Bloggin’ on Blogging: What Should We Be Reviewing In A Review?

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.

lucky star homework
Reviews can feel like homework! Booooo

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.

asuka pathetic
Oh, she must’ve just read one of my old reviews…

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.”

d3d
Like, this is some crazy animation, but we still love Gundam, yeah? So who cares!

…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).

clapping oriemo
A round of applause for these reviewer studs!

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!

22 thoughts on “Bloggin’ on Blogging: What Should We Be Reviewing In A Review?

  1. You could always take it easy like me and review based on a single aspect as the core and then base every other factor upon it. For me, it’s the entertainment that the series provides. And as I talk about how entertaining they are, the various things like animations and sound design come into play.
    I definitely don’t write objective or good reviews though. Haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See the entertainment factor is the most important part, so it sounds like you’ve got the method down 😀 I like your reviews, they tie together well and they feel like they’re coming from a real person and not, like, a pretentious review-making robot. if that makes sense…?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t explicitly review anime, but I like to just point out what I enjoyed, and what I didn’t.
    The question I like to ask myself after finishing something is: What will I remember about this anime, years from now?

    Things like animation, sound, etc. might be average / good, but are they memorable? If they aren’t, then maybe it’s not even worth mentioning in the review, or maybe don”t spend as much time on them, because that’s where you’ll begin to sound technical and bland. After all, there’s just so much anime out there, and so many of them all have those “average / good” qualities. Basically I think try not to be too rigid with criteria, which I think also helps to bring out your personality in a review.

    Just my two cents though. I don’t write formal / structured reviews, and leave that to the pros. Although I am an up and coming review reviewer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooooh, that’s a good question to ask. I didn’t think of that one. I’ve never really thought about what I would remember about a series later…it’s kinda funny, but there are lots of shows that I thought I really liked because they were pretty looking or whatever, only to find that later, I don’t really remember anything else about them…which means they were probably actually bad, but I thought it was good at the time?

      Anyways, that’s good advice, and I agree!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the shoutout and the very kind words! 🙂

    Truth be told, I like when reviews focus more on subjective views and personal feelings than the technical aspects. Reviews that are so heavy in that regard tend to be boring. I like hearing how people connect with characters or relate to certain plot points, and I even like reading about the various things that just annoy people about a certain show. A show of quality is truly in how something connects to its audience, either good or bad. A show could have objectively good writing, but no one tends to care too much if the subject matter doesn’t connect with anyone or invoke an emotional response.

    Plus, subjective writing allows you to gain a much broader perspective on shows. Technical reviews have a habit of repeating themselves over writers. If you’ve read one, you’ve likely read a bulk of them. Subjective writing allows you to hear a vast array of opinions from so many different people, even if they differ from my own. I’ve changed my opinions on a bunch of characters and shows because people have shared with me why they personally like or dislike them so much.

    I know just how you feel, though. I’ve gotten better at critiquing animation quality, but I’m still not very good at it, and it mostly just amounts to what I personally see as being good or bad in regards to animation. I remember watching a video comparison on why DBZ had better animation than DBSuper and I was blown away by how much of a keen eye and analytical mind they had on things like camera angles, camera movement and dynamic poses. I never would’ve noticed most of that stuff.

    I’m especially bad at critiquing the music. “Er, well, I liked the music. It was good. The OP was better than the ED, but the ED wasn’t bad…..the music was good. I liked it.” Is pretty much all of my music sections in a nutshell lol

    I worry a lot that I write about stuff that’s too silly or superfluous or ‘nitpicky’ (My Pokemon reviews would probably be the biggest offenders here) but these are the aspects I have the most fun writing about and I think have at least some value in the review.

    In the end, if you have fun writing it, you can almost guarantee others will have fun reading it, no matter if you’re writing a full-series review, a one-episode analysis or even a first impressions article based on a trailer you saw.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It sounds like we’re in the same boat! I love hearing how people connect with an anime/movie/game/whatever. Plus, me personally, I will watch something that looks and sounds like garbage if it’s got a worthwhile message deep down in it, or if it has a really cool character or something. So that’s what I really wanna read about!

      You bringing up reviewers repeating themselves actually reminded me that, a few years(?) ago, a website got in trouble because they were literally using a pre-made template for writing music reviews, and they had accidentally posted the template instead of an actual review for a Drake album once. They woulda got away with it otherwise, too, because reviews really are that stale and dumb sometimes, lol.

      I think? that a Pokemon review was the first thing I read of yours (I think it was one about a creepy doctor side character? I don’t remember his name lol), and I remember being like, “wow they are having a blast writing this” haha. And you’re right, the fun’s definitely contagious and carries to the reader! I have fun reading them every time!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly. I think that’s where the message gets muddled for a lot of people. I’ve heard a lot of people say stuff like ‘Why’d you give this such a high score if you had some many complaints?’ and they don’t seem to understand that, even if a show has a lot of objective or technical problems, it can still have a lot of value in a certain message or plot point, or even if your reasoning is simply “because I had a lot of fun watching it!” Entertainment’s main goal is to entertain afterall.

        Wow, I never heard of that before, but I’m honestly not surprised. We’re a beat away from having review-bots. Which means we’ve been right all along. Robots are slowly replacing all of humanity. And they’re starting with the critics, which is an odd place to start, but I’m not smart like our robot overlords.

        Ah, yes, Doctor Proctor. I did have a ton of fun writing that review! And I’m always happy to hear that others have fun reading my stuff. That’s a big part of why I do it to begin with. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the mention! I always worry I’m far too biased in my reviews but then again if I had to speak more academically or critically I’d never get any reviews done (or at least not at the pace I currently do). I thought it was interesting you mentioned the idea of a scoring system because I score full seasons but I have a way of doing it that allows bias to be fully built into the decision. I actually wrote a post about it once but shelved it because I thought it was too dry for anyone to be interested in.

    Great read as always!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not at all! I think having a bias is good, actually. It makes the review feel more honest, if that makes sense? Like, sometimes I read stuffy reviews and I’m like, “did they REALLY like the cinematography or are they trying to show off??” Stuff like that. And I would be into reading that, for what it’s worth, haha. I love reading about how other people blog and their systems! & thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sheesh Jenn…I dunno what to say. As a fan of this blog I’m really touched for the mention. Made my day to be honest. I’m not sure I deserve it – I really struggle a lot with my reviews, much more than any other posts, which is part of why I like writing them. This said – I am 100% confident that if your reviews are anything like your essays they will kick ass all the way.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. 🙂 this really kinda made my night, thank you!!

      I think your reviews always get to the core of whatever your reviewing and however you felt about them. I like them a lot 🙂 They’re a lot of fun and feel really natural, so I honestly never woulda guessed that you had a hard time writing them.

      Like

  6. hi JEn! i can feel you. It’s very hard for me to write about technical stuffs . Just keep on writing whatever you feel you need to write. For me, writing is more of a personal thing*( i am acting so unprofessional right now)sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like reading all kinds of reviews. From the very technical, and detail ones like The Pantless Anime Blogger to someone like Irina who injects a lot of her personality to their writing. For me, what ultimately attracts to me any blog, and keeps me around is if I feel the blogger is passionate about what they write about. Doesn’t matter how they go about it. If their passion is reflected in their writing than I stick around.

    I also agree that some people who write review fall into a algorithm. I’ve seen plenty of this in a film community I used to be active in, and eventually many of the users writing on there felt very mechanical to me. Their writing eventually mesh together because they stuck to a routine more than writing with a passion. I still keep tabs on some of them, and they still follow that routine. It’s jarring reading a review, and a comment giving off two vastly different impressions on some of their blogs.

    For me, I can’t do that. I need deviation every now, and then. If I stuck to doing the same thing over, and over again I would eventually transform into a robot. That’s why I don’t take my own ratings all seriously. It’s just a number out of a number at the end of the day for me. Sure I can go all objective, and give something the actual rating it deserves, but at the end of the day whatever number pops into my head, regardless of the actual quality of something, that’s what I’m giving it.

    Like you said, best to focus on the parts that actually made an impression on you for it to turn out better than forcing yourself to write about everything.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, I totally understand the passion aspect. I’ll read reviews of things I know I’m not interested in/have never seen or heard of, or read essays about things I’ve never seen, just because the writer was so passionate about it.

      Oh man, film reviews especially get like that…sometimes I see things on letterboxd and I’m like…did you really watch this movie or are you just filling in Film Review Mad Libs here? Haha.

      That’s a good way to look at scores, too. I get really hung up on the scores a lot, and I find myself changing my ratings on My Anime List a lot because I get self-conscious about them, for some reason.

      I really like the film reviews you put out, though, and it helps that you’re usually covering stuff I don’t hear much about. They’re unique in both subject matter & writing style, and are definitely un-robot 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh Letterboxd. As someone who go visits that site infrequently I completely get what you mean. Also doesn’t help nearly everyone I follow don’t go out of their comfort zone much. The complete opposite of people I’ve met on MyAnimeList. They seem more open to the idea of checking out things out of their area of interests from what I’ve seen. Also, they’re more honest with me if they dislike something I like a lot they’ll tell me without sugarcoating it.

        I get the occasional flak on this Discord server whenever someone looks at my MAL profile. The most hilarious reaction is someone scrolling down to my favorites, and nearly everyone telling me Cardcaptor Sakura is out of place when paired up with Kaiji, Death Note, Neon Genesis Evangelion, in my favorites. I get more of a kick out the reactions I get like “What the heck is What’s Michael?, and why is it higher than Assassination Classroom”.

        Thanks for the compliment also. Good to know I’m not turning mechanical….yet haha. I pretty much take the same approach with the anime I watch. Regardless of what it is, I’ll take a chance on it, even if I know nothing about it.

        Like

  8. I do like reading posts about an anime even if it’s not a review. I don’t believe any review can be objective, not even to a good extent. If reviews are just someone’s opinions on a series anyways, I don’t think there’s a huge difference between reading that and just reading about a post related to an anime. Anyhow, definitely keep doing what you do~

    Liked by 2 people

  9. For the few reviews I’ve done (there’s 3 so far, but I just lined one up for the start of next month), I lean more towards technical merits but have some subjectivity built into it. I mean, if you’re not a robot, you have to have some feelings about the media you’re reviewing…That being said, I don’t really mind wherever a review lands on the scale of objectivity vs. subjectivity, so long as it does its job properly (although considering the previous statement, I would prefer something with a bit more subjectivity if possible, for unique factor like you said).

    Like Fiddletwix, I know I’m not very good at tackling music – I think one of my anime reviews is completely missing notes on music – which is why I like how my manga reviews turn out more. Also, I don’t think I talk about morals of the story that much in my reviews, or else it’ll end up like an essay/other non-review post…

    Like

  10. Yes, reviews are hard. I still have no idea what I’m doing even it comes to writing them. I’m not sure how to change up things so I make incremental changes each time, but I do fear that I’m falling into a mold and don’t like that fact.

    There is no reason not to write a review. Give it a try and see how it turns out. Learning from failures is a thing to.

    Liked by 1 person

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