How to Write a Site-Format Review
We've had a few applications to site-reviewership, and it got me thinking that we didn't have a CONTENT-ish guideline for people to follow. What do we expect? How can I improve my chances? Well, here's a little bit about what we look for in prospective reviewers' work.
ALL reviews need to be site-format, which means Story/Animation/Sound/Characters/Overall. Since the form for site reviews is fixed, lovely, non-structured rants can't be considered no matter how awesome (but they can draw our eye to you, so, please write them). Below, I've provided some help for people setting out on their first real, AP-style reviews.
Some General Points
- Site-format REQUIRES each section,
and we want to hear something about everything. I know it's unfair that
I trust cassie or sothis when they write three lines about the sound
section, but I know they thought a lot about it. I don't know that you
did. Show me that you've considered each aspect of the anime that you're
- We are not evaluating your correctness, but your
ability to make an argument. Do not worry about your scores or
overstepping your bounds. Share what you think.
- If you neglect
grammar and spelling, you will be turned down. I don't care if you say,
"I can do it, but it's the internet, so I don't want to be formal." Our
reviews are professional-sounding and try to maintain the best standards
in their presentation. If you can't be bothered to take the time to
make your review seem considered and polished, then we can't take the
time to seriously examine your submission.
- You can submit a
ranty entry, but at least one of your submissions should be
straightfoward. Ranty reviews work really well for things that rate high
or low, but MOST of the stuff you review is going to fall somewhere in
the middle and rants in this zone seem forced or out of place.
don't really care about your scores, BUT: Your scores should match
your content. If you rate a show's animation 9/10 and say merely, "It
was fluid and impressive", you are not doing it service. If it's in the
middle, talk about both its flaws and its strengths. If it's crap, I
want you to tear it a new one. If it's the best thing you've ever seen, I
want you to fellate so hard you get a jaw-cramp.
WHY? WHY? WHY? In addition to how, we want you to judge. Why did this element work? Why do you think the plot fell on its
face? Why did you want to murder Himeko (ok, that goes without
saying. I think we can all agree that Himeko should die in a fire, but
you get the point).
- Plot summaries are great, but you need
not describe the entire plot of a series/movie/OVA. If I want to know
that badly, I can watch it. Also, most of these in-depth summaries are
very tricky to write without spoiling anything and the result is not all
that more useful than the content of the synopsis.
- Tell me what
you thought about the plot. You can be specific without spoiling ("The
Mayori Snail arc suffered from too much repetition, and not enough
action."), and the information can provide important insights to your
readers (e.g. Last Exile's epic narrative certainly got my blood
pumping, but the show had the tendency to squander any of this momentum
in the more character-focused episodes that mostly concerned
interactions aboard the Sylvana).
- Was there a plot? Did it suck?
Did its lack of plot work? WHY?
- Was it funny? What parts
were funny? Was it sad? What parts were sad? Again, keep spoilers to a
minimum, but let your readers know what worked for the series (e.g. "The
slapstick irreverence of Sora Hitoshi and Jan-puu both filled the
duller moments of Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl with lighthearted
laughs and provided context for the characters' pointed questions that
drove the story in the second half of the series"). Also: WHY?
Most of you do an adequate job with this
section, but there are two things that can make a huge difference:
were the character designs? Was it a group of nondescript "anime"
characters, or was the cast unique both person-to-person and in between
this show and others (Kimi ni Todoke's cast doesn't stand out
from the mass of shoujo romance characters on the whole. Sawako could be
Sunako, Kazehaya looks like many a male lead. Pin, on the other hand,
appears a little out-of-place in this show. His spiky hair and scowl
could easily have gotten him a part in Fairy Tail).
was the motion? How were the stills? Canaan, for example isn't
all that impressive in its screens but in motion it looks spectacular.
Conversely, Toradora! has some of the most beautiful stills I've
stumbled across, but falls apart a little in its action sequences.
Most of you've got this one down, as well. However...
you watch it dubbed or subbed?
- Did any of the VA's floor you?
Did anyone's voice make you want to take a fork to your ear? WHY?
- Was there development? Did you feel like
you knew the characters at the end of the show?
- Did you LIKE the
characters? As characters? As people?
- Did the cast work well as
an ensemble? Did you feel the someone got neglected? WHY?
WAS THE BEST CHARACTER IN THE SHOW AND WHY? I talk about this all the
time, ESPECIALLY, when a secondary character is the show's best cast
This section is your victory lap. BUT, sum up your points and give us
something you held back about the series' as the sum of its parts. End
with something cute that will stick in the readers' heads.
WHY? Your opinion matters. How is important so you don't
sound like you're making baseless claims, but why is where you get to
pass judgement on the anime (and probably the most fun part of
Assuming you're not writing some crazy, fun rant
full of animated GIFs and YouTube clips (which we don't recommend to be
your official application to site-reviewership), you should use the
default font and divide your comments into paragraphs. Walls of text are
intimidating and doubly so if they are hard to read. You can leverage
paragraph breaks and font properties to make things a little easier on
your readers. Most of you out there use bold text for headings, which is
an exceptionally, super-great idea. I'd also encourage you all to
italicize titles of shows/movies/OVAs, since it's just plain good style
and can stave off some confusion (do you mean Canaan the character, or Canaan the show?)
General Writing Guidellines (courtesy of cassiesheepgirl):
Repetition – repeating the same word in a short
space of time can have a jarring effect, and utilising different
vocabulary also helps give extra life to the writing.
sentences – if a sentence has too much information or unrelated points
packed into it, it can seem rambling and dull. If you have a long
sentence, see if you can split it up.
- Stop and go – in the
opposite to the above, if you have a series of short, sharp sentences
your piece of writing can have a very Point. Point. Point. Feel to it.
Sometimes, you may be best off developing the idea in a sentence or
combining it with another, while making sure not create a run-on.
- Sometimes a simpler sentence is much more effective. If you have a
sentence with lots of "of"s, "the"s etc., look to see if it can be
A lot of this advice is pointed and
potentially overwhelming if taken as a whole. Yeah, it's unfair for me
to say to you, "You know how to make your reviews better? Be a better
reviewer", so I'll finish by boiling down the gist of the commentary
above into the following simple guideline: Reviews should be evaluative.
To be most useful to a reader, every segment of your review should
contain some measurement or judgment of the show's content. And
lastly: READ EXISTING SITE REVIEWS FOR INSPIRATION. Sheex,
VivisQueen, KiraRin, cassiesheepgirl, therik, ALL of them have done some
great work (you, too, FalseDawn, babyeinstein12, and even sothis ;)).
Stealing format, flow, and clever turns of phrase (IN THE FACE!) from
other reviewers is a great way to improve your own writing.
Good luck, and we hope to see your work soon!