One of my problems with the anime community are reviews, and that may seem a bit hipocritical, but it’s true. Reviews are subjective opinions that are written by people with an agenda. This usually causes people interested in a show to have their own opinions to be altered or influenced after reading. Why are reviews even a thing then? Simply put, the anime community is a community that relies heavily on recommendations. Recommendations, at their core, are what a single person thinks is good for somebody else. Sometimes recommendations may help the other person find a new favorite show, but they also influence a person’s tastes and future opinions about that specific medium. Recommendations aren’t necessarily bad, but I think they should be done indirectly to minimize the influence. By indirectly, I mean a generic recommendation the provides a summary, your score and some various thoughts about the series as a whole to keep bias to a minimum by offering different viewpoints. This still doesn’t solve our predicament, but attempts to solve on problem.
Another issue I have encountered while reading and writing anime reviews is the importance of quality over enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, I love anime with high production quality, but enjoyment is what is important. This argument attempts to question why some people enjoy similar shows that are critically acclaimed. However, they might not necessarily “like” the show.
In order to understand this, one must analyze what makes up a review, and what constitutes quality. Quality is judged by previous experiences in the medium. That’s why newer fans gravitate towards “popular” shows, because in their eyes they see that show as great. But veterans look at the same shows and compare them to other shows they’ve seen and denounce it as average. Quality can only be judged with experience. After watching anime for a long time, you will start to notice what is good animation, or what is great writing and what isn’t. The problem is that everyone doesn’t watch the same shows so everyone can’t compare one specific anime to their past experiences with anime and expect to have the same results with someone else. But that doesn’t stop people from writing critical reviews about anime. The keyword being “critical.”
What constitutes a good anime review? Analysis, criticism or opinions? Let’s analyze what’s in a review. I’ll be using my own review of Kids on the Slope for this example. Most reviews such as myself you have upon 5 things when writing a review: Story, Characters, Sound, Animation and Overall Opinions. Let’s break this down a bit more. The story category is usually a copied and pasted Mal or Wikipedia summary about a show. Here’s the first example of bias. Summaries are flawed because the person writing them include what they believe to be an overview of the show. However, they are including details they like or deem to be important, while they may be omitting details they didn’t remember or don’t like. In my review of Kids on the Slope, I wrote: “Kids on the Slope has its own fair share of drama and romance, which keep the show moving, but it really shines in the tale of friendship though music.” My own opinions are leaking from this sentence. Using phrases like “really shines” and including the statement about what I believe the show to be about- friendship and music- really shows my bias. This isn’t a bad thing, but it starts off the review by already convincing or discouraging the reader. The Character section being very similar. But in Animation and Sound is where things start to get interesting. Earlier I attempted to explain quality, and this is where that aspect is most apparent. Ones opinions about music or art differ, so why even bother trying to discuss them and use them as a point of criticism? The quality of a piece of art is subjective so there is no point in assigning a numeric score to decide it’s worth. The overall thoughts category is what is important. This shows the reviewers true colors as they attempt to tie together their opinions about enjoyment and thoughts on quality. This category may differ completely from what the review seemed to point towards. I find this category to be the only one worth reading.
But now we’re faced with a new problem- is it fair to judge an anime critically based on quality, or enjoyment. It is important to enjoy what you are watching, but sometimes reviewers sacrifice enjoyment for quality. A certain anime might have amazing animation, sound and writing but be boring to sit down an watch. However, a review would judge the anime based on quality and give it a great score for checking all the boxes that makes a show great, but fails to admit that it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable to sit through. This is why I believe reviews to be flawed. Numeric scores aren’t necessary, but are accepted as a part of our community to the point where it’d be impossible for one person to change it.
So what should yourself from all this? Remember that all reviews are based on the quality of a show and are filled with bias, so take them with a grain of salt. Never forget to value your own personal enjoyment over the thoughts of others (which is somewhat ironic here since this entire essay is biased) but don’t forget that quality matters in anime, but sometimes shouldn’t be a deciding factor in wether of no you rate a show highly or not.
Thanks for reading, have a nice day!
Originally Written 12.24.16