Structuring an anime review

Credit to linked pixiv user

Although my blog is mostly focused on editorial posts about anime and related topics, the other kind of post I enjoy writing is full series reviews of anime I complete each season. If you’ve read other anime reviews, you know that reviewers tend to have their own styles for reviewing anime, whether it’s more on the structured side or the “anything goes” side…

In a past post I talked about how I write and enjoy anime reviews, but it mostly focused on the mindset I have upon writing them, not so much how I structure them or what aspects I choose or don’t choose to write about. There are many ways to review anime or a similar medium: you can divide the review by category such as “Animation/Aesthetics,” “Plot/Story,” “Characters,” etc., and then in turn review each category, you can divide the review by “Good points” and “Bad points” and discuss specifically what you liked and what you didn’t like, if it’s a series with a linear story you could focus on whether the ending paid off or not, if it’s a comedy series you could judge it solely by whether it made you laugh…the list goes on. There’s also the number or letter grade rating some reviewers choose to give after the review, either to the anime as a whole or a rating for each of its different parts.

When I first started this blog and began writing seasonal anime reviews, I opted for the more structured method of reviewing an anime by section, perhaps spending a paragraph or two talking about the aesthetics, then another paragraph or two talking about the story, then talking about the characters, and so on. After a while however, I found that there were some anime I just didn’t have that much to say about in terms of these different things. For some anime, nothing about the art, music, or other aesthetics stood out to me. These elements weren’t bad enough for me to criticize them, but they weren’t good enough for me to feel the need to compliment them either. But because I felt I had to keep my category structure of reviewing, I found myself throwing in vague sentences like “The animation was decent” or “The opening and ending songs were nice” that really didn’t add anything to the review and just felt forced. There are a lot of anime where animation style or music really stand out, like Madoka Magica, the Haruhi movie, or the Monogatari series. But for most, at least to me, these things are just “fine” and don’t have any bearing on the show’s other aspects. Likewise, I felt like I had to talk about every character in an anime even if there was nothing of note about certain ones. So again, I’d find myself saying pointless things like “This character was okay” or “That character was decent” without going anywhere else with that thought, and it would stifle the review.

So as time went on, I loosened up my reviewing. Now when I sit down to review an anime, I only write about the things in that anime I have an opinion on. If I don’t have anything to say about an anime’s art style or a particular character, why force myself to come up with something to say? It takes away from the review more than it adds to it. This way I can spend more time on the aspects of the anime I do feel are worth talking about. My reviews tend to be long enough as they are, so why waste space talking about things I don’t feel are significant to what that anime offers? I’ve enjoyed writing reviews a lot more with this “freer” method. Sometimes I feel like spending a whole paragraph talking about one scene in an anime because I have that much of an opinion on it. Sometimes I feel like not talking about the background music because I hardly noticed it at all. Sometimes I feel like going through each episode of a short anime to talk about how it leads up to its ending, while other times I’ll only talk about its middle and barely mention the beginning or ending. I can write a lot better about something if I feel there’s something to say about it as opposed to pushing myself to talk about something I don’t think is worth mentioning, or talking about it in a way I don’t think does it justice. On the other hand, I do tend to follow the “Good points,” “Bad points” structure of trying to find both the good things and bad things in an anime, regardless of how I feel about it overall. If I really didn’t like an anime, it’s fair to at least try and find something I liked about it that kept me watching, which I usually can do. Likewise, if I loved an anime, I try to see the other side of it and think about what bad things it has that others could dislike. Not seeming biased one way or another is good for any kind of review in my opinion.

I’ve also never been a fan of giving number or letter grades to shows or movies I watch. Sites like MAL can give you a general idea of how someone feels about an anime, but it can be misleading. For an anime that made you feel a lot, whether positively or negatively, how do you summarize that into a number or letter? Sure, you could give a score by category, but how would you score the “Characters” portion of an anime when you thought a couple of characters were really good but a few others were bad? You could give an average score, but someone could easily interpret that as you thinking all the characters were average. So number or letter scoring something as complex as an anime series doesn’t hold much significance in my opinion. I don’t put any number rankings on my reviews because someone could skip the meat of the review to just glance at those and misinterpret the details of my opinion, which of course can only be conveyed in words.

My goal for writing an anime review, or a review of anything really, is both for my own enjoyment and to make sure I clearly say what I feel needs to be said about it. My enjoyment falters if I have to write about aspects of an anime I don’t think are important, which in turn gets in the way of my discussing the aspects I do feel are the crux of what the anime is. Maybe this way of reviewing isn’t the most tidy or organized way, but it’s the way I like =)

6 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Yeah, I’ve never graded or rated an anime with numbers/letters either… too much work, lol. Plus, I wouldn’t want to dissuade someone who wanted to watch something, but then I gave it a “D” or whatever and they decided not to watch it…

    I also just try to write about what stood out for me in an anime, instead of trying to be comprehensive with each review. Some animes, there’s not a huge amount to say about. XD

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, if someone just saw that you gave a “D” to an anime, they may assume it’s bad and not want to watch it. But if they actually read your exact reasons for why you didn’t like it, they may realize that it’s just a matter of taste and they could actually like it, especially if their preferences are different. The same can be said if they saw you give an “A” to something and assume it’s good, but without reading anything else you had to say about it, they may realize that their idea of “good” is different upon watching it. So yeah, having a letter or number grade available could mislead people, which is why actual, thorough reviewing is best XD

  2. Kal says:

    I like your reviews. You usually point out what you like, or dislike, so it’s easy to relate to, whether I liked the same parts or not. I find grading a bit… Weird… I stopped reading the anime news network episodic reviews because of those grades. They sometimes went on how a specific episode is so good, and at the end gave it a B-… So it’s just not always consistent with what was written (at least in my opinion). So just keeping your thoughts about an anime in order is probably the best way to go. Ratings are too subjective, so leave that to each person if they so desire.

    • Yumeka says:

      Thanks, I’m flattered you like my reviewing style so much XD

      Yeah, I’ve read some ANN and other reviews that use a grading system. It doesn’t serve a purpose to me because, if I want to know what someone thinks of an anime, I’ll read the full review and ignore the rating at the end…I admit that I sometimes take the ratings in their seasonal preview guides into consideration, but I usually read the reviews of the episodes too XD

  3. chikorita157 says:

    As for me, I usually share a short synopsis and then my thoughts on the overall show on certain aspect of the show I find interesting, I like or dislike and pretty much that. Nothing too complicated as I don’t go over every aspect since some of them can be pretty difficult to write about.

    While I generally leave grades on my reviews, I feel that the usefulness of it is questionable for the fact that it only shows if someone enjoys or dislike a particular show, not why. For some mediums like video games, I find it scores very unhelpful for the fact that some people might have different experiences due to the interactive nature of the game. With that, I only leave some good and bad points for video game reviews to give a short gist of how good the game is from my point of view.

    • Yumeka says:

      I think reviewing video games is a bit different than, say, an anime series or a movie because enjoyment of video games is on a much more interactive level – the reviewer actually has control of what happens in the game and thus the experience can differ greatly among people with different playing styles. The ability to have control over what happens in the thing you’re reviewing versus just passively watching it the same way each time, are differences one should keep in mind if they review these two mediums. So I agree that scoring is even more unhelpful for video games because they rely so much more on the individual interactivity between the player and the game and on less tangible things like a linear story or developed characters (not that games can’t have these things of course, but their main selling point is almost always gameplay merit above other things).

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