Writing Reviews… or Anything, Really

When writing about a popular show that you love, it is important to not forget your brain in the dumpster. Otherwise, you will end up writing things that won’t only make you look like a retard on LSD, but also earn the ire of the more critical part of the anime blogging/reviewing community.

Sword Art Online is a fine example. I’m sure that some of you might have heard of the influx of badly-written SAO anime reviews during the past few weeks, and maybe have read some of those yourselves. As much as I want to bash these people for flooding MAL with horrible English and brainless fan banter, I won’t. As much as I hate terrible writing now, I’ll admit that I went through a phase like that too. My writing skill wasn’t as good back then as it may be now. As these people from MAL admitted themselves, SAO would be their first time writing reviews. I can only see this as a good thing (shame on those troll reviewers, really). More people willing to write about anime? Why not?

I know, I know. I wrote this article, and you now think that I’m being a huge hypocrite. I still stand by that article and everything that it contains. Yes, I do think that people should stop writing garbage, but I’m not saying that they should stop writing altogether. Learn from previous mistakes and from the mistakes of others to improve your writing and tackle the real relevant aspects of an anime, anime as a whole, or the anime community. This is not only a message for the readers, but for myself as well.

Writing is amazing. It has the capacity to connect people, generate discussion and forge relationships. Whether you write bluntly like me, or stay polite like most anime bloggers, that’s up to you. I’m just saying that if you plan on writing, use that brain of yours to do what it’s supposed to: learn. Here’s my advice to anyone who wants to start their own anime blog, or just write about anything under the sun.

  1. Read lots of well-written articles to get a feel of the proper way of tackling your material and avoid pitfalls.
  2. Think about your subject. What do you have to say about it? How will you make your opinions count among hundreds of others? This is the most important part of the process.
  3. Write intelligently. Say what you want, but use what you have gathered from the first two steps to not make a fool out of yourself.

This is a continuous process, and it’s the one that I use in my writing – academic or otherwise. You cannot learn how to write well instantly, but through a long and painful process of  repeatedly reading, thinking and writing.

And now back to your regularly-scheduled articles. I might write about Muv-Luv and Jintai regularly, so yeah. No blog entries for the past few days because my PC just got fixed. Sorry about that.

About Lucas Magnus

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17 Responses to Writing Reviews… or Anything, Really

  1. windyturnip says:

    ” As much as I want to bash these people for flooding MAL with horrible English and brainless fan banter […]”

    If you go to MAL for something other than that, you’ve already lost. I use MAL to keep track of series and find new ones, but if I need a review I’ll check out an actual blog. I’ll admit that it’s probably a nice place for a potential blogger to gain some experience, but beyond that I just don’t know…

    • @fkeroge says:

      I don’t really read MAL reviews myself. I only heard of the flood of SAO reviews from some of the more unpleasant places of the internet.

      • windyturnip says:

        All the reviews I’ve seen have gone something like this.

        “It’s a really generic anime, but it does generic very well.”

        I’ll probably end up watching it, but I don’t think being generic should lead to universal praise. I hope people don’t waste there time blogging about a show that (supposedly) has nothing new to offer.

        • @fkeroge says:

          Generic, in my book, lies more on the use of your tropes than the tropes themselves. Works of fiction derive almost every element they have on previous works… even your classics like Romeo and Juliet (takes cues from Pyramus and Thisbe). That said, I don’t think Sword Art Online is generic, even if it has commonly-used tropes. It’s good for non-critical anime appreciation, but it all ends there for me.

          A great example of utter derivativeness is Guilty Crown. Where the tropes and execution leave a bad taste in one’s mouth.

  2. Trollkastel says:

    Thanks for the link.

    I was going to write something about this in a more scathing tone. There are actual MAL reviewers who are seriously trying hard to garner attention with well-written points. And then, there are reviewers who end with their reviews with a random curse word.

    Since I hosted the troll reviews and my username is Trollkastel, it’s obvious we’ll disagree on this point. I encourage people to write, but not terrible reviews. There needs to be a check on quality. My blog isn’t too popular so its criticism is not being seen. However, with the troll reviews on the first two spots, they satirized every bad MAL first/second episode reviews. It was symbolic: our troll reviews are loved more; find out why your reviews suck.

    Hell, even the moderators loved it. They had to delete it because the reviewers were butthurt their reviews were not making the spot.

    When I was younger, I restrained myself from writing. I analyzed how people wrote; how sentences end; what grammar misconceptions people still use; and more. Virginia Woolf’s and Haruki Murakami’s writing made me want to develop a style of writing. I’m not sure if I have the hang of it, but it’s readable. I wish to master my style soon.

    On other points, I have to agree: I believe I wrote actual English at the age of eighteen (and I’m 18). People take English too lightly. It is the mode of communication; argumentative editorials such as yours are best written on a blank sheet of paper. A simple, witty comment on a blog can enlighten everyone. Yet, these skills can only be harnessed with not just a dictionary but a whole lot of afterthought and critical thinking.

    Writing will forever improve as you age. Whether you take it seriously or not: that’s the point I want to make in my Shinning Terribad articles. I’m all in for serious writing, but I give the middle finger to lazy writers.

    • @fkeroge says:

      Though I said “shame on the troll reviewers,” I have to admit that I had a blast reading those. They’re funny, but since it’s hard to deliver sarcasm properly on a written medium like MAL, people may get the wrong idea.

      I also encourage people to write good reviews, simply because good writing is always better than lazily-constructed fangasms. If you look at my usual style of writing, I’m more condescending and rude than the usual anime blogger. Just like your trolling, my bluntness is tough love. We all want to see writing improve, but we don’t want to spoonfeed the newbies, am I right?

      As for the use of English, I think there is no excuse for writing bad English. To be honest, I hate the language (my mother tongue is Tagalog), but I still try my best to use it properly so I won’t sound like a moron. I think we can agree on many things here.

      • Adair says:

        As one of the troll reviewers for SAO, I have to agree with Trollkastel that our reviews were purely meant to satirize the bad reviews, thus encouraging better reviews in the future. Although I can’t say we’ve changed much with the crap we wrote, the rate at which terribad SAO reviews are getting churned out has slowed down quite a bit. Whether that’s due to us (which I doubt) or the fact that the first-episode hype has died down, I’ll never know. But I do think that trolling with a good purpose in mind can’t necessarily be seen as a bad thing…can it? 😀

        At the very least, our troll reviews (which basically underlined everything one *shouldn’t* do in a MAL review) were more helpful than the hyped-up fangasms that were the other MAL reviews.

        • @fkeroge says:

          Like I said, I enjoyed reading those troll reviews myself. However, trolling is still trolling. I think writing a proper review is still the best way to show people how things should be done. Merely pointing out the disease won’t cure it. You have to provide a solution so that you won’t come off as a jerk to the people you want to teach a lesson.

          • metronomeorchid says:

            Had my review not been deleted, I would have considered replacing it with an actual good review once the series ended. After all, the top review should ultimately be a well-written one. That, I do agree with.

            However, if you even try to give helpful suggestions to any one of those bad reviewers, you’ll likely end up getting an angry defense about how it’s the internet and they are free to write whatever BS they want, and that if you don’t like it, then you should eff off. It’s hard for me to defend these people and not come across as a jerk to them, because every time I try to help them, they are all jerks to me. Believe me, I’ve tried, and failed many times. That’s what led me to my scathing review. 😀

            But I’m glad you found it entertaining, at least. That was part of its purpose.

      • Trollkastel says:

        “Whether the majority or the ‘elite’ get the joke” is a fundamental question for many satirists to answer. I myself don’t know the answer. The elite may have the power to change things, but the majority needs to understand as well. So you are right: people might take it literally for what they are.

        But doesn’t that go with any mode of writing? Not just trolling or whatever. Literature is often misunderstood by many people. Take Catcher in the Rye for example: this work is notorious for being affiliated with an assassination and teenage suicides. Yet, it’s all about adult hypocrisy and the need to accept that life sucks. Parents keep thinking it’s a bad book for having curse words and whatever; they don’t get it.

        Yet, Catcher in the Rye is considered a work of art by many literary critics. I hate the book, but I admit it’s an influential book for many people. Salinger opened up the issues of teenage angst to the masses.

        I consider troll reviews as a satirical genre. Whether this is the right way to cure this disease: I don’t know. I’m not a doctor nor do I subscribe to the linguistic prescriptivist thought. Solutions are nice, but even the best medicine requires improvisation.

        So my thoughts are almost black and white in this area: troll reviews are perfectly acceptable.

        Now, to criticize some terrible reviews.

        • @fkeroge says:

          Okay, I think I can see where you’re coming from. My only concern is that reviews are there for reference (personal opinions), not for literary value (satire). Though the purpose of the troll review is clear, that is not what you read reviews for (especially for a newbie-ridden site like MAL). I think if you want to have troll reviews, you should put it somewhere else (this kind of kills some of the intention to troll, though).

          • Trollkastel says:

            I can agree that MAL isn’t the optimal place. And troll reviews will dilute the population of actual reviews, which makes it harder for people to look for personal opinions.

            That said, I’d still hold my ground that it should be there. There is no justification in restricting the location of satire to a blog or a book; that is the opposite of what satire is doing: trying to change what’s wrong with the system. One of those places a critique of a system should be found near the system itself.

            I don’t give a damn if a website is filled with newbies who think Naruto is the best anime ever. If an opinion must be said, then let it be said. If they don’t get it, then I have to sadly say it’s their problem. Didn’t you say we don’t want to spoonfeed newbies too much?

            And you are also bringing up a paradoxical thought on your end: troll reviews are still reviews no matter what you say about it. They have personal opinions. Take the Sword Art Online troll reviews: Adair’s and Eternia’s reviews think it’s a boring show. We just have to read it the opposite way, the way the writers intended.

            I am reminded of Foggle’s Mars of Destruction review, which is the most hilarious thing I’ve read on MAL. People get sarcasm; it’s a tone that can be seen on paper if written correctly. Foggle’s writing is more honest than writing a straight review. It’s obvious he hates the work and is exaggerating every claim to multiply the hatred; you don’t need to have a high school education to know that.

            You may also have noticed a new genre developing in MAL: poetic reviews. I’m skeptical of their appeal since most of these poetry suck. But take 8thsin’s Mawaru-Penguindrum review: he’s playing with the medium and informative content. I’m almost reading his mind at times and that’s what makes the review great. It isn’t a conventional review, but I’m getting the gist of his opinion. That’s the same with troll reviews.

            Hell, even film critic Leonard Martin had fun trolling everybody with his review to Isn’t It Romantic?; the review consists of only one word: “No.”

            So why can’t a review be for literary purpose (that is, satire) and be informative at the same time?

  3. Carillus says:

    I hope I didn’t leave my brain on the dumpster for that First Impressions SAO post I did a while back. Fangasming is a hard enemy to fight, even though I valiantly tried my best.

    Maybe I should learn from you, @fkeroge, and start writing some (albeit only if deserved) acid into my posts.

    Anyway, my two cents: Writing well on the Internet to set an example never works, because no one reads them. No one who’s actually planning to dash out something as fast as possible to cash in on hype, at least.

    Having done one or two first-episode reviews on MAL in my not-so-glorious past, I have to say that the feeling you have when actually writing is one of urgency, to be the first to get that post up, or at least to finish up the one you started because you thought “Hey, I’ve been waiting on this show for seven months, that’s longer than all you other bandwagon faggots so I have the right to vomit my opinion all over your public wall”, after which you realised you have no patience for writing properly critical reviews and thus are just trying to finish it up so you can wave your “I put something up” e-peen all over the faceless masses of the Internet.

    Either way, you’re not looking at recipes for terribly awesome writing. Both sides are pretty much narcissists, too, so after skimming through the first one or two (i.e. most helpful) pieces, they’ll proceed to write their own, thinking they can do better.

    Which they, of course, can’t.

    From experience, I have to say that the best way to deal with these is to troll. Hard. And make sure it’s extremely visible. They start raging to much to properly put down posts, and for those that don’t rage, they slink away quietly, embarrassed that they had ever entertained the thought of doing a review for the sake of attention.

    But really, all the good writers actually do their writing somewhere concrete.

    Also, @fkeroge, I never knew you hated English. Or that you knew how to speak Tagalog, for that matter. You write like a prissy Englishman.

    • @fkeroge says:

      No, by presenting a cure, I don’t mean writing a good review yourself (though that’s part of the process). Instead of setting an example, I choose to just criticize parts of the fandom itself (like some of my more vitriolic posts). It serves the same purpose of trolling, but with a more serious tone. Bluntly-written criticisms also tend to avoid misunderstandings by getting straight to the point. That’s what I mean by solution. But I guess we all have our own ways of dealing with the greenhorns.

      Your SAO post was okay, but as I said, it lacked sincerity. You were doing the exact opposite of fangasm, which is better than unabashed fangasm, but feels halfhearted.

  4. Nopy says:

    lol, I didn’t even notice what was going on with SAO on MAL, that’s pretty amusing. I’ve never given much credit to 1-episode reviews so they don’t influence whether I watch an anime or not.

  5. Tyjos Azari says:

    I haven’t done much reviews somewhat with Anime, I just blog as I feel I want too…

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