A Post About Reviews

I don’t know how many times that I’ve ever said this on here, but I don’t consider myself a critic. I’m just a guy that writes some things on the internet and maybe has some people looking at them. Maybe. A lot of posts that I write are reviews of a series that I recently watched and I want to share with the community out there. Some of them are “hey, let me tell you about this series that you might have never heard of” while others are telling my thoughts on something that is well known. So as a whole, it’s for informational purposes and reference. I’m also writing them for myself too, because I don’t have the best memory. Sometime in the future I may need to read up my own thoughts for reference purposes.

What you review and how you approach your review says a lot of things about your personality and the way you think? Are you writing the review with a more personal approach on how the show personally affected you? Are you analyzing the different aspects of the show and why some worked and some didn’t? How about how fair you are on a show that you don’t like? Are you going to bash it completely without not even considering some positive aspects? I’m not going to lie, some series deserve to be destroyed. With that said though, there are still many ways to go with the reviews. That is why I asked a question about this on twitter to see what other people think.

Some of you may remember me asking a question about how a lot of people what some reviews should be like.

Here are the responses I got.

Please follow all of these people on twitter because everyone here is a cool person and adds a lot to the anitwitter in positive ways. Believe me.

From all of these tweets, it seems like there are two schools of thought here with a lot of mixing between the two. One school seems very interested in what an individuals interpretation of a show is and how the piece of media in question affected the writer. The other school is focused on attempting to go the objective route and writing about what audience a show is meant for and what the flaws and strengths of a specific work are. Also, there was some people following along with my point of view on synopsis reviews. Just know that while I don’t prefer them, it’s sometimes nice to read them to reaffirm what I just watched.

With the other schools of thought, I definitely agree with using both of them are very specific times. I don’t think there is a wrong way to write a review because there are too many ways and voices out there to sit down and decide something like that. It might depend on what series or movie you recently watched though. For example, if something connects to you as emotionally as A Silent Voice or Liz and the Blue Bird did for me, then focusing on the emotional impacts more then what a series did right and wrong would definitely be a solid approach way. That can sometimes connect you to an audience in a more meaningful way then stating out the clear facts for some things. Once again, it depends on how the thing you watched affected you and what kind of series it is. Still depends on the movie or series you watched though. Finding a fulcrum on where to balance emotional points and details of what you are writing about is going to be difficult. Some series may be similar, but each series have a different balance point.

At the same time, I think episodic reviews are harder to write. Especially with how disposable in nature they are. Writing them requires analyzing the different aspects of how an episode works compared to other ones. If you are not a detail oriented person that can find subtle differences in animation, background events, art style, and so on, then it is incredibly easy to be monotonous with your reviews. “This show is good because _” many times in a row doesn’t really amount to the most interesting set of episodic reviews. Then there are predictions for what might happen in the next episode or how the show is going to go. I know that I am weird for thinking this, but each episodic review feels like a data point and while you can tell how you feel about a show or what the show is like after a few of them, it’s hard to completely judge something until you’ve collected them all. Predictions might come to be or you could have dropped a show right before it got amazing. There are so many risks with episodic reviews.

Over my three and some change years of blogging, I’m amazed by how many types and styles of reviews that people write. It’s so much more then just episodic reviews vs full series reviews. There is so much variability people in those sections that amaze me. One of my favorite styles of reviews that I’ve seen are the two people having a conversation style. It doesn’t look that hard, but I’ve tried it few times. Having a conversation with myself in text form takes a lot to feel natural. Kudos to Cactus Matt and Irina and Crow that do it, because you guys are amazing. I’m not usually a fan of episodic reviews, but you guys put so much personality and detail in your reviews that I can’t help but love them and enjoy them. No matter what you do, find your own voice and way to approach reviews.

I don’t have a lot of advice to give because everyone is so different and has different goals when writing them, but how do you approach reviews?

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  1. I’ve said this before in other places, but I think people tie themselves down too much to the idea of “reviews”. The term “review” carries with it certain expectations that aren’t necessarily practical or desirable to incorporate into every piece of writing you do — among certain parts of the Internet, it even carries the expectation of “objectivity”, which is of course a very silly thing to expect when you’re examining something as subjective as art and creative work.

    Thankfully in my experience the anime sphere isn’t quite as attached to the rigid “paragraph about graphics, paragraph about sound, paragraph about gameplay, 8/10” format that a lot of amateur games writers force themselves to stick rigidly to, but I still feel like people tying themselves to the term “review” can be a bit restrictive if they’re not careful.

    I guess it depends on your definition of review, which is largely established by how you first came across the word. My first encounter with it was with reviews in game magazines, which followed the format I describe above, and are effectively “buyer’s guides” in many cases — even to this day. However, other people might consider the term “review” in the sense of “review the material we’ve previously seen” — revisiting or thinking back over something in an attempt to solidify or enhance understanding.

    That latter definition, for me, is much more desirable from a piece of writing about a creative work, but the ambiguity of the term “review” doesn’t help it for me, given that the first definition is firmly ensconced in my mind! Perhaps we need a different, distinct term.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great post. Everyone has their own style of reviewing. The conversation style review was something I enjoyed by reading other posts and when we did the collab review of The Dragon Dentist.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I know you said you’re not a critic and I personally don’t care for labels so who knows if I qualify as one either. That said, I am someone that cares about criticizing the industry and picking apart each problem for what they are. When it comes to reviews and you’re doing them with a critical mindset about whether or not something can be considered “good” I tend to lean more towards an ideology that considers everything to be held accountable. So what I mean by that is that every aspect of the show has to at least be interesting in some level. “Is the world interesting”? “Are there interesting characters”? “Is the plot well-written”? “Is the animation good or, at least, unique in some way”? I always ask myself these questions presuming it is a full-length anime. The only time I will not consider certain aspects is based on the next question “how much time am I putting into watching this show”?

    If it is the average, full-length anime(24mins per ep/12 episodes) then I will consider all questions, compare and contrast as to whether it is worth less of my time as other full-length or even shorter-length anime. This has resulted in me praising shows like “Atom:The Beginning”, “Eureka Seven”, Attack on Titan, Hello Anne: Before Green Gables” as they cover the “base standard” and more as they force me to ask myself newer questions! Like “What is it I like about this character? Is it the way they move? The way they talk and think”? “What makes this world so interesting”? “What is it that makes the plot’s writing so polished”? “Is this animation fluid”?

    So, for me, it’s just a series of questions that keeps leveling up as the show gets better. It’s not necessarily the most engaging way or even the best way to review things. But I do think it’s the most correct.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. From personal experience – I find episodic reviews easier to write but not necessarily as fun. The clearer boundaries and narrower focus help me stay on track when writing but at the same time, you occasionally run into an episode that simply doesn’t have much substance to it.
    What I mean is that it’s easier for me to limit my screen caps when I stick to one episode instead of 24…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You really love your screen caps and I love looking at them 😁.

      And that’s interesting. Do you feel like you can analyze more of what you like from episode reviews then full reviews and that’s where the fun comes from?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes and no. My episode reviews are structured quite similarly to my fell season ones as such I do go on about emotional resonance or visual storytelling and such on episode reviews as well and it let’s me burrow down to details I wouldn’t be able to tackle in a full season review. Them again, there are aspects that need the full picture. I love my Gurren Lagann post but it can only exist as a full season review as a lot of the depth and symbolysm of the series can only be appreciated as a whole. FMA is similar in that way.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s funny, since my comment on Twitter I’ve dropped the reviews where I’m grouping up four episodes together and have embraced episode reviews although I’m not watching as many shows. I’m actually enjoying writing them and interacting with others about the shows. I tend to keep to a standard format talking favourites and least favourites so hopefully I’m being at least a little fair. I find they’re more emotive and people are more likely to comment on the hot topic of the episode. That said, I still do season reviews for other shows. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters how you do them as long as you’re enjoying yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know and I was very late in writing this post. My “production” schedule is kind of ridiculous in some ways. I can’t write things when I want them to.

      I’m glad that you are finding a lot of fun writing those episodic reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s cool. I just find it funny that things change so quickly and I know all to well what it’s like putting yourself through a ridiculous schedule.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating collection of valuable community input here. I used to stand on the objective side of the spectrum (that evaluated pros and cons and quantified the series via a mental points system). Anymore, I find myself leaning on my emotional journey through a specific piece. They’re not only easier for me to personally write, but I find looking back on them as a better snapshot of my experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s what I discovered too. I used to try the rigid style of reviewing and that didn’t work out for me. While I still think that my reviews are very similar to each other somewhat, at least there is some more variety.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Despite being INTP, which supposedly means I don’t like detailed plans and rigid structures, I’ve always been highly structured with any kind of writing except my personal fantasy stories and novellas. I used to be able to write decent-ish poetry, but I lost the ability after a technical writing class drove structure, structure, sctructure, into my brain. It’s much harder to be creative in my late 20s than it was anytime in teens or college. It’s kind of sad. I write reviews in a way I know is too formulaic, but I’m struggling to find ways to be more creative.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love how you evenly surveyed the community and shared your understanding of the landscape.

    Even in the comments, we get to see more perspectives and techniques.

    I almost feel like we’re less a loose aniblogging community and more an anime blogging guild, what with all the trying to advance the craft and mutual support and stuff! I like that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like that. We shall be referred to as a guild from now on. Does that mean that collaborations are like adventurer parties?

      So, when do I get my first quest?

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I like giving everyone a fair shake with everything so representing everyone was just something that would be needed.

      We may need to look forward into this anime guild stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I like a mix of objective and subjective in reviews, formal and informal. The only thing I don’t like is when it’s a review where it just recaps the whole episode and then maybe has a couple of sentences as a “review”. Especially when they’re really long — like, why would I bother reading when I could watch it myself?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think there is a big difference between a critic and a reviewer… A reviewer is more geared toward the people who might appreciate the show in question, though thinking on it now, I can see that the lines between the two can be very gray, indeed.

    I guess it does depend on the writer’s mindset?

    I agree with episodic blogs being very difficult. I had a very brief stint with trying episodic reviews, and it was a horrible experience for me. I was enjoying the show less, and instead focusing more on what to write about this particular episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess the blending makes sense, yeah. Probably has something has to do with how the writer views themselves.

      Yeah, writing episodic reviews and having fun is hard. Jeez.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have tried to do episodic reviews multiple times, but as someone mentioned above, it makes it harder to look at the bigger picture, which I prefer much more. I will admit that I try to be more positive with my reviews (if I can be, some definitely deserve to be destroyed, as you mentioned) and more often than not I make them personal and focused. Since I’m a Japanophile for the culture and history before I am an otaku, I think that’s why I love watching anime now as an adult (my current position in my evolution as an otaku, so to speak). I love seeing elements that are uniquely Japanese in a series, even if the series is heavily Western in nature (Space Dandy for example). That’s where my passions lie (lay?). So, when I write reviews, I centre them on one specific theme, culture, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. “At the same time, I think episodic reviews are harder to write. Especially with how disposable in nature they are. Writing them requires analyzing the different aspects of how an episode works compared to other ones.”

    Does it? The Lounge is built around episodic coverage, and I rarely perform any comparative analysis. Usually, it’s just my thoughts on the episode and sometimes how it works within the larger framework the series is constructing.

    But that’s also why my blog’s tagline refers to “anime discussion” and each season is gathered under “season discussions”… It’s not really criticism, not really traditional reviewing. I see the Lounge as a bunch of folks sitting around chatting about what they did or didn’t like each week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess my mind was thinking about later in the future, but discussions are good in the mean time and right now. Later on, are people going to look at reviews of specific episodes instead of full episode things? Maybe.

      I do like discussing what is currently going on though and try to do it myself. Maybe I’m being too mean 😣. I probably am.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Later on, are people going to look at reviews of specific episodes instead of full episode things? Maybe.”

        That’s a good point. Sure, there are a lot of people looking for hits down the line. But to me, hits are sterile. A viewer comes, reads, and leaves nothing behind. The Lounge is built around active discussion, I don’t much care what any anonymous transient does next year. I’m building a community (or trying to), not collecting stats. Stats don’t make me smile or want to write a reply and engage in discussion.

        Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m just too far out off the end of the bell curve.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I agree with the repliers who say episode reviews seem pointless. They tend to just be a summary of what happened, rather than commentary of what was good or bad. I can understand why bloggers write them though. Covering an episode is less of a time sink than reviewing a season. Can be a handy tool when pumping out content for a site.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I definitely like reading very opinionated reviews and I believe that’s why I like to write them like that as well. After all, I typically read reviews to see what someone thought of the material, not to much to determine if I’m gonna check it out or not. Usually I already know if I’m gonna watch something or not, but I like seeing someone else’s experience. Also, I really enjoy reading a review with the opposite viewpoint of mine. For example, I love RWBY, but typically I like watching/reading reviews of people who can’t stand the series. Even if I may disagree with their overall conclusion, sometimes they can enlighten me to something I may have missed

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I think this just goes to show how varied the approaches to reviewing something are. And all of them are valid. Even if I don’t approach writing in a particular way such as episode reviews, it doesn’t stop me from reading them as reading any sort of perspective is fun for me. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I made a conscous choice on my blog to not do episode to episode reviews of the anime I watch. Frankly because it is way too much work and I don’t have the time.

    More importantly though, I find that viewing an anime week to week isn’t as effective, series can change on a dime and one week’s home run might be another week’s bogey. (Did I just combine golf and baseball?). Look at Darling in the Franxx…people HATED a few episodes, but then a week or two later they were bending over backwards to praise it.

    All series, even the great ones have clunker episodes, that is just the process of telling a story. You have to get through the set up to get ot the good parts, and I find it far better to just view a series as a completed whole instead of the individual parts. Though that can backfire as well. I was about to call Bunny Girl Senpai one of the greatest animes of all time, before the final episode stumbled with it’s ending. So yeah…a bit of a gamble i think.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. “…but I don’t consider myself a critic. I’m just a guy that writes some things on the internet and maybe has some people looking at them.”

    I consider myself the same way. If anything, I am really terrible at reviewing (worst than amateur) and sure no one finds what I write useful, but like the exercise since it gives me the opportunity to express an opinion of material I wouldn’t otherwise. Plus, I think there are some points I can communicate better as an amateur rather than a critic that does it for a living. I always like to write about the less obscure stuff, too and a major reason I started my site to begin with. Tried the episodic route before, but I prefer the more holistic approach…otherwise I would be chasing my tail and ramble.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It took me a while to get a sort of hang of episodic stuff. Finding things to say from one episode to another is always incredibly difficult. I am still not sure I got it or even full reviews down yet, but I guess the only thing to do is keep trying and figuring out things as you go.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I don’t remember when I last wrote a review…

    But I personally prefer series, because they can be spoiler free… Can’t do the with episodic right?
    But I like reading episodic too…

    Liked by 1 person

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