name is first in the list on our staff page, but those don't really cover my main responsibilities. Once in a while, I help out with graphical tasks for our social media channels or other smaller issues when help is required. These days, I also assist our Discord moderators with their vetting process.

Xinil
I largely spend time facilitating communication and feedback between Media Do and our community. I also try to be observationally active across the site, mostly as a lurker nowadays, but occasionally chiming in when I see something intriguing. I review account issues, user reports, my private messages and forum discussions. I also handle external inquiries that don't get sent to Media Do, which sometimes contributes a lot to my busy inbox. I also interface with our API team and third-party developers.

So... just how many PMs do you have in your inbox?


Kineta
7055.

Luna
5561 but I deleted at least 1400 before I got an unlimited inbox.

cyruz
2128, but I've purged my inbox a few times.

Xinil
Over 9000.

Aside from your list and admin duties, what feature of MAL do you use or look at the most?


Kineta
During FAL, the seasonal anime page. Otherwise, probably the people or manga database (looking at seiyuu casting roles or new titles to read).

Luna
Probably the forum, as I like reading through various topics. And of course the seasonal anime page during FAL.

cyruz
I used to use the clubs and run a few of them, but these days I don't have that kind of time anymore. I really enjoy reading the news and articles and using the stats pages to compare scores with my friends.

Xinil
The forums are undoubtedly where I spend the majority of my lurking.

Were you ever active in a club? If so, which one?


Kineta
Before I became a moderator, I was active in some contest clubs. Icons were huge at the time, so we had an icon creation contest. And I used to like to participate in, or stalk, the Art Jam contests.

Luna
I was very active in several clubs. The first one was a club for German users where I met some really great people. I also had a lot of fun with the amazing people in the 20+ club. For quite a while I was playing forum mafia in a club. Unfortunately, all these clubs are not active anymore for different reasons.

cyruz
I used to run a big music club where we even hosted MAL Mixtapes, and of course, I've joined a few fan clubs for certain characters or music artists. These days, I don't really have time to chat in clubs/club forums.

Xinil
I'm a fan of Full Metal Panic! and created the original club on MAL!

MAL has been running community events since Secret Santa in 2013, and now holds four main events every year—MALentine's, Easter Hunt, MALoween, and Secret Santa. Which has been your favorite over the years and why?


Kineta
The Easter Hunt. Secret Santa takes ~4 weeks to run, so it's just too exhausting to be my favourite (though a close second). Easter is intense, but short. Admittedly, I really enjoy sneakily hiding hints all over the database pages and then watching users try to find them :'D

Luna
My favorite event is MALentine because we've had some really cool contests where users could be really creative—I'm always impressed by what other people think of and make!

cyruz
All the events are great. If only you knew how much work goes into them, it's crazy! I don't really join many of them, but I think the Easter Hunt is my favorite type because we get to hide clues in images all over the websites, which is surprisingly fun. The Fantasy Anime League is also something special, but I prefer to just observe and see who of my friends comes out on top.

Xinil
MALentine is my favorite event, followed closely by MALoween. The moderator team really puts in a lot of effort to make these events engaging and fun, and I love the community's involvement!

What anime has been on your Plan to Watch list for the longest time?


ptw

Kineta
Aka-chan to Boku. It's never been licensed or fully-subbed, so I'll need to try and watch in Japanese someday.

Luna
I think it's Nana. I was hoping the manga (and anime) would be completed before I start watching it, but that will probably never happen...

cyruz
Ai Yori Aoshi from 2002. Still don't know much about it but chances are high you've seen character images of this anime on Google.

Xinil
Gintama. Don't know if I'll ever get around to watching it at this point...

If you could get a sequel to any anime, what would it be?


swq

Kineta
Inu x Boku SS. The anime only adapted the slice-of-life beginning and not the true plot of the manga, which I highly recommend. Close tie would probably be Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita or Kyoukaisenjou no Horizon (come on Sunrise!)

Luna
Of course One Outs! The anime adapts only the first half of the manga so there is a lot left, and I would love to see more of Tokuchi's psychological battles animated. I'd also love to see more seasons of Black Lagoon (which will probably never happen because the mangaka keeps neglecting the manga) and Tiger & Bunny*.

cyruz
I'd love to see a reboot of a classic like Gunsmith Cats or a continuation of Ergo Proxy's mysterious world. I very much enjoy comedy anime these days, so a new season of Joshiraku would probably have me laughing tears again. Oh, and I need more Shirobako in my life, too. For something different, I'd really like to see a sequel to the Summer Wars movie!

Xinil
Probably Cowboy Bebop or Trigun. I think the nostalgia tugs at me most there though, so honestly, I'd just want more middle episodes with the same endings.

Seven wonders of MAL! Could you tell us any MAL secrets that users might not know, such as a hidden function or a useful bug, etc.?


Kineta list
If our downtime taught me anything, it's that many users seem to be unaware of the top-right navigation :'D If you click the list icon, you can easily get to your Anime and Manga List from any page on the site. There is also a feature called Quick Add in there. Aside from helping you quickly add a bulk number of titles to your list—as it's aptly named—it's also a good way to a) get around the "fuzzy search" results of the main anime/manga searches and b) see anime+manga search results side-by-side. This means if you want to see how we've romanized 桃色 (peach-coloured) for a database submission, you can search the kanji here without getting a pile of unrelated results. This page is also where you import your list.
If you do a little magic to the Add Anime/Manga page (click Find next to relations), you get a pop-up that will let you search not only added titles, but also the anime and manga submission queues. For example, https://myanimelist.net/info.php?search=Akuyaku+Reijou&go=relationids&divname=relationGen1 you can see many duplicates of multiple different manga submissions—so please don't submit more of these!

Luna
"Series Discussion" has two sub-boards: Anime Series and Manga Series. If you click on them, you will find the latest threads that were posted in the anime and manga series sub-boards. At the top of the sub-boards, you can filter for episodes only threads and non-episode threads.

On the forum, you can see the »» symbol in various places. If you click on the one next to a thread title you will be redirected to the newest post in the thread (the newest post after you stopped reading this thread the last time). If you click on the one next to a username you will be redirected to the last post in the thread.

When you create a blog post, it asks you to add an anime relation. This is only to prevent spambots from spamming the blog section. If you don't want a relation in your blog post you can edit the post and simply remove the relation.

If you never added the start/end date to your watched shows but still want to find out when you watched something, you can click on the "More" link in your list next to an entry and check the "Last Updated" field. This will show you when you finished the anime (but only if you never edited the entry after you finished it). You can also sort your list by "Last Updated" to get a chronological list. If you updated entries later, they will show a different date though and will be out of order in the sorted list.

The character limit for text fields is 65,535, including the characters for BBCode. If you like to make long About Me's, blog posts, forum posts, etc. it's best you use an online tool to count the characters. If you exceed the number, the exceeding characters will be cut off.

The color of links in posts, comments etc. is blue by default. You can change the link color if you put the "color" BBCode inside the "url" BBCode: [url=linktoyourwebsite][color=red]link text[/color][/url].

cyruz
You can customize the panel at https://myanimelist.net when you're logged in to see e.g. website updates, news, and friends' updates without having to go anywhere!

Xinil
I could tell you one, but then it'd defeat the purpose of it being a reward for finding the secret.

If you could own any product with MAL branding on it, from a t-shirt to a coffee cup, what would you get?


Kineta
Frame with a picture of Malibu inside it.

Luna
A big (!) teacup.

cyruz
A wall-mounted neon sign.

Xinil
MAL pusheen!

Aside from new features, what do you think has been the biggest change on MAL (or in the anime community) in the last 15 years?


change

Kineta
Aside from the internet itself, I think the biggest change in the Western anime community has been the switch from a VHS/DVD culture to a streaming culture. It is my opinion that this is the main reason why anime now has so many casual fans where before it was restricted to hobbyists. I remember sitting in front of my computer in 2002, waiting 45 minutes for a single episode of Fruits Basket to download on a good internet connection. And if you had to choose in 2005 between downloading that 1 episode of Lost that you missed vs 25 episodes of Full Metal Panic!, most people would've chosen Lost and watched the rest on TV. Now you could stream both legally and simultaneously without batting an eye.

The technical advancements of streaming first enabled the mass collection of fan-subtitled anime into one place, creating an easy entry point for people who already liked dubbed anime from TV (but weren't dedicated enough to spend copious amounts of time downloading multiple new anime). This created MAL's first boom of users. Shortly thereafter titles began streaming legally from Japan, but I think it was society changing as a whole to a streaming culture (Netflix) instead of a TV and DVD culture that really opened up the doors to anime for the casual fan—also causing the anime community to explode.

My friend told me recently that my generation (or ours, since cyruz, Luna, Xinil, and I are all about the same age) is the last generation that understands both a life with and without the internet, mobile phones, and smartphones. We are probably the last "generation" of anime fans who also remember the anime community culture before and after streaming. Like with smartphones, I appreciate the convenience and accessibility of today while also feeling some nostalgia for a cozier past.

Luna
I feel that the way people engage in anime has changed quite a bit in the last 15 years. This is attributed to several factors. One of them is definitely the possibility to easily and legally stream anime now. This attracts people who would normally not pay a lot for DVDs or people who might not be very into anime but still like to watch something every now and then. Another factor is that the way how people communicate on the internet has changed in general.

About 7-15 years ago, I remember people were creating fan pages about their favorite anime, joining anime fanlistings, collecting self-made stamps with anime pictures, etc. On MAL, clubs about specific anime and characters were popular and collecting club member cards was a huge thing. Creating and collecting all kinds of themed cards was actually a big thing on MAL.

Nowadays activity seems to have shifted a lot from forums and clubs to real-time chats like Discord. And many new casual users don't seem to be interested in discussing with others anymore. Perhaps this is also because of streaming services. Anime has become more popular and accepted so that people can talk to friends about it, while in the past many people didn't have friends who also liked anime and were more active in internet communities.

cyruz
I'm not sure about a big change on MAL; things like design overhauls and content/feature updates are something that every website has to deal/come up with if it wants to survive. Regarding the industry/community, I can only echo what Kineta said about how anime and manga content is consumed these days. At the risk of sounding like an old man, the amount of information at your fingertips and the convenience of being able to entertain yourself these days is a big contrast to what it used to be when I first found out about anime. Things were simpler back then, but I also wouldn't want to miss most of it these days.

Xinil
Biggest change for MAL over these many years, in my opinion, is selling a product and service. Before we introduced a manga store or supporter status, MAL's services weren't directly correlated to any exchange of monies. Crossing that threshold really opens up revenue potentials, but at the same time, it puts you in a place where your users are expecting a certain level of quality and stability. It adds a whole new level of stress to managing the site.

In your opinion, what has MAL's biggest accomplishment been?


Kineta
Perseverance. Or rather, enabling the growth of a community gifted with perseverance. For me, MAL is the community before it is a business or a brand. Throughout its history, the community has been the only constant. While its specific members may change, the steady stream of passionate individuals who volunteer as a moderator, build clubs or contests, contribute reviews or join in on discussions—this never changes. And it is the perseverance of these people, through years of stagnated development, 24-hour server lag times, bug piles, missing features, sudden rapid development, and then three months of site-wide impaired functions... that is MAL's biggest accomplishment. In the face of adversity from owners who just didn't understand it, these members grounded their feet and said no, we shall not budge. They developed apps where MAL had none, ran contests, made skins, wrote userscripts to fix bugs or add features, and just kept on contributing. When the site they cared about was crippled, they did their best to prop it up.

It is the existence of these people—users and moderators alike—that is the reason I'm still here on MAL today.

cyruz
The simple fact that it's still around as well as the fact that with MAL, something was built to attract the people who help maintain it today. Obviously, a website like MAL isn't much without its user base, but if it weren't for the individuals on the staff team (current and former, plus the developers behind the scenes and their colleagues), I don't think MAL would be what it is today.

Luna
I agree with what Kineta and cyruz already mentioned. Providing an internet service for more than 15 years is not that easy and I've seen countless of websites (especially community-oriented websites) closing for various reasons. MAL has had many problems in the past but the fact that it is still around, still improving after another problematic phase, and that the community is still growing instead of declining, is a great accomplishment.

Xinil
My answer here would likely change over the years, but given where we are today, I think our biggest accomplishment is staying true to our core feature. And that's the heart of MAL, the ability to catalog your anime watching and manga reading habits. We'll continue to implement exciting new features, but it's my goal to never lose site of what got us here.

What do you hope to see the most on MAL in the future?


Kineta
A search function for my inbox. I would like to see a complete revamp of the moderator tools, most notably the database tools. Aside from the database submission and moderation system being 10+ years old, there are so many bugs, idiosyncrasies, and time-consuming repetition due to unoptimized tools, we are reaching the point where the rate of user submissions are faster than we can handle them.

Random example. A cast announcement for an anime is released for 4 main characters. Anyone who has sent in a submission before knows this requires 4 separate voice actor role submissions. If 10 users submit them, that means we get 40 entries in the queue. Users have no way of knowing if a submission was already made, the system does not detect duplicates, and if this happens for 3 anime titles, the moderators now have 120 voice actor role submissions for something that should really only take 3. As MAL's community grows, the number of user submissions also grows, and I believe we're already hitting that breaking point.

While improving the user-moderator database change request system, I'd also like that revamp to include better communication about why entries are listed a certain way, which changes have been denied in the past and why, and to give due recognition to our many users who contribute so much to the databases.

Luna
I'd love to see statistics for our lists; for example, how many shows/episodes did we watch each month/year, what are our favorite genres/studios, etc. Possibly also with a badge system because I think it's fun to collect badges for watching certain things.

cyruz
I echo the thoughts about moderator tools. Making life for our mods easier will in return get more work done faster and improve MAL's overall quality.

Xinil
Maybe not what I want to see "on" MAL in the future, but what I'd love to see—generally—is America (or maybe the international community as a whole), support the anime and manga communities. Anime watching is increasingly becoming less of a deviant thing, but I think it still has a long way to go before the general public gives it the attention and acclaim it rightfully deserves.

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