This is more a personal reflection than an actual article but I’ve said more than once on the blog I’d rather review something awful than something mediocre. I mean, I’d rather review something amazing than either of those two options, but mediocre anime are just so hard.
After the Summer 2017 anime season I noted: “A lot of the Summer shows are ending and I’m left trying to write a series review and I’m finding that for some series I am drawing a blank. Why? Because too many shows this season were not particularly good but they weren’t particularly bad either.” Fall 2021 is feeling a little the same even though there have been a few standouts (in both the good and bad way).
Why are bad anime easier to review than mediocre anime?
Bad shows are easy to review. Or at least easy to rant about. There’s plenty of issues to pick fault with and discuss and usually plenty of examples. Sometimes there’s even a nice contrast point if the show does something well.
Hand Shakers was an excellent example. I ended up cutting my review of that series short mostly because it was quite obvious what my opinion of the show was and continuing to tear it apart would have served little purpose.
On the other-hand I had fun writing my review of Knight’s & Magic which tragically suffers from most of the plot issues of Hand Shakers when you sit back and think about it (though visually Knight’s & Magic is pretty good to look at).
If we go to recent shows I’d seriously have to consider both Tesla Note and Platinum End for this type of review. I’ll probably enjoy writing both of these reviews but I don’t have much nice to say about either show at this point.
Likewise, shows that are fairly strong are pretty easy to review because there’s a genuine reason why you liked it and things to discuss in terms of what it has done well. Again, there may be a point or two that didn’t work so well to contrast with all the positives, but again, it all becomes pretty easy to get your point across.
For instance, my review of March Comes in Like a Lion is more a gushing love letter to Rei’s character and his journey and that was the cut down and edited version of the review. Similarly, I had a great deal of fun thinking about my final review of Princess Principal. By no measure was that anime perfect, and yet it was a great deal of fun to follow along with during the season and there were some really strong points in the show’s favour that can be discussed.
During Fall 2021 Jobless Reincarnation would mostly fit into the good category with a few rough edges and Mieruko-Chan works for me though I get that the appeal is fairly genre specific.
But how do you review mediocre anime?
So what then do you do with a show that you don’t actually have any kind of strong opinion on?
The true mediocre anime?
It didn’t do anything overly noteworthy in either a good or bad way. It just kind of was. Everything is more or less functional and while it wasn’t exactly inspiring it didn’t make you want to run for the hills either.
Which brings me to my reviews of Clean Freak Aoyama-Kun and Fastest Finger First. Both anime pretty much stayed in the ‘okay’ category for the season. Fastest Finger First I had a lot of fun with but have admitted all along is not objectively very good. Clean Freak Aoyama-Kun was a bit more up and down but overall the anime works as a comedy even if it isn’t overly funny (that isn’t actually the end of the world for most comedy).
More recently I’m going to struggle when reviewing Banished From The Hero’s Party because honestly what is there to say about the show? And even The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window never got so bad it deserves a rant but it certainly hasn’t given me a huge amount to write about other than a general feeling of disappointment that the plot didn’t end up being more exciting.
The problem with reviewing mediocre anime is you fairly quickly run out of things to say. Or everything you say has a qualifier on it. “The characters are fine, but…” “There’s some potentially interesting ideas here however…”
And even when you go back through your notes for these types of anime, you notice that largely you’ve just made the same points episode after episode and you can’t think of anything noteworthy enough to warrant expanding on any particular point.
And with so many anime coming out each season it is inevitable that a lot of it will fall into the mediocre anime basket which is already overflowing with anime that I’m really wondering just how you can fairly review something that at is core functions and has some entertainment value but equally isn’t particularly impressive.
Apparently being a mediocre anime is worse than being bad when it comes down to writing a post about the show.
Which is probably the reason I do select a range of shows when deciding what to watch for the season. Mediocre anime have the advantage of maintaining a pretty even flow which means I’m unlikely to want to drop them throughout the season where as good shows have a habit of failing catastrophically during the final act and bad shows are just kind of bad.
That said, mediocre anime don’t have the emotional highs and lows and certainly don’t have a lot of fizz-bang and little to talk about that hasn’t already been said. Therefore a mixture of anime is needed to ensure episode reviews have a bit of variety.
What do you do about reviewing shows that just don’t have that much to talk about? And would you rather watch an anime that is easy to review or one that is just alright to watch?
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
15 thoughts on “Reviewing Mediocre Anime – Why Is This Harder Than Reviewing Bad Anime?”
I don’t think I’ve reviewed a genuinely mediocre anime for the simple reason that if it was so mediocre that a review of it could be reduced to the word “meh”, I will usually have stopped watching it either by the third episode of a series or within fifteen minutes of a feature’s start. I have reviewed some “mediocre” anime that could have been good or even great with a few things done better – but I sense that’s not the context you’re using for this post…
I am watching ten different seasonal anime this winter. I know that isn’t a lot compared to some people but I am willing to quickly drop shows that become too mediocre. That includes Platinum End, Tricornered, and a few others. A couple of those I’m still watching came close to being dropped but they managed to get their act together.
I figure my time is worth something and if I could do something that would give me more enjoyment than a particular show, I’ll do that instead.
I think this has heavily impacted my anime reviews. I can spend an entire day writing a review up or I can hike, visit my newborn granddaughter, or do the many tasks that are piling up around the house undone. Right now it would take a very high level of excitement about a show to glue me in front of the PC for 8 hours. Haven’t seen a show like that in a while now.
And as if I had anything to add to the discussion of a really good show like Mugan Train.
People who are dedicated anime reviewers don’t have this luxury. You’ve tackled a job that requires regular content production and reviewing a broad spectrum of shows, not just the fun ones. My hat is off to you because i use you to decide which shows to try.
I could never be a “real” anime blogger. My review of most shows would be a single sentence ending in “DNF.”
Glad my reviews help. I generally don’t mind watching shows that ate of varying quality it is just sometimes a challenge thinking of how to convey that experience to others.
To be honest, I totally agree. It’s so much easier–beyond that, so much more fun, to write reviews when you’re either excessively loving it, or completely ripping it to shreds. The in-between ones…just don’t stick out.
I think, in writing reviews about such series, the length of the review being short might actually be okay. Such a review length would probably do a good job of indicating your thoughts on the show, perhaps even more so than just rambling about its mediocrity.
And hey, leaves more room for the fun writing projects, so. Maybe that would work? I’m trying to work through the same, honestly.
Makes sense that a mediocre series would be harder to review. There’s nothing to hate on and nothing to love about and I bet it gets dull after a while to just find various ways to say “eh this was ok”. Good luck editing those reviews though. And I’d say short reviews are perfectly fine given their subject but I can imagine why they wouldn’t feel satisfactory.
Yeah, I think they are going to stay pretty short comparatively. But why stretch out ‘meh’?
In those instances, I think it is fun to write what you would have changed make the show better than what was presented to the viewer.
I found taking the position of the writer/director of a mediocre series and seeing how you could make it better than what it was, while keeping as much of the original material as possible, a fun thought experiment.
THat would make it a bit more fun.
yeah, i can understand that feeling. there are definitely a lot of shows that feel like the series itself is not doing anything special to grab your attention positively or negatively, so it’s hard to figure out where to make the comments. a recent example of this in my eyes was isekai shokudou. the series itself has a charm to it and was enjoyable to watch, but it was really hard to put my finger on what exactly worked because it was such an unassuming show.
Hmm, you raise a fair question. I agree with you that some reviews are simply harder to write than others. And that usually happens when the thing you want to write about is mediocre. Somehow the words don’t enter fast enough for some reason, or you even draw a blank. When I started my blog, I made it my mission to write a review a review for everything I read, watched or played. Nowadays I don’t do that anymore. I just try to write the reviews for stuff that I feel is easier to write about. I don’t want to struggle for days trying to write something, and end up publishing a post that I feel is mediocre itself 😊 So that’s how I deal with it 😀
Yeah, I think I need to change my method for choosing a line up of shows to watch and review next season. As much as I enjoyed watching Laughing Salesman a while back, every episode review ended up much the same and the series review was pretty bland. Fastest Finger First has been pretty similar this season. I enjoyed it, but there’s nothing really to say about it.
Yeah, writing series reviews is *hard*… I’m stuck in the same place.