You know guys, it’s not always all or nothing. I can love a show and dislike some aspects of it. I can find a specific episode super boring and still think the series is great as a whole. I can also dislike a show and think that it has great things going for it and would be appreciated by someone else.
True appreciation means that you are aware of both the qualities and faults of something.
This sounds ranty…It’s not.
I know that I can be straightforward compared to some and as a general rule, I try to point out both qualities and faults in my reviews to give you guys the best overall picture of a show. Let’s face it, I have some pretty weird tastes so just telling you I liked or disliked something, without showing the other side, is doing you all a disservice.
None of this is revolutionary news but I do feel compelled to put this post out, because on more than one occasion, I have read comments in the vein of “I’m sorry you didn’t like this show.”, even when I clearly say things like “This is a good show that I enjoyed…”
For a long time, I was baffled and slightly impressed at my own ineptitude. I think in slightly unusual patterns, which means it can also come out in some pretty weird ways occasionally. Pile on the language barrier and it’s a miracle any of you have even a general idea what I’m going on about. That’s fine. A lady has to keep some mystery about her after all! However, I still would rather not seem to hate every show, especially since I have notoriously low standards and tend to like pretty much everything.
This may be due to the fact that reviewers often take either a descriptive or debate approach. None of these are the right words so let me explain. (OK ok, so the breakdown in communication is clearly on this side of the screen…) A lot of reviewers will tend to describe shows or series highlighting moments or elements they believe best reflects the entire work, in order to give their viewers a practical feel for the series. This is a very effective approach that requires quite a bit of skill to be coherent and not to riddled with spoilers. To put it plainly, I’m not great at this and it’s not a style I naturally tend to adopt. I do however really enjoy reading it.
The debate approach as I call it, is basically that the reviewer will choose their theses – i.e. Show X is entertaining and touching, you should watch it – then build their posts to support that thesis. Using examples, and explanations that go in line with the core idea they are trying to communicate to their audience. In order to avoid confusion, and keep their point clear, they will avoid throwing in contradictory elements unless these are unavoidable. This is also quite effective.
It’s a style that’s clear and easy to follow for your readers. It also allows reviewers to take undisputed stands on the works they are examining. It’s a great style, that I’m also not that good at. I’m better at it than I am at descriptive reviews, but I tend to be too good at it in a way and end up creating very lopsided posts. Just look at my reverse harem reviews. They’re more a sugar high in post form than anything else. I would barely call them reviews at all. In fact I wouldn’t, they’re pubic service announcements. I’m trying to impress on you the fact that you need to watch them now, for your own good! I also call these shows stupid a lot. They are. In the best way possible!
Just like a lot of bloggers, I’m still searching for my style and it changes and evolves regularly (it also regresses occasionally…). In general, I try to go for a balanced view that points out both the good and the bad as objectively as I can, while plainly stating my subjective experience. This might be where I’m going wrong. It doesn’t happen all the time, less and less lately in fact, but I will still occasionally get readers who assume I disliked something because I called it slow at times. Or because I point out that a character is unpleasant. Or miss the fact that I did dislike something if I happen to describe some of the good things about it.
Odds are, I did not sit through an entire show because I plainly disliked it. There are two reviews I can think of on this entire blog of shows I didn’t like at all.
To me, acknowledging a series’ weaknesses is important. Not only because these may be things that really annoy you, so I want you to know about them. But also, because true love means accepting faults, not ignoring them. I really love anime. I know it has some misogynistic tendencies. I know that sexualizing kids quite so much is troublesome. I know that it’s often cheaply made by overworked workers trying to churn out lowest common denominator stuff. I know all of this, and I still love it. I don’t need to pretend otherwise.
It’s ok if my favourite series isn’t perfect. It’s ok if it’s far from perfect in fact. I’m not here to convince you of something that’s plainly false. What I’m here to say is that maybe you should give some shows a try even if they’re not perfect, and maybe you’ll like them like I did.
40 thoughts on “Loving Criticism”
Always felt that character development was more important than anything else. Plot and art become unimportant if I dislike the people involved. OTOH, If the character is one I care for I won’t even notice the terrible art. Yes, I’ll complain and bitch about the plot – right thru the credits of the final episode.
90% of anime is aimed at teenage boys. Saw some research indicating that 50% of anime fans are teenagers. (The other 50% probably suffer from Peter Pan syndrome.) 75% are male. On average they become addicted at age 14, hence the overwhelming preponderance of shounen and shoujo. Because of that, genuine seinen is uncommon – and josei is even rarer – despite the lower age cutoff for those still being the upper teens.
Teenage boy fantasies are massively problematic and that is why we have “problematic” content in so much anime.
A microscopic portion of the anime audience has reached my age. It could be that most people become wise enough to move on to better things or it may just be a matter of survival. The rest are all trapped in MMORPGS and cannot escape due to age-related loss of combat skills.
I was talking more in general. The internet loves telling people the stuff they loved sucks. Look at Cinema Sins, which is the ground zero for “baseless fan nitpicks” that people think is real legit criticism. One look at youtube shows you hundreds of videos railing against series because of “flaws” that are really just people unable to suspend disbelief.
Most of the bloggers I follow don’t do this, which I am glad. We need more people spreading the happy love of things in the internet world, and I’ll do what I can do so, but I’ll still point out parts of series that are flawed or I feel need to be addressed (see Fate/Illya’s yuri fanservice or Darling in the Franxx’s late-game plot twist) Though I’ll never condemn anyone for liking those things just because I didn’t.
Now if we are talking Shinmai Maou no Testament…well don’t get me fucking started…
well now you’ve piqued my curiosity….
You can find my long, almost too in-depth personal thoughts on the show on my blog. It’s the first thing I posted, so it’s a little strange, but I’ll be making a second post after Fatevember wraps up.
Acknowledging the faults in the things you love or enjoy is good, but that shouldn’t stop you from loving it wholeheartedly either. Fandom has been almost crippled by the cottage industry of hate that has sprung up thanks to the modern internet, and it annoys me to no end.
My own work tries to embrace positivity, and bring up the bad faults only when it is needed, but never as a nitpicking “objective way.” I think we need a little bit more of that balanced passion in the world. I could be wrong though, but I embrace difference of opinion and idea.
Interested in your own take, and great post as always Irina.
Really?? That’s interesting, my WP experience has been the opposite, with very few and ver rare criticisms on anything…maybe I just tune the out?
I always appreciate the different perspective people have on anime. Some view it more personally while other view it more as entertainment. The way they write about what anime they like, or dislike doesn’t matter to me. I think it’ll show in their writing how the anime them feel when they describe it. It’s part of the experience of viewing anime; sometimes it easily comes to you, and other times it doesn’t when expressing yourself. Sticking to a formula ain’t bad, but I do prefer reviewers change it up every once in a while if possible. At least for me, it would prevent me from stagnating my creativity.
Folks I talk too about anime with also think I dislike certain series, like Code Geass, when in fact I actually like them. Guess it come from the fact some aren’t use to someone talking positively, or negative about something they love. It’s that all, or nothing you mindset you mentioned so many are use too.
It’s an odd phenomenon…i complain about my dog all the time and no one ever thinks I hate him!
As a strong minded person, I can relate to this article. I always tell people that it’s okay to critique something and still like it! I’m sorry I haven’t been on this blog a long while as I have been very busy in college.
I forgive you. I guess your education and future is more important… 🙂
Yeah, for example, this season I’m enjoying the annoying Maid show a lot. It’s cute and warmhearted if it wants to. But it also combines very open pedo jokes with a foreigner fetish, and the worst thing is that some of those jokes actually land. So sometimes I both love and hate the very same aspect of a scene. It’s a really strange feeling. I can say I wish the show would lose those silly aspects, but the show has a habit of calling out creepy behaviour in a matter of fact tone I’ve not often seen in anime. And then it goes on indulging anyway. The show’s creepy, but at the same time it’s not as creepy as shows like Ro Kyu Bu or Ryuou no Oshigoto (I hated the former, and liked the latter), where they make nudge-wink jokes and/or use voyeur cam – neither of which the Maid show engages in. Liking stuff that weirds you out is a rather odd experience, but it’s not uncommon in anime.
Also, you keep posting pictures of Tonari no Kaibutsu kun (I refuse to call it My Little Monster), but I still don’t see the show on your anilist. I suspect you’re going to like Kenji.
I’ve watched it. Twice in fact
I still don’t know how to rate it. It was some time ago – I should rewatch it probably.
Interesting. For me it’s rather simple: I loved the show. (I’ve also seen it twice; re-watched it two years (?) ago).
I think either approach (balanced or debate form) can be really interesting to read if the reviewer explains their view. I’m going to be honest, my series review for next week is Caligula. It is really late compared to when the show aired and that’s mostly because I rewrote it and rewrote it and it still reads like a vague rant against the show. I’m still unhappy with it but given I’m not making it any better and I have no intention of rewatching that anime, I finally decided to just schedule it and move on to reviewing other shows.
Still, I think you are right in that as reviewers are own styles are constantly changing and evolving as we find what works and what doesn’t for different types of shows and different posts. Interesting post as always.
I find that reviewers like you that post a lot really evolve quickly. I have been reading your classic posts and there’s a refining of your style. Not saying you weren’t good before but you can still see the evolution and it’s hella cool
I agree that my earlier posts do look rough compared to my more recent stuff. There’s also I’ve found a bit more distance between me and the audience, I think I was being super careful of how I worded things in the beginning because I was worried about how people might take things (I don’t worry about that so much anymore because some people will take offence regardless so I may as well just put my point of view out there – tactfully when possible). That said, there’s still progress to be made and hopefully in two more years I’ll look back at the posts from this year and see that I’ve continued to grow because that would be the most rewarding thing.
It’s great that you’re asking yourself how you can communicate more clearly! A writer can almost never go wrong by asking that question.
In this case, though, I don’t think the fault’s on your side of the screen! As you pointed out, the people who said “Sorry you didn’t like it!” clearly missed the part in your posts where you said “I liked it!” You did your part: you wrote. We readers need to do our part and actually read the post!
Regarding how objective you need to be: Absolutely, you need some level of objectivity. You can’t write about, say, Zombieland Saga and talk about the giant mechs that show up ten minutes into the first episode. Beyond that, though?
There are dozens of sites that try to analyze shows objectively. Many of them use the tried and true techniques for literary criticism, and many of them are great at it! I mean, academically and professionally great!
But just how many more of those sites do we need?
Nowadays, the sites I like the most are the sites that share a perspective in an engaging way. I want to know what bloggers think and feel about a show! Exegesis is easy to find, or I can do it myself.
But where else can I get _your_ unique perspective?
“What I’m here to say is that maybe you should give some shows a try even if they’re not perfect, and maybe you’ll like them like I did.”
That’s what I like about this site! I think you’re on to something with this format and content.
Thank you Crow, you really are just a bottomless pit of support. You coud find the bright side of a black hole!
I think that’s called Hawking radiation, isn’t it? 🙂 Though I’m not sure how bright it is…
There is a theory that for every black hole there is a white hole that behaves in exactly the opposite fashion. There is a wormhole between them. They are in different universes and that is why we never see any.
This is 100% me with Antimagic Academy. It’s so hard to recommend a story that I recognize as repetitive and mediocre, even when I love it for very clear and explainable reasons.
I just dont think anyone could like it for reasons besides the ones that I kind of uniquely have.
I haven’t read it but google says that 95% of users like it so you’re not alone!!!
The balanced approach is, IMO, the right one to take. I perosnally try to focus o nthe positives, but I will always point out if I thought something was negative too. it’s important because I know full well that some thing I’d mark a show down for won’t be a problem for others, and ditto for things I do like. To me, that’s the way a good review should be; it should give enough information to know not only the reviewer’s opinion but what bits you may or may not like. Anyway, I like the way you do your posts 🙂
Thanks Matt! That sounds like a very good but difficult thing to both review and inform at the same time
It’s not so bad actually. A lot of it comes down to things like levels of fan service for me, or different tropes, so it’s easy enough to work it all in to a piece 🙂
ive always recognized that i have particular style of disjointed points when i write my reviews. i kind of envy ppl who can bring things together into a single theme, but that’s just not how i think. but i agree generally with this idea of acknowledging what doesnt work in a show. im sure im often the same as you, coming off as disliking a show because i tend to be critical. in reality, i like most shows, but i try to treat them fairly.
on a completely different note, there’s really only one type of post i truly dislike. im always bothered by posts that use “popular opinion” as a central theme. for example, someone trying to “defend a show”, and the entire post is filled with straw man arguments about what “other ppl are saying”. id rather you fairly acknowledge criticism rather than play a victim
You know – I haven’t seen that so often but you have a point. The *everybody says* format is sort of useless in a critical or pseudo analytical post. Might as well just go My Aunt Edina says…
i think it’s just inherently complaining about other ppl’s opinions, and i really dont think that’s what a post should do at any level. and it’s absurdly easy to fall into straw man arguments when you do it. honestly, your aunt edina may have something better to say than that 😛
She does! Imaginary aunt Edna is a wellspring of wisdom
😀 This is exactly how I feel. I try my best to get the most objective point of view as well and it’s hard. Also, the ever growing or changing review style is something I always try to do as well. Blogging is hard.
You and I lead difficult lives Scott. I drink to your health!
I drink to yours as well!
Your blog posts are always so relatable 🤗. I’ve got quite an all or none mindset, so if I liked it, I liked ALL of it. I’m a little more rational towards shows I dislike strangely enough. It’s a mindset that I need to fix because I get defensive over things that aren’t worth it and become very dishonest with myself very quickly. It’s already kneecapped my writing twice. I decided to be more balanced in the future, but I’ve still got a long way to go 😅
Ahhh a passionate and unconditional lover! We need more romantics like you, they make the world fun!
Good post! I know exactly what you’re talking about. When I write a review, it’s always a “total body of work” evaluation. There are oftentimes an episode or some scenes in show I love that I absolutely disliked, and sometimes in a show I generally found to be mediocre or bad, they maybe still be some redeeming element I enjoyed. I think the big takeaway here is that both the shows and the reviews tend to be nuanced- there’s not an “absolute” opinion per se, in either case, but there is an “overall” impression that can be accurate while the finer details can be delved into more. And as for your style…it comes with the more you write, from my own experience. Roll with what works for you!
Thank you! I’m figuring it out a little at the time
Absolutely. There’s always going to be episodes or scenes that don’t resonate with you for whatever reason. I try to balance my reviews with favourite scene/least favourite scene. It’s possible that my least favourite scene is still good, but I hope the reader can get an overall feel for the series from the contrasts.
I love that format personally (as a reader). I find it always gives me the best overview of a show