For those of us who write anime reviews, especially those brave souls who do so on an episodic basis, there will come a time when you are faced with a show you just don’t have that much to say about. You know…it was fine.

I can hear some of you already, just don’t review it if you don’t have anything to say about it.

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sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do

Well, once again, those who do episode reviews probably don’t want to just leave a gap in. For readers that are not watching the show, this can be very confusing, and it just disrupts the flow of your season all together. As for the rest of us. Of course, it’s an option but there are several reasons you may still want to post something about it.

Maybe it’s a little-known show and although you don’t have any deep thoughts on it you would still like to let people know it exists. Maybe you post regularly and don’t have the time to watch an entire season of something else instead. Or perhaps, you enjoy the ritual of reviewing shows after you’ve watched them. It’s as much for your own sake as for the readers and you feel compelled to do so despite lack of inspiration. Whatever the case may be, it’s not unusual to find yourself staring at an empty page and thinking: “this show was ok….”

Besides, I think there can be some real benefits in attempting the exercise. There are some really interesting things to learn and it gives you a chance to flex some writing muscles you would probably never exercise otherwise.

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I just discovered to ecchi workout subgenre – I’m scared….

There are a few ways to go about it.

Go into details. Try to pick one aspect, no matter how insignificant, that caught your attention and elaborate on that. Maybe a character kept wearing clothes that should have been too warm considering how everyone else was dressed, or one of the ladies had eyeshadow and you almost never see eyeshadow in anime… Rhapsodize about the sound used for changing traffic lights or the imaginary brand names. Take the opportunity to pick apart those tiny little facets that you normally don’t have space to go into.

It’s a great way to make you appreciate subtleties in shows and will train you to notice those more discrete components that may have flown under your radar otherwise.

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what’s going on with the guy on the right?

Go off on tangents. So the show itself may not have that much material to draw on but you’ve lead a rich and interesting life full of wonder and adventure! Did anything in the series remind you of something that happened to you? Tell us about it. Really, we are too polite to ask but we want to invade your privacy!

Or maybe it didn’t happen to you (yet), but you can draw a lesson from it. Learn something that we can all apply in our future lives. Whether it’s as inspiring as revolutionizing your entire mindset or as pragmatic as not putting the lettuce directly next to the bread in sandwiches because the moisture will make everything soggy. If at any point you think to yourself, huh I should try that, tell us about it.

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don’t worry Orion – you were the best part of Amnesia

Go into your library. I’m trying to hard. I want to make all of these start with the word “Go” and I was trying to find some sort of colloquialism for compare and contrast… What I mean is: got into your anime history. I know there is some mild controversy about using comparisons to other shows and the practice does have a few drawbacks. It makes it more difficult to objectively assess the merits of one work when your mind is crowded and distracted by a different work, it can blind you to certain strengths or weaknesses because the other work had different ones or prejudice both the review and the readers. Most importantly though, if your readers aren’t familiar with the work your comparing a show to, it’s a somewhat useless exercise that will most likely end up confusing, or even worse, boring to read.

This said, when done properly and sparingly, it can also be very helpful to your readers and fun for you. Finding similarities between two works. Unearthing parallel themes that get contrasting treatments or imagining how two different universes would interact can all yield some amusing results. You may end up talking a lot more about those other shows than the one you’re actually suppose to be reviewing but the information gets out there one way or another. Hey, it may even make you rediscover some old favorites you may have forgotten.

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or compare to the manga…

Go creative.  Those of you kind enough to read my episode reviews probably know what I’m talking about here. I’m neither a professional reviewer or particularly patient so when I lose interest in a series, I let my mind wander and just write that.

It’s more like a fanfic or mockumentary…a fakeview? Just rewrite the episode or series as what you would like it to be in your head, and review that instead. For me, it’s really great fun. I’m not sure how it plays with readers who are not necessarily here to read fiction but those that do enjoy it tend to like it a lot.

A word of warning, this can backfire. Some fandoms are more protective (i.e. really scary) about their beloved works of fiction and may consider any reframing an assault. I have been able to parody works in certain genres with no issue whatsoever, even praise by fans, but I’ve learned to thread much more lightly for other genres which have earned me instant backlash. I figure this will depend on who reads your blog but just be warned that not everyone can take/appreciate these types of jokes. As such if you’re sensitive about your comment section, be careful with this approach.

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and then Deku….

Go crazy. Just throw everything out the window. Review a show you don’t remember at all by basing yourself on the pics. I once had the delightful experience of getting a (most likely bootleg) anime subtitled in what appeared to be an Italian p0rn movie. I’ve always wondered about that, I should review it as is. Write about the unspoken inner monologue of characters or a day in the life of one of the extras. I guess at this point anything goes really. Calling it a review is a bit of a stretch, but you know what, when I love a series, these weird and unique explorations are some of my favorite things to read.

I’m not saying this will help you craft a masterpiece. At the end of the day you can’t fake passion. But there’s something to be said for joyfulness as well. The show may not have touched you to your core but if you had fun goofing off when writing about it, that’s infectious too and your audience is bound to enjoy it.

So whaddya think? Do you have any particular angles to tackle those pesky reviews, when nothing comes to mind? Or do you just rite essays about not knowing how to write reviews instead?

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74 thoughts on “So many words, So little thoughts – Reviewing shows you have nothing to say about”

  1. This was literally what I thought about the entire spring Simulcast season. I mean, what else is there to say on SAO The Loli Edition or Franxx? Maybe I’ll reopen these old wounds and try one of the approaches you’ve listed.

    Also, bonus points for “rhapsodize” and “mokumentary”—we love a broad vocabulary!

    1. Pick some great old classic from the last century to write about. You’d be surprised at the number of people who’ve never heard of Vampire Slayer D or the original Cutie Honey or Astro Boy. There is so much good old anime that I will never get to see a tenth of it.

  2. To be honest, I’ve been abusing going off on tangents on my blog posts. Maybe that’s just how my writing style have evolved, but also because I love relating anime to my life. Or just some scenes that bring back memories, whether they be good or bad. I’ll cry either way Cus I’m an emotional person when it comes to my anime haha

  3. TL;DR for those of you more lazy people out there:
    Use the tricks YouTubers use to extend their videos to 10 minutes for monetisation.
    A.K.A Get to the point but in as much words as possible while still keeping the readers’ attention through tricks ,trivia and jokes.

    I’m just kidding, great post as usual by mom. I wonder when I can get on the same level and write the same quality posts…
    Probably not gonna happen, considering how hard I’m procrastinating at even writing on my blog again.

  4. Maybe it’s my background (I’ve written for monthly magazines and weekly newspapers — you know, paper versions of news.google.com?), but my problem’s just the opposite: I struggle to keep the number of ideas to a minimum. Too many associations keep trying to sneak into my reviews. I can’t tell you how often I have to not include quotes from Lord of the Rings, Dune, Star Trek, or others. Everything’s related, it all interacts, and it’s all trying to get onto the page!

    Staying focused is so danged _hard_!

    Just to show how widely applicable your post’s suggestions are, I use a lot of them (details, tangents, comparisons, etc.) to keep focused. They not only work well to generate thoughts; they’re good techniques to convert thoughts to prose in general!

    1. I desperately need tips to keep focused. I have caught myself in the middle of writing a post not remembering what it was supposed to be about. By now, I consider it a win if it’s all in one language,

      1. “By now, I consider it a win if it’s all in one language,”

        Step 1 of remaining focused: Set realistic goals. So, it sounds like you’re already well on the way to success!

        I won’t presume to give you advice (Elrond hesitates to give advice, and he’s way smarter than I am!), so I’ll just make an observation. I’ve not found your posts to wander. Quite the opposite. So whatever you’re doing, looks like it’s working!

  5. I have nothing to say: 5000 words
    I know exactly what I want to say: 1000 words

    It’s so much easier to cut stuff if there’s something to anchor you in the post.

      1. I’m speaking from experience, too, you know. At least, a blog post’s allowed to have no clear point. A paper you’re handing in for a course? (I hate deadlines.)

  6. I definitely struggle sometimes with not knowing what to say about a work I enjoyed, but have no deep thoughts about. Since I don’t write episodic reviews, that’s not really an issue; it’s more that I try to always do a final review of whatever I’ve seen and then it feels like I’m just going through the motions down a checklist of plot, character development, setting, art, etc

    I appreciate you writing on this topic and giving ideas for what to do when stuck!

    1. I’ve been there. And sometimes it really is a show I loved but I get stick in a mould.. I’m so happy I’m not the only one!

  7. I tried dabbling in episodic reviews waaaaay back when Scum’s Wish and eldLIVE were airing with my “Weekly Watch” series, but I quickly got tired of it, mostly because I found myself constantly repeating what I’d already said every week. “Wow. This was a good episode! The show is still good for the reasons it was last week! Sure is fun!”

    I do however, appreciate the episodic discussion that comes from these kinds of reviews, and I’m glad that other people do it as a result. That, and I find them fun to read because the people who do them clearly have the talent to make each episodic review interesting and fresh.

    As for writing about a show I have little to say about, I try to avoid doing that as well, since I’d rather write about something I have very strong feelings for (positive or negative). But you definitely explained how it can serve as a useful writing exercise and how to make it worth your while.

    My biggest obstacle has always been the shows I love so much that I’m scared I won’t be able to do them enough justice. It’s why I’m scared to properly “review” Hunter x Hunter, World Trigger or Tsubasa (even though I’ve done all three in the past on MAL). Finding the right words is… Hard… Maybe one day though!

    Great post Irina. It amazes me how someone so busy can some how manage to get so many quality posts out in a week. You’re insane!

    1. Well I can’t argue the insane part… I need to go find to Scum’s wish reviews…
      I find that a ot of my posts get better in the comments section so as long as I can grab onto at least one little thing of interest, my wonderful readers will do most of the heavy lifting for me.
      As for busy, I know a thing or two that leads me to believe you are ridiculously busy yourself. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  8. With series reviews I tend to just keep them short when I have nothing really of note to say. Some of them end up being around 300 words long for your standard and generic type story. Then other reviews I’m desperately cutting down because they go well over the 1000 words and I try not to make my readers have to surrender to much time to read my ramblings because I have so much to say.

    1. I like your ramblings. But I also (because I’m mean) sort of like it when you’re clearly over a show. Those snippy reviews are fantastic

      1. I actually quite enjoy writing snippy reviews (maybe that’s why I’m so bad at picking good shows at the start of a season because sub-consciously I want to tear a show apart). That said, I do try to keep my blog fairly positive about anime in general.

        1. And ypu succeed. It’s part of what I love about your blog, it never gives in to anime is horrible why am I doing this… Even if you’re not enjoyi g a particular show the love of the medium is still clearly visible.

  9. I’m generally opposed to the idea of both episodic reviews and writing about a show you have nothing to say about. I think that they tend to be uninteresting and only touch on very surface level details like: “The art is nice,” and not go into anything insightful like the themes or why the art is nice.

    That’s really why I try to stary away from reviews. Sometimes I end up writing one (it’s an easy trap to fall into), but I prefer when I write to have a central theme or idea to the post, instead of just giving assorted, disjointed thoughts on it. Although, I do appreciate (and really like) reviews where you can really see how passionate someone is about a series. But at the end of the day, I’ll always prefer analysis, although I do find the hyper-serious attitude of most who do it at times frustrating.

    1. See i Loved writting about Sanrio Boys last season. I have zero passion for the show but those are some of my very favorite reviews.
      I think you can be passionate about interacting with other aime fans even when the specific show leaves you cold.
      Of course, it’s not for everyone.

  10. I’m totally bookmarking this page because I definitely come across shows where I find myself with very little to nothing to talk about, but I know that I really want to talk about the show/film in question. This would be an excellent way for me to, as you put it, “flex some writing muscles you would probably never exercise otherwise.” 🙂

  11. “But there’s something to be said for joyfulness as well.”
    I think this is why your blog is outstanding. You don’t get bogged down (or at least if you do I can’t tell) by holding yourself to unrealistic goals or due dates or RULES, that’s it, that’s the word I want I think… you know, rules you made up or rules made up by a sort of informal governing body (you know, we call ’em rules lawyers in D&D) of anime bloggers who believe only in deathly earnestness and overboard seriousness. Even your in-depth posts, and some are very deep and meaningful, are lightened by joy and humor. Because surely those of us who watch cartoons as adults (oh, ahem, ANIME) seriously need to admit that we often do so because we DO have a sense of humor and joy in life. Or at least a wistful longing for a life of joy.

    1. a wistful longing for a life of joy has to be one of the prettiest things I’ve heard…
      Analysis and seriousness certainly have their place. And thankfully there are some outstanding and hardworking bloggers to porvide us with that.
      My blog is for my friends to come have a chat about decidedly non serious stuff. Because being silly is important too.

  12. Irina…
    Can you stop doing such good posts so frequently? My heart can’t take much more!
    Almost every day for the last week, you’ve made really great posts! Pls! Have mercy!

  13. Cool advice! Something I have been on the fence on was writing reviews for “meh” anime. I actually didn’t write anything about Nisekoi after I finished it when I could have. Always room for improvement! Good stuff!

  14. So… if you say a show you just watched looks like or reminds you of an older show you saw before, does that make you an “elitist jerk”?

      1. I only ask since apparently if you watch anime and have seen similar ones you’re automatically an elitist jerk if you mention it. I like to connect the current parodies and what they are referencing so other fans of the show can get the joke. It just seems wrong to exclude them just because they’re young and inexperienced anime viewers.

        1. I hadn’t heard that. My understanding was that people who dismiss shows they haven’t seen as “rip offs” or “copies” of earlier works without actually giving them a chance can come off a little close minded for obvious reasons. But I don’t think anyone has an issue with comparaisons.
          Of course as I mentionned, if your entire post is in reference to another series – those that haven’t seen the earlier one may find it hard to follow.

          1. Imagine you want to recommend Those Who Hunt Elves to someone who liked Konosuba. Would you say “They both take references from prior works like Record of Lodoss War and Slayers” and get the blank look or claims of elitism because you know these shows Konosuba and Hunt are based on? Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon is just a newer version of Tower of Druaga or Rage of Bahamut, with loli characters. Even Ixion Saga could be considered a precursor to Konosuba. If someone liked Konosuba, would recommending these previous shows be good manners or rude elitism? Even Slayers was funny much of the time, and its set in the same world as Lodoss, which was just the Japanese translation of a DND module from the 80’s.

            1. I’m probably not the person to ask. I just wrote a post in which I said that I don’t actually know what qualifies as elitist.
              I would say if you tell someone yes KonoSuba was excellent, you may also enjoy you may also enjoy Those who Hunt Elves, it doesn’t sound elitist to me.
              I’m not sure I would recommend Rage to someone who liked IIWTPUGIAD as I found them very different in tone and presentation but that’s just me.

            2. I suspect we have the hardest problems with the teens who like the serious anime, and get recommended parodies because we don’t realize they haven’t matured enough yet. They’re the ones to be offended most. They haven’t seen it all yet, so don’t realize these shows repeat themselves, and they think that telling them this is the same thing as elitism.

            3. I have hever never had that issue. Then again I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of elitism (at least not that I know of)

            4. Don’t you think that post (not the one you wrote, but by another party a few days before) about elitism was aimed at you and me?

            5. Not even a little.
              To be honest – I generally prefer newer anime. Moreso than Scott who has a soft spot for classic mechs.
              Full disclosure, I’m a fan of Mechanical Anime and am very happy to consider Scott a friend. I remeber when he was writting that post and I agree with what he says in it.
              Why would you think that post was aimed at you?

            6. We are both older anime fans, and mentioning old stuff might be taken as elitism. I wasn’t sure, of course, but it seemed like it might be him referring to one or both of us. I agree that newer anime has reasonably good quality animation, and the CG used today is much smoother and better blended than the old stuff. Maybe Scott is referring to forums.

            7. I’m pretty sure that as he says in the post – he had a but of a bummer experience at the panel he attended.
              And I also didn’t read his post as a particular accustation, more a plea for open mindedness. I’m not really the sensitive type mind you.

            8. Fair enough. I didn’t care for the elitists on DarkLordPotter much either. That’s a forum which claims to be for fanfiction writers of a particular extreme version of HP fan fiction, but is actually an elitist club of snobs who sneer at anyone asking questions. Some of the fiction they like is good, most isn’t. Forums can be bad, or they can get weird like SpaceBattles, which has a bunch of My Little Pony and Worm fanfic crossovers in there, and they’re pretty awful.

  15. While I agree with your thoughts in regards to using it as a writing exercise, I’ve silently given up on doing episodic reactions weekly.

    I just don’t like stretching my thoughts just to fill out my content, and it just bores me as a writer. I love doing in-depth thoughts and analysis, because most of my first impressions are “YOOOOOOOOOO” or “YEYEYEYEYEYEYEYEYE”, and only upon rewatch and some thought do I add in the details.

    A LOT of writers excel at episodic reactions though, and I follow quite a lot of them. However, to be honest, I’d rather wait for a post that’s very well-researched, or at least done with a lot of heart than one that’s clearly just filling a quota. When I wrote things daily, I had a LOT of misses IMO, and I’m glad I made the decision to slow myself down and make longer but less frequent posts.

    1. see I adore gut reactions. A little messy, a little confused. They feel intimitate and earnest. Like a piece that really could never have been written by anyone else except that person no matter how much research was put into it. It also feels ike you’re in the room with them.
      This plea for stream of concsioussness writting has absolutley nothing to do with the fact that me episodic reveiws range from drunken mess to garbled but keen offering

      1. That tends to be why I like your Uma Musume stuff whenever I can read it.

        My complaint really lies on people who force themselves to churn out content.

        I actually have posted reviews with gut reactions born out of genuibe enjoyment if I really liked an episode (See Hinamatsuri episodes with Anzu in it)

        But yeah, just for me, I’m not usually the best kind of writer for that sort of thing.

        1. Oh the Pretty Derby reviews are by far the most coherent – I thankfully have Matt to keep me at least a little on track… I have reviews for both Megalo and SG where I literally forgot to even mention what the episode was about…Skillz!

    2. I actually decided against doing episode-specific pieces unless I wanted to do a “deeper dive”-type look at things. I wound up trying some different core ideas I wanted to write about in animation, not the least of which was a dual focus on East and West, but also reviews, in-depth character analysis (which does take quite a bit of time to do properly from my own experience) and some other musings as they come about. I’ll definitely say that less can be more- if you write something with conviction and a consistent quality you’re pleased with, it’s better to post more infrequently with the content you really want to put out rather than a seven day a week rush job.

      1. And then you have people that do episodinc reviews of half a dozen shows per season with consistent quality… Witches I say

        1. It’s mind-boggling, to be honest. You think you’re a pretty fast writer and then you ask how some of these people do it, but then I avoid getting too worked up about it, since I’m trying to be my own writer playing to my own strengths. If they can do it though…good for them.

          1. That’s waths amazing about this community. We have so many individual voices with personal strenghts and points of vue that you can find something for everyone. And buffet lovers like myself get to enjoy a ide variety of posts

  16. Did you start watching Anime De Training! EX? Lol that’s the show I’ve been watching while exercising recently…

    There’s been plenty of shows that I just don’t know how to review, like sometimes a show is just hard to talk about for a myriad of reasons (I’ve been putting off an Assassination Classroom review for months because I don’t want it to be 20 questions of me quietly weeping about how much I love it) But then again my whole reviewing format is based off having writers block with regard to writing ‘normal’ style reviews so I don’t think I’ve got anything especially valuable to contribute, at least not any writing tips!

    1. Actually – asking question even if you don’t incorporate them in the review – is a great tip. I use it when I have too much to say… then again organizing my thoughts concisely isn’t exactly my strong suite

    2. Hey man, I actually just wrote a piece on Assassination Classroom on one of the main characters. Trust me when I say it’s well worth the time and the watch. I also write a bunch of reviews on shows, and I find it’s helpful to peruse back through my prior work sometimes in the hope of getting a a spark or an idea. It can be very helpful!

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