Connecting Readers to Series They’d Like
At the risk of stating the obvious, Crow’s World of Anime publishes a lot of reviews. Each season, I follow several new shows one older series. At the end of the season, I publish an episode guide for each series reviewed.
That’s all well and good. But how do I go about connecting readers to the reviews of series they’d like?
Ultimately, a review site should help readers find series they want to watch. I endorse that idea, and I’ve crafted my approach to not only celebrate anime, but to give readers an idea of what they’d like.
You might reasonably ask how I think I’m accomplishing that, since I don’t rate episodes in any way. I’m glad you asked! Let me share my philosophy of reviews with you — and get your feedback on whether it’s effective or not.
Review Templates Over the Years
In the Beginning… First Attempts at Connecting Readers to Series They’d Like
My first reviews included these sections:
- Quick summary (very, very quick in some cases!)
- Plot summary
- What I liked
- What I liked less
My post “The Asterisk War Episode 2: A Most Impressive Sword” is an example of that style. On one hand, I liked how I talking about both what I liked and what I liked less. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like it really represented the most concise expression of what I thought about an episode. Readers don’t have a lot of time. So I made some refinements.
My post The Asterisk War Episode 2: A Most Impressive Sword was an example of one of my earliest formats. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
More Focus on the Positive
By the time I published “Made In Abyss Episode 1 Review: A Breathtaking World And A Girl With Drive,” I had refined the format to only include:
- Quick summary (quick, but more than just a sentence)
- What I Liked
I did away with the plot summary. I mean, seriously: Who wants to read my summary of a plot? You can get that anywhere! My Anime List, Anilist, and Anime Planet includes them. Dozens of sites publish synopses. I didn’t particularly like writing them, and I don’t think they gave my readers any real value — or at least, value they couldn’t get elsewhere.
Also, I dropped the section describing what I liked less. I want to celebrate anime. Now, that doesn’t mean I ignore negative aspects. I still point out issues that concern me. But on a site where I say I celebrate anime, it seemed like having an explicit section to talk about what I didn’t like was a poor fit.
Even then, I worried that the format was still too long. It’s not that I’m against long posts. I think most of my readers are looking for something, if not shorter, then more focused.
My review Made In Abyss Episode 1 Review: A Breathtaking World And A Girl With Drive used the next iteration of my review format. Capture from the Amazon Prime stream.
Best in Show Format
My daughter is a millennial. She’s also a writer and a teacher, so I’ve asked her to review each of my review format changes. She and my wife (who’s a social media expert, among other things) helped me think about what was working and what wasn’t. I not targeting only millennials, but both my wife and daughter are at home in the digital landscape, and I didn’t want to get caught up in any single demographic.
So with their input, I refined my previous focus on the positive. My most recent review format includes:
- Quick summary
- Favorite quote
- Favorite moment
I like this format. It’s concise. If I need a little more space, I can split Favorite Moment into multiple sections. Best of all, at a glance, it tells a reader what I liked about the episode. That brings us to the original question — does this review format give readers an idea of whether they’d like a given episode or not?
Is A Quote and a Best Moment Enough?
When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth…
When I was in high school, I helped published a literary magazine. We featured reviews, and I thought long and hard about how to provide as objective opinion as I could. So, I judged books and movies against what I thought were objective criteria. For example:
I’d then assign a letter grade to each: A+, A, A-, B+, B, etc. Looks objective, doesn’t it? I honestly thought this would more clearly communicate my perspective to my readers. But I don’t think I was right. I had to explain what I meant by plot or character. Some readers don’t even think in terms of story construction. So far from clarifying things, it made them opaque.
A Quick Disclaimer on the Road to Connecting Readers to Series They’d Like
There are several sites that take the approach I say I’m rejecting. What I’m about to say applies only to my site, based on my style of reviewing and my understanding of what my readers are looking for. It is not, in any way shape or form, a comment on any else’s site.
In other words, if you can succeed getting your point across where I couldn’t, good for you! My limitations are not your limitations.
That’s a good thing, by the way!
Is a Quote and a Moment the Best Way for Connecting Readers to Series They’d Like?
The reason I shared my old review formats was that I wanted to show you my thought process in helping my readers find series they might enjoy. I’ve given up on trying to conduct an objective analysis. In fact, I’m not convinced there is any such thing as an objective review. Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime published a post called “In Defense of Subjectivity in Anime Blogging” that I think is currently the best treatment of the subject.
You might ask why I don’t compare the series I’m reviewing to other series I’ve watched. Kinda in the spirit “if you liked x you’ll like y sort of thing.” Trouble is, those never work for me. There are too many variables in recommending one series based on another. And if it doesn’t work on me, I don’t want to inflict it on my readers.
Again — if you successfully write those kinds of reviews, you have my respect and admiration. But I can’t write them, so I had to come up with a different approach.
A Quote and a Best Moment Better Be Enough!
I can’t break the episode down into structural components. Looks like I can’t compare it to other series. I can’t try to guess what a reader might like. So what’s left?
I share my favorite quote. Not only that, I say why it’s my favorite.
I share my favorite moment. Then I explain how the episode set it up and I describe how it executed the moment. There’s no objectivity in how I react to a series. It’s a completely subjective reaction based on who I am.
My favorite quote and moment — that’s the best way I’ve come up with to help a reader decide if they’d like a series. Capture from the Hulu stream.
That is, in the final analysis, what I offer my readers. I offer them my honest reaction. I explain it to them so that they have insight into why that quote and moment meant so much. That’s part of the conversation I offer. Based on that, a reader can compare it to their own experiences.
And then decide if they’d like to watch the show, too.
Does how Minami Sakurai reacted to Tatsuya Shiba’s stunning display of power in “The Irregular At Magic High School: Visitor Arc Episode 13 Review – Best In Show” resonate with them? Or does it leave them feeling blah?
The answer to that question is probably the answer to whether they’d like the episode or not. At least, that’s the best I’ve been able to figure out how to do. I hope it’s successful!
What do you think? Have you come up with a different way that works for you? Feel free to let me know in the comments!