Subjectivity in Reviews

Those of you who have seen my reviews have probably noticed that I use a different method of judging the manga than most other reviewers do. Instead of using a numbered score, a letter grade, or even a simple assessment of overall quality, my reviews end with a clear description of who would probably like a series and who wouldn’t. Well, I think it’s time I wrote about this particular method of reviewing and why I chose it over the more common methods.

See, I’ve seen a lot of different reviewers in the last few years. I’ve seen game reviewers on TV, movie and anime reviewers online, and more than a few reviewer blogs. I’ve seen critical reviewers, casual ones, and quite a few people who just like tearing into things they hate. And because of this, I came to notice a few trends that I didn’t enjoy as much as the other reviewers seemed to. In particular, there were three things they did that I decided had to stop when I started writing my first video.

The first of these concepts relates to the specific biases every reviewer has. Lots of people like to discuss the pros and cons of a work, but it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether a certain quality is good or bad. I know lots of people who shun anything with even the slightest hint of moe, but there are obviously many fans of it, or else it wouldn’t still be around. If a work is extremely childish, would you list that as a pro or con? Someone can spend all day talking about the artwork in a series, but if you don’t care about that, it just becomes a lot of hoots and clicks.

Then there’s the use of a grading system to decide the quality of a work. Oh, I’m sure we’ve all had times when a particular score didn’t go with what we thought of a series. I remember X-Play going on about websites that rank games out of 100, and that scores should just be generalizations to show the reviewers overall opinion. While I agree about the problem with larger numbers, the fact is that a review shouldn’t be a generalization at all, and using smaller numbers won’t fix that problem. If you’re just deciding on how a game looks to the general audience, it won’t help those people who don’t belong there, especially if you get the general audience wrong, as many reviewers do.

Lastly, the thing I knew had to change most of all. This is something that I’ve seen happen quite often, but which not many people seem to be aware is a problem. It can be best summarized in a single quote, which I made it a goal to avoid using in any video I make:

“You are not allowed to hate this series!”

I’m sure you’re all aware of the opposite of this, where angry forum-goers like to yell at you for liking something, but I think this needs to be addressed as well. When a reviewer gets so into a series that they want everyone to watch or play it, and they simply can’t fathom anyone disliking it for any reason. In the end, all it really accomplishes is a great letdown for a large number of the people listening. It’s another feeling we all may be aware of, but which not many have considered something that needs fixing. It’s difficult provide the audience with less information than to claim perfect harmony or perfect emptiness in a work, and it’s something I feel shouldn’t be repeated.

The most common defense I’ve heard regarding these kinds of reviews is that “it’s just your opinion.” That’s the idea that someone else thinking differently doesn’t take away from the genius of the story. However. this brings up an interesting point: can a series whose quality is subjective possibly be considered flawless? After all, if there are people who genuinely don’t like it, then there must be something it isn’t doing right. And if one opinion is subjective, then logically the opposite opinion must be as well. I’ll probably talk more about this in a future post, because I’d like to get more specific about it, but until then just know that there will always be people who don’t like something, and it’s a big mistake to ignore them.

Those were the kinds of things I didn’t want happening in my reviews, so I made my own system as a way of preventing them. I felt that by organizing the different fans into groups, for who would and wouldn’t like the series, I could avoid the problems of grading systems, I could account for even my own biases, and hopefully I can keep myself from gushing too strongly about anything. Personally, I don’t think there’s any manga or anime I’ve seen where I can’t find something to criticize, but I can still appreciate them despite that. Sure, I may not be able to critique truly terrible works this way, but I’m sure my brain will be thankful I don’t have to read that stuff.

Posted on October 3, 2011, in Misc. Rants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Nice editorial post. Mostly agree with you.
    A series can’t be flawless as every review is in the end subjective! (what I like may not be what you like)
    Even dividing users into groups may end up in some particular case to get a “miss” in the prediction depending on their particular tastes.🙂

    • Yeah, I don’t think my method is completely flawless either, but I’d like to think it has a higher degree of success than just giving something a B, or whatever.

  2. Seems like you’ve put much thought into writing your reviews, which is always a good thing. I never really put a lot of thought into it, but I know my boundaries. I try to stay away from writing absolutely horrible posts about an anime or a manga because I don’t enjoy reading hate posts. I would gush about something I like but I will definitely not force someone else to like it as much as I do. After all, we are not all made to like the same thing and hate the same thing.

    Looking forward to your upcoming reviews!

    • Thanks a lot. I know that lots of other people feel similarly, but I always work best when I have a clear idea in my head, so that’s why I thought of this stuff.

  3. I started to stay away from both the lettering or numbering. I’ll let whatever I wrote do the talking for me. At the most, I tend to do pros and cons, but I do agree subjective is a factor in the processes. I been hit over the head with it so much back in HS with my AP classes, I gotten used to it, lol.

  4. I agree with you. I also don’t write hate posts because I don’t read those kinds of posts. Time is too precious to be wasted it into something that you don’t like. But unless it’s controversial and affects me, I will read it; otherwise, no. As for reviewing, I rarely write a review, but personally if I’m going to write one, I don’t want to describe it as numbers. I would prefer describing it in one word simply because I don’t believe that my subjectivity is equal to any number.

    • Yes, I’ve often avoided talking about certain manga chapters if my opinion was too negative or I can’t properly describe my thoughts. Sometimes I can go on for a while about a negative POINT of a series (like the plot holes in Deadman Wonderland), but there’s usually a deeper purpose for that.

      Not that there aren’t series I’d like to yell at, but it’s hard to sit down and write that sort of thing without feeling bad about it a paragraph in.

  1. Pingback: The Problem with Madoka Magica « Shades of Grey

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