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erinfinnegan
ANN Columnist


Joined: 31 Jan 2005
Posts: 598

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:02 pm Reply with quote
Veers wrote:
Reading reviews without personal opinion is boring; it's like making chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. I dunno about you but I like my chocolate chip cookies to have the chocolate chips in them.

You could be objective in a recipe review. "The ratio of flour to sugar in these cookies increased the baking time by two minutes. The recipe should call for large eggs instead of medium eggs."

I could tell you if the DVD menus had errors and whether or not the stereo mix functioned correctly on my speakers, but it's a bit far fetched to look for objective opinions on the characters or the music.

What if I reviewed Legend of the Overfiend and told you the character designs were anatomically well-proportioned and the use of perspective on the backgrounds was competent and the sound was mixed well....? Actually that would be pretty funny.
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jenthehen



Joined: 23 Dec 2008
Posts: 451
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:23 pm Reply with quote
erinfinnegan wrote:
Veers wrote:
Reading reviews without personal opinion is boring; it's like making chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. I dunno about you but I like my chocolate chip cookies to have the chocolate chips in them.

You could be objective in a recipe review. "The ratio of flour to sugar in these cookies increased the baking time by two minutes. The recipe should call for large eggs instead of medium eggs."

I could tell you if the DVD menus had errors and whether or not the stereo mix functioned correctly on my speakers, but it's a bit far fetched to look for objective opinions on the characters or the music.

What if I reviewed Legend of the Overfiend and told you the character designs were anatomically well-proportioned and the use of perspective on the backgrounds was competent and the sound was mixed well....? Actually that would be pretty funny.


I definitely don't think you should give any thought to people who are bitching at you about your reviews. They are just butthurt (for some reason) that you have a different style and some different opinions on and taste in anime than Bamboo did. It's more interesting to read reviews with personality. A review is ALWAYS going to be the reviewers opinion and be reflective of his or her beliefs, tastes, and position in life - you can't avoid it. I really don't know what they are expecting. I'm positive they wouldn't fault you on anything if you sang the praises of their favorite shows.

And anyway - if somebody doesn't like it, then why read it? Just stop. Animenewsnetwork doesn't owe you people shit. I definitely don't mind debate/disagreement on shows, but ... jeeez, people are being really rude and stupid.
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Case



Joined: 09 Apr 2002
Posts: 1016

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:24 pm Reply with quote
erinfinnegan wrote:
A review is largely the reviewer's reaction to the show. I described my reaction. It seems as if you're looking for a more dry and technical review, which isn't really the purpose of Shelf Life.


In the interest of furthering discussion of this subject:

review - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary wrote:

6 a : a critical evaluation (as of a book or play) b : a magazine devoted chiefly to reviews and essays


critical - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary wrote:

2 a : inclined to criticize severely and unfavorably b : consisting of or involving criticism <critical writings>; also : of or relating to the judgment of critics <the play was a critical success> c : exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation <critical thinking> d : including variant readings and scholarly emendations <a critical edition>


criticism - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary wrote:

2 : the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature; also : writings expressing such evaluation or analysis <an anthology of literary criticism>


The quote I lead off this post with, the one about how reviews are "largely the reviewer's reaction to the show" is technically true, but only on the grounds that it is a tautology. Mokona is Mokona. It's not like any thought that occurs to you in the presence of a creative work counts as a review.

Our most fundamental expectation as readers is that you're going to give us "evaluation and analysis" - that you're going to bring a certain professional knowledge and experience to bear and tell us how the thing you're reviewing stacks up against alternatives. When you broach the subject of morals and morality, you're going off on a tangent into the realm of subjective experience; by the nature of the writing your review has become a blog per se. In this respect JairStout has a salient point whether ANN wants to hear it or not: Moral opposition is virtually meaningless to the reader because morals, by their nature, are so slippery that unless a given reader sees the world framed in the same constructs as the reviewer, the morality of the work may have no bearing on the viewing experience whatsoever.

It's not like you're the first person who's gone there. Carl did the same thing on a critical mass-level just about a year ago in his infamous Death Note review and got ten pages of critical feedback on it in four days. There seems to be a culture of it among the old guard of ANN reviewers in fact, as someone pointed out in another thread regarding the inevitable shredding of Strike Witches when it comes out in R1.

It makes perfect sense why ANN's editors have the stance they do regarding reviews and encourage more introspection and controversy rather than less. But with all the talking people do around here about professionalism, and the value and purpose of reviews, and what separates ANN from blogs, I wouldn't mind it in the least if someone tried to do a little better for those of us still genuinely interested in the whole anime thing?


Last edited by Case on Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:33 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Veers



Joined: 31 Oct 2008
Posts: 1183
Location: Texas

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:25 pm Reply with quote
erinfinnegan wrote:
Veers wrote:
Reading reviews without personal opinion is boring; it's like making chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. I dunno about you but I like my chocolate chip cookies to have the chocolate chips in them.

You could be objective in a recipe review. "The ratio of flour to sugar in these cookies increased the baking time by two minutes. The recipe should call for large eggs instead of medium eggs."

I'd still say that's injecting the "report" side of things into the "review" side, but that's not a bad thing. A barebones review wouldn't need to include comments about the flour::sugar ratio or the size of the eggs to still be a review, but a good review would include them.

It's good information to share, it's relevant to the subject, and since you already have an audience there for the review, why not take a moment to share another part of your experience, even if it wasn't directly related to the content/theme/message of the content? It's like making stuffed-crust pizza; the crust is already there as part of the main dish, so why not make it more interesting?

(In case there was any confusion, the "you" in my quote above referred to JS and other readers, not the author "you." Your reviews usually have a good mixture of chocolate chips and crust-stuffing cheese, yum.)

Edit:
Quote:
What if I reviewed Legend of the Overfiend and told you the character designs were anatomically well-proportioned and the use of perspective on the backgrounds was competent and the sound was mixed well....? Actually that would be pretty funny.
Well, you seem to be saying this with some sarcasm, but to be honest, it's your opinion of part of the product, and I think it has a place in a review (a small place) because of that. When I read reviews, and the author makes mention of little details like that, it usually tells me that whatever it was was presented well enough to stand out and make the reviewer take note, and sometimes the culmination of those little details might sell me on something. Or maybe it just means the show was so disliked by the reviewer that the only good things that can be said of it are technical details. Razz If every review someone writes tries to rank or score a long list of such details (for example, things like how consistent character art from different perspectives is, how interactive the backgrounds are, how well body language is animated and used, how well the music fit every scene, etc.), then it would indeed cheapen the meaning, but I don't really see that degree of overkill being employed here or in other anime reviews I stop in on.
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dtm42



Joined: 05 Feb 2008
Posts: 12388
Location: NZL

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:11 pm Reply with quote
Yes, reviews (in general, not necessarily how Erin does them) are tricky things. What should they do? Who are they for? How should they be written, and with what perspective? I guess we're primarily interested in that last one.

People claim that there is no such thing as a truly "objective" review, and they'd be right. All reviewers are human, and they cannot completely escape their preconceived notions, opinions and preferences. But there are still standards that must be met. A reviewer must try and be objective. That is, try as hard as possible to be neutral, and judge the Anime both on its own merits, and as compared to other Anime of the same type.

Because just giving their unaltered gut reaction is something that a random blogger would do. You would think a paid semi-professional/professional should be able to put away their feelings as they are ultimately judging whatever (it is that they are judging), and leave the personal comments to be sprinkled into the review as personal opinion. But those comments and opinions should be used when the reviewer is making up their mind as to the overall quality of the show.

Now, people also claim that you can only be completely objective if you talk about frame rates and subtitling errors and DVD menus and dry technical stuff like that. Bullcrap. A reviewer can be as objective as can humanly be possibly and still talk about the chemistry of the leads in a Romance, or how the unexpected but intricate plot twist in a Mystery gave added depth and intrigue, or how the Ominous Latin Chanting was fine on its own but didn't suit a Slice-of-Life kind of show. A reviewer can say all that and still be as objective as possible.

What people get really annoyed at (besides when the review doesn't meet their own opinions, of course) is when a review never gives the show a fair go. Or the reviewer has a bee up their bonnet, or the reviewer weights one aspect unreasonably heavily or lightly. Or even when the reviewer lets their personal opinion (as opposed to their professional opinion) make up their mind as to how good - or bad - a show is (see two paragraphs above).

So yeah, that's just a few thoughts I had on the subject. And please remember that I wasn't pointing them Erin's way; I actually enjoy her style of writing. It is very conversational and friendly, and I like the way she throws in references and other works and and just makes me feel like I'm getting perspective on things. She might write things I don't like, or that I don't agree with, but I have absolutely no problem with the way she writes them.

Don't let people get you down, okay Erin?
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PetrifiedJello



Joined: 11 Mar 2009
Posts: 3782

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:24 pm Reply with quote
Veers wrote:
A barebones review wouldn't need to include comments about the flour::sugar ratio or the size of the eggs to still be a review, but a good more complete review would include them.

As one who has challenged Erin in the past with some choice words she used, I believe some elements can be missing which would enforce an opinion, regardless if it's a moral one or not.

Just as she did with her description of the beach episode. Missing information makes it difficult for readers to connect with the opinion piece and without it, speculation (thus, attacks) can brew within minutes.

Despite some criticism in these comments, all reviews/opinions are based on a moral position, regardless what people believe. Take, for instance, the morality people believe one must purchase a DVD to help support the industry yet Erin's opinions are based on series she paid nothing for.

Granted, that's a macro level argument (and please don't argue it, it's just an example). From the moment Erin took over the column, I had an incredibly difficult time trying to understand her position when it came to statements which seemed unfounded.

Because this column doesn't have the same restrictions as the reviews hosted on ANN, the leeway seems to allow the author to write a looser interpretation of what she saw, and that's perfectly fine if one knows this ahead of time. Expecting Shelf Life to be on par with reviews is a shortcoming of the complainer.

The internet has given rise to more precise comments where descriptive writing (as in the baking example) are becoming rare. While some of us would love to see it continue, the simple fact is people want to digest quickly and move on.

I'd be curious to know how many people actually read, word for word, the entire Answerman column. I'd say a few, while most simply skim. The "wall of text" is also a factor and people will drone out and move on if it becomes unbearable.

There's already quite a bit stacked up against reviews and columns on ANN, but I'm glad pages upon pages (good and bad) are added. This helps the author identify as best they can to the readers, though they're more likely to cater to those who don't rant and make asinine remarks.

We can all learn from these past posts since Erin has taken over Shelf Life, though the first thing one must do is drop expectations which will never be met by such restricting requirements of posting on the internet. Call it a sacrifice if you must, but that's my take on it.
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erinfinnegan
ANN Columnist


Joined: 31 Jan 2005
Posts: 598

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:27 pm Reply with quote
Case wrote:
review - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary wrote:

6 a : a critical evaluation (as of a book or play) b : a magazine devoted chiefly to reviews and essays

I encourage you to read the intro to this column:

Stephen Grant wrote:
The first priority of a review is entertainment. The first priority of criticism is illumination. Which isn't to say criticism can't be entertaining – entertainment is in the eye of the beholder – or reviews can't be illuminating. I'm not suggesting the two disciplines never overlap; they overlap all the time. I'm not suggesting that "reviewers" are second class citizens, or "critics" exist on some elevated intellectual plane. It's just a simple fact: reviews and criticism aren't the same beast, even though we often like to pretend they are.

The purpose of reviews is to tell the consumer how to spend their money.

I think a lot of you are taking this whole reviewing business in a way it was never intended. Surely every review the readers disagree with does not need to melt into a meta-discussion about what the word "review" means.

Case wrote:
...I wouldn't mind it in the least if someone tried to do a little better for those of us still genuinely interested in the whole anime thing?

Hey there! I still like anime! Don't ruin it for me, OK?
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Prede



Joined: 17 Sep 2009
Posts: 377

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:31 pm Reply with quote
PetrifiedJello wrote:
erinfinnegan wrote:
It's not Blade Runner bad! Don't worry. Also they lay off a bit on it after a while. It's just the beginning and end of the episodes, not throughout.

Sold. While not a great fan of Noir and Madlax, they were still decent series to watch.
Thanks for the clarification.
*adds to wish list*
Smile


It's much better then Madlax IMO. While I love Madlax a lot, this series is something that just grabbed me from the get go, and hasn't let me down yet. Each episode is interesting, compelling, and fun. I usually don't like the "lighter" toned series, but in case, I choose El Cazador over Madlax. It's just does everything right, style, tone, pacing, characters, and setting. And the music is divine...

erinfinnegan: Thank you so much for responding to my post. It's not unknown for there to be big changes in tone and style around the end of series, perhaps the main staff changed around for that episode, and so different ideas got thrown around fo it. Or maybe the producers got involved more, and made them add certian elements that were way out of synch with the rest of the series. It wouldn't be the first time either has happened. You never know with these things. Still I think you may have gone a tiny bit overboard, because as another user said bathing suits/beach episode does not = wank material. Still I guess I'll have to see that episode to be the the judge on that. Context is everything... Anyway I really enjoyed your reviews here, and the ones in the newest issue of Otaku USA too, keep up the good work Wink .
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Veers



Joined: 31 Oct 2008
Posts: 1183
Location: Texas

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:35 pm Reply with quote
erinfinnegan wrote:
I think a lot of you are taking this whole reviewing business in a way it was never intended. Surely every review the readers disagree with does not need to melt into a meta-discussion about what the word "review" means.
Nah, I just dropped in since JS seemed to be going on a crusade about the topic.
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Case



Joined: 09 Apr 2002
Posts: 1016

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:44 pm Reply with quote
erinfinnegan wrote:
I think a lot of you are taking this whole reviewing business in a way it was never intended. Surely every review the readers disagree with does not need to melt into a meta-discussion about what the word "review" means.


I only bring the quotes into play because it seems to bear repeating. American comic-book writer Steven Grant's opinion notwithstanding, you do really believe with conviction that "I had moral problems with the second episode" makes good reviews?

Please try to understand. I don't "disagree with your review". I don't think dtm42 does either. (First time we've agreed on anything?) The first Gunslinger Girl was shiny and all, but I'm not really a fan and I've never watched beyond the first series because of how widely Il Teatrino was panned.

That's the thing: I read things like Shelf Life to find out whether I'm going to have any interest in something like this OVA, which you've seen and I haven't. Telling me that the show runs afoul of your moral convictions doesn't get me there, per se.
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Prede



Joined: 17 Sep 2009
Posts: 377

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:48 pm Reply with quote
Case wrote:
erinfinnegan wrote:
I think a lot of you are taking this whole reviewing business in a way it was never intended. Surely every review the readers disagree with does not need to melt into a meta-discussion about what the word "review" means.


I only bring the quotes into play because it seems to bear repeating. American comic-book writer Steven Grant's opinion notwithstanding, you do really believe with conviction that "I had moral problems with the second episode" makes good reviews?


Not that I agree with her opinion at all (that anything in Gunslinger Girl bothers me morally), but many reviewers take into consideration if something is morally repulsing. Ever read a Roger Ebert review? Read this one. Now that should never be the main focus of a review, but if the show is totally and utterly offenseive, shouldn't that be mentioned? If a film is almost snuff (for example), I'd like to know how offensive it is before I even consider watching it/buying it. I do agree Erin seems to focus on this a lot (perhaps too much IMO but what do I know. IMO I'd only focus on it if it was so terrible/offensive that it detracts pleasure from the show, something really horrible yah know? but that's me), but you can't ignore it either.
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GrilledEelHamatsu



Joined: 02 Sep 2009
Posts: 700

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:01 pm Reply with quote
Prede wrote:



It's much better then Madlax IMO. While I love Madlax a lot, this series is something that just grabbed me from the get go, and hasn't let me down yet. Each episode is interesting, compelling, and fun. I usually don't like the "lighter" toned series, but in case, I choose El Cazador over Madlax. It's just does everything right, style, tone, pacing, characters, and setting. And the music is divine...

erinfinnegan: Thank you so much for responding to my post. It's not unknown for there to be big changes in tone and style around the end of series, perhaps the main staff changed around for that episode, and so different ideas got thrown around fo it. Or maybe the producers got involved more, and made them add certian elements that were way out of synch with the rest of the series. It wouldn't be the first time either has happened. You never know with these things. Still I think you may have gone a tiny bit overboard, because as another user said bathing suits/beach episode does not = wank material. Still I guess I'll have to see that episode to be the the judge on that. Context is everything... Anyway I really enjoyed your reviews here, and the ones in the newest issue of Otaku USA too, keep up the good work Wink .


You know, I'd be hardpress to say once again that Gunslinger Girl episode OVA wouldn't be fap material at all. If Erin thinks that the episode is in anyway repugant, then she obviously has NEVER seen the wanker "Aika-16 Virgin Mission" which is just pure fanservice porn. It's got enough explict panty shots and nipple and cunts to force anyone to want to masturbate to. Now that's a vivid thought.


Last edited by GrilledEelHamatsu on Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Zac
ANN Executive Editor


Joined: 05 Jan 2002
Posts: 6807
Location: Snake Mountain Cocktail Lounge

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:06 pm Reply with quote
Case wrote:

I only bring the quotes into play because it seems to bear repeating. American comic-book writer Steven Grant's opinion notwithstanding, you do really believe with conviction that "I had moral problems with the second episode" makes good reviews?

That's the thing: I read things like Shelf Life to find out whether I'm going to have any interest in something like this OVA, which you've seen and I haven't. Telling me that the show runs afoul of your moral convictions doesn't get me there, per se.


Here's what I don't get.

I really do not at all understand why you continue to wander into our review threads and try to tell the writer what they should or should not be doing, or start, as Erin said, yet more meta-discussions about "But guys what is a review supposed to be really??", as if it's going to have any impact at all? As if that's a good use of anyone's time?

Have you not figured it out yet that I don't care what your personal take on what a review "should be" is? I don't see how that's possible, given that I've never taken any of your advice and the only consequence for that has been more complaining and condescension from you, rather than any sort of drop in readership. Our readership has only grown over the years, in fact.

I've been in my line of work for about 10 years now and so far the writers I've hired have been successful as have most of the editorial projects I've launched. I'm happy to take advice and suggestions from the peers and colleagues I trust, and I do listen to the readers - especially when there's a clear consensus - but I am quite good at figuring out what someone is really complaining about, and more often that not these days, especially since Erin took over Shelf Life, it's the same 3 or 4 people who are, in essence, saying one thing:

"This review is flawed because I did not write it."

That's what most of it boils down to. Erin has a particular style, and there are a lot more people who like and appreciate it than not. She hasn't lost any of Shelf Life's regular readership; the column is as popular and well-read as it was when Bamboo wrote it. What does that tell me? That she's doing a good job, and her take on the column is working out just fine.

That trumps any complaining or obnoxious meta discussions about review philosophy that pop up in the forums because she dared say she was personally squicked by Gunslinger Girl. Period.

And yet here you are, continuing to lecture her about how to do her job. In spite of the fact that you know her editor - the person responsible for any editorial changes or shifts in the column's content - is reading the forum response and very specifically does not listen to any of your advice or personal philosophies, Case. You have nothing to offer me and I have no interest in taking advice from you.

There are plenty of wonderful friends and colleagues and forum users I do listen to out there, and I cherish the feedback they give me. You are not one of them.

Capice?
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nargun



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 386

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:20 pm Reply with quote
GrilledEelHamatsu wrote:
Still I think you may have gone a tiny bit overboard, because as another user said bathing suits/beach episode does not = wank material.


"Need not" != "Does not". Kinda important, when you're talking about reviews: reviews, after all, are all about the... "optional"... elements of the show, the bits that aren't inflexibly determined by the media and the format and the skeleton of the story and so forth.

It's possible to make a beach-episode of a show about dying cyborg cute-girl killers that's not shitty pandering fanservice, yes. Noone's disputing that. Is this show that show, though? Erin says no.
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Prede



Joined: 17 Sep 2009
Posts: 377

PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:23 pm Reply with quote
nargun wrote:
GrilledEelHamatsu wrote:
Still I think you may have gone a tiny bit overboard, because as another user said bathing suits/beach episode does not = wank material.


"Need not" != "Does not". Kinda important, when you're talking about reviews: reviews, after all, are all about the... "optional"... elements of the show, the bits that aren't inflexibly determined by the media and the format and the skeleton of the story and so forth.

It's possible to make a beach-episode of a show about dying cyborg cute-girl killers that's not shitty pandering fanservice, yes. Noone's disputing that. Is this show that show, though? Erin says no.


I have no idea what your trying to say, but it was I who wrote that, not GrilledEelHamatsu.
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