The Disturbing Outlook of Anime News Network Critic Theron Martin

Anime News Network (ANN) is the english source for anime news and reviews. As a critic myself, I check it a lot and somewhere along the way I ran into the name Theron Martin.  I don’t remember specifically where, but I’m a regular reader of ANN and his name comes up a lot. Normally I don’t make a big deal out of disagreeing with critics. Its not the first time and it wont be the last, but what strikes me, or rather scares me about Theron’s writing is his shockingly dismissive attitude toward depictions of sexual assault in anime. The signs may have been there for a while, but this didn’t really stick with me what he was saying until I read his review of episodes 7-12 of Valvrave the Liberator.

Content Warning: Graphic Material and Some Very Unpleasant Imagery

For the unfamiliar, Valvrave was a particularly exploitative mecha anime produced by Sunrise in 2013. Fanservice and  blood were everywhere in this series, but the straw that broke the camel’s back for most critics was a shockingly graphic rape scene that took place in the tenth episode. The scene in question featured the main male character being overcome by a supernatural force, with whom he had previously made a contract, attacking a girl, throwing her to the ground, ripping her clothes off and raping her. The scene shocked several viewer, myself being no exception, so I was taken aback when Theron did his own review of the last few episodes of the first season and this was the second paragraph.

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So let’s look at how incredibly uncomfortable this paragraph is. First off: Martin actually opens by questioning whether the scene being discussed was or was not a rape scene, despite using the terms “perpetrator” and “victim” in his description and only three paragraphs later referring to it as “the rape scene.” But Martin’s reasons for questioning if this is a rape scene or not are even more bizarre, noting that the “victim” does not seem as bothered by what happened as the “perpetrator,” citing this as if this absolves that characters and the writers of this barbaric scene and seemingly dismissing the notion that it is just a really poorly written rape scene. In fact Martin seems convinced it was quite the opposite, claiming it “serves multiple functions within the narrative,” which he never elaborates on since he changes the topic in the next paragraph.  One this is for certain though, Martin did not find the scene to be gratuitous. In fact the one other time he brings it up in the article he implies that the scene is practically subdued.

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To put this in perspective, and I apologize that I have to do this, here are some screen shots from the scene in question.

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So it seems safe to assume Theron Martin’s views on this scene from Valvrave aren’t particularly sensitive or enlightened. At the time that I first read it, I was writing  the Valvrave episode of my series and while his article offended me I was also really upset with the series itself that I almost wondered if I was being too harsh. Nevertheless I screen-captured the offending paragraph and I had mostly forgotten it until I read another article by Martin, and the nasty pattern started to form.

One of ANN’s ongoing traditions is a seasonal anime preview guide, wherein the site’s regular writers chime in on the new shows coming out each new season. I had heard some nasty rumors about a series called Cross Ange and decided to check it out. Much to my disappointment, not a single one of the reviews denied what happened. The titular character, Angelise, is the princess of a dystopia where non-magic-users are culled from the population. She’s keen with this whole affair and even tells one woman who has her baby taken away that she should have other (normal?) children to make up for it.  but when it is revealed that the princess herself is one of these non-magic users, she is immediately sent to a prison and (anally) raped by a bondage-clad female prison guard, seemingly as fanservice for the audience.  Also it is implied that her scumbag brother wants to marry their younger sister to “purify the bloodline.” If you find yourself shocked and disgusted, then congratulations, you’ve got something in common with everyone else who reviewed this show. But there are two reasons this series didn’t get 1 (out of 5) stars across the board. One being that two of the ANN critics refused to even give the series the benefit of one star, the other being Theron Martin.

Martin having a differing opinion of the show isn’t the issue so much as WHY he doesn’t seem to take issue with it. (Though it is worth noting he gave the series 3 out of 5 stars.) Martin is concerned with the rape scene, but not because it is a violent depiction of a 15-year-old girl being violated for the audience’s pleasure, but because he is concerned over how the “fanservice” will serve as a “distraction” to the story. That’s not even the most offensive part as Martin, once again, is completely dismissive of the rape scene. Not only does he once again try to justify the scene but he justifies the scene calling it “Karmic Justice.”

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That’s right, good old fashioned victim blaming. I guess its worth giving Martin credit for condemning the implied pedophilia, as he works in Indianapolis helping kids prep for standardized tests, but his insight on the actual  rape scene, calling it justice of any kind as even dismissing it because “body cavity searches are a fairly standard prison entry procedure” is truly horrible and it demonstrates that, more than once, Martin is willing to dismiss and even justify rape scenes.

Now I understand that the sexual assaults described above are fictional. I have no way to know how Theron Martin feels about actual sexual assault and I sincerely hope his critiques of it in media do not apply to the real world, but once again, ANN is the go-to for anime news and reviews in the English speaking world. In turn I feel that Theron Martin is speaking for my subculture and that terrifies me. Anime News Network is a great site, I continue to recommend it. But its readers and the subculture they represent deserve much better representation than Theron Martin.

Nick Izumi

Nick Izumi is, for all intents and purposes, a human being. We’ve checked repeatedly, and he continues to assure us this is true. Nick is the cofounder and former staffer of the Wisconsin Anime Convention “Daisho Con,” and occasionally smells like flour and memories of your forgotten youth. He also created and stars in a series of reviews on YouTube called "The Nick Izumi Show." You should watch it.

8 thoughts on “The Disturbing Outlook of Anime News Network Critic Theron Martin

  • October 18, 2014 at 3:57 pm
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    Not 100% sure but I think Theron is the person that usually gives loli shows higher than average ratings in their preview guides so there’s another facet of his personality to consider. He’s ‘one of those’ fans.

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  • February 28, 2015 at 2:30 pm
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    (To the person who wrote this )Mr. Martin is my former homeroom and is currently my sisters math Teacher! Please people, Don’t you DARE go trying to get him fired over one stupid review! People have their own opinions! and i think you should keep yours to yourself! don’t be talking down about him like this! EVER!

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    • February 28, 2015 at 2:55 pm
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      Well, your sister’s teacher is a terrible reviewer.

      No one is trying to get Mr. Martin fired from his day job. He writes problematic reviews though which indicate a larger problem in geek culture at large – and that is worthy of critique.

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      • March 2, 2015 at 2:06 pm
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        Well Y’all have NO right to down talk him!! so what if he writes a lot of crappy reviews?!?! keep your comments to yourself about him!

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        • March 2, 2015 at 2:13 pm
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          He writes and reviews things and puts them online.

          We also write and review things and put them online — importantly we comment on geek culture. Mr. Martin is a part of this culture, and is a big enough voice in the community to warrant attention.

          That’s why we have the right. Seriously kid, this isn’t hard. Frankly, he’s writing stuff where he refers to the rape of a high school aged character as “fanservice” and putting it up in public. We had no idea he was a teacher in real life, and that has some creepy implications.

          With stuff like that, we’re not the ones risking his employment — *he* is.

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  • April 22, 2015 at 10:08 am
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    Lol, Mr. Martin was my math teacher in Highschool. I used to give him a hard time and pick on him. He’s a cool guy though. He may be a bad reviewer, but you are basically saying this guy is cool with rape just because of a review he did. Trust me, he is not cool with rape.

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  • May 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm
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    You didn’t just get offended at a cartoon about giant robots, you got offended by someone’s opinion about a cartoon about giant robots.

    Might want to rethink your life, lad.

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  • July 11, 2015 at 5:05 am
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    I just happen to read this and my freedom of speech made me hit this comment box. I do want to assert that noting Mr. Martin’s status as a teacher — a teacher in High school, no less — doesn’t make his reviews, as Nick Izumi pointed out, any good of a reaction, let alone less disturbing. (Knowing that he’s a teacher actually made me think of him worse.) You’re as though emphasizing that a high school teacher is not quite put off by the themes involved in the subject series here.

    To Davin Ginsberg, sir, and Winter Jammer, it’s unfortunate but your arguments play little to no sense against this article. We only know of Mr Martin ‘the reviewer’ and not Mr Martin the Math teacher. That is to say that, his way of reviewing — his judgement for what he sees — is the matter that brings about the discomfort for ANN visitors such as myself. It has nothing to do with Mr. Martin’s way of teaching or cool, amicable lifestyle whatsoever. This fact applies to the rest of us in the virtual dimension.

    One can only be so professional to an extent perhaps more valuable in real life. But I think that doesn’t really affect (or maybe it does, greatly) how the readers would embrace the message conveyed in an article constructed through the writer’s thoughts (about rape-themed anime scenes, for instance).

    To me, Mr. Martin’s perspective for these particular scenes are indeed… disturbing, regardless of who he is beyond virtual reality.

    Reply

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