UPDATE: In over 45 years, I’ve written a few things that I wasn’t happy with later. This article may beat them all. It’s poorly organized, wordy, and I’m really not liking it much now that I’ve read it with fresher eyes. I’m currently reworking it, and the permanent version that will be placed here should be far superior. I ought to engage in a cover-up and remove this one, but I think I’ll let it stay as an object lesson to me that when I don’t feel the muse speaking, don’t force the bitch. Or something like that.
I’ve been mulling around trying to formalize my system of reviews for some time. It’s been difficult, because I’m not an organized person to start with, and I tend to write about a series as I’m watching it, or just after I finished it. I’ve been prone to tossing off statements like “I’ll give it a C,” or “This is at least a B+.” Scoring right after I see the series is difficult, because it’s so subjective — I’m grading on how I feel about the series.
Recent discussion of Shingu and Misaki Chronicles led me to decide that the minimum qualification for a B was that I’d re-watch at least my favorite parts of the show immediately. Doing that doesn’t mean it is a B, but if my reaction to the show upon finishing it is to shelve it and not even go back to look at the “good parts,” then obviously the show didn’t have many.
Once I decided that much, the rest of the ratings started falling into place over the last few days. Pretty soon, I had a system, and here it is.
“+” or “-” may be assigned if I feel the base grade didn’t really fit the show fairly.
I’ve decided to take that subjective “feel” and run with it. The entertainer’s core job is to entertain me: I pay my money (assuming I purchased instead of downloaded a fansub) and I expect to be entertained in return. (Exactly what I mean by entertainer could be the subject of of a long-winded digression, but let’s not go there. Just substitute “studio”, “director”, or “writer” if it fits better.) It can be base entertainment (any harem or fanservice show), it can be thoughtful entertainment (Simoun, Lain), emotional entertainment (Simoun agan, Misaki, Angelic Layer), intrigue (Noir), fun and adventure (Outlaw Star) … well you get the idea. Whatever the hook, it’s got to capture my attention and make me feel that the time I spent in the entertainer’s world was not wasted. This table summarizes how well I feel the entertainers did their job.
Since it is subjective, the final score is not the average of the scores for individual categories, and might not even be closely related to them. The process of breaking down the series and scoring individual parts only influences the final overall score I give the show. It does not determine it directly. The overall grade is a highly subjective rating of how the series impacted me emotionally. Was I entertained? Did it rivet my attention, and draw me into the entertainer’s world? Was it something I want to watch again? Or was it total crap that I wish I’d never bought? These are the questions I ask myself for the overall rating, and that’s what I give the overall score on. A series that receives objective category scores that average much lower than the subjective overall score may be a case of the direction, voice acting, and writing coming together to create something that really is “greater than the sum of its parts.” Or maybe I was just easily entertained that week, who knows?
As I note, it’s highly subjective, but it’s also subject to change, which happens through the process of breaking the show down and analyzing it. A lot of things just don’t survive the trip to the refrigerator. When I have just finished a show, I tend to be very positive about it, because I enjoyed it — while I was watching it. Later, the emotional “afterglow” fades, and the rational, analytic side kicks in. Sometimes, negative aspects of the show that I overlooked (sometimes deliberately) may come back to bug me. I start dissecting the series, breaking down the individual categories, noting which ones did a good job and which ones were bad. This is the point where I start engaging the left-brain, and it’s a bad sign if this phase starts before the series has ended; it means that I’m not caught up in the world the storyteller is trying to create — in other words, I’m not being entertained — I’m just being diverted. (Shows like this might get a C from me.)
This means that the emotional side is stronger at that point, and a lot of my early reviews got messed up by my writing them just as I finished the series. Of course the problem is, if I wait, I’m likely to lose interest in writing about it at all. That’s one reason why less than half of the series I’ve watched have been reviewed.
When I do review them, the format has varied a lot, but I generally look at the following things:
Art and Animation
Plotting and Logic
Storytelling and Pacing
DVD/Packaging & Extras (or Fansub Quality)
Lately, I’ve not explicitly broken these categories out like I did when I first started writing about animÃ©, although I’ve often mentioned what I thought of those things. I hope to get back to that, and eventually review (or re-review) all the series I have on the summary page, with a bit more in the way of analysis. The problem is, going back and looking at the series now, I know that the objective view is going to contaminate the subjective scoring. For instance, right after watching Yumeria, I’d probably have given it a C+ or a B. Looking back a year later, I just can’t. Part of it is that I’m a bit more knowledgeable now, and I know the animation was sub-par. A lot of it is the fact that the most memorable character, the one that stuck in my head, is a pedophile I didn’t like. That definitely affects the show negatively for me, and impacts the scoring, whether I want it to or not. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this overall, since what will happen is that series I go back and re-score will tend to have lower grades than series I score going forward. To prevent “grade inflation,” I might have to write up a review right away, let it sit a week or two, and then see what I think.
Here’s some examples of series, and the overall grades I give them (as of now). Note that this doesn’t include any + or -. This is just a general example.
I’ve created a new page that will be the permanent home of the system outlined above, as well as a summary of the score I give each series, although right now, it’s just a placeholder with no information.
Update: And I’ll re-write the above when I do. I posted it, didn’t like it, edited, it, and still don’t like it. But it’s late and I need to go to bed.