Thursday, 25 December 2014

Quality/Content Reviews Explanation

So, I've started actually purchasing anime now, not just streaming it on Crunchyroll or Hulu. It's exciting, I know. Now that I've started amassing a collection of titles (I say that, but I only have like, 5 shows), I thought "why not start writing up actual reviews of shows?" You know, the kind where you actually give a show some kind of number at the end. I've been wanting to do that for a while now, and this seems like a pretty good excuse to start.

Thus, I'm going to start writing reviews, with a couple of caveats. Firstly, I think I'm mostly going to stick to reviewing shows that I've purchased and actually own. That is to say, I'm going to try to avoid reviewing streaming-only shows. I'm sure there will be cases where I want to review a show but don't feel that it's worthy of my money, and in that case I'll review the online version, but only if it's available legally. This is going to have a few effects on my reviews, the most noticeable of which will be that I will try to review both the subtitled version and the English dubbed version (if it exists, it usually isn't available for free online). The vast majority of the anime that I've watched has been subtitled, but recently I've realised that if a dub is good, I actually like it more, so I want to make it a point to try every dub that I buy.

Because I'm so careful with my money, I'll usually only purchase shows that I've watched before and really, really liked. Usually when I buy shows, it's more to show my support than anything else (although the ability to share it with other people is nice too). Of course, this means that the usual score at the end of a review will tend to be unnaturally high. I dislike it when people give five stars to every show that they remotely enjoyed, and when I rate things I'll try to be fair and not ignore their flaws, no matter how much I enjoyed it. So just remember, if you see lots of fantastic scores, I'm mostly reviewing the shows that I already knew were good; everything I buy has been pre-screened.

Another, less exciting thing that mostly reviewing shows that I own will do for me is it will give me an excuse to release reviews at a pretty slow pace. Like I said, I only just started buying anime, so my collection is pretty small right now. You can check out a (probably) up to date list of everything that I own, sorted by purchase date here, if you're interested. It should give you some hints as to what reviews might be coming next. I don't purchase things very often, so don't expect too many reviews to come out, and don't expect anything even remotely close to a weekly or monthly schedule: reviews will come out when I write them, as I feel like it.

As for the actual content of the reviews, there are a lot of anime reviews and reviewers out there; Arkada from Glass Reflection is my personal favourite, as are the rest of the folks from Podtaku. In any case, I don't want to be just another anime reviewer because I don't think that we really need another person on the internet who assigns numbers to certain TV shows. Instead, I want to try and fill in a hole that I see and provide a slightly different type of review: a quality/content review. There are a lot of people who focus on the technical merits of a show (quality), but not really any that factor in what the show actually portrays (content) as well. Whether or not you agree with their belief system and biases, if you want to know what you're getting into when you go see a movie, I highly recommend that you check out Plugged In. That's the kind of review I want to provide: letting the discerning viewer know what they're getting themselves into. I'll try to make note of things that could offend any type of viewer, regardless of whether I am personally offended or not. Obviously, I'm prone to missing things that don't offend me, so if you happen to see that I missed something, just let me know in the comments and I'll try to fix it.

Doing a quality/content review for an entire TV series is significantly more difficult than for just a two hour movie, so we'll see how it goes, but I plan on doing my best to record all of the areas that anyone might be interested in. It's also important to note that content scores will be based off of the MPAA rating of the show. If the show is rated R (or TV-MA), I'll be a lot more lenient about what it can get away with than a PG-13 show (or TV-14), since its target audience is expected to be more mature. Of course, quality/content reviews have a section to look at the technical aspects of the show as well. I may change the format up a bit as I go forward and make more reviews, but for now here's an outline for what one of my reviews should look like:

I. Introduction
    A. Genre
    B. Year and Studio
    C. Source
II. Story - 5pts
    A. World Background
    B. Plot
III. Characters - 5pts
    A. Personality
    B. Story Role
IV. Visuals - 5pts
    A. Static Images
        1. Character Designs
        2. Backgrounds
    B. Animation
V. Sound - 5pts
    A. Music
    B. Sound effects
    C. Script
        1. Sub
        2. Dub
VI. Content - 5pts
    A. Violence
    B. Sexual Content
    C. Drug Usage
    D. Coarse Language
    E. Other
VII. Conclusion - 100pts ([Story+Characters+Visuals+Sound]*Content)
    A. Wrap-up
    B. Recommendation Level
    C. Where to Buy / Watch

Like I said, I'm still playing around with the format, so it may change up a bit in the reviews to come, depending on how they go. If it does, I'll make sure to update this post. I'm hoping that adding a bit of structure to these posts will help them to feel more focused and be stronger overall than my others that I tend to write in a stream of consciousness style (like this post, actually). I don't even have notes beforehand sometimes; I just kind of wing it. In any case, we'll see how adding structure affects things. I may adapt this format for reviewing non-anime properties as well. It shouldn't be too much of a change.

You'll notice that the final score is calculated by adding all the quality components together and then multiplying them by the content score. I really like the effect this has on the final scores, and it basically reflects my opinions of how media should be viewed. If a show is a technical marvel, but is filled to the brim with content that people may take issue with, I can't recommend the show to everyone, so it can't be given a perfect score. On the flip side, if there's nothing in a show that no one can really object to but the show is a mess, it definitely shouldn't get a good score either. The multiplication allows both quality and content to appropriately scale each other.

At the very end of the review, I'll give each show a recommendation level. This will be based mostly on the final score, but it's also kind of subjective. The highest level is Universal Recommendation, followed by Reserved Recommendation, both of which are quite positive. Lower down is Cautious Recommendation, and the lowest level is No Recommendation. I'll also do a quick pros/cons breakdown, effectively summarizing the review in a few bullet points, and give a 5 star rating for the sub and dub where applicable. If the dub's rating is greater than or equal to the sub's rating, take that as a recommendation to watch the dub instead.

So, I hope you enjoy these reviews, however often I actually post them. This is just something that I'm doing for fun, so don't expect too much. Nevertheless, I'll do what I can to provide quality reviews for you and yours. Thanks for reading.