Like many who have been raised in biracial households, Joey Tetsuro Bizinger grew up feeling like his life was split into two. He was born in Sydney, but he learned to walk in Japan. He was raised on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon just as much as he was on VHS tapes of Doraemon and Sazaesan. He considers both Japanese and English as his first languages.
Identity and generational change
The duality of Joey’s Japanese-Australian upbringing is a large part of what he channels into his career as a content creator. On the internet, Joey is better known by a different middle and last name: Joey The Anime Man. Nurtured over the course of the last nine years, The Anime Man currently holds close to 6 million subscribers across YouTube, Twitch, and other social channels. Joey is also 1/3 of the world’s biggest anime-not-anime podcast, Trash Taste, hosted alongside Connor Colquhoun (CDawgVA) and Garnt Maneetapho (GiggukAZ). Joey’s anime and manga reviews, Twitch gaming streams, and video logs of his life in Japan are just some of the things that make him a key voice in what was once categorised as ‘nerd’ culture.
During his adolescence, Joey grew up around other hafus (the Japanese word for people who are multiethnic) who also straddled that Japanese-Australian line. But as he entered late primary school and eventually St Paul’s Catholic College Manly, he found himself being bullied as ‘the only Asian kid’ in his year.
“I definitely had a lot of identity issues and wondered whether I had to abandon my Asian side to assimilate into Australian culture. But after a while I thought fuck it, I’ll just be myself. I started sharing anime and video games with my friends and they turned out to be very open and interested. When it came to my identity, I ended up realising that I could embrace both.”
Australian high schoolers these days aren’t too much younger than Joey, but there’s already a stark difference in how the youth of today are watching anime. For one, it is now accessible in the most mainstream sense possible, with big films like Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie being available on the silver screen at your local Event Cinemas or Hoyts this year. There’s proof in the numbers too. In 2021, Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train became Madman Anime Group’s best performing theatrical release across Australia and New Zealand exceeding $AU4,000,000 gross box office and $NZ700,000 gross box office respectively.
“We’ve transitioned into a generation that has been born and bred on the internet, giving them limitless access to content, information, and entertainment. Today’s youth are more curious and are able to push themselves outside of their comfort zones. Anime just happened to be one of those things because it’s such vibrant and exciting content,” says Joey.
“Kids aren’t being bullied for watching anime these days. They’re bullied if they don’t.”
Joey predicts that Australia will continue to be a growth market for the anime and manga industry. In July, he will be a guest at SMASH! Sydney, a Japanese pop culture convention that has grown so large that its 2022 event is moving to the ICC Sydney Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour. He cites individuals such as award-winning video game and anime composer Kevin Penkin as examples of how Australians are active players within this booming industry.
The Anime Man
The Anime Man began as a review website, borne out of one of Joey’s school projects. He continued to maintain the site post-graduation and eventually transitioned to YouTube. His early videos focused on anime and manga reviews, with a smattering of vlog-style content and let’s play videos. His subscriber count grew steadily, but Joey distinctly remembers videos of his Corpse Party 2 playthroughs that had helped gain him a significant following. At the time, no official English version of the game existed and Joey’s videos were able to fill this void by voicing over the Japanese lines and live translating the dialogue into English.
Today, the kind of content Joey produces ebbs and flows around anime and tangentially related genres. A video last month sees him spending 48 hours inside Japan’s biggest internet cafe where he reads manga, attempts to live stream, and showcases the plethora of facilities available. The video that follows is a mega-collab, where Joey asks more than 100 content creators what the best anime ever made is. Both of these videos go on to hit a million and two million views respectively.
While the themes surrounding his channel have stayed the same, the ideas and scale of the videos have grown exponentially. From filming on a built-in webcam in a bedroom, The Anime Man is on the cusp of releasing the first episode of ‘Man vs Weeb’ a game show, and his first full-scale high-production project utilising a professional set and crew. Filming for Season 1 has been completed and, if the feedback is positive, Joey says a second season may be on the cards.
“I worked with an amazing Japanese crew but everything from directing to writing the quizzes to producing the show was done by me, and could only be done by me because this is my vision,” he says. “My YouTube channel is my resume, and I’m constantly pushing the boundaries so people can see what I am capable of doing.”
Fashion, expression, and internet culture wars
Still to come this month is the first drop of Joey’s line of streetwear, a brand simply titled ‘Nonsense’. For many of his fans who have seen him rep and model a variety of streetwear, techwear, and anime merchandise over the years, delving into fashion seems like a logical next step. To Joey, his taste in fashion has been a work in progress.
“I wasn’t very fashionable in Australia, but from my perspective, Sydney isn’t a very fashion-centric city. We mostly just wore t-shirts with shorts and thongs. Moving to Tokyo, which is far more eclectic, allowed me to explore fashion. My girlfriend Aki (Akidearest) also taught me about styles that suited me. I realised streetwear and punk styles were something I liked, especially when it merged with anime and gaming aesthetics.”
Nonsense sits separate from The Anime Man brand, and Joey is clear that this isn’t the same as “YouTuber merch.” The concept of the brand is, in his words, a satire on the war between internet dwellers and those who don’t live online.
“You have people who bully anime fans, for example, because they love waifus. But at the same time, those bullies are also obsessed with social media. If these groups of people step back, they might realise we’re all obsessing over the same thing. We’re all similarly out of the loop and focused on these non-realities. At the end of the day, all this shit is just nonsense.”
A lot of the clothing designs are digital-based and future pieces will incorporate elements of anime and social media. Currently, Joey is trying to come up with a design that makes fun of NFTs. Unlike traditional fashion labels that operate seasonally, Nonsense plans to release a new item every month.
When asked about the future of The Anime Man, Joey’s response is a positive one, albeit with a dash of pragmatism.
“People don’t last on YouTube for nine years, but for some reason I have. Internet fame is far more short-lived compared to traditional media where a TV host or movie star is in the limelight for over 15 years. What’s to say I’ll still be doing this in my 30s and 40s? I’ve been fearful that all I’ll have to my name is YouTube which is why I’ve branched out as a means to explore my other interests and to create these safety nets.
“I always ask myself: how can I take things I like and through that broaden my power? That’s how I’ve embarked on projects like creating my second YouTube channel, streaming on Twitch, starting my own clothing brand, working on music, and making a podcast. Something I want to do more in the future is voice acting. I’m preparing myself for the hypothetical situation that if YouTube were to implode on itself one day, where would I be? Which one of my nets will catch me?”