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
A good example of this is “Fire Force Season 2 Ep 20 Review – Best In Show.”
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?
My review called “Fire Force Season 2 Ep 20 Review – Best In Show” represents the best format I’ve been able to come up with — so far. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
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!
17 thoughts on “Connecting Readers to Series They’d Like — Blog Shop Talk”
I am not very good with details and long posts so I just try to summarize everything in short only, everyone has there own preferred writing style right?! Loved your post!!
“everyone has there own preferred writing style right?!”
The posts I like to read the most are the posts that best convey the writer’s personality and perspective. I know some writers that are comfortable writing novella-length posts that I love to read. There are other writers who write a single, short paragraph that’s a delight.
So I wouldn’t say that you’re “not very good with details.” I’d say you prefer to focus on other aspects. I see that as a positive thing.
Thanks for dropping by!
Thank you crow agreed with you!
To be honest, I was a little surprised that you were trying to connect readers to series. There’s something I’ve always taken for granted and never really thought about: “Weekly series reviews are for people who are already watching the show.” Most series reviews on the web, for example, don’t care about spoilers at all. Now I wonder how many people who aren’t watching a show are reading a full season of series reviews. Maybe there are more than I expect?
Personally, I don’t usually even click on weekly series reviews if I’m not watching the show. Exceptions are shows I dropped or haven’t picked up because I know they’ll annoy me if I do but I’m still curious about. My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer were examples. Sometimes those reviews can make me pick up a show again.
What I realised is that I have absolutely no idea how other people read blogs. I do occasionally see people comment in series reviews that they picked up a show.
As for ratings: I’m not even consistent with myself, much less with others. But there are still trends: A five-star show will never be one-star show. A five star show can only drop down to a four-star show (with enjoyment being unchanged), and a three-star show can either trend upwards or downwards. I never use half-stars; I feel that undermines the point of points. If I wanted half-stars, I could have just adapted the scale in the first place. And in any case, it doesn’t really matter if scores are precise or not. It’s a fun way to engage with shows (for me), and if it isn’t fun, I don’t rate. I don’t like thumbs-up/thumbs-down systems. Too polarising (and no better than the ridiculously over-detailed 10-point system).
I like the best-in-show feature, but if I hadn’t watched the show I wouldn’t really have the context to enjoy them properly. I’m reading about your taste and not the show, which I know. (If I don’t know the show, I can sort of try to reverse-engineer the show from the way to talk about it, but I won’t know how close I get until I actually see the show.)
“To be honest, I was a little surprised that you were trying to connect readers to series. ”
It’s interesting where a train of thought can lead me!
Generally speaking, my format really is optimized for sharing the episode with people who have already watched it. In fact, most of the time, I end the review asking what the reader’s favorite moment was.
But I’ve been working on the SEO series here, and I had just read a few comments (on this site and others) where readers either said a review helped them decide to watch a show, or where the blogger had an expectation that the review would help the reader make a choice.
I realized that the journey I’d taken to refine my format was a way for me to answer that question, and it is. But you’re absolutely right — it’s also about celebrating the episode with someone who’s already watched it.
I’ll think about that a little more. Maybe it’s okay to continue with the tension between those two ideas. Hmmm…
“Personally, I don’t usually even click on weekly series reviews if I’m not watching the show.”
If it weren’t for Other Posts to Crow About, I wouldn’t, either.
“I like the best-in-show feature, but if I hadn’t watched the show I wouldn’t really have the context to enjoy them properly. ”
Good point. I try to provide the context to appreciate the moment in and of itself, but you’re right — if the reader hasn’t watched the episode, it’s impossible to recreate the full context.
“I’m reading about your taste and not the show, which I know. (If I don’t know the show, I can sort of try to reverse-engineer the show from the way to talk about it, but I won’t know how close I get until I actually see the show.)”
You know, I think that might be the best I can hope for if I continue this direction. As the reader becomes acquainted with my tastes, it’ll be more clear to them how to interpret my reviews.
I’ll have to give that some more thought, too!
I would say that if your general impression of a series is very positive, then the more minimalist kind of review system focusing on ‘best parts’ works. However, I found that when I was limited to a ‘site style’ of review similar (but different) to yours, I frequently felt like my overall feelings about the show (or even the particular episode) were difficult to convey.
One other thing that I always found with blogging about a particular show was that I felt I needed to advocate for that show, and search for things that I like. Combined with my personal dislike of extremely performatively negative reviews, there were times where feeling like I had to review an episode just wasn’t fun trying to find something good about it. That might not be an issue on your site, since you can set the direction, and you can be pretty choosy about what you review, but it’s an observation that I had in my time blogging.
“I frequently felt like my overall feelings about the show (or even the particular episode) were difficult to convey.”
I think that’s a good point. It’s not that I’m against the larger, commercial sites, or even sites that have multiple writers. I mean, it’s important to maintain a site’s identity, and that usually takes the form of a style sheet or a set template for reviews. That said, I took the path of trying to refine my own voice, and this is where I’ve ended up.
At least for now!
“One other thing that I always found with blogging about a particular show was that I felt I needed to advocate for that show, and search for things that I like.”
I feel that way from time to time, too. Not all the time, but if I see a series I particularly like come under fire, I may try to speak on its behalf.
“Combined with my personal dislike of extremely performatively negative reviews,”
I’m with you on that! I don’t mind a review that explains its position, but just asserting that the show’s a “dumpster fire” without justifying it rubs me the wrong way.
“That might not be an issue on your site, since you can set the direction, and you can be pretty choosy about what you review”
I’ve actually tricked myself! Generally, you’re 100% right. I pick the shows I review, and I try to pick shows I’ll like. Some shows, though, looked promising, but then went in a a direction I couldn’t follow. Taboo Tattoo was like that.
The biggest challenge I’ve into lately is a show that does most things well, but nothing extremely well. I’ve built my format around the idea of peaks — favorite quote and favorite moment. So if everything was just “well, that was cool!” it can be a hassle. I want to be completely honest in my reviews, so I don’t want to inflate a quote or moment. Fortunately, so far, I’ve been able to reach back into previous episodes and tie it to the current episode to demonstrate an interesting arc.
I guess no format is perfect!
There are always the shows that look good and turn out to be just… no. And I think you can decide on a case-by-case basis what to do with them, whether it’s drop them from your reviews, or even keep them on and pivot to a “this is what you shouldn’t do with a show.” I know I had a couple shows that ended up like that.
One thing I do like in your review format is that it’s clear that “these are the elements that I like.” Someone else commented that subjectivity is unavoidable, and I’d even push that farther to say that everything is subjective in reviews, and those who try to appeal to some objective standard are using an appeal to false authority fallacy. And disagreement is fine. But with your format you can always manage expectations and say something like “This was my favorite moment, but it doesn’t stand out, or it’s only slightly above the mean” or other ways of saying “I picked this point, but don’t read too much into it.
“or even keep them on and pivot to a “this is what you shouldn’t do with a show.” I know I had a couple shows that ended up like that.”
I like that idea. I could change Favorite Quote to Cautionary Quote and Favorite Moment to Oh Heck No Moment.
Or something. I’ll work on the word-smithing.
“and those who try to appeal to some objective standard are using an appeal to false authority fallacy. ”
I didn’t want to come out and say that for fear of seeming like I was trying to, well, appeal to authority. But since you said it, I’ll happily endorse your idea! I think you’re right.
“or other ways of saying “I picked this point, but don’t read too much into it.””
I’ve been lucky so far and haven’t had to do that, but I like your ideas of what to do if I end up reviewing something that I can’t bring myself to like. Thanks for the ideas!
I, too, try to help readers find shows that they might like, and I appreciate the directness of your approach. Since I like finding out a little more about a show–and particularly since I tend to review entire series rather than episodes–I stick with more a of plot synopsis style, with additional commentary on various of the show’s attributes. That I took the time to review something means that I liked it, even if I didn’t enjoy it (perfect example: MIRAI), and I offer my review as a way of telling readers: I liked this, and here’s why I did and why you might, also.
“and I offer my review as a way of telling readers: I liked this, and here’s why I did and why you might, also.”
I’ve always liked your format! Because of it, I now know what the show is, and I think my view of the Magical Girl genre is completely destroyed!
I’m joking about the second part, of course! There have been several times I’ve read your reviews and wanted to go watch the series. Long Riders is another example.
Many thanks! I know that when I read a review, I want to gain some sort of feel for what the show is. I absolutely love a review that 3 sentences in saves me from wasting my time on a show I simply won’t enjoy.
Always enjoy reading these types of breakdowns in writing! I do think subjectivity, to some extent, is inevitable and what makes blogging diverse and worth reading. No matter what the original material be, there will always be takes that make me think “… wow, did we watch/read the same thing??”. I say this in a positive lense, though, it’s always fascinating to notice what translated in the same manner and what was taken differently by individuals. I always appreciate your posts related to blogging itself!
“wow, did we watch/read the same thing??”
That’s really interesting to me, too. That’s why I really enjoy reading _how_ or _why_ someone came to a conclusion!
“I always appreciate your posts related to blogging itself!”
Thanks! I like reading other’s posts about that, too. Everyone approaches blogging differently, and I learn a lot reading about others’ experiences.
I find any sort of scoring system whether it’s A, B, C or 3 stars etc to be far too subjective. Even on a site that has a defined word attached to the score, people will not use that and attribute them how they want. I came across one reviewer that used 2 stars as good.
Not long ago, Netflix switched from star ratings to a simple thumbs up and thumbs down. This seems like a far simpler system and one that would give a fairer picture.
As with what you’re doing, I think it’s much more effective to say what you enjoyed and let the reader put together the rest.
“Not long ago, Netflix switched from star ratings to a simple thumbs up and thumbs down. This seems like a far simpler system and one that would give a fairer picture.”
At the very least, it gets the point across quickly and with minimum fuss!
“As with what you’re doing, I think it’s much more effective to say what you enjoyed and let the reader put together the rest.”
Thanks. That’s the goal. It’s a little longer winded than thumbs up/down, but I hope the approach improves the odds that the reader will have a good sense of whether they’d like the show or not.
I like the format you’ve come up with, too. I especially like the “What Have I Learned” section, since one of your goals is to share craftsmanship insights.
Thanks. I thought it was a good way to tie the two worlds together and it makes me really think about what I can learn from the episode. There’s always something. Hopefully, it helps them all bed into my subconscious for when I’m writing.