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Old 2011-12-02, 05:49   Link #1
Ascaloth
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What's your thoughts on critical analysis of anime?

Hey guys, I'm looking to get an outside perspective on some things I've been considering for a while.

What do you believe should be the purpose of critical analysis on an anime series or movie? Do you think it should be an objective reckoning on the pros and cons of any story in the animated format? Or conversely, do you think there should be no pretense that it is merely an opinion from subjective points of view?

What should such critical analysis focus on? Is it imperative that it be thorough, picking over the details of what makes a story tick (or otherwise) with a fine comb? Or is readability the most important thing, and as such should be short and sweet instead of tl;dr accordingly?

Finally, an unavoidable aspect of critical analysis of any anime series or movie, are the inevitable counters from said series' or movie's fans or detractors. What do you believe is the appropriate way to handle such criticism? Do you get into a discussion with them, as there may be something to learn from it? Is the defense of your viewpoint most important to you, and thus your course of action? Or do you think there's no point trying to convince those who will not be convinced, and thus you are above trying to argue with them?
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Old 2011-12-02, 06:24   Link #2
Archon_Wing
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
What do you believe should be the purpose of critical analysis on an anime series or movie? Do you think it should be an objective reckoning on the pros and cons of any story in the animated format? Or conversely, do you think there should be no pretense that it is merely an opinion from subjective points of view?
I think the purpose is the present an argument, aka an opinion supported by various facts and observations, to other people in the hopes that they may take your thoughts into consideration for whatever purpose they need. My feeling is that it's implicit it's your point of view when you write an opinion or your thoughts towards something that it is your opinion, so thus there's no need to state it's an opinion outright. It will not change the value of your words.

Quote:
What should such critical analysis focus on? Is it imperative that it be thorough, picking over the details of what makes a story tick (or otherwise) with a fine comb? Or is readability the most important thing, and as such should be short and sweet instead of tl;dr accordingly?
Depends on the anime at large. Some really expansive series like Zeta Gundam or Serial Experiments Lain need a more careful analysis of the themes and setting. Something like Lucky Star doesn't.

But I guess you'll hate "it depends", so I'll leave it as "context". Establish what you think the context of the anime is, it's purpose, and how well it goes in achieving it. If you're going to review Neon Genesis Evangelion, it would do us good to compare it in relation to the anime it was influenced by.

Quote:
Finally, an unavoidable aspect of critical analysis of any anime series or movie, are the inevitable counters from said series' or movie's fans or detractors. What do you believe is the appropriate way to handle such criticism? Do you get into a discussion with them, as there may be something to learn from it? Is the defense of your viewpoint most important to you, and thus your course of action? Or do you think there's no point trying to convince those who will not be convinced, and thus you are above trying to argue with them?
I'm of the mind that people have a right to different opinion than mine, no matter how wrong it may be. Ok, just kidding. I'm more concerned on how their opinion is constructed and expressed. So I don't go to prove people wrong; I just want them to understand me and my superiority.

So it really doesn't matter if people won't be convinced. After all, if it were so easy to persuade people, maybe that opinion wasn't that strong to begin with. The main thing here is an expressing of all these viewpoints to a general audience. One just has to realized there's multiple ways to view a certain thing, and that one viewpoint alone isn't as effective as the combined opinions from many different viewpoints.
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Old 2011-12-02, 06:36   Link #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
What do you believe should be the purpose of critical analysis on an anime series or movie? Do you think it should be an objective reckoning on the pros and cons of any story in the animated format? Or conversely, do you think there should be no pretense that it is merely an opinion from subjective points of view?
Well before I answer this I think any critical analysis of a show, if done in a more professional format, should be done in a way that helps people relate to your point of view. In this realm people should remove any and all bias possible in a viewing of a show. This means if you go into a shonen action anime for example, you are not going to all of a sudden start criticizing it heavily for playing out like a shonen action anime just because you don't like shonen action anime. That type of reviewing is silly, and in the end, it's just rather asinine. People who are hoping to get informed from said critical analysis are not going to learn anything other than they'll probably hate it too if they dislike shonen action anime.

This is not to say that someone in a more professional environment must neuter their own thoughts on said dislikes and biases completely, but if one is trying to communicate to people more effectively with their analysis then there has to be much more restraint. There's no point in reading a review of some anime/movie in some genre from someone who typically dislikes the genre. This is where I find a lot of blogs in the anime blogosphere end up failing. Their inability to assess all anime fairly on a clean slate just ends up being very uninformative in general.

Now if we are talking about critical analysis in a less professional setting, I say anything goes so long as its reasoned and/or explained. It's that simple.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
What should such critical analysis focus on? Is it imperative that it be thorough, picking over the details of what makes a story tick (or otherwise) with a fine comb? Or is readability the most important thing, and as such should be short and sweet instead of tl;dr accordingly?
Analysis can't go on for pages of course (Unless you're aiming for more than a simplified picture of what you're talking about and want to really break down the story), but it shouldn't be too short either. Short analysis just doesn't have enough information . It gives an extremely bare bones picture of what one might expect in a show. Things like "I didn't like the ending, character X was annoying, the pacing was off, etc." And while sure that's nice and all, it's very hard to assess properly whether or not one would enjoy the show if all they were able to get from it was "bad pacing, some interesting themes 'XYZ,' overall entertaining." I say this because then the analysis is no better than an extended synopsis.

I think it is much more useful often times to describe the personal meaning of said show and try to communicate that to people often times. I guess again I ask if the point is if you're trying to communicate to a general audience in a professional environment, or in a less professional environment.

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Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
Finally, an unavoidable aspect of critical analysis of any anime series or movie, are the inevitable counters from said series' or movie's fans or detractors. What do you believe is the appropriate way to handle such criticism? Do you get into a discussion with them, as there may be something to learn from it? Is the defense of your viewpoint most important to you, and thus your course of action? Or do you think there's no point trying to convince those who will not be convinced, and thus you are above trying to argue with them?
Debates of these kind usually serve the purpose of trying to show to people in the audience that there is a different view point than the one being espoused rather than an attempt to convince the person you are debating with. If it was in a one on one environment though, then it would be more appropriated to try and convince said person, but in a more public environment I would not think this to be a very useful or healthy approach.
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Old 2011-12-02, 06:42   Link #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
Hey guys, I'm looking to get an outside perspective on some things I've been considering for a while.

What do you believe should be the purpose of critical analysis on an anime series or movie? Do you think it should be an objective reckoning on the pros and cons of any story in the animated format? Or conversely, do you think there should be no pretense that it is merely an opinion from subjective points of view?
Ultimately, I think that most critical analysis of an anime series or movie will fall somewhere between these two diametrically opposed positions. However, perfect balance is hard to achieve, so reviews will tend to lean one way or the other. Here I think it's important to factor in if the review is professional (i.e. paid for) or not.

What I mean by that is I would hold a professional and paid for anime review on ANN to a higher standard, at least on objective vs. subjective, than an anime review that someone puts up for free on his or her personal-use blog (or as an unpaid contributor to a different anime blog).

An ANN review, in my opinion, should be as objective as possible, at the very least in the actual letter rankings it gives.

With a personal-use blog, I think that the reviewer should be as upfront about his or her personal tastes in anime as is reasonably possible, so that readers will be able to better contextualize what the reviewer writes. I think the reviewer should also be honest about the elements that simply click with him or her, regardless of their literary worth or lack thereof, as well as the elements that simply don't work for him or her, again regardless of their literary worth or lack thereof.

That being said, I think there is some degree of objectivity when it comes to questions like the anime's production values, the quality of the voice-work, how well-written characters are, how well-paced the anime is, how good a job the anime does in crafting a consistent identity for itself, and how coherent and comprehensible the plot is (if it has one). When evaluating these specific elements individually, I think it's helpful to strive for objectivity, and to do this by having at least a rough idea in your mind of what constitutes a well-written character in general, what constitutes good pacing in general, etc...

Once you've found a balance between objective and subjective that works for you, and hopefully works for your readers, the key then is to be consistent with it. There's little that bothers me more than seeing a reviewer heavily criticize Anime A for something that the reviewer gives Anime B a complete and utter pass for. Yes, what may appear inconsistent on the surface can have good reasons for it (i.e. "I'm criticizing seemingly Emo Male Lead A for being emo while giving Emo Male Lead B a pass for being emo, but there's a reason for that, and here's why..."), but if so, those reasons should be explained.


Quote:

What should such critical analysis focus on? Is it imperative that it be thorough, picking over the details of what makes a story tick (or otherwise) with a fine comb? Or is readability the most important thing, and as such should be short and sweet instead of tl;dr accordingly?
I think this depends a bit on the overall complexity and format of the anime.

I spent a fair bit more time in my Kanon (2006) review (warning: that one is rather spoilerrific) than I did on my Saki review, because Kanon is the more complex (partly due to simple format) of the two. Kanon was neatly broken up into several arcs, while Saki basically had one big long Team Tournament Arc stuck between a gradual lead-up to it and an aftermath to it.

As a general rule of thumb, though, I think I'd err on the side of being carefully thorough and picking over the details of what makes a story work/not work. Even my Saki review wasn't exactly short.


Quote:

Finally, an unavoidable aspect of critical analysis of any anime series or movie, are the inevitable counters from said series' or movie's fans or detractors. What do you believe is the appropriate way to handle such criticism? Do you get into a discussion with them, as there may be something to learn from it? Is the defense of your viewpoint most important to you, and thus your course of action? Or do you think there's no point trying to convince those who will not be convinced, and thus you are above trying to argue with them?
If my viewpoint comes under a lot of attack, which is to say more than just one disagreeable response for every four or five mostly agreeable responses, I'll usually take the time and effort to defend it a bit. Generally speaking, I try to respond once to every reply a blog I put up receives. Mind you, this is a lot easier to do when you're only getting a few replies instead of getting a couple dozen or more. If you're getting a couple dozen or more replies, it's understandable for the reviewer to pick and choose which replies he responds to, as the reviewer's time isn't limitless.


I hope my response here was helpful to you.
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Old 2011-12-02, 12:08   Link #5
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Personally, I go with the notion that a review should be saying what the reviewer thought of the anime. Not what the audience is going to think of the anime. Yes, you can recommend it and such, but there are so many differing tastes that it's impossible to truly objectify any sort of product in general. As long as your present your argument and back it up reasonably, it should be fine.

Objectivity is required, as without it, the reviewer becomes preachy and unlikable. Subjectivity will always dominate your analysis, but that doesn't mean it should be the only thing in that analysis. Reviews are 100% opinion, but that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be truth within the analysis itself. And do not get major facts wrong. Minor stuff is tolerable, as it's hard to remember the entire product (pacing can be a big factor in that), but the major stuff will really hurt your review's credibility.

The one thing you should really avoid in your review is not forcing your opinion on other people. It helps if you suggest who would and wouldn't like the anime. If you get counter-attacked, deal with it maturely. Admit you made a mistake in your facts, or defend your opinion in a calm manner.
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Old 2011-12-02, 13:28   Link #6
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Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
What do you believe should be the purpose of critical analysis on an anime series or movie? Do you think it should be an objective reckoning on the pros and cons of any story in the animated format? Or conversely, do you think there should be no pretense that it is merely an opinion from subjective points of view?
A critical analysis of anime should be treated exactly the way it's treated in film studies. All such treatments are opinion-based, but they should be substantiated by objective information. The arguments would probably be in the format of "The camera uses X angle for Y purpose. This works/doesn't work because of Z." Generally speaking, the subjective nature of an analysis shouldn't really matter to the final result (i.e. A reader might disagree with the conclusions, but find that the individual points still have merit.).

To be fair, Western anime fandom is new enough that there isn't really any body of critical analysis. There might be some for a few noteworthy works, but it's far less well established compared to film or literature.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
What should such critical analysis focus on? Is it imperative that it be thorough, picking over the details of what makes a story tick (or otherwise) with a fine comb? Or is readability the most important thing, and as such should be short and sweet instead of tl;dr accordingly?
A critical analysis has to be critical or it's just a review. Good writing is a plus, but not at the expense of skipping meaningful insights.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
Finally, an unavoidable aspect of critical analysis of any anime series or movie, are the inevitable counters from said series' or movie's fans or detractors. What do you believe is the appropriate way to handle such criticism? Do you get into a discussion with them, as there may be something to learn from it? Is the defense of your viewpoint most important to you, and thus your course of action? Or do you think there's no point trying to convince those who will not be convinced, and thus you are above trying to argue with them?
I don't think that anyone has ever been convinced to like or dislike a work because of a review that they disagreed with. Having said that, it's still constructive to discuss the pros and cons of an opinion that's well backed up.

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Originally Posted by Flawnalyst View Post
Personally, I go with the notion that a review should be saying what the reviewer thought of the anime. Not what the audience is going to think of the anime. Yes, you can recommend it and such, but there are so many differing tastes that it's impossible to truly objectify any sort of product in general. As long as your present your argument and back it up reasonably, it should be fine.
I see reviews and critical analyses as fundamentally different things. The former is the kind of article that Roger Ebert will write up in a newspaper and give stars for. The latter is when he'd go over a film like Citizen Kane and talk about the details and significance of it, scene by scene and shot by shot. There should be discussion on subjects like lighting, editing, references to other works, and so forth that wouldn't fit into a review. Critical analyses are so in depth that they should be impossible to create without watching a work many times.
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Old 2011-12-02, 15:07   Link #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post
What do you believe should be the purpose of critical analysis on an anime series or movie? Do you think it should be an objective reckoning on the pros and cons of any story in the animated format? Or conversely, do you think there should be no pretense that it is merely an opinion from subjective points of view?
In a general context every review should try to mask the writer's bias as much as possible. A good means to this would be presenting arguments that are objective as possible or at least won't be changing very easily from person to person. And because the author's tone is present throughout the piece anyway there shouldn't be any need for the disclaimer.

Besides, most of the time an analysis is about downplaying or overblowing the work's qualities anyway.
Quote:
What should such critical analysis focus on? Is it imperative that it be thorough, picking over the details of what makes a story tick (or otherwise) with a fine comb? Or is readability the most important thing, and as such should be short and sweet instead of tl;dr accordingly?
There needs to be a partnership between both. Good direction alone doesn't make something involving, but plot twists out the ass can detract from said experience. In a pinch though I'd use the proverbial fine comb since accessibility isn't the first goal of a lot of shows. However context is still needed unless something gets criticized for all of the wrong reasons.
Quote:
Finally, an unavoidable aspect of critical analysis of any anime series or movie, are the inevitable counters from said series' or movie's fans or detractors. What do you believe is the appropriate way to handle such criticism? Do you get into a discussion with them, as there may be something to learn from it? Is the defense of your viewpoint most important to you, and thus your course of action? Or do you think there's no point trying to convince those who will not be convinced, and thus you are above trying to argue with them?
Depends on who the fan or detractor is. I can sort of instinctively tell when a discussion is viable and when it is nearly impossible for us to come to terms. So really the best course of action is as the situation dictates.
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Old 2011-12-03, 19:49   Link #8
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What do you believe should be the purpose of critical analysis on an anime series or movie?
To understand. To explain. To present more perspectives.

I generally like posts that let me go, "Interesting... that's another way of looking at it". Boring posts are those that make me go, "You like/dislike it; yeah, sure whatever". I call the former "analyses", and the latter "reactions". Reactions can be backed by analysis, but reactions alone are worthless, for both the reviewer and the readiers, for increasing understanding of the material.
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Old 2011-12-03, 20:17   Link #9
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I try to treat it like literary or film critical analysis... like Eater says, there's a difference between analyses and reactions. I see 4Tran explained in detail so I won't repeat his elaboration.

I may emotionally love a series that I, at the same time, find to be a disaster in a literary sense. One is a reaction, the other an analysis (usually when I feel like supporting my review).
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Old 2011-12-04, 00:28   Link #10
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My thought on critical analysis of anime is

How to: Generally those at Nihon Review, not to flatter the OP. Those have generally a small paragraph highlighting the highest or lowest points of the subject. Then it is short, straight to the point without dwelling in the too subjective territory or vitriol spitting.

How to not to: That guy in anidb. I don't need to read walls of text telling me how fans sucks, are morons with horrible bad tastes, then you spewing nonsense that clearly show that #1. You watched the show on fast forward. #2. Or you did not watch the show, as watching with clear attempt to analyze the subject. #3. You watched it, but you were so biased against it that the show had no chance to begin with. #4. You never liked the narrative tropes and codes of a given genre but will judge the genre a with in mind genre b. ie: You are reproaching an action anime (let's take, Black Lagoon) to not be mentally engaging like, random mindfuck anime y.

tl;dr: Don't serve me walls of text of vitriol or fanboyism unless that wall have a point. Which ones? Analyzis of cinematography used by the director, like why did Anno resort to a long still shot in the Asuka & Rei elevator scene. Or analysis of characters, their actions, their drives, like the ambition of Harry McDowell in Gungrave and how it changed him. Those are walls of text that are pleasing to read.

PS: many wonder who is That guy, the few who stuck with me in the former months should know. hint: he have pulled the grumpy old man act and hate everything new for some weird reason
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Old 2011-12-04, 01:05   Link #11
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You are reproaching an action anime (let's take, Black Lagoon) to not be mentally engaging like, random mindfuck anime y.

Ironically, Black Lagoon is not a mindless action anime. I'm always surprised when people say they enjoyed it as just cool action... in some ways it is the anti-pure-action show, in that it lays bare the dark societal underpinnings that would likely go along with a world of pure action. A key dilemma of the show is whether it is even okay to participate in an "action world", whether it is worthwhile (note some of the pathetic characters who want to be part of it), and why exactly we find it attractive. But yeah, the action is great too.
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Old 2011-12-04, 17:58   Link #12
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I think the most important thing is basically to decide why you're writing, who you're writing for, and what they expect.

For me personally, I have absolutely no need for someone's "objective reckoning" about anime unless they're going to provide an interesting and relevant point of view or argument that goes beyond just "I did/didn't like it and here's why". I don't need someone else to tell me if an anime is good or bad based on whatever they think are objective criteria. This is why I generally avoid sites like The Nihon Review; to me this sort of content has little value. Having said that, there is obviously a certain group of people who find value in this sort of content. Who are they, how are they approaching the content, and what do they want? Do they read the reviews before watching an anime to help them know what to watch? Do they read the reviews after watching an anime to see how their opinions compare? Are they there to have their opinions challenged, or to have their opinions reinforced? Understanding the target audience (and their needs) is the only way to measure success.

The sort of analysis that I would be interested in would be the real sort of literary analysis alluded to in some of the above posts: deep dives into specific themes, topics, and issues that require research, deep thought, and actual critical/comparative analysis. Articles that are actually thinking about anime and not just "thinking about my opinion about this anime". Beyond that, as far as reviews and general opinions about shows go, I'm much more interested in seeing and understanding people's passion. As I get to know the person I start to understand what makes them tick, and then their recommendations and reviews become much more valuable so long as they don't try to couch it behind too much fake objectivity and rationalization, which generally come across as arrogance. Honesty and integrity are more valuable to me than any attempt at writing what someone thinks will seem "impartial".
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Old 2011-12-04, 19:04   Link #13
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I largely agree with Relentlessflame. I do read review sites (after I finish a series) because I am interested in what other people thought and if anyone got the the same thing out of the series as me. Additionally when I enjoy something I want to read everything I can about the series & discuss it with others.

But in general I find individual reviews sort of worthless. I am definitely more interested in literary analysis. Besides the symbolism and themes behind the work; I also love discussions on how a series connects to other series in the genre or other works by the same director/studio. I guess I just find stuff like that much more fascinating to read then whether this was a good or bad title (because in the end that is going to be entirely dependent on the individual).
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Old 2011-12-06, 04:05   Link #14
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Thanks very much for all your responses, everyone. It has been very enlightening to read all of your different viewpoints, and has taught me a lot about what different people look for in others' critical analyses of our favourite anime.

Well, since leaving it here would be kind of a waste, let's continue with the discussion. It can be said that there are as many different styles of anime criticism as there are anime critics in the world, but in general, critical analyses can generally be roughly categorised by common writing styles and focuses.

From your personal point of view, how much importance do you place on any given critical analyses and/or review having a focus on:

1) Thematic presentation; most anime have a general theme to it, and may act as a fable, or a commentary on just about any subject matter imaginable. On the other hand, maybe the sole intention is to present its own brand of humour, or in the most recent trends, may not even be about anything in particular at all. How much value do you place in a critical analysis that delves deeply into an anime series'/movie's themes, and discusses it in depth?

2) Technical execution; it's not only about whether there is a story to tell, it's also about how well it is told. Maybe a given anime has a grand narrative in mind, but the question is whether the pacing is right, and whether there are any fridge logic moments in the telling. Besides, the quality of the visual and/or the auditory components of the anime may have an impact on your enjoyment. How much value do you place in a critical analysis that focuses on the quality of the storytelling, as opposed to the content of the story itself?

3) Genre conventions; genres exist for a reason, as stories almost inevitably revisit a given set of tropes based on the genre it's classified as. Because of this, maybe this fact should be kept in mind when judging the merits of any given work, as such judgements may be unnecessarily harsh or lenient otherwise. On the other hand, perhaps any given work is either a good story or otherwise, and there should be no concessions either way simply because it is what it is. How much value do you place in a critical analysis that recognises the conventions each anime series/movie is working in, and how it affects the story overall?
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Old 2011-12-06, 05:31   Link #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheba View Post
My thought on critical analysis of anime is

How to: Generally those at Nihon Review, not to flatter the OP. Those have generally a small paragraph highlighting the highest or lowest points of the subject. Then it is short, straight to the point without dwelling in the too subjective territory or vitriol spitting.

How to not to: That guy in anidb. I don't need to read walls of text telling me how fans sucks, are morons with horrible bad tastes, then you spewing nonsense that clearly show that #1. You watched the show on fast forward. #2. Or you did not watch the show, as watching with clear attempt to analyze the subject. #3. You watched it, but you were so biased against it that the show had no chance to begin with. #4. You never liked the narrative tropes and codes of a given genre but will judge the genre a with in mind genre b. ie: You are reproaching an action anime (let's take, Black Lagoon) to not be mentally engaging like, random mindfuck anime y.

tl;dr: Don't serve me walls of text of vitriol or fanboyism unless that wall have a point. Which ones? Analyzis of cinematography used by the director, like why did Anno resort to a long still shot in the Asuka & Rei elevator scene. Or analysis of characters, their actions, their drives, like the ambition of Harry McDowell in Gungrave and how it changed him. Those are walls of text that are pleasing to read.

PS: many wonder who is That guy, the few who stuck with me in the former months should know. hint: he have pulled the grumpy old man act and hate everything new for some weird reason
I don't know who you are talking about but it is exactly what I thought about some reviewers in anidb. If you want to criticize the anime, please makes sure that you know what you are talking about. Criticize the actual merit of the anime. Don't criticize the genre or stupid trope of the anime. I'd say that it's more appropriate to talk about the joke in comedy or gag anime instead of complaining why the story doesn't go anyway. Giving low point to such series just because it is an episodic anime is truly stupid. I occasionally read some reviews when I have nothing to watch and want to know what people have recommended. I personally don't believe that everyone can give honest review for every anime. I don't read review from people who do review for every genre and every anime. Many of them are arrogance and just want to show off that they are veteran in anime. I'm not the type of person who watch anime based on what most people recommend or are praising or watch it in order to say that "I watched it too" I just want to see what I like. I actually prefer to read review from people who have some specific favorite. Of course, it may be somewhat bias but that is a point. If they like something then it has a good chance that people who share the same interest may like it too.
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Old 2011-12-06, 08:02   Link #16
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Interesting you would call it critical. That’s often attributed negative sense even when we’re, supposedly, praising the damn things. I’ll take it you actually meant honest and thorough.

Your dilemma is actually quite simple. You, like everyone else, have an opinion. There is nobody else in the world who has your opinion. There might be people who share a similar opinion, but that’s only on the surface. Fundamentally no matter how much you agree with someone else you’ll see it one way and they see it another way. Semi-ambiguous mediums such as text and internet chat don’t really help. Take this post for example, the text itself is not my opinion, obviously, just a medium for conveying certain thoughts which I’ve concocted based on my own opinion, not an complete clone of my opinion into text form.

Now there are two types of opinion, for the sake of clarity I’ll refer to them as meta and factual. The factual is essentially not an opinion but an understanding of something. You can’t have an opinion on who’s the director of a show for example. With out anything backing you up at best you can guess it’s something like “Director X”, and someone can come and correct you that it’s actually “Director Y”. The meta side on the other hand is not something tangible. For example, I like the color red, and let’s just say you like the color blue. You can’t come and prove to me I should like the color blue. Deliberating over which color is best is also quite pointless. In an ideal world everything would be either meta or factual and we would live happy ever after, but the world sucks so we actual have things that are described by both. Tv shows are one such thing, plot events can be described factually, while feelings (sympathy, empathy, admiration, etc) invoked by the characters and story are meta. And long and behold people love to mix this shit up: “Clearly X is the better color-director and not Blue!” If a discussion on a show sounds too philosophical to be true, it’s probably because it’s stupid, no really! It’s not hard to make the distinction, it’s merely an writing hurdle.

From a purely editorial perspective I’d say the following are the key issues I see every day (in order):
  • fake objectivity
  • hidden agendas
  • scrambled thought process
Let’s get something straight, being objective does not mean talking about the good and the bad! Being objective means you’re not tacking sides. If you’re just ranting on about how fabulous it is or how godawful it is, and then in your other half (at best it would be half anyway) you’re just making some half ass tone deaf mention of the so called pro’s or con’s then you sir have done nothing more then fabricate some fancy advertising for yourself with the concept of objectivity. If you want to be objective don’t take sides! You don’t even have to talk about both, just talk about which one you feel like talking about. When you throw any sort of exaggerated claim or foregone conclusion, just like a tiny drop of ink in a clear glass of water, that’s it you fail.

Hidden agendas are kind of the same thing as above. How many times have you read (particularly on forums) this so called “indepth” analysis on something, but when really it’s painfully obvious the person writing it has no passion for what he’s writing. Which is not to say he doesn’t agree with what he’s saying, but rather that he’s writing it for anything but the content in question. Now we all have ulterior motives for the things we write, but what I’m talking about are people that either really don’t give a damn about the point of their analysis and are just using it to vent. On forums it’s usually under the form of this “political movement” for or against a series, and sometimes even a group. It’s not necessarily even hidden, ie. “<insert makeshift opinion/analysis> And this is why fans/haters/everyone should-like/suck blah blah blah”. Nobody cares for someone else’s dishonest opinion, okey? so make sure you avoid this like the plague.

On a last note, if you’re going to write about something even if you’re not a wizard with paragraphs and words at least try to have some resemblance of structure. Anything that can be roughly distinguished is fine, just don’t throw all your ideas into one big mess. It’s annoying enough just reading it, but typically this also results in a general state of confusion. So go the extra mile and put a little brainpower into more then your sentences. And NO, having one big paragraph or just big paragraphs doesn’t save you from it; a large body of text such as giant paragraphs should have structure in and of itself.
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Old 2011-12-06, 08:38   Link #17
Ash Falls Town
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Originally Posted by felix View Post
Interesting you would call it critical. Thatís often attributed negative sense even when weíre, supposedly, praising the damn things. Iíll take it you actually meant honest and thorough.
No the word is critical. Critical analysis just means thorough literary analysis.

Anyway I think there are definitely shows which exist which are considered to have been consciously created with thematic merit in mind. Really all you need to do is figure out the directorial intent (In this day and age you can often get it from interviews) and judge the show on it's failure or success in whether it pulled it off.

Sometimes there isn't a conscious thematic merit in mind though and the show only has a commercial and an entertainment value. These shows succeed if the show sells enough (People who buy the show presumably gain entertainment from it).

Anyway this is the extent of analysis you can get without invoking "Death of the Author". "Death of the Author" suggests that thematic merit doesn't need to be consciously added by the creator. To complicate things creators exist who believe in "Death of the Author" to various extents.
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Old 2011-12-06, 10:58   Link #18
Triple_R
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Originally Posted by Ascaloth View Post

1) Thematic presentation; most anime have a general theme to it, and may act as a fable, or a commentary on just about any subject matter imaginable. On the other hand, maybe the sole intention is to present its own brand of humour, or in the most recent trends, may not even be about anything in particular at all. How much value do you place in a critical analysis that delves deeply into an anime series'/movie's themes, and discusses it in depth?
I put a lot of value in it... if the particular anime in question warrants that treatment. As you yourself pointed out, not all anime are the same here. Some have a well-developed general theme that permeates the entire work. Others have no themes at all, at least none that most viewers pick up on. Then there's some anime shows that fall in between, and have a theme that pops up for a few episodes (you see this a lot in shows that gradually shift from trope-driven comedy to heavy life drama).

How much emphasis and time your review puts on theme/thematic presentation should probably be proportional to how much emphasis and time the anime you're reviewing puts on it.


Quote:

2) Technical execution; it's not only about whether there is a story to tell, it's also about how well it is told. Maybe a given anime has a grand narrative in mind, but the question is whether the pacing is right, and whether there are any fridge logic moments in the telling. Besides, the quality of the visual and/or the auditory components of the anime may have an impact on your enjoyment. How much value do you place in a critical analysis that focuses on the quality of the storytelling, as opposed to the content of the story itself?
Storytelling quality is generally important, and should get some focus in a review. However, I think that level of viewer emotional investment, how compelling the characters are in general, and any significant thematic development, are all of roughly the same importance as storytelling quality. So if a review is little more than a listing of fridge logic moments, I'd find that to be a disappointing and imbalanced review.

Basically, storytelling quality (including an example or two of fridge logic moments if they are there) is worth a mention, and should be a factor in most reviews, but it shouldn't be a central point of focus, imo.


Quote:

3) Genre conventions; genres exist for a reason, as stories almost inevitably revisit a given set of tropes based on the genre it's classified as. Because of this, maybe this fact should be kept in mind when judging the merits of any given work, as such judgements may be unnecessarily harsh or lenient otherwise. On the other hand, perhaps any given work is either a good story or otherwise, and there should be no concessions either way simply because it is what it is. How much value do you place in a critical analysis that recognises the conventions each anime series/movie is working in, and how it affects the story overall?
I think that genre conventions should be kept in mind when judging the merits of a given work. I think that in practical application this means that the reviewer is accepting/forgiving of them to a point.

However, if a work relies so heavily on genre conventions that it all feels very generic to you, then I think that is worth mentioning in your review and weighing against the work as a whole.
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Old 2011-12-06, 11:31   Link #19
Last Sinner
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I'd consider the following points to be important in that process:

1. Knowing the fanbase, having an appreciation of the staff + original creators and understanding what their intent with the title is. If a reviewer can't be bothered to look into things like that, they probably aren't suited to do a professional review/properly critical review.

2. Keep your emotions in check. You're supposed to be giving a balanced, analytical, thought-out opinion. Bias is impossible to avoid, but you can be mannered and informative. There are better ways to say you don't like a title that to be bitter and claim that anyone that likes the show is stupid.

3. Offer reasons for the title and against it. There is no such thing as a piece of work that everyone will like. Through the sum of their own experiences, pools of people will have very different opinions on the same piece of work. So it would be prudent to offer reasons for either case and to indicate what types of fans are more likely - but by no means certain - to lean to a particular view.

4. Show some passion - within restraint. There's nothing to gain from being cold and clinical - people will doubt the sincerity of your writing. But don't sound like a blind fanboy/fangirl either. Show your zest for anime but rein it in as required.

5. Provide a solid argument to your opinion. People don't want you to be a fence-sitter. If you tick some people off by stating your case, so be it! If you provide a good case as to how you feel about a title and why, people with decency and brains in their head would at least be able to respect your ability to present an opinion and back it up even if they don't agree with you. My best anime friends are people I only agree with some things on. We disagree about plenty but we get along because we can be open with each other and explain our opinions properly. They're far better friends than 'yes' people who just say whatever to please you.

6. Values. If you explain what qualities you place importance on, people can get a better understanding of where you're coming from.

7. Be thorough within reason. If you're going to provide an argument, people don't expect a 10 second case. They will expect some evidence but not a thesis.
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Old 2011-12-06, 13:09   Link #20
JediNight
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This is a tricky subject, because I think everyone looks to get something different out of analysis. I predominately use critical analysis myself when arguing why I think a certain series is good/bad. Many people though seem to not be able to take a step back and just verbalize why they think I'm wrong etc.

Another pet peave of mine are people that over-analyze things. Some of the recent arguments in the Ben-to thread for example are ridiculous. It's a comedy series, and they are trying to put real-life motivations and consequences to the stuff and saying it's bad because it's "unrealistic" etc. And I'm like.... but it's a gag comedy...

Analyzing anime takes a light touch. Certain elements you can hold them to account for failing on, but even in a mostly serious show, there can be scenes or elements of it that are done for comedy etc. that just aren't meant to be taken seriously.

I'll often qualify my opinion with a certain weight though. Certain shows I consider "guilty pleasures" -- overall they're not very good, or they pander a lot, but if the characters are fun and they have good chemistry, I'm willing to overlook it in most cases. Yuru Yuri for example I shied away from at first, but honestly it's a lot of fun with the personalities and chemistry involved. Even with like K-on vs. A Channel -- I felt K-on was obnoxious, but the characters in A Channel were a lot more endearing and the storytelling more genuine.
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