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 =)