For those of us who write anime reviews, especially those brave souls who do so on an episodic basis, there will come a time when you are faced with a show you just don’t have that much to say about. You know…it was fine.

I can hear some of you already, just don’t review it if you don’t have anything to say about it.

Well, once again, those who do episode reviews probably don’t want to just leave a gap in. For readers that are not watching the show, this can be very confusing, and it just disrupts the flow of your season altogether. As for the rest of us. Of course, it’s an option but there are several reasons you may still want to post something about it.

Maybe it’s a little-known show and although you don’t have any deep thoughts on it you would still like to let people know it exists. Maybe you post regularly and don’t have the time to watch an entire season of something else instead. Or perhaps, you enjoy the ritual of reviewing shows after you’ve watched them. It’s as much for your own sake as for the readers and you feel compelled to do so despite a lack of inspiration. Whatever the case may be, it’s not unusual to find yourself staring at an empty page and thinking: “this show was ok….”

Besides, I think there can be some real benefits in attempting the exercise. There are some really interesting things to learn and it gives you a chance to flex some writing muscles you would probably never exercise otherwise.

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I just discovered to ecchi workout subgenre – I’m scared….

There are a few ways to go about it.

Go into detail.

Try to pick one aspect, no matter how insignificant, that caught your attention and elaborate on that. Maybe a character kept wearing clothes that should have been too warm considering how everyone else was dressed, or one of the ladies had eyeshadow and you almost never see eyeshadow in anime… Rhapsodize about the sound used for changing traffic lights or the imaginary brand names. Take the opportunity to pick apart those tiny little facets that you normally don’t have space to go into.

It’s a great way to make you appreciate subtleties in shows and will train you to notice those more discrete components that may have flown under your radar otherwise.

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what’s going on with the guy on the right?

Go off on tangents.

So the show itself may not have that much material to draw on but you’ve lead a rich and interesting life full of wonder and adventure! Did anything in the series remind you of something that happened to you? Tell us about it. Really, we are too polite to ask but we want to invade your privacy!

Or maybe it didn’t happen to you (yet), but you can draw a lesson from it. Learn something that we can all apply in our future lives. Whether it’s as inspiring as revolutionizing your entire mindset or as pragmatic as not putting the lettuce directly next to the bread in sandwiches because the moisture will make everything soggy. If at any point you think to yourself, huh I should try that, tell us about it.

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don’t worry Orion – you were the best part of Amnesia

Go into your library.

I’m trying too hard. I want to make all of these to start with the word “Go” and I was trying to find some sort of colloquialism for compare and contrast… What I mean is: go into your anime history. I know there is some mild controversy about using comparisons to other shows and the practice does have a few drawbacks. It makes it more difficult to objectively assess the merits of one work when your mind is crowded and distracted by a different work, it can blind you to certain strengths or weaknesses because the other work had different ones or prejudice both the review and the readers. Most importantly though, if your readers aren’t familiar with the work you’re comparing a show to, it’s a somewhat useless exercise that will most likely end up confusing, or even worse, boring to read.

This said, when done properly and sparingly, it can also be very helpful to your readers and fun for you. Finding similarities between the two works. Unearthing parallel themes that get contrasting treatments or imagining how two different universes would interact can all yield some amusing results. You may end up talking a lot more about those other shows than the one you’re actually supposed to be reviewing but the information gets out there one way or another. Hey, it may even make you rediscover some old favourites you may have forgotten.

or compare anime to manga

Go creative.  

Those of you kind enough to read my episode reviews probably know what I’m talking about here. I’m neither a professional reviewer nor particularly patient so when I lose interest in a series, I let my mind wander and just write that.

It’s more like a fanfic or mockumentary…a fakeview? Just rewrite the episode or series as what you would like it to be in your head, and review that instead. For me, it’s really great fun. I’m not sure how it plays with readers who are not necessarily here to read fiction but those that do enjoy it tend to like it a lot.

A word of warning, this can backfire. Some fandoms are more protective (i.e. really scary) about their beloved works of fiction and may consider any reframing an assault. I have been able to parody works in certain genres with no issue whatsoever, even praise by fans, but I’ve learned to tread much more lightly for other genres which have earned me instant backlash. I figure this will depend on who reads your blog but just be warned that not everyone can take/appreciate these types of jokes. As such if you’re sensitive about your comment section, be careful with this approach.

Go crazy.

Just throw everything out the window. Review a show you don’t remember at all by basing yourself on the pics. I once had the delightful experience of getting a (most likely bootleg) anime subtitled in what appeared to be an Italian p0rn movie. I’ve always wondered about that, I should review it as is. Write about the unspoken inner monologue of characters or a day in the life of one of the extras. I guess at this point anything goes really. Calling it a review is a bit of a stretch, but you know what, when I love a series, these weird and unique explorations are some of my favourite things to read.

I’m not saying this will help you craft a masterpiece. At the end of the day, you can’t fake passion. But there’s something to be said for joyfulness as well. The show may not have touched you to your core but if you had fun goofing off when writing about it, that’s infectious too and your audience is bound to enjoy it.

So whaddya think? Do you have any particular angles to tackle those pesky reviews, when nothing comes to mind? Or do you just write essays about not knowing how to write reviews instead?

17 thoughts

  1. I call those posts ‘Quick Thoughts’, though there have been times where supposed ‘Quick Thoughts’ posts ended up being more wordy than regular posts and they stopped being Quick Thoughts. Sometimes I just need to step away from a post to make it coherent.

  2. Every single show I’ve ever watched had episodes I wouldn’t have much to say about. As a result, I can’t imagine committing to episode reviews. I mean, I’m not even committing to blogging, but episodical posting is on a whole new level for me.

    (I admire you sticking to your guns for Hataraku Maou Sama 2).

  3. Really? Nothing to say at all? I sometimes think that too… Then I watch something, and good luck making me STOP talking. Like Shin Godzilla 2016! Of all the things I heard others say about it “It’s like C-SPAN reported on 101 high level meetings about a Godzilla attack in the greater Tokyo area…” was never one of the things I heard people say about it. And yes. For every 1 cool Godzilla scene you must wade through10 boring C-SPAN meetings. Sigh.

    Well watch it before you decide to review it if it’s an Anime. YouTube is lousy with clips of every series. Look up the series in question and digest as much clips as you can. If you approve, and find yourself filling with things to say about it, then pull the trigger and review the full product. If not then don’t. You won’t hurt our feelings if you don’t review everything on the planet. We’ll live.

  4. Great post and advice! I’m definitely the type of person who wants to review each and every thing I watch and read, but, admittedly, I did burn myself out a bit on it. Sometimes it lead me to not enjoying the watch/read as much because I was in review mode and I couldn’t just lay back and enjoy it like I used to. I decided to allow myself to not review something if I wasn’t feeling it. I still have a credo of I should at least try to review everything I watch and read, but if I don’t I have much to say (or add, if the show has been reviewed to death) I now feel more comfortable just passing it up and moving on to other review projects. It takes quite a bit off my shoulders to know I have that option.

    And if I could add something that helped me with this, even though it’s basically just building on your note of being creative – try changing up your reviewing format or make a new “series” so to speak. I have several series that allow me to review and analyze anime, manga and cartoons in various ways. For example, I review some shows episodically (particularly extremely long anime or anthologies), some I do full series, others I compare sub vs. dub, others I compare anime to manga. I’ve also thought about reviewing only specific episodes if they’re particularly good or bad, and I tried to make a review series on specific characters, but so far I haven’t had luck with that. I definitely need to fine-tune that lol It’s certainly difficult to change formats or know what ‘series’ to create, but it has helped me a lot in finding ways to review or discuss pretty much anything. 🙂

  5. So. I tried reviewing Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto. And I totally failed.

    The anime was good, it provided entertainment to me, but I just couldn’t write anymore than 200 words. At that point, I decided that it would be best if I drop the idea.

    I haven’t watched any anime ever since, this was early in the August. Now, I’m thinking to watch Magi, the Labyrinth of Magic.

  6. I tried the episodic review thing once for one show years ago and it nearly killed me. But this is good advice. Respect to the episodic reviewers, especially if they take on multiple series a season.

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