It’s been six months since I became a regular weekly streaming reviewer at Anime News Network. Since August, I’ve written three episode reviews nearly every week, or about 70 episode reviews total!
Since I’m reviewing shows the day they come out, I don’t have a lot of time to evaluate the episode. Instead, I’ve come up with shortcuts to the kind of critical thinking necessary for reviewing media. Before I sit down to write, I ask myself questions that I think leads to the most useful reviews that people actually want to read.
These are the questions I use, and that I hope you’ll find helpful, too:
1. If you had to assign a grade to this show, what would it be?
Usually this is the first step I take in the review process. I go with my gut, and then try to explain all the reasons I felt compelled to give it that grade. You don’t have to put the grade on your review at the end, but it helps to keep it in mind while you’re writing.
2. What is the overarching theme?
Think of it this way: how would you describe what this show is about in one sentence? This is your opinion, and it will be the thesis statement of your entire review. For example, the thesis of my Mononoke review was that people are more terrifying than monsters.
3. Does it have a compelling story? Why or why not?
Did this show keep your attention? How did it accomplish this (or not)? Quick (or slow) pacing, relatable (or wooden) characters, and an interesting (or boring) plot may have contributed. Be careful that when you’re discussing the story, you don’t give the whole thing away!
4. How does this show use animation?
What was the cinematography like? Does it look computer animated or hand drawn? Were there any quirks of the camera angle or movement? For example, did it focus on one character’s perspective, zoom in or out, or jump cut from scene to scene?
5. How does this show use sound?
Was there a heavy musical score, or were there frequent silent spaces behind the dialogue? How did the music set the tone? Did any of the voice actors stand out as having an unusual vocal pattern, or a powerful emotional delivery?
6. Does this show remind you of another show?
The human brain is wired to make connections. I think it’s helpful to say, “You might like this if you liked X or Y because…” and then explain what they have in common.
7. How did this show make you feel and why?
When the credits rolled, were you left with a lingering feeling of happiness or sadness? Were you anxious due to a cliffhanger? Frustrated by an unanswered question? Some critics say emotions are unhelpful, but it’s really “I feel” statements that are unhelpful. In reality, emotions lend power to reviews when you can back them up with evidence from the show.
Interested in seeing some real life examples of how I use these questions? Check out my latest Anime News Network reviews:
Background photo by Daniel