Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

So I’ve been writing reviews for a long time, sometimes for websites, sometimes for no reason other than to satisfy my own obsessive compulsive ways. I had a brief stint years ago writing reviews for Kiji-Anime.com before they folded, but other than that, most of my stuff has been self-published in my personal journals and websites like TOKYOPOP.com and MAL. I was wondering if there’s really a difference in standards between casual reviews and “professional” reviews in magazines and news sites aside from the obvious stuff like tone and grammar. Maybe professionals should be more objective, but I think it’s kind of funny that there’s such a strong general belief that reviews should be as objective and unbiased as possible when a review is essentially the exact opposite — it’s an opinion, what the reviewer thinks of the reviewed work intended to give the reader an idea of what someone else thinks.

What people probably deem as objectivity is just a reviewer’s ability to explain and justify his assertions. Or, it could just be that the way some people write make it exceedingly obvious when they’re emotionally invested in a work and those are easier to pick from the crowd. This is especially true for anime and manga reviews because fandom is so prevalent in our subculture. It’s really hard to write with an objective tone for a series you really, really like, especially if you’ve just seen it and are cruising along on that fandom high. But I wonder, is that really so bad? Clearly if you like the series that much, you’re going to write a positive review regardless, but should your apparent enthusiasm take away from your analysis if you’re still able to provide reasons for why you liked it so much?

The same might be true for series you really disliked, though I think it’s to a lesser extent. It’s easier to explain why you dislike something than why you like something because complaints seem to come more naturally than praise. But yeah, the point is, if your words seem emotionally charged, your review is taken less seriously because oh, gasp, you’re biased. Well, of course you’re biased! Who isn’t biased? It’s a review! It’s your opinion! You’re gonna be biased! Maybe it should be taken as part of the review — how much did this series rile up this person? In a good or bad way? Will I be similarly affected by this series? Emotion reveals pieces of a reviewer’s background and history as well — what is it? Is this person similar to myself? If so, should I take it that I may share similar views of this series? If not, should I be taking every word with a grain of salt (or well, more grains of salt than usual)?

Or does the emotion really not contribute much in the end? Would an objective-sounding review convey just as much information in a more accepted way? Certainly it’s possible to say you like something without fanboying over it (or even to fanboy over it in a better articulated and formal fashion?), but can you really still convey the degree of awesome something is without using terms like “super special awesome epic amazing”? Honestly, I’m split on the subject. I love writing in a ridiculous formal tone because it’s fun and makes you sound more authoritative (like your opinion really matters, lol). But fangasming is fun too, just, I guess the question is whether a review is the best place for it.

A quick glance over my reviews on MAL says that my two most controversial reviews are my Code Geass review and my Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann review. The latter is rather fantardy, I admit, but the former isn’t as bad, I don’t think. But I was wondering, is my TTGL review controversial because A) the way I wrote it wasn’t “objective” enough, B) the merits of the series itself are controversial, or C) both? …Both is the easy answer, and it’s one of the reasons I wish MAL enabled comments on reviews in addition to anonymous feedback. It’s widely believed that the “helpful” ratings on every review are dependent more on whether or not the reader agrees with you rather than whether they actually thought it was helpful. Some of my other reviews seem to disagree with the idea of A though — my Gravitation EX review is very emotional, but it hasn’t seen any negative feedback (okay, so three feedbacks isn’t exactly a wide sample, and I did get some negative feedback when I posted it on TOKYOPOP, but that person more disagreed with my opinions than anything else) — is that because I admitted my obvious bias upfront? But for the Death Note anime, I also admitted by bias upfront and people still trashed it. :P Then again, I felt like my Death Note manga review was fairly objective-sounding, and they trashed that too. XD

Readers are a fickle breed, I suppose. But yes, direct feedback would be nice. This “helpful/unhelpful” nonsense is decidedly not helpful at all. I think I’ll migrate towards the accepted norm though and try to make my reviews sound more objective even when all reviews are inherently subjective. I think our society just values people that sound like they know what they’re talking about and present their opinions as facts when they really aren’t giving any more or less information than someone with a more emotional response. Or something. In the end though, regardless of style, the best reviews are simply those that are able to back up all their claims with reasonable logic, yeah?

Anyway, I finished my Loveless review today, but even though I just said I’m going to try and sound more professional… I don’t think this review is a great example of that, lol. I hated it so much, I couldn’t help but be a bit snarky. And besides, too much professionalism is boring as hell. It’s why no one likes reading art criticism.

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  1. Miyu on July 19, 2008 7:47 pm

    “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go bash in the brains of the person who recommended this series to me.”

    Oh snap… D8 My brains are in danger…

    Lol, you really crucified Loveless! ;P Like I said, I never watched all of the anime, so I never realized they made it before the manga was finished… Oops. That means it fails like the Fruits Basket anime fails, since they’re both published slowly but with a strong fanbase… My bad… xD

    Most of the points you had complaints on were indeed addressed in the manga. Sure, there’s still shota and bondage, but there’s not NEARLY as much emphasis on those scenes so it really doesn’t bother the reader.

    I guess you could just ignore the ears, but I always felt they lent a bit of insight to the peoples’ character… :3 And I think Soubi actually undergoes the most changes, Ritsuka being a close second. (Pfft, you liked Kio…)

    Reviews in general are biased by nature, yes. ^^ But it sounds more intelligent if you write it formally, so people are more likely to take heed. I know I do. Go grammar! :D

  2. Kiriska on July 19, 2008 9:02 pm

    I don’t understand why people are compelled to animate series that aren’t finished yet. It just leads to bad things happening. Even for FMA, which is a brilliant anime, because the manga isn’t done, the ending kills everything. JUST SAY NO TO ANIME FOR UNFINISHED MANGA.

    I think Soubi probably does have the most potential for character development, but the anime doesn’t allow for any of it. The ears, eh; you should be able to figure out the depth of characters without a virginity beacon floating on their heads. It’s just too cheap and easy. And yeah, Kio was fun, but still pretty pointless and unexplained.