Top 5 Things I find Difficult About Writing Episode Reviews

As a new anime season is dawning (isn’t it poetic? I hope so, I tried to make it sound poetic…) I find myself in the familiar position of choosing which (if any shows) I will be watching and reviewing as they air. This is actually a trickier decision than it sounds. Watching anime as it airs affects my viewing experience a lot. I’m also not that suited to episode reviews in general.

But there’s something really attractive about how efficient and organized seasonal episode reviews are. You always know what you’re going to write about. It’s a great excuse to feed my growing screencap addiction. Not to mention the sweet sweet views. But it wears me out so I have to discipline myself and not just pick everything that seems even remotely interesting or else I’ll end up whining nonstop by mid season like I did this winter.

In an attempt to remind myself to be disciplines. I have put together this top 5 list of things I personally find difficult about doing episode reviews. If I end up picking up 12 new shows to review, you can make fun of me. I deserve it.

Anime construction

you need material to build things…it worked in my head

5. Material

Sure you always know what you’re going to write about, but what happens when there’s not much there to write about. Most good seasons of anime have peaks and valleys. They have built up and episodes that are just there to set up the action. They may even have emotional palette cleansers or dampeners. Episodes that are purposefully more devoid of impact that serve the overall pacing of the plot but by themselves are just a building block.

These episodes can be great but they are also often really difficult for me to talk about. Aside from, they’re setting up something for next week but I’m not sure what and I’m not sure how I will like it…. Not exactly a thrilling review there. In every seasonal show I’ve reviewed, I’ve come across these types of episodes and writing posts for them is always a huge challenge. I sit staring at my screen trying to pick up on anything I can actually discuss and often end up with posts that I’m not entirely satisfied with.

better-schedule-

I’m getting way too literal with my image game

4. Schedule

This season has been particularly rough for me. Work ramped up considerably making it so I often didn’t have time to watch as much anime as I wanted, let alone write about it. As such, posting seven days a week here and four days a week on Karandi’s blog, with galleries, has been difficult. It would have been way easier if I could take full advantage of my precious free time and just write a whole bunch of posts in advance.

Sadly, that’s not an option with episode reviews. Not only can I not write a whole bunch to give myself a comfortable little fallback and then not worry about skipping a day or two, but I also can’t be too lazy about getting the episodes out or else they pile up and the next one has aired. Nothing wrong with reviewing multiple episodes at the time but it makes my ocd itch. It’s a me problem.

anime happy typing

honestly, that’s pretty much me watching an average show. It doesn’t take much!

3. Enjoyment

Like I said, watching and reviewing a show seasonally really affects the way I take it in. As I’m getting used to it, I start realizing just how often I would have enjoyed a show more if I could have taken it in as a continuous story. And that makes me a little sad. This is by no means the case for every show. There are series that are written in a way that piece meal consumption doesn’t really affect the flow. Usually shows without an overarching plot or serious character development.

As such, I really need to be just more mindful of that aspect when I’m picking shows to review. The downside is, series with huge plots can be really fun to review on an episode by episode basis because you really get to enjoy and take into account the climaxes and action in contrast with the slower moments and build up.

It’s a puzzle, this said, I do want to make sure as much as possible that I’m not bringing down my anime experience because of my blogging experience. That would be so counterproductive!

blue exorcis lonely

why do swing sets make everything sadder?

2. Lack of Feedback

In my experience episode reviews get views and not much else. They get a lot of views. However, unless you have access to my stats page, you wouldn’t guess that because they get by far the least interaction. My essays get enough comments, occasionally not very positive comments, for me to be able to adjust my style and figure out what works or not. My full series reviews get less interaction but I am starting to see what’s likely to get certain readers interested and I more often get comments telling me someone is going to try a show because if a review I wrote (or stay away from it). Sometimes I even get a follow up on how they are enjoying it. These are highly rewarding comments and I’ve also been able to improve on the clarity of reviews and focus a bit more of what’s useful to readers.

I get very little about my episode reviews. So not only is it the post format with which I am the least experienced and the least comfortable, it’s also the format I have the least information on how to improve.

anime clones

only not as varied

1. Consistency

Consistency is a good thing. I really like consistency and I think it can improve a lot of things. But I also like variety… I love Haikyuu, it a wonderful series and season 4 has been brilliant. I love watching it every week, I love getting all my screencaps together and I love writing about it. Except for the fact that I think I’ve written essentially the same post 7 times. It’s a great show with incredibly solid fundamentals. It’s simply beautifully crafted and exceptional in a very traditional way. It’s great a large cast dynamics and tackles complex, often contradictory and confusing relationships with respect for both the audience and the characters.

Great, now I just need to write that over and over again once a week for 3 months or so. Now Haikyuu really is an exceptional show if you ask me. One of the best of it’s kind (a kind I happen to appreciate a lot). As such I don’t mind this ritual. However, very few shows are exceptional (that’s sort of what exceptional means). And writing variations of the same posts multiple times a week is just not my thing. I’m not talented enough a writer to let the words carry the post.

Writing seasonal episode reviews is a specific art. Some people really enjoy it and are great at it. I admire these people. I think that’s why I trick myself into thinking that with practice I could be one of those people. But I’m not there yet. So for now, I think I need to take it a little at the time. A couple a season rather than the 7 I was doing this winter. Or stick to collaborative posts cause those are always awesome to write.

Do you enjoy writing or reading episode reviews? Is there anything that makes writing them easier. What do you look for in an episode review? Please let me know, I could really use the feedback!

Rini 2020 (10)

Irina

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

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30 Responses

  1. Dawnstorm says:

    Unless there’s something that the episode made you want to talk about, the most interesting part of your episode reviews are the galleries. You’re very good at choosing/grouping them, giving a feel for the episode. It’s like we’re standing in front of a painting, and your pointing out stuff I missed. Still, it’s rather hard to reply to this.

    The material-part is really tough. Haikyuu, as awesome as the show is, often doesn’t leave you (or me) with much to say. And I’m the type of person who tires easily from repetition: that is, if I say every week that a show is awesome, it’s turning into a cliché I become suspicious of, and it can impact my enjoyment . If a show I like is really popular, I tend to read very few posts about it, unless there’s an intellectual component to the show that makes for interesting discussions (rare).

    If I had a blog, I’d be doing weekly posts rather than episode reviews. Or no consistent weekly posts at all. Collab weekly reviews are more interesting; they’re like conversations.

    All in all, I still think message boards are a better medium to discuss ongoing shows, but they’ve become decreasingly popular.

    • Irina says:

      I fnd episode reviews to be a great way for me to keep my thoughts straight. Like notes… But I do enjoy the pictures and the speculating. I’m having furn with ToG so far

  2. Pinkie says:

    I am going to be honest, the weekend, when you do episodic stuff is when I either skim or do not read your articles.

    While I do love your mind in some of these, how you can be facinated by a hyper realistic pidgeon or some weird theories I cant help but to feel this is filler content for you. It seems you are less active or abscent from wordpress. So to me it really feels like content you rather make for yourself than for others and to hold people over for your main content.

    The whole type of content isnt really my jam. I skim trough such content to see if it would be a show I like. Since you like so much , there isn’t much in terms of discovering tone there. You are so postive, which is why I like you so much, but it also makes all of the reviews very samesie.

    IMO Crow and Lyn ( Otaku Author) do these best in concept. The structure in their post offers what I personally seek in these types of reviews the best. While Keiko yourself and Karandi as well as a few others create the most memorabele one of the week more often, that happens mostly when you are not really talking about the episode but ramble a bit.

    Your episodic reviews with Crow I kinda like, but thats because to me you kinda feel like a real life couple or something watching anime together on the couch. It also feels the different tones between you make an interesting dynamic.

    All in all it’s not like I dislike your episodic reviews but I feel as if it’s more something you think you
    need to do, to be relevant or to get hits or to keep in touch with the community. And giving feedback on how to improve is very hard.

    What would make them better in terms of episode reviews for what I want out of them, would make them less Irina. Making them more Irina might make it less about the episodes. As the postive force I see you as, it is kind of hard. Perhaps pick a few series you think might not get enough love or view as those who will get underrated.
    Not sure! Just be you regardless because you are awesome.

    • Irina says:

      I’ll be honest too, I much prefer writing reviews wit Crw than by myself so I understand. The episode reviews I do on ts blog (as opposed to 100 word) are really mostly for me. They’re series that mean something personal but I’m not sure they’re the best read for someone who doesn’t feel the same

      • Pinkie says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I do notice these series mean something to you, but I think the format of episode reviews and the reason to read episode reviews doesnt always translate well

        I know you are unlikely to drop a show and your spirit is much more, well it had 12 bad episodes but 1 REALLY good one and hey in those other twelve they meant well and they have a nice screencaps so its still good.

        When you nitpick and talk about how you disliked it how this character said a thing that goes slighty against character its easy to find content, when your postive its much harder to specify . Like If I talk about how Midoriya had amazing animation on his pinky toe this episode that actual takes away from positivity rather than boosting it. While if you specifically mention how ugly it looked the point would still stand.

        So its hard to inovate with positivity, and I would describe positivity as leading in your style. So I feel you have to look for negatives in stuff dear to you to keep it a bit cohesive/neutral? I may be looking to much into it but as far as I read your reviews it feels as if postives come natural and negatives is something you kinda add on to keep a narrative? Which is why your co-op reviews work better because Karandi or Crow can say..did you notice the quality dip and you respond.

        Again not saying your reviews are bad because I like their tone and your writing still.. I kinda feel though like you need to think about these more? Like put to much you into it and its not a review.. put to little in it and its no fun?

        Might be way off though!

      • “They’re series that mean something personal but I’m not sure they’re the best read for someone who doesn’t feel the same”

        TBH, that’s exactly why I like your reviews. One of the things I look most for is authenticity. I want to know what you think. I want to know why you think it. That’s exactly what I get when I read your reviews.

        I get the same sense from Lynn or Dewbond or several other bloggers.

        Either that or you’re astonishingly good at faking authenticity!

        And if someone doesn’t feel the same? That’s fine. It’s the sharing of ideas and perspectives that’s important.

        At least at the level of what moves humanity forward.

    • “IMO Crow and Lyn ( Otaku Author) do these best in concept. ”

      Just so you know, you made my day! Thanks!

      I’ll also agree that Otaku Author does a great job with reviews. The format’s easy to read and it feels like we’re getting his honest opinion.

  3. LaurelsCode says:

    Okay. time to confess a sin. I do not read but rather skim through reviews of animes that are airing. Just to get a feel about the story.
    I usually don’t watch seasonal anime, I am way too impatient. So I don’t want to spoil myself too much but I trust your and other bloggers judgements more than a paragraph synopsis.
    As for what I am looking is your honest opinion, do you think the story is getting slow or is losing consistency, is it funny or dramatic in your eyes, what are your favorite lines, scenes or characters are. Those things make me want to watch or drop an anime.
    Anyway, I got a lot of insight from reading this post, thank you.

    • Irina says:

      I only read the ones I’m watching or that I will not watch cause I don’t want to spoil the series I’m planning to watch…

  4. I think it comes down to two questions. What do you want to get across, and how do you want to convey it?

    I really want to share amazing moments in anime. I see more touching and compelling and powerful moments in anime than any other medium, so that’s my focus. My original reviews included elaborate summaries, but it finally dawned on me that a) my summaries weren’t terribly good and b) even if I became astoundingly good at summaries, I would only and ever be as good as the best summary writers.

    And a quick look at MAL or Anilist or Anime Planet or a dozen other sources shows there are a lot of really good summary writers out there. It’s become a commodity.

    So I dropped extensive summaries and settled for a quick summary that sets up the episode. Most of my reviews now pick my single favorite moment in an episode. I share why it affected me. I hope to encourage others to share their favorite moments.

    The world can get dark. Every little flicker of light helps!

    • Irina says:

      I’ve always liked your review style. You must take extensive notes. I have such a hard time picking out favourite moments

      • Thanks!

        For some of the less complex shows, I can get away with just watching them without taking notes, but they’re the minority. My notes for Campione! ran about 400 words; my notes for episode 87 of MHA were closer to 700 words. The cool thing is that every second I spend taking notes pays dividends when I write the review. I note screen cap times and nominate moments as I go, so when I’m done, I can just slam everything together.

        I’m still working on refining my style, but I’ll probably be working on that for the rest of my life. I really enjoy your inviting and approachable style. You manage to convey even complex concepts easily.

  5. A skill I haven’t been able to pick up is finding things to talk about individual episodes that end up being weird summaries with my opinion sprinkled at the end. I much prefer doing general series reviews, but that makes reader retention difficult.

    At this point, I’ve all but given up on consistency and just write when something really good hits me.

  6. Jiraiyan says:

    I have all the same problems. When dealing with number 5, I find it best to simply note that the episode is mostly designed to set up the next. I used to skip episodes like these but I hated having gaps in episode reviews. With number 4, I haven’t found a solution. For number 3, sometimes I just don’t want to blog. I try to blog daily (I want to blog everyday for a month at least once), but occasionally I don’t feel like it. So I don’t.

    For 2, I find if I provide feedback on other people’s blog posts they often return the favor. I’m not great at it, but if you ask a question they generally will get back to you with an answer. For 1, I struggle with how much “recap” verses “review” I should put in each review. I think separating parts of the episode that interested you the most (under a subheading) is the best way to go about it. You can leave out anything that you didn’t find intriguing.

  7. A Library Archivist says:

    Limiting myself to an arbitrary number like 5…

  8. Scott says:

    Yeah, there is a reason why I’m not doing episodic reviews this season. Chihayafuru season 3 was an exception because I didn’t think that many people would cover it and…that was the case. A lot of things go on in that show, but I found myself holding back details for next time in the interest of seeing where they played out for next week so I didn’t repeat myself. They take so long for me to write too.

    So yeah, I’m ok with just doing my excerpts every week instead. You know, unless a show shows up and wows me into writing episodic things.

  9. Dewbond says:

    I have respect for people who do episode reviews, because as I’ve gotten more and more expeienced at blogging, I’ve come to view the episodic review, in my mind, to be pretty much worthless. There just isn’t enough in one episode to get a real judgement on a series, and one good episode (or bad) shouldn’t be a death sentence on a series. Even series I love to death (High School DxD, Fate Stay Night) have had clunker episodes.

    • Irina says:

      I guess review might not be the right term, most episodic post I read are a mix of impressions, expectations and thematic discussions. Talented bloggers can really create some amazing episode posts

      • Dewbond says:

        Absolutely, but it is a difficult art, and frankly I struggle to think of things to say even for a full on 12 episode series, so all the power to em.

  10. The lack of things to talk about is definitely a tough one. Like you said, there’s ups and downs in every season, so it’s natural that some hit that point.I’m similar too in that the weekly reviews get some traffic, but less interaction. Unless some REALLY disagrees with something I’ve said.Then I get a comment or two.

  11. K.A.L.T says:

    Haha peaks and valleys (hoping for a season 2 but apparently there’s a low chance of that).

    Unfortunately, I don’t really read your episodic reviews because I don’t watch anime weekly ^^”
    However, for me I feel that episodic reviews are for those content heavy or inspirational anime. I would probably write about the main takeaways of the episode, what I liked about it and what I’m hoping for next. Although, I’m just saying all this with no intention of ever writing episodic reviews so I think you’re probably better off looking for someone else’s advice. Someone who actually writes and reads episodic reviews.

    Also, it’s probably because I don’t really read others comments on your blog after I make my comment often but I didn’t realise that you’ve been getting not so positive comments. o.o Most of the time when I briefly look through others comments it just seems like normal discussions taking place.

    • Irina says:

      I rarely get not positive comments. Only once in a while. I would say my essay posts usually get around 20 to30 comments, my series reviews get about half to a dozen but my episodes reviews get a couple which is sor of lonely

      • K.A.L.T says:

        Perhaps more people who follow you are binge watchers like myself? Either that or social media platforms like reddit is easier for people to discuss episodes week by week. Or perhaps people prefer to comment in the comments section of their preferred streaming platform when they watch anime weekly.

  1. April 22, 2020

    […] more rigid schedule, and sometimes you just can’t think of enough to say each and every week! Irina’s post on episodic reviews sums up those feelings quite […]

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