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Which of ANN’s Anime Review Features Do You Find Most Useful?

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Which of ANN’s anime review features do you find most useful?
Traditional Reviews
 18%  [ 7 ]
Streaming Reviews
 2%  [ 1 ]
Shelf Life
 8%  [ 3 ]
The Stream
 24%  [ 9 ]
Preview Guide
 24%  [ 9 ]
I don’t find any of them useful
 21%  [ 8 ]
Total Votes : 37

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Surrender Artist

Joined: 01 May 2011
Posts: 3250
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:45 pm Reply with quote
For this poll, I intend for useful to mean that it informs of helps you to make decisions about what to purchase or watch. They may serve as prompts for interesting discussion or even provide some kind of validation, but what I’m interested in here is whether any of them are serving their traditional purpose. I’m also only dealing with anime here, because I think that manga has different enough qualities as a medium and product that it should be treated separately.

So even if you like any of the features listed, but never change your purchasing or viewing habits because of them, then you don’t find them useful within the confines of this poll.

I considered adding various, “I find X & Y equally useful,” options, but I felt that doing so would crowd the poll without adding any useful information.


The reason I ask is that I have long stood by the merits of traditional reviews, yet I’ve realized that I haven’t bothered to read any two or three months and hadn’t been reading them much for even longer before that. I can’t even remember the last time that I bought or decided not to buy something because of one.

By contrast, The Stream has had some effect on what I’ve chosen to watch via streaming. As an example: Bamboo Dong’s enthusiasm for Gatchaman Crowds and The Eccentric Family encouraged me to watch those shows, which proved to be my favorites of the summer season. Yet, I must also concede that her writing wasn’t the sole, or even necessarily the primary influence over my decision.

Of course, I just plain enjoy reading The Stream as well as the attendant discussion, so in a way, that it is sometimes traditionally useful is a lagniappe.

An awkward to admit part of the reason that I don’t use reviews terribly much is that the opinions of ANN’s regular critics seldom resonate with me. When I have read them, I haven’t often felt much reaction to the way that the writers think or express themselves. It’s as though the values that inform their opinions aren’t even antithetical to mine, but so unrelated or alien that they have little significance. I hate to seem as though I’m denigrating the site’s opinion writers, but in their native habitat, they don’t have much influence on me. Of course, I can’t think of any anime reviewers whose writing does affect me in the traditional format, so it might be that I’ve lost confidence in the form.

What may make The Stream more effective is that it puts each show in the context of rest of the series being streamed. Just seeing that Show X is ranked 2nd, but Show Y ranked 9th expresses an opinion, but implicitly without detail, leaving me to guess about what the reviewer’s rationales are and fill my own in even before I read any of the column. This encourages me to engage with the subject and reprocess my own opinions on my own terms, so even though it’s another person’s opinions, I have some personal investment and engagement in it. I think that it has also helped that Bamboo Dong has a visceral, expressive style that has suited the column well and makes her an especially engaging critic.

I am hopeful that the new format writers assigned to The Stream are able to sustain that legacy.

My theory as to why I have found The Stream useful reeks of my typical half-baked, irresponsible pretentious speculation, yet I feel that it might really be valid because it relates to the other major influence on what I choose to watch. Besides my own intuitions and tastes, the other thing that most guides my choice of shows is the opinions of others in the community. I have found the opinions of the ANN forum community in aggregate and those of a loosely defined handful of people whom I consider my ‘tastemakers’ influential over my choices. The enthusiasm for Gatchamann Crowds and The Eccentric Family shown in their discussion threads and by certain people whose opinions I trust played at least as large a part in encouraging me to watch them as any formal review did. I believe that the value of those sources comes from the fact that I am invested personally in them. I have a degree of affect and personal devotion to the ANN community, which gives me a certain measure of connection and engagement with their opinions. Likewise, my attachment to and regard for certain posters enhances the value of their opinions, good or bad, and my ability to interpret the significance of their opinions to me. So, as with The Stream, some kind of personal investment and engagement is part of why I value the source of opinion.

Underlying all of this is how the nature of streaming anime has changed the dynamics of watching it. I came back from my six-year anime hiatus with a very traditional, by now archaic, ‘boom era’ sensibility. I watched what was on television and incrementally bought series that seemed especially interesting or appealing. This meant that my choices of what to watch were severely constrained by what networks chose to air and what I could afford. As such, I had to apply considerable scrutiny to any purchase because it was a significant investment and I had limited information. Streaming works like a hybrid of how television and purchasing worked. It combines a flat fee for service with choice of shows, which is less and less constrained by what the services provide. This makes watching any show a low-risk prospect. Even though I’m so stubborn that I must see things through even if I don’t like them, twenty two minutes a week of discomfort are tolerable. (Hell, that’s a rounding error on my total weekly discomfort) Given that, scrutiny is less essential and almost completely superfluous by the time I get to the decision over purchasing something on home video. It still applies for older titles that are not easily available via streaming, but in those cases, they tend to be cheap, a lot of information their reputation is floating around and my ‘tastemakers’ are just as useful. (That, after all, is a significant part of why I take the “What Are You Considering Buying” thread over for a few days once or twice a year)

This doesn’t mean that traditional reviews are entirely useless; they just aren’t as valuable for the purpose that they originally served. Perhaps in the future reviews will become more like critical essays, embracing the role of providing critical and novel analysis over influencing viewing habits or purchasing.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:26 pm Reply with quote
Streaming by its very nature is insubstantial and uninvolving; I've given up midway on far more streaming anime series than those I've bought, rented or seen on TV.

Take the Stream; It's an anime review series where the reviewer details which shows they've given up on, how they rank the remaining shows in order of interest and which ones maintain and even build interest. Fine but I can do that myself so there's no need for me to read someone's acceptance or dismissal of show for arbitrary reasons, especially with series I find worthwhile and they don't, or worse, shows that end up redeeming themselves but with the nature of that format, good luck finding that one out.

I picked the standard review/ers {and yes, I can tell who wrote what just from the blurb and I know before hand what to expect in the review, from what irks them to what they like. Imagine what would happen if they reviewed the series itself rather than an entire genre; pandemonium! or maybe just a thoughtful critique}. But here's the thing about the end reviews: The show's done, there are no real surprises left, no "ohh wow!" moments or "I can't believe what they could do in the second half to screw it up" premature grandstanding in half streaming reviews which I skip completely {the Stream I find silly in its "last man standing" approach, half season reviews I just find dumb because I can get the same "should I try this?" just by reading the synopsis and production credits and I don't get episode 4,5,6 spoilers in the process.}

What gets reviewed is the product, not the moment.
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Joined: 03 Nov 2003
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Location: Indianapolis, IN (formerly Mimiho Valley)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 4:00 pm Reply with quote
As one the people deeply involved in this on the business end, I find the responses so far to be very interesting and insightful. I do hope that others notice this thread and feed it quite a bit more.

One thing to keep in mind about traditional reviews vs. Preview Guide entries vs. The Stream vs. Shelf Life is that the different formats used in each require anywhere from somewhat to very different approaches by the reviewers. Traditional reviews are our site's most formal pieces, so they are held to higher content standards, are expected to be more analytical, and are specifically discouraged from being too casual or personal. Shelf Life, OTOH, tends to be much more casual and personal, and has been noted already, The Stream goes for more of a comparative and "running commentary" style - IOW, more like a blog. Preview Guide entries, by comparison, are based entirely on initial impressions.

And yes, I can also usually tell exactly who wrote a traditional review by how the blurb is worded. Each of us does seem to have our own distinct style on how we do those. Cool
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A Mystery
Get off my lawn!Get off my lawn!

Joined: 10 Oct 2010
Posts: 1711
Location: Netherlands
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 7:35 pm Reply with quote
First I have to say that I really like to read every feature I mentioned below. I don't read Shelf Life often (no legit reason, just somehow doesn't appeal to me), so I won't discuss that one. Any criticism I give doesn't necessarily say anything about the 'entertainment' factor of features, but it's solely based on their usefullness. Though they all have different formats with ranging formality and subjectivity, I think it should be considered that some features overlap too much or are given too much credit and energy.

- What I find useful about The Stream, is that it bundles a whole season of shows and tries to highlight the good shows (as Key said, a comparative style). This way it's hard to overlook a gem in the immense amount of shows which might appeal to you. At the start of a new season, I'm often lost at what to watch and this really helps. Sure, it's not that I always agree 100% with Bamboo, but she does a splendid job overall.

I don't think it's really necessary to put more reviewers to the enormous task of watching every show and reviewing them (though it would be fun to see the differences in opinions), but IMO it is slightly odd that normally only one or two people get to review a show, but in the preview guide everybody gets to throw their two cents in. I guess this is more of a critique about the next feature though Wink...

- ... The Preview Guide is certainly fun to read and can be useful, but most times it's too hard to judge series on their first episodes. Many gems started with mediocre starts and on the other end of the spectrum, there's the promise of some awesome first episodes of shows who turned out to be (mild to massive) disappointments.

- I believe when someone's considering buying a title, traditional reviews serve their purpose well. I can resonate on some level with most reviews. Reviewers may value some aspects differently, but if they properly explain why they thought an aspect was done in a good or bad way, the reader is able to decide for himself if that particular point or argument has value for him. The best way to do this is to give concrete examples. I think these reviews do a good job in discussing the quality of different aspects of the show (music, animation, plots, dubs, etcetera) separately.

- The streaming reviews are a nice read, but when/if the Stream has been updated recently, I'd rather choose to read the latter. Especially when you're only reviewing six episodes instead of the whole show, it's like a section from the Stream; only far more detailed. It's more important to have detailed reviews when you want to pay money to see a title than when you can just go and watch it on a streaming website the next minute.
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Village ElderVillage Elder

Joined: 25 Aug 2010
Posts: 7758
Location: Virginia
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 8:19 pm Reply with quote
I couldn't pick a specific option. My answer is all of the above/none of the above.

For any show I'm even vaguely interested in, I read all of the listed items along with the associated forum remarks. I'm looking for as much information on a new show as I can get. I continue this until I decide I am no longer interested in the show or the show becomes available to me. Once a show is streaming (Crunchyroll mostly) or is available in disk form, I tend to watch first and then read reviews to see if I can gain any additional insight into the show.

I also say none of the above because I don't let the reviewers opinion drive my choices as to what to watch or what to buy. I found out long ago that I can enjoy a lot of stuff that has been critically panned and that I often dislike shows that are highly rated. On the other hand, I some times agree with the reviews.

When I read a review of a show, I'm looking for the basic set up and the initial direction the show is going. I'm also looking for the tone of the show.

The one feature I found problematical was The Stream . While I found the information on individual shows helpful, I never understood the emphasis on ranking all the shows. So many of the shows are so different in subject matter and approach I just don't see a basis of comparison. To take this season as an example, on what multi-dimensional Mobius strip of a scale can you compare Non Non Biyori and Kill la Kill and say this ranks higher than that.

Surrender Artist raises the subject of the opinions of others, including those we have become friends with. I have on occasion let such opinions overrule my basic response to some shows. More often than not I end up regretting doing so, probably 2/3 of the time. For example I was wrong to pass up Baccano but I should never have gotten either Panty and Stocking or Madoka Magica.

The only ANN feature that I have found to be more or less useless is the Spotlight. However this is a factor of how little information the Japanese studios are willing to provide and not the fault of ANN.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:20 am Reply with quote
I voted "The Stream" because it's the one I think influences more on my picking a certain show or not. I've picked up a good number of shows after they've gotten a good rap on that column, even if my tastes and Bamboo's don't always match. In the past, I've been swayed to check out Polar Bear Café, Gatchaman Crowds, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and Chihayafuru due to Bamboo's constant love of them and have intended to start with Space Brothers and Hunter x Hunter due to the same reason. I think it's a combination of seeing a certain handful of shows get showers of praise week after week and the great amount of discussion that the column rakes in, which allows to take in a wider spectrum of opinions on many different shows.

The Preview Guide is pretty helpful too, but as has been said, it's hard to judge based on just one episode, and usually, by the time the guide kicks in, I've already chosen what shows I want to watch. Unless some of them disappoint me beyond repair whilst other ones get a generally good response (this season, I dropped Coppellion in favor of NagiAsu, for instance), the chances of me picking a new show with the Preview Guide as sole basis are very slim, and I recall very few examples of it happening (No.6 being the one that stands out the most). I may keep an eye on series that may sound more interesting than initially appeared and wait for them to be over to see how the general reaction to them is before deciding whether to watch them or not.

I rarely check traditional reviews for streaming shows, I go straight to discussion and try to get a sense of the general response, and specifically of users that I know have similar tastes to mine. My tastes generally don't match with that of ANN's reviewers, particularly Key, who does a lot of "traditional reviews", and who often has a diametrically opposite opinion from mine (no offense intended, we just like different things). Same goes for DVD/BD reviews. Besides, those reviews usually consider the local packaging and dub acting (when there is one) when grading, so they're not really useful for me, since that's not something I particularly care about. OTOH, if it's a show I'm already interested in (maybe some ad in ANN drew my attention and I decided to look the series up, or a series gets heavy support in a forum tournament), I do consider reviews, but mostly discussions about it.

Same goes for Shelf Life, I check it if it says something about series I'm already interested in, but it mostly has zero impact on my decisions to watch any particular series
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 4:07 pm Reply with quote
The Stream is definitely the most helpful feature for me. I don't always agree with Bamboo's rankings, but if she's constantly praising a show i had initially considered not worth checking out (and the comments match that praise), i might change my mind.

The Preview Guide can also be pretty useful because of the variety of opinions it provides, plus it's usually very entertaining.

I do read other reviews occasionally, but they very rarely influence my decision to watch/buy a series.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:23 pm Reply with quote
I find all of the reviews helpful at various times, but probably the most helpful for me is the preview guides. I enjoy watching the current anime seasons in Japan, but I don't always have time to sample every single offering. I tend to watch 3-5 shows per season (7 right now, good season in my opinion) so it's useful to get some initial opinions and descriptions on the latest series. If someone points out a show as a boob filled harem fest, I know that for my purposes I can safely avoid it. Or if several reviewers get excited about a title that a lot of fans are overlooking, I might check out an episode and go from there. It's not a perfect system, because there's always a couple that I seem to return to further down the road and end up enjoying, but it's being an initial culling of the list that makes it the most helpful to me.
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Thread KillerThread Killer

Joined: 12 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:22 pm Reply with quote
I voted for the traditional reviews as that is the only one of the listed features I have ever really used as a factor in buying decisions. I do read and enjoy most of the other features listed but going by the standards indicated by the OP the traditional reviews are the only useful feature. In the past, I would sometimes run across a show that I had no way of seeing part of to make my own decision, so I would use online reviews (and the comments of other readers regarding said reviews) to decide whether to buy something. Nowadays with most everything I might be interested in owning being available to watch online (legally or not) I have no excuse for blind-buying anything; however I have recently noticed that my old standby of seeing at least two episodes before buying is not as absolutely reliable as it once was, so I may still look at reviews before making a final decision to purchase, especially if the item is an expensive one (i.e., NISA or AOA).
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:25 am Reply with quote
For me it's the preview guide - I don't really buy anything without knowing I like it(and can't really afford to buy much at all), so deciding which shows to watch each season is easily the most important thing for me(I haven't really picked up too many series after they've started, so the other options don't tend to have much of a chance).
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 11:09 am Reply with quote
I voted for The Stream because Bamboo's opinions have influenced me to watch certain series that I had little interest in. As far as purchasing decisions go, none of the reviews from ANN have really influenced my decisions. My method to determine what I buy will probably always be to watch the entire anime before committing to buying.
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