Most fans hate it when someone poopoos their favourite series. That’s pretty understandable. And they tend to react defensively which isn’t always pleasant. I’ve spoken to quite a few bloggers that tell me they actively try to avoid being overly negative in their reviews and editorials and prefer reading blogs that are positive as well. And that really shows in the overall tone of the WP blogging community. We each occasionally dislike shows and might still review them less positively but generally, it’s not scathing. And very few bloggers are mostly negative. In fact, it’s rare for it to be an even split. For the most part, reviews are generally positive with a scattering of less enthusiastic ones.

anime happy typing
we love all anime!

This completely clashes with a presentation I attended lately. The speaker was theorizing (well they think they were stating but I’m not entirely sure about that) that a certain amount of criticism is perceived by the general public as a sign of a balanced and researched article. That in a way, some negativity lends credence to the author.

Like I said, I’m not sure I agree but I’m embarrassed to admit that I can think of instances where that sort of thinking applied to me. When I first started regularly reading reviews (mostly movie reviews at the time) I would subconsciously put the entirely positive ones in a “less professional” pile in my brain. A critic could praise a movie or even gush about it as long as they pointed out at least one flaw. No matter how inconsequential. That’s how I knew they were paying attention. This critic was obviously still impartial (even if they spelled out the opposite in their post) and therefore their opinions could be trusted. I’m not a very sensible reader.

There is no logical basis for thinking this way. I probably would have more reason to base my assumptions on an author’s trustworthiness on their choice of font. And this skewed belief has led me to watch a number of insufferable movies. Nevertheless, it was there and I have no clue where it comes from.

What’s more, even though I know it’s silly, it has persisted in a way and leaked into my own reviewing.

anime crappy
fair enough

Ever since I started putting my disorganized soliloquies about whatever anime I’m watching in writing for all the internet to see (or ignore), I’ve gone out of my way to find something negative to say even about shows I’ve adored. (Certain Natsumes excluded) There is a thought process behind that but I’m afraid it’s not much more rational.

I try to see honest negatives so that readers who actually read reviews to pick their next show will get a more accurate picture. But since I am actively trying to come up with something I will occasionally give disproportionate weight to an irritant I hardly noticed while watching. Not to mention that I have no idea whether anyone actually reads my reviews for recommendations or out of curiosity about my impressions on a show they’ve already seen. Which is how a lot of people approach reviews.

I’m not certain where this idea of the inherent credibility of negative criticism comes from but it is present and does occasionally create false impressions.

Granted, I am personally not that “useful” an anime reviewer. I love the medium, it’s why I watch so much of it and I enjoy most of what I see. That’s what’s kept me coming back to it all these years. If you go by me, you’ll end up with the same completely unreasonable “to watch” list as me. Although I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, it’s not for everyone.

anime mess
my watch list s cluttered, by Shiomachi Kona

I find that lately I’m increasingly drawn to passion. When a person can speak or write with an unabashed appreciation for a work, I almost always enjoy it. There’s something contagious about it. It’s true that I remain guarded. Obviously, these people are biased but we’re always biased up to a certain point. The thing is, even though I am told this negativity bias exists and I have convinced myself of it, that’s not what I’ve observed

Out of all the comments I get, I almost never have anyone tell me they’ve watched something because of a review of mine. They may say they were curious about a show and my review encouraged them to either watch it or drop it from their lists but it’s extremely rare that they would tell me they’ve picked up something solely on my recommendation.

This doesn’t bother me. In fact, it takes the pressure off. But there is one exception.

Out of all the shows I’ve talked about, the only one I’ve ever had anyone tell me they watched because of me, is Natsume’s Book of Friends. I wear this information on my heart like the huge badge of honour it is. It’s not exactly surprising. I mention the series every other post and have dedicated dozens of articles exclusively to it. I’ve turned my blog into something of a repository for Natsume fan art and it’s my second biggest Pinterest board.

here’s some more – by しゅみこ

And I openly announce my lack of objectivity when it comes to it. Even without the disclaimer, it’s pretty obvious. My reviews read like love letters. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written such enthusiastic actual love letters. Yet that’s the thing my readers have responded to.

I also let go of the pretence of balance in my pretty boy idol reviews which read more like fevered dreams in loosely strewn together words that barely make sense. Understandably those reviews will never stuff anyone to watching those shows but they are some of my favourite things to write. Putting those reviews together will usually have me in a good mood for the rest of the day. I’m pretty easy to please.

I may have lost my point as I was writing. Let me try to get t back. I guess I still feel a little amateurish when I start gushing like a lost cause about whatever I’m watching but I like it and I enjoy when other people do as well. It may come off as very subjective and because of that less credible. I certainly understand how it could. But from radom observation, it seems that despite that, it’s the type of writing that is more persuasive, at least to my readers.

So I may be too positive to be taken as a “serious” reviewer. However, that positivity seems to be convincing. It’s an odd trade-off.

Laughing Rini
and it makes me happy

38 thoughts

  1. I try to be as balanced as possible, Iriba. If I think that somethings bad, I call them out on it. That said, I do try and think positive about things I review. My belief is that if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t review it

  2. There is this idea that permeated on the internet that reviews are supposed to be “objective” and “without bias”. And it is an idea that is patently absurd. It’s just as absurd as the snarky, cynical reviewer being the most “intelligent”.

    Reviews are written by people who are doing so with the sole purpose of expressing their opinion. I had to write a review for Cat Planet Cuties once for a blog and pod network. Did I enjoy it? Hell no! But I wrote about it, and I was completely honest. For that same site, I wrote a piece on Texhnolyze, which I believe is a masterpiece, but not palatable for everyone, and I was honest.

    The only thing you can do, Irina, is be the best and most honest version of you that you can be. People wouldn’t come to your site if they didn’t want your thoughts and takes, right? 😉

  3. “Granted, I am personally not that “useful” an anime reviewer. I love the medium, it’s why I watch so much of it and I enjoy most of what I see. ”

    I find your reviews “useful” precisely because you tell me what you thought about an episode or a series. Whether that’s positive or negative isn’t the point. The point is that I like your perspective, so your review are useful.

    “And I openly announce my lack of objectivity when it comes to it. Even without the disclaimer, it’s pretty obvious. My reviews read like love letters. ”

    Which is why I consider those among your best reviews.

    Look, if I want objectivity (however that’s defined today), I’ll analyze a show myself. It’s not like I can’t do it. One of the things I can’t do, though, is recreate _your_ perspective.

    “I guess I still feel a little amateurish when I start gushing like a lost cause about whatever I’m watching but I like it and I enjoy when other people do as well. ”

    Can I ask a favor?

    Please don’t feel amateurish when you’re sharing something that’s important to you. In terms of quality, the term amateur only applies to you insofar as it’s preceded by a “not.”

    “So I may be too positive to be taken as a “serious” reviewer. However, that positivity seems to be convincing. It’s an odd trade-off.”

    Only if you buy into the idea that you have to live up to an external and arbitrary standard to be considered “serious.”

    I read your stuff because I want to read your perspective. I keep reading your stuff because I like your perspective. That’s all there is to that equation.

    If I _had_ to nitpick, I’d say it’s not that it’s your positivity that’s convincing. It’s simply your perspective. Labels like positive and negative are irrelevant. Please do just keep being you.

    Your reviews are absolutely credible insofar as they represent how you think and feel about the subject. And you can tell I’m serious because I used “insofar.” Twice. In a single comment.

    If that doesn’t say serious, I don’t know what does!

    1. I must admit the “insofar” really sold me here
      Thank you as always Crow. Your encouragement always means so much

  4. Hi.First I must thank you for sharing why you prefer making subjective reviews to objective ones without really crapping in objectivity,because a lot of people go”um what’s really objective? That isn’t something you can use on art because EVERYTHING is interpretive”(even though words and images have meaning to them)Now don’t get me wrong I still think that passionate subjective reviews tend to be the best ones and I only believe in objectivity in art to a point but regardless I think is nice to see someone tackle the issue without disregarding objectivity entirely.Sorry if I got a little rambly,I just wanna say you did a pretty good job explaining yourself and this was a very nice read.Have a good night.

    1. Wow thank you so much for your comment. I agree, you can have a degree of objectivity even in appreciating art and that’s a very valid style. Not one I’m good at but that’s neither here nor there

  5. I’m biased towards the cute girls do cute things genre, so if I like a show in that genre and you don’t share that bias it’s smart to be cautious. Knowing someone’s bias is useful, but if you follow someone’s blog, you’ll find the main biases soon enough.

    If you’re biased towards a show in particular, though? How is that different from saying that you loved it? People shouldn’t be afraid of “bias”.

    I mean I get it. I never worry about bias, but when I gush about a show and someone decides to watch it I’m suddenly worried I oversold it. What am I worried about it, though? At worst they’ve watched a show (or parts of it) they didn’t like. Happens all the time. No biggy right? (It’s somewhat more serious if they bought a boxed set on my recommendation, but I don’t think that’s ever happened.)

    Do I watch shows because of reviews? Almost never. I’ve usually already seen the show, or it’s already on my list of shows I’m interested in. If I do, it’s almost always shows I’d given up on, but a review convinced me to give it a second chance (it’s almost always worth it). On here, this happened with Granbelm, if you remember, which I would have dropped without looking back had I not read your review of the slice-of-lifey episode 2.

    In any case, my default expectation for blogs is that they’re personal. I’d probably be bored reading them if they weren’t biased.

    1. Oh and on the topic of boy idol shows: Actors Song Connection is good. Not great, but good. I don’t hear many people talk about it, which is sad.

      1. Duly noted. I almost never watch shows because of reviews. Humanity has declined is the only exception I can think of. But I regularly watch shows recommended in my comments and it has largely been successful.

  6. One reason so many different bloggers can find an audience in this wide world is that everyone is different. I don’t read that many anime blogs, or any other type of reviews really, but I’ve read enough to have chosen a (very few) favorites I subscribe to, and others have been allowed to pass by the wayside. I don’t like negative reviews, no matter how witty they might be, and they certainly don’t make me want to watch the anime. As I think you know, our watchlist probably does nearly match up 😛 and I do read your reviews for recommendations, simply because experience has taught me that we have much the same tastes. So if you really liked it, I probably will, too. Even more, I love your thoughtful, insightful posts about – well, like this one – subjects related but other than reviews. I’ve learned. I’ve thought. I like that. And I like the positive attitude. It’s clear that you have an audience, and we’d miss you and your little ray of anime sunshine. Be who you are. 😀

  7. Fantastic post, and a very interesting topic to explore! I think as long as you’re honest about your opinions on a show/movie etc. that you’re perfectly cut out to be a reviewer. It doesn’t matter if you mostly focus on the positives or even entirely focus on them. As long as something doesn’t seem fake to me, I enjoy reading it. In fact, I find it quite refreshing to see people so passionate and excited about things they like. People like you are much needed in the world of anime discussion and reviews.

    It’s so strange – Lately I’ve been feeling like I have the exact opposite problem – That I’m too negative in my reviews. I’ve had someone tell me before that their view on something they liked soured a bit because of some problems I had discussed about it and, I gotta tell ya, that cut deep. Like ‘I really considered quitting’ deep. I never went into this wanting to ruin people’s enjoyment of something. My style is also a bit over the top for comedic effect, I write a lot and discuss nitpicky things and I think that just makes it worse.

    I never aim to be negative, I always try to be as honest as possible and have a balanced view. I hate when it feels like I’m being dishonest in a review because that’s exactly what I hate to read. I always make it a point to mention anything I genuinely liked, even if it’s tiny, and now I’m making more of an attempt to give more constructive criticism instead of outright saying ‘this is bad’, but I still feel a bit jealous of people who are more in the positive light because it’s so rare for me to find things that I can talk about in such a manner. Though maybe that’s just the way my mind works.

    Overall, I think it’s better to be more locked in the positive than the negative as long as you’re giving your true opinions. If little negative things don’t affect your view, you shouldn’t feel the need to throw them into the mix just for the sake of having them there. Just be true to your own style and yourself. 🙂

    1. See I don’t think nit picking is negative. I never considered CinemaSins negative for instance. Pointing out details and inconsistencies you noticed shows you paid attention. It doesn’t mean the overall product is bad.
      And although I can see how a comment like that would be tough to get. Really tough. You made a reader think, consider things they hadn’t before. That has great merit too

  8. I love it when reviews read like love letters. In the end the reader is trying to find THAT anime that they will like. They are always looking for something and in the reviews they might find something that they relate to or that they are looking for, even if it is something small.
    Although I tend on the end to gush about pretty boys… Even if the anime is bad it is nice to have something pleasant to look at.

    1. I think it’s healthy to gush about pretty boys or pretty girls for that matter. You can’t have too much pretty!

  9. On the bright side, I can tell I will definitely not watch something if even YOU found it a chore to sit through, despite enjoying it. Positivity can only reach so far, after all. I think positive reviewers are great because they provide a unique perspective, especially if something only has negative reviews.

    1. Well who’s being super positive now!!! That’s an awesome way to put it. You can trust me on the rare stuff I don’t like!

  10. On negative reviews: I could probably count on one hand the number of shows I genuinely disliked on one hand. If I don’t like it, I stop watching it. I mean I’m not getting paid to review these shows. 🙂

    1. I have a completion problem and an optimism problem that makes it difficult to drop shows but I also may have a standards problem since despite the wide variety of anime I watch I rarely dislike any. At most I find them not as good as my favourites…

  11. That was a great post. Reviewers do need to have a healthy balance of positive and negative in their writing. Even for someone like me who thinks highly of Haibane Renmei, The Place Promised In Our Early Days, or more recently the Sengalese movie Black Girl (why did no one tell me about Ousmane Sebene when I was taking film history courses?), I still had to point out a flaw or two because I can’t bring myself to make puff pieces. It can also be worrying when people gravitate to extreme negative reviews or commentary like CinemaSins, How It Should Have Ended, and to a certain extent Honest Trailers among certain bloggers and vloggers. It’s like they actively try to find the worst things whether that piece of media deserves it or not. I have my moments where I do bash certain anime or movies (also one of the main reasons why I rarely ever review mainstream movies), but even then I have to force myself to find whatever good there is in it.

  12. It’s really fascinating that you bring this up. On a slightly divergent route because I can’t comment specifically on blogs, but in my experience with games, I do give overall negative reviews (if I find them “deserving”) at times to make myself seem credible.

    My policy has swapped back and forth between reviewing them or ignoring them upon a product falling into my lap. This is because I’ve found negative reviews dissuade developers from giving review copies. Ultimately, I decided to continue giving negative reviews as I recognized others who were throwing positive reviews left and right with no grasp of the material to get free games.

    That’s my take on it. In isolated reviews though, I do agree that being passionate trumps an attempt at subjectivity. (Even if I’m a bit hypocritical)

    1. Oh I hadn’t considered the business aspect. That brings up a whole other slew of variables! Interesting. I have no experience in the field but I can see where there would be undue influence

  13. Honestly, if I want to know if an anime is good or not, I watch their MAL score or basicly for a review of any kind I use Metacritic likes. The single reviewer isn’t me. If 1000 people like it and 1 dislikes it chances are I will like it.

    The reason I like reading reviews is to see how other people experience something. That means I rather hear you gush about Natsume because that is a genuine emotion.
    People telling me, anime X is bad because it fails to adhere to the three act structure can state that as a fact, but that doesnt tell how they feel.
    Someone can tell me how they chose a unlucky frames per second, which may be true but it doesnt tell me anything.

    While by the majority considered as factual flaws, I dont care about the second and the first is not detrimental perse. I find your review style preferable because you say “I like this because” .. then you tell us an emotional process for you.
    The fact that you enjoyed is a true fact. That 20 frames per second is not enough is just a popular opinion.

    A reviewer doesnt need to be negative to be credible IMO they need to be themselves. Then we can learn how a reviewer is as a person and how well that relates to us. I find myself agreeing with your mental process a lot so I put trust in your feeling about a show. A review should give the writers opinion not popular biased ‘facts’

    1. That’s really great to hear. I’m with you, my enjoyment is rarely based on empirical measures of quality.

  14. while it certainly seems to draw more attention to be negative, i think that people generally respond more to the extreme ends. i often get the sense that people who try too hard to be overly positive are just over-correcting for the perceived negativity, and that only causes its own set of problems. it starts to feel disingenuous if you’re going out of your way to focus on either the good parts or the bad parts. but maybe that’s just me

    1. Actually I’ve been there too. Especially when I know someone who’s really enjoyed a show that I didn’t…

  15. I’m the same as you; I’m much more interested in passion than “objectivity” (which doesn’t really exist when it comes to opinions on art and media, anyway). I love hearing why people are enthusiastic about things, even if they’re not stuff I’m personally into; seeing someone crap all over something they clearly never intended to give a chance in the first place, conversely, infuriates me.

    There’s a widespread misunderstanding out there which likely relates to the multiple meanings of the word “criticism”: most people assume the more well-established meaning that “criticise” means “pick fault”, whereas actually it simply means “form and express a judgement of”.

    This is why I tend to avoid calling the things I write “reviews” or “criticism”, because the former denotes “consumer advice” and the latter is prone to the misunderstanding above. Instead, I like to describe what I do as “analysis” or just, more simply, “writing about games”. It doesn’t necessarily need a label.

    Trouble is, the word “review” has become the default word to use when talking about a piece of writing that focuses on a single, specific work, and that can be a bit misleading, too.

    Oh, God, why does this all have to be so complicated!

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