In Defense of Subjectivity in Anime Blogging

Having any sort of online communal experience is a weird thing. We all experience things in different ways so it can already be a little tough to understand each other in the best of circumstances, but when you add on the digital veil over that it becomes even more nebulous. It’s a telephone game where no one hands you the phone, and you often have to work with very partial information.

On top of that, anime blogging often discusses art and there are few absolutes in art. So much of what I say and write depends on my personal take or perceptions and I just have to hope someone out there had had a similar enough impression to understand what I’m talking about.

anime drowning

it’s a challenge

I mean even if I try to be somewhat “objective” when writing reviews so I can give readers that don’t have my weirdo tastes and lack of standards a somewhat decent idea of what a series is like, it still ends up completely tainted by my personal experience. And I think that’s ok. Reviews are opinions after all and those are going to be subjective.

Which is why I would like to make a case for the completely subjective blogger today.

I know that coming off biased is not exactly considered good form in journalism. Even in entertainment journalism. Although I still don’t know how anyone would be able to stick to *just the face ma’am” when talking about art. There’s nevertheless a mild stigma associated with “fanboy/girling” over anything. I think it’s more accepted to be unduly harsh than overly complementary for some reason. But either way, you’re supposed to at least *seem* neutral. And I say pooh to that.

Ok wait, journalists should probably try to not let personal preferences influence how they present facts but we’re not journalists. Well I certainly am not. Please dear readers do not take anything I say for gospel. I am in no way ready for that type of responsibility.

And you know what’s more, as a reader, I actually prefer biased, emotional, opinionated and subjective posts. I understand that some people enjoy both writing and reading analysis that are based on research and divorced from the authors personal views. I do enjoy those once in a while as well. But I also like to do my own research. One thing I can absolutely not get from any other source(s) is what a blogger felt like when watching a series, how a specific tropes affects them, what their views are in light of the unique set of experiences they have.

anime-watching

tell me about it

Sure, I guess you could consider that useless information. Admittedly, it’s not likely to come in useful in my day to day life. But it’s completely one of a kind so I think it makes it valuable. Besides the same can be said about getting to know anyone. It’s not so much about the actual data you gather, it’s about expanding your mind by considering something outside of yourself. At least that’s how I see it. And you never know, I might need to buy you a present some day, so knowing all those preferences will have a practical application. And I love buying presents, it’s not that far fetched…

My point is that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bloggers posting unbalanced reviews and passionate opinions based on your feelings. All those preferences and pet leaves are part of someone’s blogging voice and I really enjoy a strong blogging voice. Then again some people are naturally more balanced and understated so a neutral tone is also part of their blogging voice. That’s great too. Really it’s a question of embracing one’s personal views, even if they may occasionally be quirky or lopsided.

When I hear young bloggers struggling with making a post more objective or more accessible. Editing out any opinions they feel would either not be popular with the readership or they just think don’t sound professional enough (whatever that means), I get the feeling I’ve just missed out on something.

eccentric

luckily I didn’t miss this

For the record, I’m not saying the internet is a warm and fuzzy place all welcoming and forgiving. I’m not saying that at all. I bet you can get into a vicious social media argument right now if you just let people know what your favourite pizza is. Without even trying that hard, or at all. But the WordPress aniblogging community is a fairly cozy spot. In my experience, whenever a blogger has decided to let their personal opinions through, they have had a great response from the readership here. Often better than expected and outshining other posts.

I can’t tell you why others may like it, but to me highly subjective posts just seem like a connection. Something personal. And that connection makes an impact, even if I find myself with nothing to add or comment about. I do understand that bloggers who tone down enthusiasm or try to always bring up both strengths an weaknesses of a series (like myself, I always do that) are doing so in a effort to be as helpful to their readers and true to reality as possible. That’s admirable. I just think it’s also o.k. to throw caution to the wind once in a while, ignore all the bad things about our new favourite series and write a post that’s more of a love letter. And I always enjoy reading them no matter how often they lure me into watching anime that’s not really for me…

These are my views but how do you feel about it. Do you enjoy subjective takes or do you prefer when authors keep their own opinions and feelings out of it? How do you prefer writing?

Love Rini

Irina

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

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34 Responses

  1. Goatius says:

    I think you’ve got the right idea here. I’ve been aniblogging for seven or eight years at this point, and at first I had these same concerns about subjectivity. But if you’re not working for a particular site or marketing to certain audiences, you honestly don’t owe anyone anything. People will follow you because of your unique brand of writing. People who don’t like your style will go find what they’re after elsewhere.

    On “objectivity” as a means of critiquing anime, I think the best you can do is explain why some shows are more effective than others in certain aspects, particularly if they’re aiming for the same audience and goals in the same genre. I wouldn’t compare Attack on Titan to Konosuba, for example, because they’re trajectories are vastly different. That said, objectivity is highly overrated and impossible to achieve.

    Anyway, I like your blog, and I look forward to more engaging content 🙂

  2. dreager1 says:

    I definitely like emotional pieces the most. For example my favorite blog to read while on the train or when I have a moment is Fiddletwix’s anime blog because he gives a very detailed look at why he did or didn’t enjoy the episode. You get the facts of what happened, but with the opinions thrown in right from the start and throughout the pieces.

    I don’t necessarily think it has to be to the extreme, but I do like to see some emotion. If a post is very objective and just stating what happened, sometimes I never really know how the poster felt about it. It’s my one taboo when reading a piece. If someone writes a review on say DBZ but never actually goes into if they liked it or not then it’s not as fun. I’ve seen a few sites where the poster will always talk about the critics point of view “Critics don’t like Buso Renkin because the characters were shallow…” but never get around to their opinion. I care a lot more about what the person writing feels than the general consensus because I can always look that up on my own.

    Final reason for me is that I do think things like anime and manga are completely subjective. I’ve always felt that all entertainment mediums fall into the same package. When someone says that a voice actor isn’t good or a show has bad writing, I take that as an opinion and not that it’s an objective truth. The only objective things for me are academics like science and math where the answers can be proven. So since I don’t believe any of these things are objective (which may be a bit jaded I suppose) I treat everything as subjective and just like to see what people think.

  3. Jiraiyan says:

    I generally prefer a balance approach. Present the anime in neutral terms at first then give your opinion.

  4. daze3x says:

    I think it really just depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are trying to explain how a show personally appealed to you, then of course it should be largely subjective, as long as the author shows self-awareness that that’s exactly what they are doing.

    If you are trying to do an in depth, serious review, or an in depth analysis, then I feel you should at least try to be as objective as possible (not completely as that is kinda impossible).

    As for me, I wanna mix things up and decide what to write depending on what I want to accomplish. I don’t do reviews since I don’t really care about listing all the positives or negatives, and I’d rather explain why something is good. When I write, i generally have a mix of objective analysis and subjective explanation, basically a mix of what makes something work or makes something good, and what I personally like about something. How much I focus on one or the other depends on what I’m writing. A top list is more subjective focused. An analysis I try to be more objective. Of course, if I do analyze something, I’m doing it because I like something and want to explain why it’s good so others like it too, not just to show off my intellectual prowess lol. Then again, I could try to do the same thing with something more personal and subjective.

    So it really just depends on what my specific goal is for each post. I don’t think there is a particular right way to blog, as long as you have self-awareness of what exactly you are writing and trying to accomplish with what you are writing. If you are just fangirling/fanboying over something, and it’s clear that you acknowledge that’s what you are doing, then as long as your readers are interesting then I see no reason to throw a fit over it.

    • Irina says:

      That makes sense. For analysis objctivity to a certain degree is very useful. For reviews I find it a little less impreative since a review almost always assigns a value jugement (i.e. should someone watch tis) which I’m not sure can be objective

  5. I do not mind subjective anime reviews at all as long as the reviewer is clear about their particular lens when reviewing the anime. What I get more annoyed with are the ones that claim to be objective when they are really being subjective in nature. Typically it is a way to justify their particular views. Anime is art so it’s always going to be subjective to a degree.

  6. Krystallina says:

    I like my reviews subjective with a bit of objectivity. Because sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the pieces and sometimes we need to pull back and see the full picture, compare it to other things, make sure the review matches the score, etc.

    • Irina says:

      I have such a hard tme matching my reviews to my scores. I often enjoy shows which are drastically flawed in many ways like my pretty boy shows for instance but I have so much fun with them. So I end up gushig over a show I rated 6/10 and giving a very terse review for a show I rated 8/10…

  7. AK says:

    I used to struggle with this issue. But then I thought, when it comes to writing about art, you can only be so objective, right? There are some technical aspects of it that can be described as better or worse in a pretty objective way, but in general I don’t think it’s really possible to boil a work down in such a scientific way. So I agree. I also agree that it’s more interesting to read someone’s actual opinions, biased as they are, than to read someone who’s trying their hardest to remove all the subjective opinion from their writing. I’m not sure what you’d even be left with at that point.

  8. “Ok wait, journalists should probably try to not let personal preferences influence how they present facts but we’re not journalists.”

    I think this is a very important idea.

    I’ve been a journalist. A journalist’s goal should be to present the facts and any conclusions or insights based directly on this facts. No agenda. No propaganda. No rhetoric, unless it’s clearly labelled.

    I read your anime reviews because I like knowing what you think. If I want a synopsis or other fact-based article, there are dozens of places I can get it, starting with MAL, Anilist, Anime Planet, etc.

    “I can’t tell you why others may like it, but to me highly subjective posts just seem like a connection.”

    This!

    It’s the same reason I write from my perspective. I want to share what I’m thinking and connect with others with similar or even wildly different ideas. I love those conversations! But if a writer doesn’t share their perspective, there’s nothing really to talk about.

    “On top of that, anime blogging often discusses art and there are few absolutes in art.”

    This too!

    I really wish your understanding of this topic were more widespread. Because it’s not, a writer can try to make the case that their opinion is so objective that it’s fact. I’ve seen folks claim that their taste is objectively better than someone else’s because of that.

    Maybe if we start substituting the word “personalized’ for “subjective” we’ll get more traction.

  9. Dawnstorm says:

    I agree completely. Wear your bias like your favourite shirt, so everyone can admire it. Just be prepared that some people will think you’re shirt is ugly. Maybe you even agree, but it’s just so comfortable?

  10. Karandi says:

    I don’t think a reviewer can or should keep their opinion out of it, though sometimes they might want to consider how they express that opinion and what they support the opinion with. I like hearing the real view of the person reviewing something and as you said, it kind of helps connect us to the writer, but I don’t just want to know that they like or hate something. I really want to know why and what made them feel that way. If that’s explained then whether I agree with their opinion or not I leave the post feeling like I’ve gained something from reading it.

  11. I’m not sure it’s possible for anyone to be a completely objective reviewer or blogger. Everyone brings their own personal experiences, preferences and prejudices to their writing. It’s just that mainstream media centres on certain viewpoints so much that they have been positioned as objective, even though they’re not.

    Case in point: so many of the reviews for ‘Kabukichou Sherlock’ last season described it as fun, entertaining, full of wacky hijinks. Not one mention of the blatant and nasty transphobia that started in episode 1 and resurfaced towards the end of the first half of the season. Rather than calling those reviews ‘objective’, I’d call them subject to those reviewers’ personal feelings about trans people – that watching trans people being mocked, misgendered and killed was just an entertaining story for them. I sought out reviews from actual queer writers, but found none. (Sorry to get all heavy and serious, but I’m still fuming over this!)

    I think it’s actually helpful to know about a reviewer’s preferences. If a reviewer skips over something that other people might find unpleasant, that’s not being objective. I actually want to read reviews from certain points of view – how would an asexual reviewer write up a show? How might a person of colour feel about a particular comic? How would someone with a disability react to a certain storyline?

    I say be open about your starting point when you write. When people disagree with your opinions, I think being openly subjective helps to justify why your opinions are as they are.

    • Dawnstorm says:

      Caitlin Moore reviewed Kabukichou‘s first episode on Animefeminist: Here. I actually skipped out on the show after a minute or so, so I read a few reviews whether it was worth coming back to it, and ultimately decided against it. Animefeminist was the only site that made that aspect the focus of the review (due to site focus), but I do remember other reviews mentioning it, too.

    • Irina says:

      I have not seen ‘Kabukichou Sherlock’. I waned to but I didn’t have the platform I’m not sure I want to anymore.

  12. Merlin says:

    When I briefly majored in English in college, there were a few aspects of it which strained my patience to the point of straining my sanity, including: how it wasn’t about writing, it was about how important academia was; how one was required to have an opinion, but only if it matched someone else’s opinions; how everything personal was to be thoroughly scoured away with extreme prejudice, erasing one’s own voice from one’s own work, leaving everyone and everything dry, monotone, and supposedly “objective.”

    Heck, yeah, bring on the subjectivity! That’s part of being, you know, *human.* 🙂

    • Irina says:

      Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.

  13. I like subjective reviews as a sort of scale of comparison to myself. If a person I know who doesn’t like, say, slice of life suddenly praises an SoL anime, I think “Wow, that must be a damn good SoL”

  14. Anonymous says:

    Personally for myself i don’t really care about subjective takes for reviews and for me the author should just leave their personal feelings and biases out of a review and focus on doing the research and gathering evidence to show why the product is either objectively good bad or in the middle.
    Especially if you are writing like a news article your goal is to focus purely on the facts and to give a complete story on what is going on.
    -K(rogueotakugamer)

    • I respect that opinion, but I have to disagree. Subjective takes are important for the individual, especially if you are a fan of the reviewer’s previous content. If you know what the tastes of the reviewer are, then you have a scale of comparison of how much you’ll enjoy it. For example, if a person who normally doesn’t enjoy isekai suddenly LIKES an isekai anime, that isekai anime must be pretty good. While factual takes without personal feelings are great for product reviews, art is a subjective medium that isn’t easily pinned down as “good” or “bad”.

    • Irina says:

      but good and bad are not acts though. A purely objective review shouldn’t ive a value judgement just information like what happened in the show, the people invlved in the production, the budget. There is no objectively better anime sine the putpose is entrtainemnt and that is inherently subjective.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another thing personally i should also mention i’d leave subjective takes to columns/op-eds but should still have evidence and objective facts to make the authors argument more valid.
      And no just because i’d like Nier Automata does not automatically mean that i’ll like Drakengard 3 i mean i played it myself and the story concept and themes were interesting. The gameplay was button mashing and very glitchy.
      I’d also no bought anything in my life sorely because of a review mainly because i’m a facts oriented person and i believe in doing my own research and looking at various different sources so i can make my own independent thoughts on the things i cover.
      And yes everyone has their personal poison that they are into but just because i may not be into the genre does not mean that i’m going to tear it apart harshly just cause its a certain genre or it was made by someone who could be a polarizing figure.

  15. Pinkie says:

    Like I said earlier an opinion and thus by proxy a subjective blog also, are much greater conversation starters than factual trivia about anime. When I hear that recent anime X has a weird frame rate and cheaps out on frames during fight scenes I’ll think. .. Okay did not notice that and move on. I do not think whether I watch an anime or not is based on a single or series of reviews ever. If I doubt what I will watch I will look at an IMDB , or MAL score first. How is it generally received. Then I search for a likeminded blogger and might read their review about it.. but I base that on how well we subjectively match and even then, most of the time i already decided to check something out or not.

    For example I do notice how my tastes in anime are more similar to yours (Irina) than for example John Spencer or Scott. So if you say something is awesome and John says it’s bad.. I am more inclined to think I’d enjoy it.Yet I do like to read their posts as well. Mostly from passional love you get angles and insight about characters you would not normally get. I hate Kirito from Sword Art for example. I really like if someone talks about angels that make him a great character. Subjectivity is always new, objectivity is only new once.
    100 people can tell me they love Tengen Toppa and I would still here something new.
    100 people told me that Dragon Ball super had bad animation in the first part of the series and traces old animations in the later half..which is bad… I heard the same thing 99 times.

    I am even going as far as believing that objective blogging is a falsehood. You can’t objectively dislike anything. Bad animation while a shared perception is never true either. When you write a review safe and objectively , you basically write it for no one because everyone has an opinion. An “objective” opinion is basically putting a story to a MAL or IMDB score. However since these are averages virtually NO ONE has actually given it that grade. It’s all way higher and way lower scores.. so who do you actually appeal to?

    Factual pieces about the history of anime can be great..but only fun once. Someone will have beaten us to that so I don’t see the point of doing them that much. After all you have to get your information somewhere as well. Be subjective have something new to say. No one can tell what Irina thinks but Irina. No one can tell how I should feel about Geass but me.
    However don’t be like many youtubers and make subjective articles feel like objective.
    “Fairy Tale Sucks and here’s why…” IS a bad article .. it is misleading and subjectivity is confused with reality. “Why I disagree with Fairy Tale Fans” shows you are subjective and makes us read it for YOUR opinion. We get the choice.. and then it’s my favorite type of content.

    • Irina says:

      I lso think objective opinions are a misnomer. I love when blogers write in such a way that you can sort of get to know them, or at least gage their tastes. I’m flattered that you picked up on mine and we do indeed seem to have similar likes when it comes to anime. Although I also think I have similar tastes to Scott s that’s a bit odd… Ok, maybe I just like all anime.

  16. K.A.L.T says:

    In terms of how much an anime can be enjoyed, that is completely subjective due to the fact that everyone looks out for different things in anime. Even if you can objectively argue that the plot doesn’t make sense or the animation is bad, as long as the viewer doesn’t care about those and simply wants, let’s say, likable characters, you would not be able to convince the person that it is a bad anime…
    I guess what I’m trying to say is just that, people giving subjective views on anime helps just as much as an “objective” review of the anime because you know what they were looking for and whether they got what they were looking for. By comparing whether what you want from anime aligns with that of the blogger, you can decide for yourself whether or not it is a good anime. Also, most of us aren’t experts when watching anime so we can’t really differentiate between objectively good and bad art or animation. We can’t exactly tell what is lacking but we can express how we felt about the art and animation, whether it was good or bad. Over time, as they express their own opinions of various anime’s art and animation, you can get a sense of what they feel is good and what is bad based on feeling which to me, is easier to get by as compared to complicated objective opinions.
    Well, that’s just my opinion though ^^”

  1. February 3, 2020

    […] Interestingly, she might as well have written it as a case study for another of her posts, “In Defense of Subjectivity in Anime Blogging,” which further expands on the idea of why writing reviews for some series is so challenging. […]

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