Over the years, I’ve come develop a love-hate attitude toward reviewing anime. However, it’s not the hours of work or the long, sleepless nights that cause this. Likewise, I’m not averse to putting in countless hours with an anime series that may or may not be watchable, let alone good.
On the whole, I love the challenge of reviewing. The mental gymnatics invovled are a constant, never-ending gauntlet that exist as a way to test one’s mettle, and to hone one’s skills. There’s never a shortage of ways to describe a title’s quality (or lack thereof), and the constant influx of new content provides for an infinite number of chances to try new techniques.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love ripping into a horrible title. There’s something viscerally satisfying about tearing down a title that doesn’t pass muster. It’s a great release from stress, and it’s undeniably fun to find new ways to say “this show sucks.” Likewise, it’s always a thrill to unearth a new favorite, or a diamond in the rough that one would normally miss.
Just as every rose has thorns, though, the reviews process has a series of drawbacks. The most obvious drawback to the process is the simple fact that the it never ends. So long as anime is being produced, the review cycle will continue to exist and tear writers’ psyches to shreds. Likewise, one is expected to remain consistent and clean in his content, sometimes while he fumbles over sentences and words that may or may not always work out.
My personal grudges stem from a more unique phenomenon, which doesn’t seem to affect as many reviewers. It’s an issue of too much of a good thing. During the review process for an average 13-episode series, it’s not uncommon for me to watch through the show at least four times in its entirety. I’ll often take notes, spot-check segments, and re-watch entire episodes in an attempt to capture the essence of the show. I won’t deny its effectiveness, as I’ve used the technique to great success over the past six years. However, I often question its side-effects. These “side effects” are a product of over-exposure to the product, and include a general tiredness of the show at hand, and a reluctance to go back and re-watch on my own time. While it’s no real loss for shows like Master of Martial Hearts, I often find myself wanting to return shows like Persona: Trinity Soul, Strike Witches, and the Slayers Next. I just can’t bring myself to put these shows into the DVD player, as my mind flashes back to the marathon sessions, the sleepless hours of writing, and the overall stress of pushing out a review before the next deadline.
One of my colleagues went on record to say he holds the grind in a similar regard. However, his woes stem more from an almost obsessive need to detail than a general over-consumption. In particular, his process involves “[watching] shows once each when I review them, but I take MUCH longer to get through each episode because I take elaborate, full notes on EVERY episode and its dialogue as I watch, so I have tons of text files that fully describe the content moment by moment of EVERYTHING I watch. The first [Eden of the East] movie? Went from 90ish minutes to a 4 hour ordeal for me with my note taking.”
It may seem like a minor woe, but I often wonder just how healthy it is to force myself to sit down, and endure these strenuous, often intense grinds to get a polished product out as the clock ticks down.