How to write anime reviews people actually want to read

It’s been said that opinions aren’t special, because everybody has one. Actually, the phrase I hear the most is more vulgar than that one, but I’ll leave it to your imagination.

But in reality, I’d argue that some opinions are more special than others. I’m talking about the opinions of reviewers and critics. When a new anime comes out, we enlist perfect strangers to help us choose whether to watch it or not, like the writers at the Fandom Post, Gar Gar Stegosaurus, and Anime News Network.

What makes these reviewers’ opinions so engaging? In one way or another, they’ve all mastered critical writing. Critical writing done right enhances your position with context and evidence that convinces readers your opinion matters.

Here are a few suggestions for writing anime reviews that people will want to read:

Include a brief summary

You’re adding something new, not reiterating the show. The portion of the review in which you summarize it for context should take up no more than a quarter of your article. If readers want a written recap of the show, they’ll read the novelization.

You know you’ve put the right amount of summary in when it describes the genre, overall plot, and a few major characters and their motivations.

No spoilers!

The purpose of a review is to help readers decide whether or not they want to watch the show themselves. If you give away all the good parts in your review, there’s no reason for them to do so. You may hint that impactful moments may occur, but avoid going out and saying, “X dies.”

If you absolutely must have spoilers, mark your review accordingly! The only excuse I can think of for including spoilers would be a main character death in the first episode, but even then I would try to write around it.

Describe the audience reception

If you’re able to get audience reactions to the show, it can enhance your opinion. If you’re watching the show online or as a DVD release, find out what other reviewers have been saying.. You can also browse forums to see if the show has been highly anticipated by fans.

If you’re watching the anime in an exclusive showing (for example, the limited Madoka Magica U.S. release), try and gauge the reactions of your fellow audience members. Is the theater crowded or did hardly anybody show up? Did people applaud? These observations can add persuasive details to your review that support your assessment.

State your opinion clearly

You’d be surprised how many poor reviews discuss elements of the anime without making a clear assertion as to whether the reviewer actually enjoyed it or not. Readers are looking to you for a decisive verdict on whether you thought the show was good or bad or in between.

No need to add “I think” or “In my opinion,” either. It’s redundant—this is your review, isn’t it?—and it weakens the statement.

Include specific details

Back up your assessment with descriptions of scenes, characters, and technical elements in order to give your opinions merit.

Did the anime have especially interesting character design? Were there any voice actors of note, and how were their performances? Was there a memorable musical score? Was the animation choppy? Including these details as justification for your review grade.

Give it a grade

For the TL;DR crowd, it helps to have a short and sweet summation at the end of your review. If readers find the grade surprising, they might scroll back up to figure out your reasoning.

Make sure the grade is on an easy-to-recognize scale, so readers can instantly gauge whether it’s a positive or negative score. Examples: out of five stars, a letter grade, or even “nine out of ten jellyfish.” As long as readers have context for the score, anything goes.

Stay tuned for my next post, in which I attempt to write a studied review of my favorite anime of all time, Nerima Daikon Brothers. (Yes, really!)

Will I be able to take my own advice and write a review people actually want to read? Find out Wednesday!

  • Justin

    Hmm…I’ve been toying with the idea of adding some grading scale, like A to F, or maybe a rating system, but not sure. May consider doing it in the future…

  • A Day Without Me

    Oo, cool, thanks for the shout-out, although I do violate the need for a rating system! I do stick to “do I recommend this? yes/no/only for specific types of fans”, however.

    Glad you like my reviews =)

  • Jessica Noseworthy

    Thanks for this post! I am currently still struggling with asserting my opinion. I’ve worked really hard to improve my reviews, but bit by bit, I think they are becoming higher quality than when I first started writing them.

  • Ryegan

    What do you think would be considered Too long of a review?

    • Lauren Orsini

      @Ryegan, definitely depends on the audience. A print audience would have a longer attention span than a web audience, so if you’re reviewing in a newspaper or magazine I think you can write longer. But online, I’d say 500 words should be enough to make your point. Hope that helps!

  • Cameron

    well do u know a place where u can start anime reviews im told I should and really enjoy writing them plz respond THANKS!

  • Mnemofysh

    This is really helpful, do you have any tips on intros/conclusions, as well as linking between the paragraphs?

    • Lauren Orsini

      @mnemofysh:disqus stay tuned for an upcoming blog post where I update this advice now that I’ve been writing a LOT more anime reviews!