I don’t usually write series reviews. I’ll write about a series or do a quick first impression post or something like that, but I haven’t done many full reviews. Part of that is because, well…I don’t finish that many series. If I’m not hooked, I’ll drop it pretty quickly. When I do finish a series, I’m usually not that compelled to write about them.
Another reason I don’t write a lot of reviews is because they can feel really stale. At least, when I write them, they do. It’s hard to write about a series objectively, and I usually get bogged down by boring technical nonsense.
I want to write more reviews of series, though. I just have to figure out how to make it un-stuffy and un-generic. Whenever I write a review, it feels really impersonal. I list off things about the animation and the art and the music, and then I’m left with something that reads like I’m following a pre-set algorithm for a review as opposed to an actual review of how I felt. And I’ve read a lot of reviews from other folks (professional reviews, too!) that feel this way, unfortunately.
Generally, I’m more the type to write about my ~feelings~ towards a thing, or even a personal situation that a piece of fiction reminded me of as opposed to actually reviewing its technical merits. If I do really want to talk about great directing or sound design, I’ll dedicate a piece to just that one element as opposed to writing about it in a legitimate review.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with talking about technical merits – I just said that I write about those things a bit – but, I feel like a lot of times, when we try to review things, we forget about the stuff that actually stick with us about a series: the themes and whether or not it actually made us Feel something.
Personally, I’m way more interested in what it is a work is saying or what issues are being confronted than I am in the quality of the animation or the details of its soundtrack. I mean, I do want to hear about those things, but the story and the ~emotions~ matters more. And, again, a lot of reviews I’ve tried to write fail because I just talk about the story/themes/grand message real quick in a plot summary and then brush them off in favor of writing about the stuff I think I’m *supposed* to review instead.
Grading or reviewing fairly is another issue I run into. There are lots of series that I enjoy that are, objectively speaking, bad shows. Not technically sound. Shoddily directed. Crappy art. But, there was heart in it. And whenever I try to review things like that “seriously,” I get bogged down by those technical aspects. I’ll give something a C grade or something based on how I *think* I was supposed to feel based on objective qualities instead of how I actually felt about it. And that’s dumb, because then my review doesn’t really tell you the truth.
Plus, think about it – there are series that are considered classics despite having obvious technical flaws. The foremost example I think of is Neon Genesis Evangelion. That animation did not age well, and it didn’t even look good for when it aired. But how much does that really matter in the grand scheme of things, compared to all of the things it did well? Not much as far as I’m concerned, so why try to force myself to write a bunch about that instead of the things that stuck with me more? I wouldn’t give it a C because of shitty animation, I would still give it an A because I fucking loved it and it will forever leave an impression on me.
It just feels strange that we try to force ourselves to write about technical stuff when it’s usually not the things that really mattered to us. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with this, so I tried to sum up my own struggles to see if I could find a solution.
I say, if the music/sound/animation was just a small blip compared to the other things that really made you like a series, then you probably shouldn’t focus more than a paragraph or two about it. Possibly, the more important questions we should be answering when we write a review is this:
- What was the anime/movie/manga/game/whatever trying to say?
- Did it succeed in getting that message across?
- How did it get (or try to get) that message across?
- Was what it was saying worth listening to?
Those questions still give you time to say things about the animation and the directing and things. Like, maybe something had a grand message of, “friendship is good,” but it didn’t get that across well because the writing was so laughably bad that you couldn’t really take that theme in. Or, maybe a series was trying to say that war is bad and scary, but the character designs were so wonky that it felt like it was saying, “war will make your frames drop and give you an inconsistent face.”
…I don’t know. Something like that. But do you get my point? It’s fun to hype up (or shit on) technical qualities, but it really only matters if it relates back to the big picture of it all.
And then, of course, the other big question to ask when you’re reviewing something is just: did I actually like it? Because you can have something that has the best production in the world that…well, doesn’t actually impress you that much, in the end, because it felt empty or because there wasn’t anything in it for you to relate to.
I’m no expert, obviously. I already told you that I suck at writing series reviews and that I don’t write ‘em that much. These are just my two cents. I like reading about what kind of feelings a series can evoke instead of just tech specs. There’s got to be a bit of objectivity in a good review, I think, but at the end of the day, a review is still going to reflect how you and you alone feel about a thing. So you might as well put as much “you” into it as you can by touching on how it affected you and whether or not you think it mattered or had something worth saying.
Maybe all this is good advice, or maybe I’m just trying to trick you all into thinking my future reviews are really good because they’ll follow this format. Who knows! 😊
Some bloggers who I think nail this review stuff would be Irina (who’s written about how she reviews before and touches on some of the same points), Cactus Matt (who writes more about their own personal enjoyment/inner monologue while watching something, which gives me a better idea of how much I would like a thing), and FiddleTwix (who will write about anything from a charming goofy side character or a ridiculous plot-hole that lets you learn about some of the quirkier stuff at play in a series).
Of course, there are other people who kick-ass and nail reviews, but they’re the ones that came to mind and the ones with reviews that specifically relate to what I’m talking about. They touch on the technical stuff, but don’t let it clog up their reviews, and they always let their personalities shine through. I hope I can match their reviewing prowess some day!
What kind of reviews do you like reading? I know there are people who are just naturally more interested in the technical merits of a series. We all have different tastes and preferences, after all. Do you like seeing each individual aspect reviewed, or do you just want to hear the meat and potatoes of a series’ merits? Do you think it’s a good thing when people insert their personal views/tastes into a review, or do you think it should stay objective? Let me know! I’m trying to train myself to be a reviewing pro!