It seems like it’s been forever since I wrote a post about writing posts. I use to share my thoughts on blogging fairly often. But lately, it seems  I  just don’t have as many. Oh, noes… my mind is going. 

I’m sure  I  have written about something similar in the past. However, I  have never gone into too much detail on my personal process for writing anime reviews. I  don’t think anyone’s way or trick is better than the other, it’s really just a matter of finding what works for you. However, this is pretty much what has been keeping me going from the start with only a few adjustments along the way.

First of all, I  take notes. Now, this is just something  I  do in general.  Long years at school have drilled into me the instinct of just writing everything down.  I do this at work, or when I’m creating a personal project. Even when  I  don’t consult my notes, I find that the act of writing something down makes me more likely to remember it and internalize it better. 

everyone takes notes…

So when I watch anime, I  will take a ton of notes. Usually around 2 to 5 pages per series. My house is full of notebooks. However in my experience, it’s not just a question of writing things down, it’s also what you write down that helps a lot.

Like everyone else, I write my impressions on a series as I’m watching it. Themes that pop up, scenes and quotes I like, character moments that seem important or anything that’s particularly striking. I think that’s pretty standard. I also start a page to note anything that’s repeated or focused on that’s going to become cues for my drinking games. Paying attention to repeated motifs in order to put together the drinking games has really changed the way I watch anime and made me notice a  lot of things about the medium as a whole.

But I  also try to lay the groundwork for the post ahead of time. I write down potential titles for my review as they come to me and note which episode  I’m at. This has been a great way for me to really see how my mindset evolves as I’m watching something. Of course, there are shows when I don’t get a single title idea and I’m left struggling to figure something out last minute. I’m not great at titles but I  think I’ve gotten better.

Next, I will often decide and write down a general structure for my post. Maybe a question that the series invokes and I want to answer. Maybe I’ll frame my review from the pov of a specific character or I’ll focus on one theme above the others. Something along those lines.

I,m getting lazy with my image selections

I don’t just take word notes though… if you have seen a review on this site, you probably know that I take screenshots. A lot of them. I have a program set up to automatically take screencaps every few seconds. I think it’s every 10 seconds. That means I end up with hundreds of images per episode. After I’m done watching for the evening (this usually means 3 or 4 episodes of a show), I go through all the screencaps and choose my favourites. Sometimes I go back for a specific image. 

Taking the time to really look at the “pictures” of an anime does allow me to appreciate different aspects of it. Without the rush of movements or having to keep up with the story (or subtitles) I can just look at the visuals and really take them in. It’s a great way to get a deeper appreciation of the visual storytelling of a piece. For instance, I might notice that a certain character is disproportionally shown from a lower vantage point compared to the others. And then, when it’s later revealed that they were a traitor or something, I know this was some nice subtle foreshadowing and it just makes everything come together. A lot of people aren’t all that interested in these details but it’s a thrill for me. And I enjoy discussing visual storytelling or just visual crafting in my posts.  

Finally, I try to sleep on it. What I mean is that I try to wait a day or two after completing an anime before reviewing it to let it sit in my brain a bit. I want my feelings to settle and my impression to mature a little. It’s actually harder than it seems because I write every day and when I just finished a show, I really want to get all my thoughts out while it’s fresh in my head. But I find that it’s not always the best way to go.  

way to go!

I schedule my posts months ahead of time. So even with a little step back of a day or two, I find that between the time I write a post and the time it is actually published on my site, my views may have changed. It only happens once in a while but it’s still odd. Especially when I get comments that tell me they had a different experience and I have to end up admitting that after some time, I also changed my mind. 

It’s not the end of the world mind you. It doesn’t happen that often and even when it does, there’s nothing wrong with changing my mind. And if there was a significant change I can always write a follow-up or updated posts. Yay more content! 

As you can see it’s not a very difficult or imaginative concept, but this is how I have been prepping for my reviews for years now. For me, the fact that it’s a fairly unintrusive and simple process is probably what has kept me going. I know bloggers that do extensive research and watch series multiple times before starting their posts. And I mean, it shows. You can tell that a lot of thought and effort was put into them. But I honestly could not keep up with that type of workload for a long time. I really just write as a hobby.  

However, I am always interested in picking up more tips and tricks. Do you guys prepare for reviews in a specific way? Maybe you take timestamps or soundbites. I’d love to know how different people go about it! 

34 thoughts

  1. The screencap software is interesting…I always found that aspect of writing a TV- or movie-related post to be really difficult. I never seem to be able to capture the mood or feeling that I had when watching it.

    As far as the writing itself goes…I haven’t been able to find the time or energy to do regular updates for many, many years now. An article usually forms around one or two central ideas, and when that happens everything else follows…until I hit Draft Rewrite Hell where I seem to edit, overthink and polish it endlessly XD

  2. I haven’t done a lot of reviews lately. It’s a lot of work, so I haven’t been posting a lot of anything. At least half of what I do write ends up on Substack and not here.

    Back when I WAS posting, I’d often watch each episode once just to enjoy it and then a second time to grab screenshots and make notes. Lately I have found my writing standards slipping. I’m not going back to edit before I hit the publish button. Before, I would spend more time editing than actually writing.

    I think I’m just getting burned out. Its the same amount of work but I’m not getting the same amount of joy from it.

      1. I’m currently watching 9 anime series. Five of them are current and the rest are golden oldies. A couple I’m watching for the second time. I just don’t feel any desire to review them.

        I suppose that if another “Yuru Camp” or another “Bloom Into You” popped up, I might do a review. It’s been a while since I found an anime to be inspirational, as opposed to just good. Maybe I’m not as easily impressed as i once was.

  3. I get more fired up to do reviews or write articles whenever I get emotional like being very angry. Like you, I also write notes in notepad, use other reviews as a guide, books, and video clips for information. As for actually writing the post, I guess that depends on the presentation based on the writing style that we all strive to improve.

  4. You mentioned that looking for repeated motifs has helped you notice things. That’s cool.

    I take notes with time stamps in Scrivener. Like Roki mentioned, I pause while I take notes so I don’t miss anything. I’ve found that pausing helps me remember the episode, because I have to keep its state in mind when I paused so I can pick it right back up.

    Why Scrivener? I use it for almost everything, though I write the first draft of each post in Google Docs. Pasting from Google Docs maintains fairly high fidelity to WordPress’ document assembly tool (I can’t call it an editor). That assembly tool ate one too many of my posts. So far, having used Google Docs since it was a thing, it has lost precisely zero of my documents.

    Your screen shot process is cool! I only take 5 to 10 per episode, and those are focused on specific moments. I find that I miss a lot of the mood and incidental shots that you include, so that’s a downside.

    I’m curious what screen capture program you use. I use SnagIt because of its flexibility, and out of habit.

    I also have the Anilist, MAL, or Anime Planet sites open to the series I’m watching (I rotate through all three, with a preference for Anilist — and that’s all your fault!). That helps me remember names and pull links into my reviews. I figure most of you experienced bloggers have them memorized, but having grown up in Ohio, non-European names are hard for me to remember.

    Though names like Yor are pretty easy, even for me!

    Post like this that encourage self-reflection are a lot of fun!

    1. I use ShareX for screencaps. I usually take specific ones when an image hit me or I want to say something about it, but I find that autoshots allow me to discover images I would never have noticed otherwise

  5. Visual stuff is out of the question for me, due to my blindness. I generally start writing the review in the middle of the season, and go season by season if it has multiple seasons.

    I do think I could do with more notes. I think my reviews will flesh out better as a result. Since pictures and visual things are not possible for me, I do have to lean hard on my words. That’s why I’m ready to pick up tips to improve my reviews.

    1. I am always afraid the last episode will completely change my impression of an anime so I always wait until the end to start writing even though it almost never makes a difference

  6. This is why you’re a true professional, Irina. I don’t take notes or write timestamps or anything, and when I want screenshots I go to Crunchyroll (usually) and just do a screengrab and edit that down. My first draft is also usually just about my final draft. Then again, I sure don’t have a daily posting schedule or plan posts months out in advance (my current list of planned posts right now is 0 in fact) so I think the techniques you use would help a lot with a regular schedule.

    1. It’s what works for me and also it’s things I generally enjoy doing… I can see it not being for everyone

  7. Hmmm… The tools I use to review. I know you didn’t ask, but aim here and I’m waiting for the blue to vanish after staring into my light I use at night so…

    I don’t take notes. I kinda just write each review all in one go. That’s why I started to review movies in three parts. I stop after awhile so I can get all my thoughts down on what I watched before moving on.

    I don’t actually write my reviews directly into WordPress. Instead I put it into an email written on my laptop, send it to myself on my smartphone, and edit in additional stuff I missed the first time around as I adjust the images I added in the smartphone on the laptop.

    Images are taken and added with a tablet. Now I used to be able to add them with the laptop, but after the latest site changes I now can’t do that. I need to put all my post together on my smartphone, save it, re enter my post and add the images saved to my WordPress image gallery by my tablet via smartphone and tweak it via laptop. That’s an additional editing step U didn’t need to do before. Thanks WordPress for the additional work… Sigh.

    While I don’t take notes I do use a few resources for my pieces. I pull info from Wikipedia or from info searches on Google mainly. I use the cases of the DVDs I review. Or I go off the cuff from all the stuff I’ve seen and read over the long years. I’ve had far more DVDs and Man gas in my collection before I became homeless for a time. So that’s a long list of content to draw from. Not to mention all I knew from years of living. Nearly 50 presently.

    So that’s the tools I bring to bear as a reviewer. It’s a bit different from the usual. I mean other reviewers use capture tools to get images dire fly from a PC in terms of Animes. Or digital manga. I am a bit more commando in my methods. A tablet to take images with its camera. A portable DVD player. Another tablet and my ever faithful Comixology app (now tied to my Amazon Prime account because Amazon owns Comixology). And of course my physical mangas. And all the survey apps I work on daily to earn the cred I use to buy all the things I review. Oh. And the Chromebook laptop I do my editing on.

    So my tools in the end of the day are two Amazon Fire tablets, a Google Chromebook laptop, an android smartphone, and a growing stack of mangas and DVDs. Also autocorrect keeps trying to say Man gas for some reason. Oh well. Nuff said. Bye.

    1. Actually I did ask! Yay!

      Wow that is a lot of hardware. You really invest in your reviews!

  8. Instead of using paper notebooks, I use one note (you can use any other note apps). If you sync your it up, you can continue taking notes on any device. What app for screenshots is it you’re using, I ask because it is tiring taking screen caps manually, or even taking small clips. I easily can manage anything up to 200 screen caps on just one epi. I do that with my own epi reviews, take notes, screenshots, leave it for a while, rewatch it (going to cut that out) then start writing.

  9. I think I might try taking notes. I often find myself forgetting details that I wanted to talk about. Do you pause the anime when you do this? Otherwise I imagine it would be hard to pay attention while writing.

    Taking screenshots every 10 seconds seems like a great idea. How do you go about making gifs? You seem to always have the perfect gifs for your posts. What programs do you use? The easiest way I found so far is to just create my own script to create gifs from a video file. I would just have to enter the timestamp of the start and end of the clip.

    1. It’s a good idea to pause it whilst taking note, you can miss something if you let it continue. With gifs, there are several gif sites you can use. To how Rinny does it, it’s done via small clip. A screen recording app or if you’re on windows pc, do this: hold down WIN KEY + ALT + R, check your default directory Videos > captures, they turn up there. Then you want to trim the video down, I highly suggest using a site called canva, it’s a graphics site that you can use for your screen shots. They also edit vids and stuff. It isn’t too hard to trim down and save the clip as a gif.

      1. Yeah, that sounds like a standard way to make gifs. It just seemed like such a hassle for me, that’s why I wrote a script for it. I actually just now found the best and easiest way for me. The video player I use is mpv, and I found a neat plugin that makes it easy to make a gif in the app. Installation is a bit more involved though since you need ffmpeg which needs to be added to your %PATH% on windows. But I’m a programmer so it’s nothing I haven’t done before.

        For anyone interested, the plugin’s name is mpv-gif-generator and you can find it on GitHub.

        1. Ah, mpv sounds like an interesting little app, checked it out certainly has a lot of customisations via plugins and scripts. Most bloggers aren’t that techy so it’s most likely they’ll use the standard approach – they’re not too fond of the guttenberg block editor put it that way xDD. I do have some PC bg, so I kind of can follow what you’re saying.

          For gifs though, if you’re following Rinny’s way, basically eye-catching moment. I’m assuming you want to use gifs as feature images for posts like Irina does? if so, as a free plan user I’d use it sparingly, double check the file size (find a way to reduce it if you can)

          1. Yeah, my last post just took up a ton of my storage lol. I’m going to start scaling them down now. I’m pretty sure you can also just manually set the image src via html to link to a different website. That way I can store my images somewhere else, like google drive. It’s a huge hassle though. Not being to use plugins suck.

            1. Newly made free blogs on this site only get 1GB of storage now. WP have consolidated all the paying tiers in to just one and get 50GB of space.

            2. Oh not my wp account I didn’t count it as a screencaps app. I guess it is where I post them though. This said someone less lazy than me could easily host media offsite and hotlink.

              I still see 4 tiers on my WP account page and they give you 6GB, 13GB, and the other two are both at 200GB. Maybe the change hasn’t been made everywhere? I would hate it if they 1 and 50 though.

            3. apparently other bloggers quickly noted this is a change to the original idea, more likely due to “backlash”. Original idea; 500MB storage space with visitors capped at 10k for free. 100k visitors capped for paying. If this stuck, I wouldn’t blame people running to blogger or medium.

            4. I saw the visitor cap and I thought that was crazy. You can’t control your visitor count. That would make running a successful site unviable on WP

            5. Sorry for the late reply Dopey. To bypass the limited storage space, use imgur + google drive. With imgur, once uploaded use the direct link url of the image uploaded. You can connect google drive with your wordpress acc. Keep this in mind, wordpress will import the image over from google drive to your media storage space. The plus to this, the image file is a jpeg, so it shouldn’t take up too much space.

      2. I use Screen to Gif myself. I find it lets me do a lot more things that I want. Canvas is a bit clunky in the free to use form. I use to use it for all my static headers though

    2. It depends, if my note is something short like cool op then no. I write them on paper and I usually don’t have to look away from the screen. If it’s a bit longer I’ll either pause or write it out after the episode. I use ShareX for caps and Screen to Gif for gifs. Both are pretty easy to use

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