This may be difficult to believe given the contents of my blog, but I actually prefer writing reviews. I love reading essays, news articles and think pieces of all types but as far as creating goes, I tend to like my reviews more. To each his own of course, I know a lot of bloggers who consider writing reviews rather tedious and have abandoned it altogether. However, and despite all evidence to the contrary, this blog is still primarily a place to keep my thoughts on anime.

As such, I have occasionally tried to ferret out some magic formulae to creating the most Amazing, Super Awesome review, every single time… Clearly, I’ve figured it out. You’re welcome world!

anime cute girl
I accept gifts

Ok, ok, maybe I could still use some fine tuning here and there. Although not as obviously creative as a poem, a good review still has a lot of artistic elements to it, and therefore, I think that the components that make up a great one are personal to the reviewer and vary from one to the next. But are the basics of any good written article also applicable to reviews?

I was asking myself this question and I honestly don’t know the answer. I’ve read up on my fellow bloggers posts on what makes a good review and also what makes a good post and I decided I would share the commonalities and discrepancies I’ve picked up on.

anime cute girl school
wait…I’m not done copying that

Technical

Try to keep the grammar fairly correct and the typos to a minimum.” Obviously, I’m not particularly bothered by this one. While some bloggers recommend devoting a good deal of attention to this aspect, personally I think it’s fine as long as your readers can easily follow along and understand your point.

Admittedly, I should proofread my stuff a bit more. I make a lot of very basic typos/grammatical errors and I’m always just a touch mortified at how many I publish. On the other hand, when I see them in other people’s posts, not only do they not bother me but occasionally I find that they add a touch of personality to the text. It’s a bit like listening to someone talk with an accent while using strange sentence structure. Some people get terribly annoyed by it, I find it utterly charming. This applies to any posts whether reviews or essays.

“Break you points/thoughts up into reasonable paragraphs.” Again, this is a fairly universal tip. Extremely long blocks of texts are unpleasant visually and tend to be tedious to read. I do this somewhat subconsciously for my posts. Since I write as if I’m having a conversation with someone, my paragraph breaks are inserted where I would take a breath and give the other person a chance to speak.

My breaths are short….

Blueprint
can one of you build me one?

Structural

One thing that is particularly relevant to reviews is the amount of information you need to disclose. Essays generally discuss a fairly precise if abstract topic. You simply need to define said topic and you can go about framing your thesis around that. Reviews on the other hand, directly reference and critique a complete work and therefore require a careful balancing act when it comes to describing the show, book or game you are reviewing. If you go into too much detail, your review runs the risk of becoming unbearably long or ending up as a recap rather than an actual review. On the other hand, if you leave too much out, it can be difficult to follow and appreciate, even by readers who are familiar with the source.

The exercise of determining exactly what information is necessary for your audience is a rather complex one that requires the reviewer to put themselves in the shoes of a reader that may not have seen the show (movie, book…), and present them with enough information to get a proper sense of context, understand the basis of your review and potentially get an idea of the show without completely spoiling everything. It’s a particular analytical skill that isn’t really applicable to any other form of posts.

Moreover, there is some debate about the basic elements that reviews should cover. Should anime reviews always discuss the animation? What about plot? Can you enjoy a work purely on its production merits without even mentioning the story?

anime question mark
confused anime girl is probably the most frequently used pic on this blog

I have no answer here. I know that I read reviews both to see what someone has to say about a particular show I have seen and to discover new shows to watch. When I’m reading up on a show I’ve already seen, the only thing I care about is the opinion of the reviewer and how they reached those conclusions. I really want to get in their heads.

On the other hand, if it’s a show I haven’t seen, I like to have more background, get a general notion of the plot, maybe a point summary of pros and cons but the deep analysis isn’t that interesting to me as I haven’t formed my own opinion yet and I don’t want it spoiling or coloring my own watching experience.

And even though I love when pictures of the show are used, I still enjoy discussion of the technical elements. Part of me is very impressed by the actually work that goes into creating an anime and when someone takes the time to appreciate some practical elements, it always adds something to the end product for me. For instance, I remember the first time I saw Yuri on Ice. In one of the practice scenes, when Yuri is wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt as he tries out the routine, I noticed how the t-shirt wrinkled and stretched with his movements. Clothing rode up or sagged depending on his position. Shadows where al kept completely consistent with the light sources that was constantly changing as Yuri danced around. I found this absolutely hypnotizing and the thought that someone painstakingly added all of these details in is really what drew me into the series. I’ve mentioned this detail often. As far as I can tell, I’m the only one who noticed or cares…

anime drawing anime
aninception

Creativity

Let’s face it, possibly more than any other type of posts, reviews run the risk of becoming routine. Reviewers going through a check list of points for any given work, ending up with posts that start to look very similar from one to the next. I think this probably bothers me less than most people. I have no issue with articles being predictable or looking alike. There are limits though. When the first episode of Citrus aired, it seemed it was fairly popular, and a huge number of bloggers gave their first impression on the show. Because only one episode had aired, there wasn’t yet that much material for anyone to base their opinion on. Accordingly, I ended up reading close to 30 reviews in the span of a few days that were pretty much all interchangeable. I honestly could have read 2 or 3 and it would have covered absolutely everything said in all 30 reviews (also they were almost all recaps).

This is where I see the need for creativity. I don’t mind a particular reviewer having a template and a schtick but I prefer when they have a little touch of personality, something to make their review stand out.

Some people will often relate works to real life experiences, telling us about moments in their own pasts that echoed with the characters in the story. Others will go into deep analysis of story elements or thematic constructs. Some will explore the history of the people behind the show, the studio and authors, ect. I make drinking games…

anime girl with beer
because priorities matter

Alright, my personal style is a bit of a tradeoff. My reviews aren’t as useful as most. I still struggle with how much background info to add and tend to err on the side of none at all and I don’t give clear ratings. My few real-life friends who read this bog constantly ask me if there’s an easy way to see what I thought of a particular show (and see if they should watch it), and I direct them to my MAL page. As I mentioned above, my posts, specially my reviews, tend to be conversations.

So you’re gonna get the detail about how clothing was responsive in Yuri on Ice or how I adored the pink outlines in NGNL. I’ll let you know my real-life reactions to watching a particular scene and try to describe the sense of awe and wonder I can get from seeing imaginary people reach imaginary goals. If you read one of my reviews out of the blue for a show you’ve never seen, it might get you curious, but you’ll probably go read more reviews to get an actual idea.

What I’m hoping though, is that this impractical earnestness will allow you to understand me a little. In time, you’ll be able to say to yourself, well of course Irina liked it, she’s a sucker for those easy, sappy fluff shows but I find them boring, so I’ll pass this one. Or, Irina has no heart, I’m sure this romance is beautiful she just missed the point. Basically, I don’t hope to be your guide through the anime wonderland, I just want to walk along with you for a little while, and maybe stop for a drink in a sun-drenched terrace. We can watch the people walking by and talk about very important things that don’t matter at all.

Wait – I was talking about how to write reviews… Here’s a good piece of advice: Try to stick to the point!

Tsuritama bus slide

83 thoughts on “Good Reviewers v/s Good Writers”

  1. I suuuuck at going back to proofread haha. Even more so now that I’m in the editing part of my book. It is hard once I finish I’m so excited I just want to post it. Then I see a typo… oops.

  2. Even with my background in academic English, I’m still learning these things… I love learning new things all the time and trying to pick up tips from fellow reviewers because there are times that I go “well, what the heck are they doing that I’m not?? I DON’T GET IT!!”

    1. If you figure it out let me know.
      Apparently not veering off topic for 3 paragraphs is considered a good thing? Who knew

  3. I wish I knew what makes a “good” review. If we judge it by the amount of “likes” and comments we get on our blogs then mine must be terrible. 🙁

    Everyone has their own approach or formula – some recap the plot with occasional commentary; one I know refuses to discuss the plot in his reviews which I find hard to enjoy as it tells me nothing about the film nor does it put his opinions and comments into any context.Some people try to be too intellectual and deliberately oblique with their references while others go for humour.

    I personally stick to reviews, for which I limit myself to 1000 words, since I worry I will bore the reader with an opinion piece or find myself being repetitive if I can’t articulate a point properly. The last thing I ever want to do is appear obnoxious or over-opinionated which is why I try to be as objective and fair as possible with my reviews (except for my wrestling ones where I let my inner snark out) and wont slate something unless it truly is offensively bad!

    Conclusion? Just do what you feel and if it gets you a loyal and responsive audience then you must be doing something right. 🙂

    1. In my experience, comments mean Ive missed something big and people are kindly letting me know…i wouldn’t use that as a yardstick.

      In any case that’s great advice!

      1. You quite clearly are encouraging plenty of discussion and engagement in your comments section, so I wouldn’t downplay that. Plus you get dozens of likes too which also says people have read your posts, which doesn’t happen for a lot of us so I’d say you’re doing pretty well! 😉

  4. As someone who hasn’t written a review yet, I am fine with writing first impressions of anime I watch. I don’t really read episode reviews of a show because it’s tedious.

    If I ever make one, I love to get into details a lot. I do this with the Monogatari Series on Reddit because I discuss the events of the novels there more than here. Discussions is what keeps me going. I only read reviews when I finish or drop a show.

    1. I was the same way s I totally get it. I only read episode reviews because I’ve discovered a few blogs that put out amazing ones!

  5. I think people need to draw a line between Reviewers and Critics as well. Reviewers “simply” talk about the product and what the factors are that could influence a decision by the reader (good and bad). Critics focus on things that don’t work well and often try to push that criticism with personal bias if it’s seen as necessary (often resulting in highly amusing or stupidly retarded results).
    However, it’s much easier to make fun of bad things only, which is why the way of a critic allows for a bit more freedom in how you want to present your content.

    As you stated in your article, reviewers are the most likely to become stale and generally get less attraction than the much more offensive style of a critic. However, that’s a topic for a whole different article. 😀

    Either way, great work! It was a treat reading your thoughts on this.^^

    1. Leave it to someone called Critical Bytes to bring this up! I actually hadn’t thought of that at all but it’s a great point. And now all I can think is “it stinks”…

  6. I’ve only ever done two reviews, so I just imitated what I’ve seen around when doing those (rattle off “Animation”, “Plot” etc. like a shopping list, although that’s not very original…). The reviews are clearly not my best work though because of that unoriginal format, and although I’d like to try my hand at a manga review someday, I think it’s just better if I just stick to my usual analysis-type posts aside from that.

    Recap-reviews or reviews made from a template occasionally make me feel disappointed that a blogger didn’t put more effort into their work…I probably shouldn’t care that much, though.

    I mentioned to someone (think it was Remy, on a collab you did with him) that I have a spoiler policy so that I don’t have to worry about slapping a warning on to my work. That also goes for the points you bring up about how much detail to put in – I could never decide whether to write for someone who hadn’t seen the work or for someone who had, so the spoiler policy works as insurance in the case of the former.

    1. See I think your reviews are amazing. Also I would challenge anyone to say they are not analytical. Although I may not know what reviews are I’m starting to realize, since I definitely think you’ve done way more than two…

  7. I generally like to describe the more important characters, then I’ll go into artistic considerations. I like to talk about how I relate something to my own life. Then I like to say what I thought of it and why. I never do a review of something I dislike.

    Since I don’t do single episode reviews, I try to stay away from plot details. Things happen, arcs progress and conflicts get conflicted. If there is only one ep. and it isn’t too long, I’ll get more into plot details. I like to psychoanalyze my characters.

    I try to avoid massive spoilers but sometimes it just feels right to spoil something. So I put up a warning.

    In reality, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. You can count my reviews on your fingers. Psychologically incapable of discussing a show I haven’t seen through completely and then gone back a second time for screenshots and trying to get a deeper understanding. (Unless it is 3 am and I have an empty rum bottle in front of me. I, too, sometimes drink and watch anime.) Three views for Monogatari. Twice for enjoyment and once for screenshots and memory jogging. Consequently, an anime has to really grab me (or be really short) to get me writing.

    I have watched Evangelion in all its incarnations multiple times. I collapse into despair when I consider doing a review. Picking out one topic or character to talk about feels like analyzing a tapestry by looking at the adventures of one thread.

    Plus I blog about many things other than anime. Sometimes the posts are rather revealing in a personal way. Sometimes emotionally and psychologically and sometimes literally. I am who I am and will not downplay any part.

    Your posts aren’t as infrequent as mine and you have such a *joie de vivre* that it is infectious. I read every review you do and look forward to the next. I am glad to follow you.

    1. Oh wow I really appreciate that! Truly a great compliment.
      You go through entire series for screenshots! That’s amazing. I really want to do that but I admit I’m generally too lazy.
      I love personal/diary style posts. Those are a lot closer to storytelling, actual litterature in my opinion, they take a lot of artistic talent and a certain courage…

  8. My “review” technique is literally just to do whatever I want, and if I forget about something, then so be it. I mean, you are writing in your own opinions right? No need to stick to any particular structure or be too objective about things…
    That’s just me of course, the one person who dare use subjective views to judge anime…

  9. If I had a blog, I doubt you’d find a single review on it. On the other hand, I like reading people’s impressions of stuff I’ve seen. As a result, I’m less interested in reading reviews of shows I haven’t seen (which may or may not be unusual). I don’t read reviews to find new shows to watch, although a review has many opportunities to sell me on a show (or drive me away).

    Also, you’ve manage to find a lot of screenshots I can’t place this time:

    ? – ? vaguely familiar – ? vaguely familiar – ? some Gundam, but I haven’t seen that many, and I’m fairly sure not this one [I only know it’s some Gundam show because it says so in the screenshot] – Shirobako? [very unsure] – Konosuba (fanart? from the show? Eyecatch/Endcard? I wouldn’t know) – Tsuritama

    1. I will sell you on a boy idol show if it’s the last thing I do!
      Header – I have no clue…
      1-a certain magical index
      2- K ON
      3- Gundam Fanart – not sure which either
      4- not sure – confused anime girls are sort of all blending ino one for me
      5 -Shirobako
      6- Konosuba promo art
      7- Yup!!

      I’m not sure who won. Everybody?

      1. You win. At least, you didn’t ignore the confused anime girl.

        Also, I very nearly watched the Idolm@ster boy spinoff show; I liked the first episode and then… forgot it existed? I don’t remember what happened.

      2. @Dawnstorm: Although I don’t normally interrupt conversations to say “I know this character!” and I haven’t watched the show myself, the purple-haired confused girl (no. 4) is Laala Manaka from PriPara. To be honest though, I only ever recognise that character by how her hair is that specific shade of purple…

        1. Aria to the rescue! Thank you Magic – Dawnstorm and play this game often and whenever I didn’t know one it bugs me for days… well minutes..

        2. Yay, thanks for joining in! (I had a short flash of Moe tan but knew that couldn’t be it, because it was completely different.) It’s really great to close the gap.

  10. I’m still wondering how you maintain such a high “number of days to amazing posts” ratio. It’s like, Holy Alexander Hamilton, Batman!

    (That makes sense if you’ve seen the musical or have its soundtrack)

    I’ve evolved the structure of my reviews to match where I see my blog fitting in the community. You’ll notice that my reviews always link to three or four other bloggers’ reviews of the same episode. That’s because taken as a whole, this community provides way better synopsis than I do, so I point readers there. The community offers opinions that I don’t have, so I try to identify interesting or contrary opinions and point the readers there.

    There are only two things that distinguish my site: My favorite moments and my thoughts on the episode. So, that’s what I write!

    I’ve never really articulated it before, but when I’m writing posts, it’s very different experience than when I write novels, short stories, or how-tos. With posts, I’m very conscious of being one facet in a larger community. With novels and short stories, I’m more immersed in the world I’m creating and almost never think about how it relates to other writers.

    Dang it! You made me think again! You should put disclaimers on your posts! 🙂

    1. Well I’m never going to live up to any of this.
      I love your favorite moments section bu OH boy does it look like a lot of work… You must take detailed notes. This said it made me rediscover episodes I had already seen by shining a new light on them. It’s pretty impressive.
      As for making you think – I believe you are just as guilty good sir!

  11. I don’t think I’ve ever figured out what a good review should have in it. Mostly because when I’m reading a review all I really want to know is whether the reviewer liked something or not and why. The background information, technical points about the animation, all of these are things I’d rather read in more analytical posts rather than reviews. That said, I think readers start to figure out which reviewers they tend to agree or disagree with over time and so while they might enjoy a review written by one person, they know that they are unlikely to agree with their view.
    It is also fun to read reviews by different people as for some the characters are their main focus, others will focus on plot, some will look at genre elements, and others will take a look at the animation or music in detail as these are the elements that made them enjoy or dislike a show. By reading a range of reviews you get all sorts of different information and different perspectives on something.

  12. When it comes to structure, I find it’s a good idea to stick at least partially to routine. In my own reviews, I have the intro, the animation/art production notes, the music, the dub, all fairly standard… And then I let lose and come up with something brand new and original for the final and biggest section, which deals with plot, writing, and general thoughts. Doing it this way offers the comfort of routine without sacrificing the exciting challenge of creating something new.

    1. That’s similar to my layout although I occasionally have much more to say about technical production than creative aspects. (the way wind is animated in Erased was a huge thing for me…)
      I personally agree with you – some structure is extremely helpful but I know not everyone writes that way.

  13. I honestly have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to writing Reviews. I guess I have a structure, but writing reviews is always a work in progress for me because I’m still trying to figure out the best way to write them. Maybe I’ve made progress on that? Maybe I haven’t? I don’t know.

    The only truth is that I liked how free flowing your reviews are and that my movie reviews are shorter then my TV series reviews.

    1. well that makes sense.
      I’m surprised, your reviews seem so clear and passionate. You sure had me fooled. I thought you knew exactly what you were doing!

      1. Ok, sometimes I do. There is also that serendipity thing where what I do something unplanned and it looks like I planned it. That’s half of my life.

        Enough talking about my though.

  14. Well…as most of my posts are reviews (with the occasional special features post thrown into the mix) I can honestly say I do have a basic structure for the reviews, but I am still learning. I always like to throw in something a little bit personal where I can, but overall though when I see some of the posts from other reviewers like yourself, I know I can do an awful lot better.
    And duh…of course your posts are awesome! Your nearly 1000 followers only prove that point more than I ever could. I really loved this one though: you had some truly great points here, and I dare say that you have made them all very clear. (Okay..even though you did not stick to the point lol 😂).
    Ps…I will get to building that Gundam for you right away 😂😂

  15. I’ve been using the structure type of deal for my own reviews for awhile now. And for me I find it helps to organise my thoughts better as well as let the reader take pauses and jump around if they want to. My reviews also tend to be on the long side (sorry to anyone who doesn’t like it), since I often want to talk about so much things! I guess my reviews are both just a review and my little analysis all packaged in one. Everyone has their own way of doing things, so I say you do you! I’m sure at least one person will find your methods entertaining (at least I hope)

    1. Oh yeah – you’re reviews do go in deep. I like that. I really have no clue why my commenters think reviews aren’t analytical. I know I analyse those a lot more than my random thought essays…

  16. Ahhhh Irina, I’ve always been a fan of posts like these by you. ^^ Somehow, this always gives me that positive vibe to get my writing game strong. Proof reading is solely my weakness. I really should make it a point to proof read more (as many times as possible even). Thank you for the tips. Im never good at writing and I tend to keep my reviews a bit more personal as if Im talking to another fan or person (this is because I have zero creativity in me lmao) but its nice to know that this doesn’t bother you and hopefully others too. There’s always a lot of room and time for improvement and i’m doing my best everyday to work on that. (ノ´ヮ`)ノ*: ・゚

    On a side note, I also prefer less ‘spoilery’ reviews unless the show or game is too old then its fine. =D

    1. Are you kidding – I LOVE those reviews. When ou read them it’s like you’re watching an anime with a friend – it doesn’t get any better than that! I’m pretty sure a ot of people feel like this as well so keep those reviews coming! Please!

  17. I try to have a structure that’s probably a bit too blunt when reviewing anything, “Story”, “Character”, “Animation/Art”, and “Other Thoughts/Overall” those tend to be the elements I look for in reviews myself and try to provide. That’s my little formula when reviewing things so I don’t miss out completely on something important when deciding to watch/read it. Plus, it usually helps me cut down on spoilers and attempt to focus on my own thoughts. I probably should deviate from my style a bit more to get my own thoughts out there but… I haven’t quite gotten to that point yet lol.

    1. I enjoy structured reviews myself. I use to have a “random thoughts” section and it slowly took over the entire post….sigh…

      1. I don’t think that’s a bad thing either though! Seeing someone’s set of thoughts about a series is always a bit more interesting to me then just recapping everything lol

  18. Miss Irina has her own unique way of doing reviews, I personally love them even though I’ve not read a whole lot. Currently failing at catching up with reading others blogs, trying to correct this. Yay so for first comment in a long while for me :). I’ve struggled for ages with how to do reviews. Finally found last year my style and about getting to the point of things. Breaking down what makes the series special and what it’s minor flaws are. i can’t do the normal review structure anymore I struggle. But takes time to find your style and it’s silly believing the nonsense that there is over saturation of the same reviews. Each one is different, from an different individual opinion. It’d only be the same if you copied someone lol. Great post on reviews 🙂

    1. Lita – I’m soooo flattered I get a comment…doing a happy dance!
      Actually, your posts on blogging and reviewing have been a constant source of inspiration for me. I really love them. You and Taku are some of my favorite reviewers when it comes to series reviews, and have both inspired me to get better – so thank you

  19. *sees title*
    Well, what if I’m bad at both, but try reeeeeeally hard to stop being so terrible? But yeah…
    I’m definitely in the essay camp. If I want reviews, I just go on MAL.

      1. I ignore everyone’s episode reviews…
        Nothing personal, I swear! I just tend towards more analytical content cus that’s how I enjoy media…
        Don’t worry, I think I’m probably an extreme minority! The rest of the aniblogging community just isn’t as edgy as I am!
        *gahahahaha*

        1. well I don’t do much episodic reviews at all so that’s good to hear….

          You’re the second person to mention this so I’d just like to say: MY reviews are in no way analytical. I don’t have the time to properly research and source my posts but I regualrly read both series and episodic reveiws from other bloggers that are. If you enjoy analysis, you are doing yourself a disservice by skipping those.

  20. I think it’s easy to get a bit too hung up on “the right” structure for your writing when really, the appeal of blogs — for me anyway — is an individual having the opportunity to express themselves as they see fit.

    I even think getting hung up on the word “review” can be a bit of a mistake sometimes — I know it actually irks me somewhat when people refer to an article I’ve written as a “review” when it clearly isn’t anything of the sort to me… though to be fair in this instance, your understanding of the word “review” may be different to someone else’s. (My understanding, for reference, comes from my early-life experience with games magazines, in which a review was the “final judgement” on something that had been released — often assigning a numerical “value” to said judgement. Whether or not you feel numerical ratings are of help or not is a whole other discussion!)

    For me, I just like to read what the people I like have to say, whether it’s on a broad topic, or a specific episode/game/series/whatever. Different people develop their own different styles and formats, and enjoying all those approaches is what keeps things interesting for me!

    1. You know I have to agree with you.
      The variety of distinct voices is one of the most interesting aspects of blogging.
      And there’s an ineffable value to having someone share their personal thoughts with you, that can get lost when you try to standardize too much.

  21. Funny enough, I think your strongest suit, at least in my opinion, is your rants!

    You speak your mind, fine-tune a bit, and voila, you have an interesting perspective on an interesting topic! I’m very analytical and I tend to fall in trap of recapping sometimes, so seeing somebody who’s so cool with just speaking their mind is refreshing.

    I’m actually doing mostly reviews and old stories this week because I’m not inspired to write any original essays because of work and school being rather strenuous this week. I hope to get back in my groove by next week, though!

  22. Structure is the death of me, I could never do as many blogs as I do daily if I had to adhere to some kind of criteria/rules for blogging. While I think this probably limits my mainstream appeal and will stop me from ever being picked up by an anime outlet (like Crunchyroll or whoever) it’s the only way I can blog. But this is all very helpful advice… just not for me (lol) good read though!

    1. Really, I always thought your super specific and unique structure was perfect for mainstream appeal. It’s an organoc way to give all the infor needed without it becoming tedious. One of the most entertaining I’ve seen.
      I would say you are probably one of the most well structured reveiwers I know…

      1. Well thanks but it’s really the only way I can write reviews, I’ve tried doing it the ‘normal’ way so many times and I always hate the end result. This is literally the only format that works for me so I’m glad people like it!

        1. I actually don’t know the “normal” way. I do regularly secretly review different shows in different paragraphs of my posts (explains a lot – right!)

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