Spoiler Etiquette

It’s just good manners…

If you have a blog that reviews or even just discusses current media, you have probably had to pay attention to spoilers. More specifically, how to write a complete article while avoiding any and all spoilers.

One thing I have noticed about anime blogs in particular is that a lot of us do episode reviews and it is really difficult to say much about a specific episode without well… talking about the episode. And in general, those big reveals and twists are often the most fun to talk about and what everyone wants to know more about.

So how do we navigate giving enough information to the readers about a certain anime, or discussing shows with big twists without spoiling them for others? Do we have any responsibility to avoid spoilers in the first place? And whatever is a spoiler anyway?

There’s gonna be spoilers for Dearth Note and the Case Files of Jeweller Richard (maybe). Weird, I know!

As usual, I don’t have any authority on the subject. These are just general guidelines that I sort of came up with by myself and for myself. I have to say, I’m always a bit weary about people who read episode reviews without having seen the episode and are surprised when something is revealed. Nevertheless, Crow does constantly remind me to put disclaimers at the beginning of our joint posts. Still, for anyone wanting to categorically avoid any and all spoilers about a specific show, I would recommend avoiding episode reviews of those shows, as a rule of thumb.

It gets a bit greyer with series reviews. Although people will often read reviews of shows they have seen (I do so regularly) it is still very common to read reviews in order to see if you want to watch something. So when I write those, I will try to do so for an audience that hasn’t seen the series and avoid details that are better discovered in the moment.

But then, what if I’m discussing what makes a great villain character, can I mention Light? I mean Death Note makes his heel turn pretty obvious and pretty quick right from the start but when I read the manga for the first time I had no idea what I was in for and that first twist was still one of the best. How power corrupted a “good” boy so quickly and completely, yet so logically. It was a powerful sequence and it really hit me as I was watching him fall deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. It might not have had that same impact if I had known it was coming from the start and had always considered the character that way.

chibi yagami

So you see what I mean. Putting Light Yagami on a list of best villains or best fallen heroes or whatever would be a spoiler. Mentioning anything that happens in Madaoka past the second episode would also probably be a spoiler. I’m currently watching Penguindrum and I don’t think it’s possible to discuss that series without copious spoilers, heck the title itself might be one…

But how do we fix this then? Not talk about anime? Mention shows in only the vaguest terms and avoid any specific character or plot details. That sounds pretty boring. Well maybe it’s not but I definitely don’t have the skill to make an interesting anime post under those circumstances. I also want to read about what people think of Light as a villain.

I actually got way too wrapped up in my random example and now half my mind is preoccupied by that. I’ve never seen the Death Note anime but it sure was a fantastic manga! Sorry, let’s get back to it.

beautifu afternon anime

beautiful image by ウミロク

So this is what I’ve come up with for myself. 1) What is a spoiler. A spoiler is any piece of information that could reasonable affect a viewers appreciation of the show or movie. That’s still a pretty broad definition but ultimately, if there’s a mild plot point that is surprising but really doesn’t change anything in the grand scheme of things, then revealing it is robbing the audience of the surprise which isn’t great but I don’t think it counts as a full on spoiler. For instance if I told you that Richard (as in Jeweller Richard) was really close to his governess as a child because his mother was in fact never there. It does inform some of the later events in the show but I don’t think it has much impact on how people enjoyed the series. Mostly because no one watched it…

2) Episode reviews will have episode spoilers. I try to make that clear when I remember but I think there’s really no way around that unless you go for, OMG wait till you guys see that thing that happened, to that guy. And that’s just as spoilery in my opinion and maybe a bit more annoying(?) So whether I’m writing or reading them, I sort of accept that it’s a wild wild west of spoilers. Anything goes! Still I try not to be too much of a jerk about it. I once accidentally chose a post title that could be considered a spoiler and I feel bad to this day.

3) When writing full series reviews I try to avoid any big spoilers and if I absolutely want to discuss one because I have just so much to say about it, I warn people super obviously about it, with bold capital letters and all, before the spoiler containing paragraph starts, and tell them when it’s over.

end of eva and the Franxx

couldn’t find the artist – riooo(?) – in any case this is clever

4) My biggest issue remains with essay posts that are discussing whatever happens to be on my mind that day. I often use shows as examples of points I’m trying to make or delve into some specific tropes and plot points that fit into a greater topic but I don’t always realize that I might be spoiling something. When I do, I try to put a disclaimer at the beginning of the post, like I did today and I’ll occasionally make a difference between “minor” and “major” spoilers.

I’ve been playing with the idea of putting spoiler text in white. You know like they do on certain sites, where you have to highlight the text to see it. The problem is that I think the reader app puts all text in black no matter what so it wouldn’t work for those that aren’t reading my posts on my site. (This is an aside but I  put a lot of time in my layout so if you have only seen my posts in reader, I would really appreciate it if you could give the site a look. Design feedback is appreciated). I’m sorry this was much less exciting than an actual spoiler. Highlight text to read…

It would be great if wordpress came out with something that would allow us to hide text in our posts to avoid spoilers. I would abuse that badly!

What are your views on spoilers? Avoid them at all costs? Heh, it’s no big deal? Do you have any cool tricks to hide spoilers in your posts?

Rini 3 (16)

Irina

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

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36 Responses

  1. foovay says:

    I actually quickly learned I don’t want to read episode reviews on any show I m not watching, and especially if I plan to watch it. There’s just no way to avoid spoilers on those. As far as the essays though, I’ve never had a problem with a spoiler that comes out because an anime is used as an example. At times, it makes me want to watch the anime more than an actual review might, even though I have an idea of what is coming. I feel like in that case it more informs me of what I might expect than it spoils the show for me. In reviews, it’s a lot harder with some subject matter than others to avoid spoilers. Maybe because I used to write a ton of book reviews, I tend to be more forgiving. I know how hard it can be to avoid a spoiler and still have a intelligent, let alone insightful review. Then again, I have memory issues that mean I can wait a few months and go watch it and not even remember having read the spoiler bit of the review until it happens. Oh yeah! That was gonna happen! I forgot! LOL. See, old age isn’t all bad…

  2. I’ve had two posts so far concerning spoilers, both indicating I don’t particularly like them when they ruin my experience, but one was about colouring the entire experience of the show because someone told your their opinions…and yes, that includes episode reviews and the like…before you started watching entirely for your own interest. The other was about the titles, which are meant to catch people’s eyes and are therefore a lot more unintentional. (I reread both recently, which is how I remember them so well.)

    Encountering spoilers while doing quick research for #AniTwitWatches (which I’ve had for both Perfect Insider and Rolling Girls) is probably less annoying, since you know you’re going to get to that point eventually and the spoilers even added to my speculation in both cases (it’s a “it’s the journey, not the destination” thing).

    Spoilers are inevitable if you wander the anime/manga fandom (or some similar fandoms, as Pinkie attests to), so if I think someone who hasn’t caught up with the work will read the post, because for instance it’s a tag post or a spoiler for one work when I’m discussing another, I’ll throw up a spoiler warning. However, I do have a spoiler policy (on the Spellbook, at least) that I refer to in one of the aforementioned posts – if it’s not specified via a spoiler warning, I have the choice to spoil whatever I’m discussing…although there is a chance I may not, because I take the spoilery bits out.

  3. queerotaku says:

    I agree it’s IMPOSSIBLE

  4. savageddt says:

    Had to skip some of the paragraphs as i saw it dealt with Death Note, which i am currently bussy with. I dislike the spoiler culture that has evolved into what it is today. Even new movies give too much away in trailers. I try to spoil as little as possible in my reviews, makes it difficult to write reviews.

  5. ManInBlack says:

    Hopefully you’ve read enough of my reviews to know I don’t like to give away too much about the story, but it can be frustrating when a huge twist or development dictates the direction of a story in such a major way that NOT discussing it detrimental to the review.

    Since I review titles getting a home media release, I always work on the assumption the reader hasn’t seen it thus I am obligated not to give anything away. If I really have to I will put a spoiler warning otherwise I have prove my worth as a writer and put something out that does the job in informing and satisfying the reader.

    • Irina says:

      Writing for an uninformed audience is though. It change the entire structure of the critique. I think I’m an in between. I write for an audience that hasn’t necessarily seen a show but that reads anime blogs so they’re pretty aware of animes in general.

  6. It’s a pickle, I think just having an awareness of it and trying to be considerate is nice.

    I miss actually having a spoiler feature I had one on of my former sites because I used it for trivia posts. Also just want to say I think the mouse buns and the casual tee is a cute look, almost as cute as that Light Yagami.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I usually do my best to keep spoilers out of reviews as much as i possibly can. Unless its really for something that i wanna discuss about especially if its a very glaring flaw.
    -K Anthony

  8. I think you’ve presented a great framework, and I enjoyed reading your reasoning.

    It all comes down to the reader. I don’t want to give any reader a bad experience. I give them an indication that past the Quick Summary in my reviews, there may be spoilers. So if a reader doesn’t want to be spoiled, they can stop there.

    For the images I use in social media, I try to stay spoiler free. Within the post, past the Quick Summary, there are usually spoilers, but only after the notice.

    I know some folks are really good at writing reviews that are spoiler free, but I’m not one of them.

  9. raistlin0903 says:

    I have always written my posts without spoilers ever since I started blogging. The only time I wrote a post that was full of spoilers was the one and only rant post I have ever written on my blog: the review for Star Wars the Last Jedi. The only way I could get my point across why I hated that film so much was by going into spoiler territory. But I did announce that before the post.
    Spoilers can be tricky…and exactly what is a spoiler for one person, can be a non-spoiler for someone else. In general though I tend to avoid spoilers. I don’t like to watch something when I know what’s going to happen in advance. Because really: let’s be honest: you can only experience something for the first time only once: and usually a shock reveal, or major character death or other stuff like that, has more impact if you don’t know about it in advance. When you read about it, it can still shock you, but I have yet to have a shock experience when I read a spoiler before I have actually seen it. So yeah, honestly? Not a fan of spoilers myself. But hey, that’s me😊

    • Irina says:

      I can understand. I think that our highly connected, fast paced information society has robbed us of some of the wonder of discovery. Of course everything is predictable when you have a dozen sites and a thousand tweets spelling out the story of every new show or movie that comes out the second it gets released.

  10. My reviews are less like reviews and more like a personal commentary on the anime in general, or a very specific element that piqued my interest. I’ve sort of decided that my target audience are people who have already watched the anime and want a chance to hear someone else’s opinion of it, and hopefully share their own! I avoid spoilers in my writing when I can, but if I can’t, then I don’t really trouble myself over it and just include a spoiler warning at the beginning of the post, suggesting that you should watch the anime first before reading my review. It’s just my personal preference. Everyone has their own opinions when it comes to anime, so you’re far better off to just use your instincts and see for yourself than take someone at their word, IMHO. I think critiques are best when both sides are similarly informed on the topic in question.

    Though I do usually prefer to avoid them, major spoilers don’t necessarily ruin a series for me. I can still appreciate a good story, even if I know what’s going to happen. Plus, if the spoiler is along the lines of: “Such-and-Such a character dies in this series”, it just makes me curious to see *how* that character dies. It’s a silver lining, of sorts!

    • Irina says:

      It’s tricky when a show relies on a twist that I think failed. Something that happens from time to time. I have no way of properly critiquing if I don’t say that the narrative is reliant of a twist but that in itself is a spoiler and the type I generally dislike the most. That’s when my series reviews have spoiler warnings cause I spell everything out. What happened, why it didn’t work for me, sometimes I even add in what I would have preferred…

      • Oh, yeah. That’s a bit of an issue with no easy out, isn’t it? I suppose you could avoid it by talking about the execution in general, without mentioning anything about a twist… if that makes any sense? I (generally) find that an unsatisfying plot twist is the symptom of a greater inherent problem with the work in question (poor pacing, uninspired character design, etc.). You could try to make it about that problem instead. No idea if it would work out in practice or not, as I’ve never had to deal with this problem… yet. Just theorising.

  11. Mari says:

    I don’t really care about spoilers tbh. If spoilers “ruin” a plot twist for you, then it was probably a twist that relies mostly on shock value – I.e. a bad twist. I got spoiled to the end of Cowboy Bebop before I watched it, but if anything that helped me appreciate it more.

    I realized this last year with the release of Avengers: Endgame that some people take spoilers way too seriously. The directors tried to prevent people from leaking any details about the movie in the first week, which basically meant you couldn’t talk about it at all unless it was with someone who had already seen it. I mean, seriously? For a friggin’ superhero movie?

    That said, I don’t like it when people intentionally spoil things just to be a jerk. Or when they say “don’t get too attached lmao” which pretty much always means a character is going to die.

    • Irina says:

      Cowboy Bebop is unspoilable.
      I hate vague hints way more than actual spoilers. I start building elaborate scenarios in my mind and the series rarely live up to it. Or I’m too busy looking for what was hinted at to appreciate what’s actually going on. I realize this may be a me problem…

  12. David Boone (moonhawk81) says:

    A well-reasoned and even better presented argument. Tsk! Irina, you simply must stop hiding your evil genius behind those cutely innocent-looking avatars! The cat’s already out of the bag, and it has rabies. . .

  13. AK says:

    Your approach makes sense. The one time I wrote episode reviews of an anime, I took the same approach, along with a no-spoiler (I hope) season review at the end. It seems like common sense that an episode review is necessarily going to have episode spoilers, but you can never tell with people.

    I’ve had a particular problem with spoilers when writing visual novel reviews as opposed to reviews for other kinds of games. With a VN, all there is to talk about are characters and plot really. There’s also the problem that to get peoples’ interest in a VN (or anime, or etc.) it’s sometimes necessary to express that there is something different about it, but you can’t let on too much when writing a no-spoiler review. I’ve started a VN just now that I should have gone in totally blind for according to some, but if I didn’t know it contained major twists, I never would have played it anyway, so what’s the difference to me? It’s always good to put up spoiler warnings, anyway — I should remember that myself.

    • Irina says:

      Oh right… some VNs have entire routes (often really important and long routes) which knowing the existence of is a spoiler in itself…
      The last VN I talked about (Hashihime of Old Book Town) was a spoiler mine field.

  14. Pinkie says:

    I try to keep my series review spoiler free, episode reviews I try to keep vague for episode 1 and then after I go into spoilers. There is no way to review a series episode per episode without spoilers. You can only talk about animations and character designs so much.. they dont change that much, so I ‘d say it’s common sense that episode reviews past episode 1 have spoilers.

    When reviewing stuff older than a year, I am also fairly free when it comes to spoilers. If you don’t know Light turned evil by now..you are either very good at avoiding spoilers but more than likely just not planning to watch it at all. For those essay examples, I think considering examples in essays is going fairly overboard… at least if you use older anime. It would be kind of dickish to do stuff like Just like in Anime A .. that aired this week in this one the main characters best friend dies. If you write an episode review and tell “this is kinda like how Light went insane wit power” years after it happend it is safe to do so.

    Writing is only good when it comes natural when there are to many obstructions in our way, because we try to write around something it will only sound forced. With that you do not only dupe those people you’d spoil otherwise.. but also the vast majority of people that either do not care about the spoilers or know what you talk about. Just look at watch Mojo or any professional reviewers out there. If so many months path spoilers are considered fair game. We can not cater to everyone and we will eventually make some people angry anyway. Be it trough an accidental spoiler, or having an opinion they find offensive.

    There is already so much we need to shut up about that constantly reminding ourselves .. Oh here I say this moment is clearly an homage to when Goku turned Super Saiyan.. oh wait thats a spoiler for people who havent seen Dragon Ball Z yet.. let me mark that. I think that would drive you nuts in te end.

    Be nice about it where you can but you do not need to mark everything with “spoiler warning”. I do not think you need to mark Episode 8 of Re:Zero season 2 with.. this review will contain spoilers for this episode. I would assume you said so in your first episode review and it applies to your series. Murphy’s law will eventually make even those people slip up and if you weave spoiler free into your style that much harder reading a spoiler will only end up hurting that much more. Given how much anime is out the chance of accidental spoilers being relevant is fairly slim. Besides that spoilers don’t always ruin a show! Don’t ruin major twists sure or how a show ends. But basic plot like L turns evil.. or person A finds a new weapon or uses as certain technique isn’t the end of the world.

    • Irina says:

      I do agree with you in principal except maybe fr the older stuff. I have a friend who got into anime and manga just last year. She didn’t know that Light turned evil, she had never heard of death note at all except the name because of the Netflix movie. So when I lent her the manga she went into it blind. That’s sort of why Death Note jumped into my head as an example.
      The again, you can’t control what other people will spoil and had she done any googling on it before hand she would have known everything.
      It’s tricky. Some people get super upset by spoilers even if they read reviews willingly but I think most of us know better.

      • Pinkie says:

        About the older stuff, I think people like your friend are kind of the exception. If we can do something without spoilers, I am all far it.. but if you really want to compare a character with Shinji from Evangalion and tell what said character did I don’t think people like your friend should be the one to stop you.

        While getting a spoiler for stuff sucks, it comes with the territory. For example I am watching a lot of YouTubers who blind watch geeky movies but even they have heard “No I am Your Father” from Star Wars and are spoiled for that fact.

        If you can avoid it it’s better to be decent but I just don’t feel you can take everyone into account when an anime has aged. If you are very bothered by spoilers in all fairness you should not be in a place where anime is dicussed because it is bound to happen.
        It is a shame but communities can not be spoiler free. Be it trough memes , talk you happen to overhear or analogies in blogs you read you will be spoiled for something.

        I for example am really trying to block out spoilers for Flip Flappers and Samurai Flamenco and the simplest things can be seen as a spoiler.
        Light for example turning evil I find more part of the summary then a spoiler. As I would describe the show : Guy finds notebook and starts killing criminals but gets drunk on power and now has to play a cat and mouse game with a super cop. I would not classify it as a spoiler. Or heck in Shonen when the heroes overcome a villian I do not even find that a spoiler.. cause it’s shonen we all know it’s going to happen.
        For old stuff I think the ending obviously is a no go and how certain characters meet an end.. or massive plot twits, but the older the show is the more elasticity it gets.

        Western media is much more liberal in this.. take Spiderman comics. 90% of those who like comics know Gwen Stacy dies. In case of the marvel movies there was even given 6 week no spoiler deadline by the creators. Most people know Walter White is Heisenberg. Being spoiled is not nice and a shame but if we constantly need to walk on eggshell when writing it will make blogging so much harder and eventually they will get spoiled.

        From what I saw with people being upset with spoilers, half of them is people who never really planned to see the spoiled material anyway. (At least when it comes to old) People who spoiled the death in the Force Awakens before the movie came out were dicks, but if you say.. oh hey this is like that scene in Natsume I honestly don’t think you are doing anything wrong

  15. Dawnstorm says:

    I’ve run across an interesting problem on your blog recently. The top blog-owners in anime. I could have named a character, but the fact that they have a blog would have been a spoiler. Since it was only in the comment section, I could just keep quiet about the character. But what if that were my list? Leaving the character out makes the list incomplete, including the character provides a spoiler, and if you have an active comments section and it’s a very popular show, you might instigate a spoiler in said comments section, even if you leave it out. It’s really not that often that this is a problem, but since it actually happened to me..

    Personally, as a reader, I don’t care about spoilers at all. In very rare cases I might actively avoid reading anything about a currently airing show’s latest episode until I’ve watched it, but that’s very rare. Plot surprises are very rarely that important for my enjoyment of the show. Often, actually, I’d have preferred the show if they didn’t keep a secret, because then they could focus on proper character development instead.

    Another problem is that it’s often hard to judge what amounts to a spoiler and what doesn’t. For example, some manga reader once said that the show’s opening basically spoils a major development, but I managed to finish the entire show without ever finding out what part of the opening should have spoiled what part of the show. Meanwhile, I remember, when the 6th Sense came out, the media made a big deal of the twist. I guessed it within seconds, only from the concept (my sister had already seen the film and confirmed it). So simply saying that a twist exists can spoil that twist.

    And people are all different. I’m sure there’s someone out there who would have been spoiled by that opening, and whose jaw would have dropped at 6th Sense’s reveal even after learning that there’s a twist. And really popular stuff is so well known that spoilers are inevitable. I mean for a while I’m sure that people knew they shouldn’t make a contract with Kyubei before they even knew what show he’s from.

    What’s really awkward is when people try to show a film and you can see their anticipation of your reaction (a silent “heh heh – just you wait” so to speak), and as a result you watch the show expecting some twist and see it coming miles away, but you don’t want to spoil their fun… What do you call this? Spoiler rebound?

    • Irina says:

      think the “wait until you see this” non spoiler is the worst spoiler. The amount of shows I watched waiting for some brilliant subversion or reversal just to get an obvious bait and switch and think wait, it’s not just that, is it?….

  1. August 8, 2020

    […] struggle is real, I say in bold. And to adhere to Irina’s own rules of spoiler etiquette, there may be […]

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