The title here is probably largely hyperbole but the bottom line is that despite three and a half years now of writing episode reviews, series reviews, and other articles, I still keep feeling like something is missing. Looking back at earlier posts I feel the urge to rewrite, recreate, adjust just a little (or just start over) as my feelings regarding the anime reviewed have changed and the style in which I want to express my thoughts has evolved. No matter how many reviews I write, deep down inside I still feel like I’m a newb and so when I’m asked my opinion of someone else’s review it catches me off guard.
Now I am well aware that I take a very reactionary position when it comes to reviewing anime, particularly individual episodes. I’m not usually analysing shot composition or getting into detail about the technicalities of how something is put together, unless there’s something obvious and either very good or bad to say. My focus is very much on the story and characters and how I feel after watching and why.
Which for me means I’m not really writing a formal review as such. It is more I’m airing my thoughts on something, providing some justification, and generally opening a conversation with others who have watched the show or might want to watch it.
And while there’s nothing wrong with my approach and I’m very glad so many people have enjoyed it, the question of what a review needs to have in it or requires, or even what form it should take, is one worth considering. Because in the current world of blogs, vlogs, and all other manner of quick communication, one has to wonder if formal review writing is becoming a lost art?
Be that as it may, ultimately, I don’t want to write formally on my blog. I don’t want to have rigid and defined structures. And I don’t want what I write to feel like I’m ticking off some check list having mentioned each attribute of an anime even if I had nothing to say about sound or colour.
Is There A Recipe For A Perfect Review?
If you ask your English teacher, they might just say yes. Here’s a template of how to review a television show. This is the language you need to use. Be sure to throw in some technical jargon and link it all together cohesively. Write in third person to maintain authority and distance. And on and on it goes. Amazingly enough, most people reading anime review blogs aren’t exactly interested in whether or not you are flashing a cool vocabulary or not. They are more interested in either the anime, which is probably how they found your blog, or they are an ongoing follower in which case they actually want to know how you feel about the whole thing and so you should probably tell them.
I guess it depends on what you are writing for. If you are trying to build up a body of work to get hired by some larger site as a reviewer, you probably want a style that reflects where you want to be. For me, the intention has always been connecting with other fans. You know the feeling when you finish an episode of a show and it was either awesome or dreadful and you want to turn to the person next to you and tear it apart or laugh or celebrate or whatever emotion you are feeling but because anime is such a niche market there’s seldom someone available? Or at least not in the nearby vicinity? Almost every post I’ve ever written has been crafted from that inner desire to find someone and prattle on for hours about the show in question.
Some reviewers do break their posts up with sub-headings as they do walk through a standard structure. Irina is trying this at the moment with her Fire Force reviews as it gives her a template and a starting point each week as well as keeps things focused. Lynn Sheridan also uses a similar structure to his reviews and I find these easy to read, easy to digest, and it covers what it needs to in order to get the point across.
I’ve also tried this. Actually a lot of my earlier series reviews broke down with headings such as ‘plot’, ‘characters’, ‘other’ but what I soon found was that there were things I wanted to say that didn’t fit the format or sometimes I wanted ideas to flow more naturally rather than being segregated and broken up by headings. Basically, I naturally abandoned a template for a series review in favour of writing in a style that suited me more and allowed me to write as I wanted to write. It doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally go back to using headings or even a plus+/minus- format when I’m finding it hard to get my thoughts to gel, but I also don’t let myself be bound by a template that I myself created to make it easier to write.
Over my time as a reviewer I’ve been told I’m too descriptive, too opinionated, too short, too long, too cautious, too dismissive, too politically correct and probably a lot of things I’m forgetting. The bottom line is, you won’t please everyone. Reviewers never do regardless of how good their writing is. You are launching a personal opinion, hopefully a justified one, onto the internet where anyone (who searches for anime related content) may eventually stumble upon it. How you go about the presentation of that opinion is going to come down to your personal choice and even if you listened to everyone’s advice, someone would still tell you that you got it wrong.
So How Do I Get Better?
You know the saying practice makes perfect? My music teacher always disagreed with that when I was growing up. She told me ‘perfect practice makes perfect’. At the time it made sense because if you practice doing something in a flawed manner surely you would learn to do it flawed.
The problem with that advice is that if you can’t do it perfectly then you end up paralysing yourself and never moving anywhere. On May 1, 2016 I started reviewing the seasonal anime at the time. It was a few weeks into the season already, I had no audience, and no real clue what I was doing, but I went for it at 100 words a hit. While over the years I feel my tone has relaxed a little, I feel my words are flowing better. They certainly come more easily when I sit at the keyboard. Then again, I’m also less concerned with whether every word is perfect and more concerned with whether the idea and feeling I want is being conveyed. On that note, I’m still a little hit and miss at times I feel.
If asked for advice about writing reviews I think the main point would have to be to know what you want to say. Also, try to figure out why you feel that way. If you liked a show, what did you like about it? If you hated it, explain why.
Also, don’t worry about whether you’ve covered every aspect of the anime. If you aren’t into technical details or don’t know much about animation quality, don’t stress. There are other reviewers who write those kinds of reviews already. Let’s be honest, a lot of readers don’t really know much about those aspects either and mostly just want to know if something looks good or not. I personally want to do more coverage around voice actors, but I don’t feel like I know enough at this point to really do them justice for the work they do, but still, it is something I’d like to work on including more in my reviews. But if I don’t mention them, it doesn’t mean the review was pointless.
Every day, I read dozens of reviews and blogs and the ones I return to again and again have one common point. The writer’s voice comes through loud and clear as does their love of anime. If you are looking for the must-have ingredient in an anime review that’s the one not to leave out.
But what do I know? I’m still finding my way as well from someone who is a newb who feels like they suck at reviewing to someone who feels a little bit of confidence as I put my thoughts out there for the world. Incidentally, I nearly deleted this post twice during the drafting of it but decided in the end it was something worth saying. Besides, I’m having a lot of fun writing reviews and I’d love to know what you all think an anime review should contain.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
36 thoughts on “Why Do I Still Suck At Writing Anime Reviews?”
So I’ve been writing professionally for 11 years. I can look back at something I wrote six months ago and it looks sloppy or I realize I could have been clearer. Or that thing that sounded so great in my head just sounds like crud now. We are our own worst critics.
Here’s what I want out of a review. I want to know why you liked or didn’t like something. Some people do this by being personal and talking about how a scene affected them or upset them. Some people pick apart all of the nuances of a show, and try to find if it works as a show. You write what you feel about it. Just lean into that, and find ways that make you happy.
The most important thing you can do is find your voice as a writer. Then you can put everything else together from there.
Sorry for rambling.
Thanks for sharing your advice. And yes we are all our own worst critics.
Sorry if I sounded condescending. I was a bit tipsy when I read your post.
I think you do good work and you’re being hard on yourself. The thing is all of the good writers I’ve met are hard on themselves.
Nope, not condescending. It was great to get your advice and feedback.
I read anime reviews because I want to decide if I want to watch them. I write anime reviews because I want to share something I consider beautiful. Contradictory, eh?
I find I won’t write a review of something i didn’t enjoy. I will write a review about an anime that could have been great but had flaws. But then a majority of my posts don’t have anything to do with an anime at all. By that standard I am a probably failure as an anime blogger.
Eventually I come to reading blog posts simply because I like the author as a person. At least as well as one can over the internet. If I have liked a post, I have read it. If I comment, I likes it a whole lot and thought about it. Making me think is the nicest thing a blogger can do for me.
It is great when you come across a post that makes you think. Or rethink your view on a show. Even if you don’t end up agreeing with the post the fact that it got you thinking is good.
I have three reasons for reading reviews. First, for programs I haven’t seen, I read them to find out if I might like the program under review. If it’s a good reviewer, I might not even have to agree with them in order to figure that out. Second, if it’s a program I’m watching, I read them to get insights on things I might have missed (or a chance to be smug that the reviewer sees the same things I do). Finally, to be entertained/challenged, by well-constructed paragraphs and interesting turns of phrase, and by ideas that make me go ‘hmmm’. That’s what keeps aniblogs on my rss feed. Structure or formality are only important insofar as they promote one of the three reasons.
That’s an interesting perspective and probably true of a lot of readers.
Personally, I like your writing style just fine.
Glad to hear.
I think a major key is finding that balance between talking about what happened (no matter if it’s spoiler-full or spoiler-free) and actual opinions. So hard, but I have to tell myself nobody’s perfect and to just do my best and hopefully someone will like it and find it informative.
As for sections, I only have a couple of basic ones (mostly for formatting or jotting down a few notes), but I try to keep the same basic flow of story, then characters, then art. For me, not having sections means I can mix it up as necessary, but I also like how separate sections works for some people.
I’m with you in that not having sections means I can just let my thoughts come together, but I really like reading posts that are nicely organised with sub-headings as well. Both styles work it just depends on what the writer wants.
I see someone has perfected the art of lying in their titles. If you ever get called out for any of those complaints again just send them my way, my content will having them screaming til Tuesday. Lucky me, I’ve only been called out for trying to have been a surgeon.
I think on getting better I’ve really gotten into the new mantra of my favorite football team which is “1-0”. Always set your sights at whatever obstacle, challenge, or goal is in front of you and coming away with a victory. It’s easier to achieve your goals one at a time, so don’t get bogged down with “perfect practice/perfect post” pinpoint “I want to improve my visual presentation with this post”, “I want to get better at researching a topic today” and if you can put in the work and keep adding to the wins column you’ll get better one small victory at a time.
Very good advice and hopefully we can all take that on board rather than being so critical of ourselves so often.
Second person, future tense! Those are the hardest reviews to write but… WORTH IT
Now I’d love a demonstration of that.
I find myself returning to blogs that have a loose atmosphere to them. Like they don’t feel bound by rules or monotaeneous or stern. If its clear the author is enjoying themselves, that certain emotion is reflected onto me. Basically blogs that feel inviting are the ones I’m always at…
I personally like structure within blogs as it makes things more bite sized and digestible as you said while also feeling inviting and light like Lynn’s blog. I’d like to be able to do that also…it’s just I suck at transitions. Like, really suck. Writing structure only makes me stress about transitions more than I normally do which leads me to making posts that secretly have no point. I don’t know how bloggers do it so successfully!
It took me well over a year to settle on the current sections and even then they grow and evolve all the time. Even if you didn’t want to have defined sections within your post, you could try having them there as you write them and then remove the headers before posting. You’ll probably find the transition ends up being fairly natural.
Ooh, good advice.
Thank you for the reccommendation! I’ll take a stab at it in later reviews and hopefully it goes well.
I’m glad you feel my blog is inviting.
Transitions are tricky. I sometimes find myself leaving a point out of a review just because I have no real idea how it connects with anything else I said. Othertimes I just throw it in anyway and hope it works.
I can relate. There are many amounts of time when i’m talking about story and characters and then I suddenly switch over to eight paragraphs about visuals and audio that make no sense with what the post was originally about and what I was aiming for. Those times I just smh and delete it all and other times I just go ‘screw it’ and post it anyways hoping it makes the least bit of sense.
You always write great reviews Karandi and they’re a joy to read.
Everyone has their own style of writing and I feel I found mine a while ago, little bit of structure at the beginning and end, then just ramble on int the middle. Actually that sums up how I do most things.
I have been throwing around the idea of going back to doing a couple of thought pieces every now and again. I just need to decide on a topic.
Likewise, I really enjoy the reviews you write. And I agree that everyone has their own style and they should embrace it. What works for one reviewer may not necessarily be the best approach for another.
I feel like I got myself in a trap because I write reviews without headings because I want how I write a review too flow the way I want them to and for each review to be different like each series is, but I don’t know how to improve from that point besides basic anime fundamentals. So basically,I guess we all suck?
Have you tried changing it up and using headings just to redefine your ideas for one or two posts? Or, thought about how you are ordering your ideas and connecting them throughout your review?
That said, I like reading your reviews.
I do spend a lot of time thinking about ideas and flows and such when putting post together. I guess this is a self depreciating thing where I just want things to turn out better even if I am generally happy with how things are.
And thank you! 🙂
Thank you for the kind words. I too find myself looking back at my older posts and wanting to delete them, edit them, re-write them, or worse… I think as long as you’re trying new things and allowing the posts the adapt, there will always be a bit of that, which is fine. It’s good to question yourself. It helps us make things better.
I also think you’re right about voice and passion being one of the more important aspects of the review. The more a reviewer tries to get into the technical sides of anime or storytelling the more likely it’ll get the wrong reaction from readers, unless they can back up what they’re saying with examples or reasoning. It’s too easy to say something is poorly written or a character hasn’t been developed well enough, but without explaining why others are likely to disagree.
Like you, I try to read a lot of reviews and I enjoy the ones that are fun and show that the reviewer is enjoying themselves, even if they don’t necessarily enjoy the anime. I’m losing a lot of patience for reviewers that just seem to criticise everything and then you start to wonder why they’re even watching anime when every review is just negative, negative, negative.
I actually enjoy negative reviews even if I liked the show provided the reviewer isn’t just bashing the show and its fans for existing. If they have clear reasons for disliking it, even if I disagree with them, then I enjoy it well enough. But I do feel that if you are always being negative possibly it might be time for a break from anime because maybe you’ve burned out a little.
For sure. I appreciate that not everyone will enjoy the same shows, but I have come across some reviewers that just seem to hate everything and it doesn’t appear to be an act.
I find it harder to stomach when they throw around terms that are relevant or try to make themselves sound like an English Literature professor when they clearly don’t understand what they’re saying.
That said, every piece of fiction has its fans and haters. It’s impossible to please everyone, so just keep doing what makes you happy. That’s the most important thing and that’s easy to spot in someone’s writing.
Fortunately there’s lot of people who love anime on wordpress and a lot of positivity in general.