This is me confessing to struggling and being perplexed in the task at hand. In 2014, I started posting reviews of anime in this website, and I now admit that I may not be doing that well so far. Ever since taking that first step, I posted 2 anime reviews in this site, both of which were indicative of the problems I encountered in the process, and I wish to talk more about them here. They range from the difficulty with taking anime tropes and culture into account to dealing with the typical audience of the said medium.
This blog post was written so I can somehow wrap my head around this process and not feel so bad when I write future reviews. As always, it’s a continuous learning experience, so it’s not like I’m fretting about perfection and pleasing everyone. It can also apply to my reviews of media other than video games, since I’ve been encountering similar difficulties in those (I just happen to find anime more difficult to wrap my head around).
My anime fandom has been on-and-off throughout the years, and it’s only recently when I decided to actively tune in again after a long period of not caring much for it. It’s not due to lack of interest — I still watched whenever there are really good ones — but I was more into video games and preferred to spend more time with them. I also started working back in late 2007, so something had to give. But with my ongoing endeavors with this website, I decided that writing about anime alongside other media would be a good idea.
My Anime Review Experience So Far
The first one I did was on Kill la Kill, which was definitely one of the best anime of 2014. I did have a lot of good things to say about it, but I couldn’t leave the negative points behind. Perhaps I was too caught up with reviewing the show in its entirety, which led to a 4,400+ word review that I have since regretted writing, which was a big part of the reason why I didn’t review more anime that year. I did give it an 8 out of 10, but I still mulled over giving a 7 instead due to the nature and theme of the show, as well as plenty of other factors. I still stand by that score, but how the bulk of the review turned out still bugs me.
The second one was Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis, which was touted by many as the anime of the season for Fall 2014. However, while I did come up with a much more concise review than I did with Kill la Kill, I gave it a 6 out of 10. Many felt it was unjustified, even though I had clearly stated the reasons behind the less-than-expected score. That score is still good — it’s certainly above 5, so it’s above average — but we live in a time when most review sites would score mediocre products as either a 6 or 7. I still stand by that score, but some may think that it’s a mortal sin to give such a show less than a 7.
That was also the first anime review I submitted to Anime Shinbun, a social news aggregator centered around anime and a sister site of N4G. The first comment I got for the submission was a whine about the score, which signaled me to cease reading more comments to prevent myself from not wanting to write more. I made that mistake back in 2012 with a Mass Effect 3 review I wrote for GMA Online, and that kept me from contributing more. Suffice to say, I can get very emotional when it comes to negative critique, and I need to keep working on that.
Throughout that process, I was able to bring the word count down (and will continue to do so) without sacrificing much of the substance in what I’m trying to present. It was also good for my Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis review that I had posted my first impressions after four episodes in, which helped me form my thoughts on the series more easily (and was additional content to boot).
Various Niggles and Knots
A lot of the stumbling blocks are similar to that of reviewing movies and TV shows, most of which are due to inexperience. I only have experience with reviewing video games so far, and I find it easier to assess things I can play than those I can only watch within a reasonable amount of time. Whenever I do finally get something about a movie or show, it’s only after a second or even a third viewing. (In fact, I only really started getting Puella Magi Madoka Magica after the fourth viewing.)
It could be from how I watch them or how much I actually pay attention while watching, although I’m still not totally certain about it. I’m still not entirely sure with what perspective I should watch anime, either from a completely objective perspective from the outside or totally as a fan. The obvious answer seems to be somewhere in the middle, but that’s a razor-thin line to walk on since this is anime — a genre that includes loli, oppai, Boku no Pico, and whatever else that non-fans wouldn’t want to touch with a 50-foot pole.
I’m not really that much of an otaku these days since I’ve shed most of those trappings long ago, even though I still like anime for the most part. Perhaps I can view them in the eyes of someone who has had enough of the fanservice and other creepy bullshit, but too much of that may expose me as yet another anime hater. It’s this annoying balancing act of being a critic without looking too much like a poncy snob, and being a fan of the medium without being too biased (and a fanboy).
Aside from that, it’s also the unique tropes and cultural nuances that are inherent in anime, born from both its industry and country of origin. I watch mostly subtitled anime due to availability and my preference for listening to the original Japanese dubbing, mostly to avoid cringe-inducing mistranslations and transliterations and to observe more of the cultural details that tend to be featured in most Japanese animation. However, that does come with some problems.
Bennett the Sage, the host of his own online retro anime review show Anime Abandon, explains his preference for reviewing dubbed anime in the video below. (Fast-forward to around 1:45.)
Maybe I do tend to miss a lot of detail whenever I watch anime, especially since I’m never doing just one thing at a time whenever I’m awake. I would usually be eating, exercising, chatting with someone, or writing while watching anime, which is definitely within the realm of ill-advised multitasking.
As I write this entry, I’m already coming to grips with the various things I may be doing wrong in the anime review process. I could also use some input from other people, so I’ll be asking around and remain open to suggestions to learn more.
My other problem is procrastination, and the only solution to that is more
cowbell effort and less of “I’ll do it later.”
Both quality and posting frequency will improve once I iron out my personal anime review process. It’s not really about getting it right; it’s about making it MY process. If I can inject a bit of my personality into it while still being objective for the most part, then I can count that as a success.
In the meantime, perhaps I should finish that Black Bullet review just to loosen up and have something to talk smack at, even though it’s no longer current. Then there are the ones still running at the moment, like Shirobako and Assassination Classroom. As for video games and movie reviews, they’re in line.
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