The Positive Negative Review

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.

troll

ok it’s mostly 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.

anime shades

not shadeS…oh nevermind

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.

chuunibiyou

I’m not embarrassed, YOU’re embarrassed

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…

anime bored

and tab closed!

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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44 Responses

  1. My constant need to craft the biggest, most professional, and most nutritious compliment sandwich with each of my lower-star reviews will be my downfall. Perhaps I’m just too nice.

    Such a relatable post, and bonus points for the Oreki pic!

  2. tanteikid94 says:

    Yeah, recently the rape rants of GS and shield hero. Thank you for this

  3. David Boone (moonhawk81) says:

    I have almost always–with one singular exception–written about shows/music/etc. that I enjoy. My reasoning is that, since every work WILL find an audience, it’s a matter of respect and good manners to abstain from writing about those things that I do not enjoy in favor of letting more appreciative commentators address them. (I can PM you my one exception–I can still hear my editor’s heart stop. . .)

  4. Kapodaco says:

    Man, negative reviews felt like all I ever did back in the old days of my blog. It mellowed out as I mellowed out, but this post did make me a little fond of what my blog used to be like… Thanks, Irina!

  5. Lumi says:

    It would be a boring world if nothing sucked, tbh. I love watching garbage, it feeds my soul in between the classics.

  6. Karandi says:

    I tend to read a fair range of blogs so for most series I’ve read both positive and negative reviews. From the recent round of negative reviews, I’ve come to the conclusion that being negative about something just because it contains particular subject matter isn’t overly helpful. Whether it was Goblin Slayer, SAO Alicization or Shield Hero, all of them got criticised because they dared to contain particular subject matter.
    The best negative reviews of these shows and the particular episodes, explained issues with how the subject matter was framed or presented, and still looked at other aspects of the show. The worst just harped on about how the authors had to be horrible people for writing about such content and how the viewers had to be equally horrible for watching it.
    For me, I feel like sometimes I get too negative about shows. Conception I ended up writing harshly about it and well, Hand Shakers quite literally became a punching bag for a season. Then again, if I was positive about every show I watched what would be the point in covering different shows. I could just lump it all together in one post and say everything was amazing.

    • Irina says:

      I actually wrote and scheduled a post on the Notion of Death of the author. While I think that we are intelligent sentient beings capable of moral judgements (and in fact it’s our responsibility to do so) and as such it’s perfectly fine to dislike art because it sends out messaging you are opposed to, personally I believe this should be irrelevant of any of the actual people involved (creator, fans, sponsors…)
      This goes a bit above the scope of the present post and tis comment section ma not be the best place for what could be a fascinating debate but it’s an issue worth discussing. And someone with your range of first hand information probably has some of the most interesting views on the subject!

  7. Dewbond says:

    I don’t tend to go negative, or rather I made a blood vow to not become a negative blogger, but I will be fair in pointing out a series bad points when I feel they are big enough that it is a serious mark against the show. (See Darling in the Franxx or ugh…Shinmai). A show that is flawed is often much more interesting to discuss than a show that is “perfect” or “just bad”

    Youtube’s rise, and especially Cinema Sins has ruined much of what is considered a negative review though, with nitpicks and minor annoyances being placed on the same level as a misuse of plot, character, etc. Too often people seem to hate on a show because it didn’t cater to their specific taste (or political ideology, hey there Goblin Slayer), or didn’t do what they had already come up with in their head (Shipping is massively guilty of this). Look at what happened with Voltron, or what is going to happen with Game of Thrones when it’s conclusion is inevitably unsatisfying.

    Constructive Criticism, or fair critique is vitally important to anything in the arts and should always be used. Jacking on a series to try and score points or because your butthurt X or Y didn’t happen has gotten REALLY old.

    • Irina says:

      I know what you mean. I don’t actually mind if a blogger dislikes a show and reviews it based on completely random personal bias. Like they don’t like the colour purple and a lot of the outfits were purple and now everything sux!!!! As long as they acknowledge it. That way I know that if I don’t hate purple then I might like the show.
      And just because this is how I tend to review stuff doesn’t have anything to do with this comment. Nuh-huh. No sir!

  8. AK says:

    I try to go for the third type of negative review if I feel the need to write one. Sometimes I get a little exuberant with my insults, but I hope it’s clear to readers that I’m not being that serious. And it’s pretty lousy to attack fans apart from the work.

    • Irina says:

      It is lousy but even professional site will sometimes say stuff like – I can’t imagine anyone with an above 10 IQ enjoying this… I read this a while ago.

  9. Scott says:

    I guess I’m the second type, because I do my best to find something of value in everything that I watch. I’ve written some negative reviews on series, but I can’t go completely negative on something, because then I feel like I’m ganging up on a series and that’s just wrong to me.

    Yeah, not a fan of those who insult the fans of any particular work.

  10. Dawnstorm says:

    If I did reviews, I’d probably waver between the first two types: describing the anime and my reactions for most (it’s same approach for good and bad, actually; it’s just that the reaction differs), and rants for some – the positive counter-point being an overly enthusiastic bout of gushing.

    My reactions sometimes puzzle me. A certain take on heroes ruins my enjoyment, whether it’s MHA or Yuuki Yuna. Meanwhile, I love the currently airing Slime show to bits, even though it feels colonialistic to some degree. Maybe that topic isn’t as close to my heart? Sadly, that’s not really it. Gate, for example, felt much the same way to me, but in that case it bothered me a lot more (was it the military angle?).

    So, if I’m that incosistent or complicated, how can I fault others for liking anything? I don’t think I have it in me to rage post. But who knows? I may not have found the right show (I hope I never do).

    • Irina says:

      Considering the amount of shows you seem to watch – I think you may not be the ragey type…. Which is a good thing

  11. Lynn says:

    I tend to take the coaching approach, sandwiching the negative between some more favourable aspects. The turd sandwich if you will…

    I’ve definitely softened my approach since publishing my own works. It’s surprising how a negative review can affect your mood. You’ve got to have pretty thick skin to read reviews of your stuff.

    • Irina says:

      Oh yeah – and anime (even what you would consider objectively bad anime) is pure magic. There are so many different levels of artistry and technique involved. It’s mind boggling

      • Lynn says:

        Plus, the news is so full of negativity right now, it makes me feel better to try to focus on positives. If something doesn’t work for me on any level, I try to suggest what I would have done to address my issues with it.

  12. ameithyst says:

    I also support the freedom to rant, but, as you said, not attacking the people who actually loved the show. It frustrates me whenever I see people insulting those who enjoyed the series they didn’t like. Ugh, this is one of my pet peeves as a person in various fandoms encountering various fans.

    • Irina says:

      I’ve even seen people attacking fans of shows they did like, because those fans don’t like them for the *right* reasons. We may have too much free time on our hands as a species…

  13. TPAB~ says:

    where do i fit in that four??

  14. marthaurion says:

    im usually a fan of reading both positive and negative opinions about a show because i feel like i learn more that way. the main reason i tend to get annoyed with overly negative opinions or rants is because i think that the motivations behind them are boring. i start to wonder if the person ranting has just decided in their head that they dont like what they saw, and that’s just not interesting. and if a particular blogger writes like this consistently, i have to wonder if they’re just doing this on purpose, which is even less interesting.

  15. Pete Davison says:

    Thanks for posting this, you make some great points and highlight some important things.

    As I’ve noted on previous occasions, I make a point of trying to remain positive and “find the good” on my site, because a lot of the games I cover have been on the receiving end of the last type of thing you describe — and I have zero patience for that, I’m afraid. Everyone’s tastes are different, after all, and something that one person finds to be an irredeemably awful mess due to some technical issue may be a meaningful, treasured work of art to someone else.

    This is why I prefer to avoid using the word “bad” wherever possible, because “bad” implies that there is some universally agreed criteria for something Not Being Worth Your Time And/Or Money. And there isn’t! “I didn’t like this” is very different from “this is bad”, and a lot of people still need to learn that.

    I’m not a fan of over-the-top negativity in general, anyway, and I hate hate HATE the “roast” thing; it makes me deeply uncomfortable to witness any time I’ve seen it. I actually had to ask my wife to turn off an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race that she was watching in bed the other night because the “roast” they were doing was just making me cringe so much.

    But anyway, all that’s just me, and I’m not going to begrudge anyone a good rant if they feel like they need it!

    The most important thing people need to take away from this post, however, is not to make it personal. As soon as you start insulting the people who enjoy something, you’ve crossed a line, however you might feel about the thing in question. I think I’ve shared this with you before, but this post sums up what Going Too Far looks like: https://moegamer.net/2017/07/08/destructoids-valkyrie-drive-review-is-more-than-just-bad-games-journalism/

    • Irina says:

      “I didn’t like this” is very different from “this is bad”

      Thank you!!! I constantly try to bring this point across (and instantly forget i when someone calls Natsume boring but that’s a whole other crazy…) I wish more people would make this point

  16. shaddowcat99 says:

    I kind of wish I had a Reason to rant, but everything I’ve seen is either good, or just so lame it puts out the fire. I wrote a rant for a book review once, and for fun I wrote a doozy for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just for fun. (I wonder what happened to that) it’s in me! I just haven’t watched the right anime yet!

  17. Chizurue says:

    I almost posted a truly spectacular rant just attacking a certain tv series which was adapted fr books. But I was too pissed off to hit publish and acknowledge its existence. So I didn’t 😅

  18. Cactus Matt says:

    Good post, I agree, even though I’ve been guilty of a rant or two in my time! The biggest problem is that even if you DO have good points to make, as soon as someone who’s a fan of something you didn’t like smells the slightest bit of negativity they either disregard the opinions in the review in favour of their own and start complaining or they just stop reading and don’t bother to read the points you’re trying to raise. But then again much of what we do online is essentially talking to a brick wall and hoping a reply comes back.

    • Irina says:

      Oddly, unless I’m dealing with one specific subset I find it’s the other way around for me. I’ll write an unflattering review and have fans say stuff like ypu got a point about this but I still enjoyed the show because of that…. On the flip side I’ll write about a show I loved and get tons of this show sucked type of comments.
      Not on Natsume though. Bitches would get banned!

  19. Plyasm says:

    Maybe I should do more rants.

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