SOTBNerdy: An Interview With @BennettTheSage

Editor’s Note: If you know me, you know that I pretty much consider myself an otaku. I try to keep up with the latest anime (sometimes better than others) and relive the classics and “classics” because anime is a way that I have connected with friends and others. Anime has been a constant in my life, even though I still get weird looks from Raquel when I talk about how Sasuke is better than Naruto (mainly because she’s like “the hell is a ‘Naruto?'”). 

With that said, I could never riff on anime. Call it jitters or something. I’ll write on them (see my Kill La Kill or Haruhi review), but I’m not that funny talking about them. That’s where Anime Abandon comes in. I first came across Bennett White, known as Bennett The Sage, while he did the series Masterpiece Fanfic Theater, and I was blown away by his wit and humor. 

Art from Sage’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure episode

Fast forward a few years and I’m searching for anime reviews, but different anime versus just what was popular at the time. I stumble upon Anime Abandon, He knew his stuff, while not being a jackass about knowing his stuff. Plus, he was a relateable guy. So, I had to interview him. Here are twenty-four questions that hopefully get to know the person behind Sage as a writer and critic, not just the persona we see on Anime Abandon.

Speed: What sparked you to go into critiquing and analyzing anime? Was it because of the first few waves of anime critics online or was it just a natural progression from stuff like your Garzey’s Wing review and Masterpiece Fanfic Theater?

Bennett The Sage: You could say it was a natural extension from the work I have done previously. I saw that there was a mammoth hole in the “review space” of online video when it came to older anime titles. The anime that I grew up and came of age with were often anime that were re-licensed to DVD from years past, and I guess I was tired of seeing no one talk about anime like Golden Boy or ultra schlock titles like Angel Cop or Mad Bull 34. So, realizing that I had kind of a following, I decided that if no one was going to catalog these titles with a review, then I should.

Speed: I know this is probably far off in your mind, but could we ever see a return of Masterpiece Fanfic Theatre? The fanfic world is probably even more ripe for riffing now. Plus, that’s how I got introduced to you and your style, so that series always holds a place in my heart.

Sage: That series has long since set sail. It was fun for a while to read coked-out fanfics, but as the series went on, it became harder and harder to distinguish the earnest attempts at writing from the “troll” fics that were written as a joke. To me, reading those takes the fun out of the whole point. Additionally, I became increasingly aware that these pieces were written by teenage kids and possibly younger, and it didn’t sit write with me that I would be ostensibly making fun of a kid’s writing. It was fun while it lasted, but I don’t think I will ever be returning to MFT.

Speed: You probably get this one a lot. Sub or dub?

Sage: If I can help it, dub. Dubs these days are light years ahead of what was the norm in the early and mid-nineties, and I find that having the dub on allows me to view the entire frame and appreciate the animation that much more, instead of training my eyes to the lower third of the screen to understand what is going on.

Speed: You probably get this one a lot, too. What is your favorite series?

It differs from day to day, depending on my mood, but on any given day, it would probably be Berserk. The original 25 episode series, mind you. I have a lot of attachment to that anime, and I can’t help but think back on it with fond nostalgia.

Speed: What was your favorite episode of Anime Abandon to film?

Sage: To film? The Twilight Of The Cockroaches episode. It’s not the most popular episode, but it is the one closest to my heart, as it is my homage to The Critic, which at the time of the episode’s release, had gone unheralded for the longest time. I’m glad that more and more people are catching hip to its existence.

Speed: Inversely, what episode put you through the most hell to complete?

Definitely the Violence Jack episode (Ed. Note: This episode is no longer available to stream). It took a whole day to film (not counting pick-up shots and re-shoots), and required countless hours of coordination, prop-building, logistics, and editing. By far and away, it is the most ambitious episode I had ever filmed. 

Speed: As a creative, do you ever wish you could do an episode over?

Plenty. I do have half a mind to “re-do” the Golden Boy episode because the “Suave” character wasn’t really polished, and was just me putting on a cheesy affectation more than anything. Plus, I feel that the series deserves and actual sit-down, involving analysis of what it is, instead of a joke-y break down on how to pick up chicks, which is what it wound up being. 

Speed: What is your most-requested series (that you haven’t done already) and will you ever do it?

That distinction used to belong to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, but I had since covered it for my 200th episode recently. These days, its probably a tie between One Piece and Naruto, and as far as me covering either of them, I’ll say that I’ll cover One Piece when it ends. Naruto has a better chance.

Speed: Will we get a G Gundam episode soon-ish? I need your reaction to “WITH THE HELP OF KYOJI!!!!!!!” in my life.

I dunno if I will say “soon-ish”, but G Gundam will have its time in the sun on the show

Speed: What goes into creating an Anime Abandon episode? I know that the average episode’s script is about 3000 words (and runs for about 20 minutes). But, what are some of the nuances viewers don’t see when it comes to behind-the-scenes stuff?

It’s actually kind of impressive that you were able to clock in the typical script length down to the word. 

Speed: I remember it from a tweet you sent out and decided to test it in theory. Seems like I’m (mostly) on the money.

Sage: But to answer your question, there isn’t TOO much that goes on that isn’t beyond what you see on the show. There’s hours of research and note taking to be sure, and there is the occasional involved visual gag that requires me to Photoshop something out of the ether and into virtual existence. The more involved episodes typically also require me going on location somewhere and do some scouting for shots, but that’s a rare occurrence.

Speed: Will we see more Suave-centric episodes? I love when you play him against type (such as the Super Kid episode) and I love when he reviews the “dirty” stuff.

Sage: Suave is definitely the kind of character that is good in small doses, so while I’m in no hurry to do a Suave episode, you haven’t seen the last of him.

Speed: Will there be an Oldtaku, New Tricks episode around One-Punch Man, Attack on Titan, or any of the (somewhat) throwback series that’ve become pop culture sensations?

Sage: Possibly, but I feel the time to do an episode on those series in the ONT format was years ago. I feel they would be better suited for a full on AA episode in the future. In the meantime, I will use ONT to cover anime that was released within the last two years. 

Speed: Besides Anime Abandon and ONT, what are some other projects you’re working on these days?

Sage: I’m working on an original animated series, DieselDust. I can’t speak much more on it, but more will be available soon. 

Speed: What’s the craziest fan story you have?

Sage: I don’t really have a “crazy fan” story that would be entertaining to tell. Most fans I’ve encountered have been pleasant and very polite, if a bit enthusiastic. There have been a few who were uncomfortable to be around, either because they ignored social cues that they are invading personal space or just aren’t aware of such cues. Mostly, though, they’ve been alright

Speed: As SpeedontheBeat.com gets to know the person, not the persona, what are some things people’d never guess about you if they just know you from Anime Abandon?

I think most people would be surprised to know that I practice bass. Or at the very least, wouldn’t expect me to be a musician. I’m not very good, but I work every day to become at least bar band passable. 

Speed: Since SOTB is (kind of) a music site as well, who’s in your shuffle these days?

As I am typing this, I am listening to Tool’s The Pot, followed by Animal Collective’s FloriDada, Stevie Wonder’s Another Star, Ken Ashcorp’s Burgz, and CAKE’s Satan Is My Motor.

Speed: Let’s talk wrasslin’ a bit. Were you excited to hear of Daniel Bryan’s return and do you feel WWE has squandered him in his feud with Big Cass?

I sincerely don’t feel they are squandering his return, because Bryan has gone on the record stating that he loves to break in and teach newbies, and if anyone needs some seasoning, it’s Big Cass. There is a lot of untapped potential in the guy, and I feel the initial set up to the feud was absolutely stellar. It has petered off quite a bit, to be sure, but if going at it with Bryan teaches Cass to be a better wrestler (fight the LeBell lock, Cass) then I think it will have done more lasting good than the temporary bad.

Speed: Cass has some good mic skills. I’m still waiting on his in-ring stuff, though. Do you watch RAW and SmackDown much these days or are you more of a PPV-only fan?

I keep track of what is going on in WWE through recaps online, since the matches on PPV only matter if you know the story behind them. Very few things in this world is as much of a damp squib experience than watching a heatless match, which is why I don’t enjoy tournament style shows, your Cruiserweight Classics, your Mae Young Classics, etc. 

Sage, post-Ellsworth return (Photo Credit: Twitter)

Speed: Ever since WOKEN Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt teamed up and won the Tag Titles, they seemingly haven’t done much with them. How do you think that WWE has handled Matt Hardy and his Woken/Broken Universe?

Honestly, they’re handling it better than I thought they would. WWE haven’t been known to embrace the meta-silliness that entangles WOKEN Matt Hardy and his gimmick, so to team him and Bray up has been a pleasant surprise. Now, that isn’t to say it has been all peaches and cream, of course, but considering what I thought they would be doing with him, the reality is a thousand times better.

Speed: What are some of your dream matches?

From wrestlers working today, AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins is a match I’m surprised hasn’t happened outside the House Show circuit. It’s absolutely a match I want to happen sooner rather than later. And if I can pick a match between two wrestlers in their prime in some ultimate fantasy bout, Rob Van Dam vs. “The Shooter” Dean Malenko. From a pure athletic point of view, I don’t think you can possibly beat these two together that hasn’t happened (at least as far as I am aware of). 

Speed: Do you think that New Japan is overrated or appropriately rated?

I can’t begin to comment on NJPW, since I haven’t seen any match the promotion has put on. I will say that I find the hype surrounding the matches therein have been exhausting to read about, and make a thousand promises that no match can ever live up to. Still, whether or not I can find them overrated or such remains to be seen.

Speed: If you had to choose one WWE era to revisit on a regular basis, what would it be and why?

Probably the “Ruthless Aggression” era. It has all the grit and blood of the “Attitude” era, and is overall only slightly dumber. Plus, the talent on display from 2002-2005 is unparalleled, in my opinion. Kurt Angle in his prime, Shawn Michaels making the comeback to end all comebacks, Brock Lesnar being an absolute Hoss that does more than just suplex dirtbags into the canvas, Eddie Guerrero tearing the house down just by shucking and jiving, it was a great time to be wrestling fan. 

Speed: I have to laugh–but cringe–at the idea of Eddie “shucking,” but it was gold. I saw someone tweet this a while back and I’ve gotta ask you: Do you think Shawn Michaels overrated?

In as much as I wouldn’t put him as the greatest of all time as some of his peers and fans have, but I don’t think he’s overrated generally speaking. There was always someone better than him at one thing, but there were VERY few people who were better than him at everything he did. In that sense, he’ll always be one of the greatest.

Speed: How can fans reach you?

The best way to reach me is on my Twitter or my personal site.

As a treat, here’s Sage’s newest AA episode, where he speaks on the series that did anime-esque things with “American” animation long before Teen Titans, SWAT Kats.

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com

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