It’s been said that opinions aren’t special, because everybody has one. Actually, the phrase I hear the most is more vulgar than that one, but I’ll leave it to your imagination.
But in reality, I’d argue that some opinions are more special than others. I’m talking about the opinions of reviewers and critics. When a new anime comes out, we enlist perfect strangers to help us choose whether to watch it or not, like the writers at the Fandom Post, Gar Gar Stegosaurus, and Anime News Network.
What makes these reviewers’ opinions so engaging? In one way or another, they’ve all mastered critical writing. Critical writing done right enhances your position with context and evidence that convinces readers your opinion matters.
Here are a few suggestions for writing anime reviews that people will want to read:
Include a brief summary
You’re adding something new, not reiterating the show. The portion of the review in which you summarize it for context should take up no more than a quarter of your article. If readers want a written recap of the show, they’ll read the novelization.
You know you’ve put the right amount of summary in when it describes the genre, overall plot, and a few major characters and their motivations.
The purpose of a review is to help readers decide whether or not they want to watch the show themselves. If you give away all the good parts in your review, there’s no reason for them to do so. You may hint that impactful moments may occur, but avoid going out and saying, “X dies.”
If you absolutely must have spoilers, mark your review accordingly! The only excuse I can think of for including spoilers would be a main character death in the first episode, but even then I would try to write around it.
Describe the audience reception
If you’re able to get audience reactions to the show, it can enhance your opinion. If you’re watching the show online or as a DVD release, find out what other reviewers have been saying.. You can also browse forums to see if the show has been highly anticipated by fans.
If you’re watching the anime in an exclusive showing (for example, the limited Madoka Magica U.S. release), try and gauge the reactions of your fellow audience members. Is the theater crowded or did hardly anybody show up? Did people applaud? These observations can add persuasive details to your review that support your assessment.
State your opinion clearly
You’d be surprised how many poor reviews discuss elements of the anime without making a clear assertion as to whether the reviewer actually enjoyed it or not. Readers are looking to you for a decisive verdict on whether you thought the show was good or bad or in between.
No need to add “I think” or “In my opinion,” either. It’s redundant—this is your review, isn’t it?—and it weakens the statement.
Include specific details
Back up your assessment with descriptions of scenes, characters, and technical elements in order to give your opinions merit.
Did the anime have especially interesting character design? Were there any voice actors of note, and how were their performances? Was there a memorable musical score? Was the animation choppy? Including these details as justification for your review grade.
Give it a grade
For the TL;DR crowd, it helps to have a short and sweet summation at the end of your review. If readers find the grade surprising, they might scroll back up to figure out your reasoning.
Make sure the grade is on an easy-to-recognize scale, so readers can instantly gauge whether it’s a positive or negative score. Examples: out of five stars, a letter grade, or even “nine out of ten jellyfish.” As long as readers have context for the score, anything goes.
Stay tuned for my next post, in which I attempt to write a studied review of my favorite anime of all time, Nerima Daikon Brothers. (Yes, really!)
Will I be able to take my own advice and write a review people actually want to read? Find out Wednesday!