I am one of the three people out there that openly admits to being a fan of ranty or negative reviews. Most bloggers hold back from writing overly negative posts and the general consensus I’ve seen from people in the anime community is that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I’ve long believe this to be a rather limiting point of vue. I’m more of the if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me” school of thought. Lately however, I think I’ve started to understand why.
It seems that negative reviews aren’t simply a single entity that can be lumped together. They are in fact several subspecies with very different characteristics and impacts. I think this is what explains the varying views regarding these posts and not that I am a bitter troll that feeds on mankind’s worst impulses…not only that.
As far as I can tell, there are essentially 4 ways to discuss a series you did not personally enjoy.
First we have the professional way. The one that tends to be favoured by the most prolific bloggers that cannot realistically manage furious rants every day. It is framed as a generally impartial informative posts. I.e. I did not enjoy the anime and these are the reasons why. These are the objective and technical failings and these are my subjective takeaways and so on. At this point, you can’t even really call it negative so much as descriptive. Let’s face it, some anime is just bad. We are going to have to accept that some day.
The second way is the gold star, everyone is a winner way. These are posts that try to create a compliment sandwich. Bloggers that tell you they did not like a show then go out of their way to emphasize the things that still worked. These are the sweetest folks and you wish you could be friends with hem in real life because they would probably always support you and find a bright side. I can understand why this approach is popular. It certainly leaves you feeling more cheerful and optimistic. However, it has also tricked me into watching a lot of not so great shows. Awww, who am I kidding? I would have watched them anyways. I’m one of those dumb kids that had to touch the stove.
Then there are my personal favourite ones the snarky, sarcastic good humoured rants. These posts don’t pull any punches but you also never get the impression that the author is angry at the show for having had to watch it. More often than not these are humoristic takes on a bad series poking fun at everything that went wrong. The trick here, is the same as in a good roast. The post can be biting and even harsh but it has to remain fun and never mean. There’s an art to it. Listening to (reading) someone whining for minutes on end is completely unappealing. Seeing them gratuitously insult something is uncomfortable and wears thin very quickly. However, well thrown shade with just enough truth in it to be justified is a work of art. One that we don’t come across often enough.
After all, we improve by learning from mistakes. Whether our own or others’. As such, pointing out those mistakes can be helpful to all. But it needs to be done right. Which brings me to:
The rage rant. The name probably makes you think of those incoherent all caps assaults you occasionally see particularly passionate fans throw out. But I would argue that the worst of these are those that cover up the vitriol with pompous vocabulary or pseudo reasoning. Like I just did in that last sentence. You know those posts that just seem utterly joyless. The ones that don’t limit themselves at saying, this show was bad, as in the examples above, but actually push the narrative all the way to this show was bad and if you enjoyed it, there’s something wrong with you.
Despite my most ardent efforts at burying my head in the sand, I’ve been seeing these types of “reviews” pop up quite a bit over the past year. Less in the blogging community thankfully. They imply either a lack of moral character, knowledge or intelligence in the fans of certain series. If you enjoyed this you must be “x”. Or it’s because of shows like this that x happens. Where “x” is always an objectively bad impact on anime as a whole and the implication is that a show’s following is therefore responsible.
I’m dumbing it down of course, most bloggers will not be so direct. But still, if you ever came away from a post feeling embarrassed about liking a show, then on some level the author must have insinuated that you should be. The thing is, if you happen to agree with the author’s assessment of the series, these posts are powerful confirmation bias which will most likely earn a certain degree of devotion from readers.
I believe this latest form of posts is what people mostly think of when they hear “negative review”. It should also be noted that some people (lots of people including occasionally me) do get very protective of beloved anime and can feel attacked even if the post is fairly neutral or respectful. And when I take that into consideration, I can easily understand why someone would rather avoid that particular type of criticism. I will still put up with it if I think it’s funny though. Cause you know… troll and all that…
So I’ve decided to slightly modify my stance on negative reviews. I still think it’s not only o.k. but important to voice differing opinions and constructive criticism. I even encourage you to go on good old rants when warranted. It will make you feel better! But, please don’t turn your ire against the fans of a series. Once it gets personal, it’s not a joke anymore, it’s bullying. Man that sounds dramatic. OK so it’s not really bullying but it’s pointless and no fun.
Of course, I just wrote all this for absolutely nothing. None of my readers are the type to attack others but hey. Maybe somebody who this applies to will accidently click on it while trying to read the post above…