|Anime Review FAQ|
Why do you only review one anime a week?
Simply, I pace myself. The Anime Review has been updated every week without fail since early 1999 and trying to review more than one title a week could cause me to shut down. Some titles, especially the new DVD box sets, require a great deal of time to get through. Most anime review sites, even great ones like THEM Anime Reviews and Lord Carnage, don't update for weeks or months at a time, then open the floodgates with a mess of reviews. I also don't review more due to the fact that I have a family and lead music at my church. A real life--what a concept! But enough excuses from me...
Why don't you review an entire series at once? There's only a few series you've watched completely.
Besides the time issue that I mentioned before, it really depends on how the series is packaged. I buy most all of my new titles on DVD, and so not everything is available all at once. My goal is to review everything that's in that initial package, especially if that's the only way you can get everything (like in a box set). If you're paying for it, you should know exactly what you're going to get! Since 90% of the material I review nowadays has been released in the US, the packaging of shows plays an important part. Blue Submarine No. 6 might be a good series, but you're not going to get me to pay $15 again (taking into account shipping and handling costs) for barely a half-hour of anime! In comparison, EatMan '98 is a great deal for six hours of a reasonably good show. Frankly, cost prohibits me from reviewing a lot of long series, and so I give you what I have when I have it.
What qualifies you to review anime?
I've been watching anime since 1985, with the advent of Robotech hitting the airwaves. I've logged a few thousand hours of anime viewing time. I lived through the age of very little translated anime, as well as the era of having to sit in stuffy college study rooms with strange and scary people just to see the latest episode of Saint Seiya. I have a BA in Mass Communication with 16 hours of Japanese language credits (which means virtually nothing when trying to understand how people actually talk in anime.) I've fansubbed six different shows and learned just how good an Amiga could be with JacoSub and a genlock. I'm also a film fan, so I compare a lot of things in anime with counterparts in American media. But really, all that qualifies anyone to review anime is an open mind and a healthy opinion.
What is the history of The Anime Review?
The Anime Review initially started as an idea that I had when I was loaning out anime tapes by the dozens in college. Many friends would ask me what a show was like and wanted to have an idea of what they were getting into before they chose something from the shelf. I created a short guide to help people out, which came in handy when I was out of the dorm. I published this list on the Internet on May 21, 1997, and it existed in this primal form for about two years. During this time, I got many requests to update the list, and my friend and webmaster Jason Rickard encouraged me to relaunch the site with a design he had created. In April 1999, the relaunch took off, and we've been updating weekly since then. Near the beginning of 2001, I decided that having our own domain name would raise our profile, and so we acquired the moniker www.theanimereview.com. We've grown an immense amount since our earliest days...back in 1997, we were lucky to get 40 hits a month. Now, we average between 3200-4200 hits a week to our front page, and that doesn't include hits to specific reviews from search engines, other web sites, etc. For a niche as unusual as anime reviews, I'm quite pleased and hope we can grow further in the future.
What do you think of other anime review sites on the web?
Unfortunately, there are a ton of anime review sites, but only a handful on the web are truly worth your time. There are a few that are truly worthy of mention, however. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but they are solid enough to mention. The first three are sites I check weekly; the rest are ones also worth checking.
The first site I check if there's a title I know nothing about is The Anime Meta-Review. Run by Andrew Shelton out of Australia, this site could easily be called the Mega-Review. With over 600 reviews at last count, Mr. Shelton has handily defeated the rest of us in terms of sheer scope. Although his reviews tend to ramble on for a little bit, he has thoughtful, fair reviews which explain in detail his feelings for a title. He doesn't seem to approve or disapprove of any genre in particular, either, so he comes across as very open-minded. What's more, he puts links to other significant reviews at the end, giving a complete comparison to the rest of the important sites on the web. I'm one of his regular sources, and I'm in semi-regular contact with him. A very nice guy with a great operation overall--I cannot recommend this site strongly enough.
The next site that I recommend is THEM Anime Reviews. THEM had been offline for some time in 2001 while its lead reviewers graduated, got married, etc. However, they are back as a player, and though they still haven't updated much in the way of reviews, they have enough of a catalog that they are still worth a look. Although I disagree with THEM often, they have written the only review that has ever sent me to the floor in fits of laughter--if you've seen The Dagger of Kamui, it is your imperative to read their review, because even if you disagree with their conclusions, it's dead on. Meanwhile, they do write very entertaining, impassioned reviews. THEM is a group of writers, and as such their reviews can come off as vaguely schizophrenic and thus somewhat unpredictable. They also tend to watch anime as a group, and so their reactions may be tempered by others in the audience. It sounds like I'm digging on them, but they really are a great site that you should check.
Lord Carnage's Super-Mega-Ultra-Gargantuan Anime Reviews Page is another spot that I check for reviews. With surprisingly good graphics and a handy interface, Carnage is easy to navigate and fun to look at. His reviews tend to be pretty short and to the point, but they are surprisingly good and expressive considering their length. Carnage's older sister, who goes by the title Herself the Elf, also makes comments when she particularly agrees or disagrees with his assessments. The number of titles combined with a great design make Carnage a must-see, particularly if you want the sweet and lowdown on a title. (He does have a tendency to go for action-oriented anime, but that's not all that surprising.)
One of my favorite review sites, The Anime Critic, has stopped updating, as its creator Pete Harcoff has decided to put his efforts into other arenas. However, the site is still available, and his reviews are great. What's more, he's created MARP, or the Meta Anime Review Project. If you want to find all the best anime reviews on the web, look no further. He compiles the grades various critics have given shows and posts links to their reviews. Our site is included as well--I encourage you to take a look.
A Parent's Guide To Anime is a decent place to check out anime appropriate for your whole family. Though reviews are sent in by a variety of people, making their overviews slightly suspect, they do give a good idea of what's in a lot of popular titles. Meanwhile, though Julie's Anime Reviews aren't normally noticed on the web, there's a surprising amount of them, and most of them are well-written--if she'd regularly update, she could turn herself into a main review source, though I don't see this happening. I also often visit Chris Beveridge's Anime on DVD for his reviews...though he only reviews Region 1 DVDs, which limits his scope, he's got plenty of reviews and publishes a number of "alternate angle" reviews from readers.
Don't you feel that reviewing any anime poorly hurts the growth of anime as a whole?
Absolutely not! In fact, I think properly done anime reviews are a huge part of keeping anime fandom alive and growing. Everyone who's introduced a friend to anime has played reviewer in some fashion--giving that friend tapes that you know they'll like, avoiding titles that they will probably hate, etc. I've known many people who were turned off by anime by watching the wrong title first. Hopefully, sites like The Anime Review can help to guide people a bit.
There's something that I learned from Roger Ebert a long time ago. I've been reading his column for a while, and as such I've learned what his tastes are. In many circumstances, I can even tell when I'll like a movie that he's trashed, such as The Usual Suspects, because I've started to understand the way he looks at films. In the same manner, a regular reader of The Anime Review (or Lord Carnage, or the Meta-Review) should be able to start seeing and understanding the author's preferences and should be able to compare them to their own viewpoint. As such, reviews written by one consistent author should help the whole community reading those reviews, even if some of them are negative.
One other quick point that the Anime Meta-Review has been able to make very well: if you look hard enough, you'll likely find a positive (or negative) review for almost every anime. It's good to have variety, no?
But what about negative reviews of niche genres, like shoujo, bishonen, yaoi, etc? Are you sure you understand those genres enough to criticize them?
I've been asked this question in less pleasant terms, but I'll try to answer it as honestly as possible. When it comes down to it, there are a lot of anime created for an audience different than me. Saying that I can't understand it or enjoy it, however, is foolishly naive. A negative review on a title that happens to be in a particular niche genre doesn't mean I dislike the genre; it means I disliked that title. As anime becomes more and more popular and more niche titles hit the American market, reviews of those titles are going to be more and more important. The typical Western anime fan isn't likely to know or care who the target audience was in Japan; they want to know if they are going to like it or not. I have no strong feelings about niche anime (save for hentai, which I actively avoid,) but promoting it just because it is "special" anime is plainly unethical for the reviewer to consider. It's no different than assigning the same film reviewer to see A.I., American Pie 2, The Princess Diaries, and Swordfish. They are vastly different movies for vastly different audiences, but the reviewer still is responsible for coming up with a fair review for each one. Same for anime.
Name your ten desert island anime.
Honorable mentions go to Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millenium Actress, Kimagure Orange Road, Maison Ikkoku, Lodoss Wars OVA, Arion, Castle in the Sky, Video Girl Ai, Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away, Memories.
What anime are you looking forward to seeing or completing, but haven't gotten to yet?
Noir, His and Her Circumstances, Now and Then/Here and There, Haibane Renmei, Oh My Goddess TV, Paranoia Agent, Steamboy, Howl's Moving Castle.