Aha! My general inability to keep my commitments has stumped me this time, because here I am: one year later, blogging just as much as when I started. It’s been a wild year of updating the blog, and an oddly fun one!
Before I started up the SpaceWhales blog, I was fond of critical writing but seldom did it. With my blog finally started (thanks to some pestering from friends to do so), I didn’t have an excuse to not write, and have found myself writing at the most bizarre of times; from sketching out a review’s skeleton on long train rides to furiously typing long beyond the midnight oil ran out.
But, throughout this long year of blogging, what have I learned?
I blog because I enjoy it
This is an odd thing to say. But I don’t get any revenue from my blog, and I’m not exactly building a portfolio to advertise myself (the weirdly high number of explicitly sexual content would definitely be of lower number if it were!). I merely write because I enjoy it, and that has some consequences.
Stress. When it arises from hobbies, it can feel awful and like there’s no escape from your responsibilities. But, at the same time, that stress is often intrinsically linked to how much you care. This is why competitive sports and angry online debates happen, after all – we feel intense emotions because we care, and it’s precisely because we care that it all feels worthwhile. Keep that in mind, because when seasonal anime writing comes around, I often find myself posting multiple posts per day (it’s worth mentioning at this point that my average time to complete a review is about half an hour to an hour – and, for reference, this post took just over an hour) and trying to find something tangible to write about in such short timespans can be a tricky thing indeed. That’s the part that I struggle with the most, actually: finding the ability to care about some of those more ‘middle of the road’ anime.
To improve my quality of life while blogging, I seldom write about shows that I can’t form a strong opinion on. I watch anime because I want to gain something from it; what I gain is more obvious in the higher rated anime, but for the others that might be the act of critical discourse (externalised or internalised) itself. When my final take is barely more developed than shrugged shoulders, I don’t write a review. I don’t want to write it. You probably don’t want to read it. I see it as a win to skip these shows. Heads up: Somali and the Forest Spirit from Winter 2020 is turning into this kind of show. When it’s on, I can’t put any worthwhile opinion to the show, good or bad, so simply don’t.
Or, I won’t from now on. I’ve made the mistake a few times to write about something I can’t articulate a strong opinion on. Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin is a prime example of this lazy writing that I shouldn’t tolerate, or at least, seek to improve upon. This post isn’t a disgrace, and I’m not as offended in the past tense as to delete it from my blog, but there’s really not much gained from reading the review. Perhaps that’s not an insult I should levy at myself but rather the show for leaving me unable to say more, but I’d rather consider that I could do better.
Were my writing being paid/graded, I’m sure I could muster up that inspiration to – putting it bluntly – give a shit about these anime and form an opinion worth writing. But I’d rather write about an anime I enjoy, or enjoy discussing/thinking about, than a time-sink that fades rapidly after the final credits.
I have a long way to go as a writer
Trumpet blowing time: I won’t lie that I’m quite proud of a few of my posts. Personally, I feel I knocked it out of the park in my NSFW and undoubtedly controversial Yosuga no Sora review, and my essay on the Undervaluing of the Comedy Genre is one of my all-time most shared posts and I like to think that’s because I did a good job on it.
Don’t look at me like that!
Having personal pride is a good thing, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Of course, it has to be balanced, and it absolutely has to be accurate, but knowing something you’ve done is good is really, really important, because people almost never do good things by mistake. We do things well because we know what the idea of ‘good’ is, and we can work towards it.
So those two posts: why do I think they’re a couple of my best posts? They actually have something in common, and that’s a narrative. I’d already thought what I wanted the review to say, overall, before I wrote it, and I think that that paid dividends for each. In Yosuga no Sora’s case, I built up the show’s sexual romantic content before getting to the morality of incestuous relationships and having something of a ‘discussion’ on it, mirroring the show’s own ideas. As for the Comedy post, I cheated somewhat with subheaders and deconstructed a few ideas that I think are key in the overall devaluing of the genre, which could thus build to my message of the devaluing being an unjust one. Because I had these narratives in mind, the posts both stuck to narrative more rigidly than my other posts.
Many of my posts lack such strong narrative writing. Since I primarily write reviews, it’s often the case that the narrative will be simple: ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I’ve come to dislike the ‘conclusion’ types of final paragraphs I often give to my reviews, but that ends up feeling like the best way to ensure I tie all the various threads together. Were I better at forming these narratives and moving through my ideas more logically, I think the conclusions would write themselves more naturally. Sadly, this does mean a little more planning in my review writing – which will, undoutedbly, slow my rapid pace down. But I will gradually try and include more narrative planning to ensure my reviews are just that little bit tighter.
Onto my next point, however, is something I pointed out in that prior Yosuga no Sora review. To quote the first sentence for those that didn’t follow the link:
‘I’d like to be able to be one of those reviewers that can write a chatty piece,
but I am well aware my style is more dictatorial.’
This is a problem. Were I a better writer, I’m sure I would fluidly move between the two styles more convincingly. As it is, I worry that my reviews come across as domineering, shouty opinions – less conversation with the audience; less convincing.
This is a huge problem when it comes to my more negative reviews. Consider my Kimetsu no Yaiba review, where ‘hot take’ doesn’t justify just how fiery the negativity was. I’m not going to apologise for my opinion (and indeed, no critic ever should), but I do apologise that my writing wasn’t more nuanced in tone here. I didn’t convince the fans, and they’re just as much a valid audience as non-fans or people yet to see the show.
When writing reviews, one needs to be cognisant of a whole host of different minded folk, and offending them should rarely be an outcome. When criticising negatively, if the media is universally acclaimed, a negative opinion could come across like an abrasive child pretending the world is out to get them – and that’s what happened in my review. The reverse is also true, by the way; a negative review for a show universally condemned can waltz into ‘bullying’ territory. I feared I had achieved something akin to that in my Fairy Gone review, but upon re-reading it I think I came across more open-minded than inconsiderate.
Imagine if I got it right in my Kimetsu no Yaiba review. I could have enriched the points of view of fans and helped them see that, for example, their new favourite anime is not free from criticism. Now that would, in fact, develop their opinion positively, as they could see a favourite anime in a more nuanced way, rather than through a rose-tinted or even masturbatory lens. They’d leave my review more able to convince others how great Kimetsu no Yaiba may be as they can factor in my points! Balanced views are important, balanced views are endearing and balanced views are far more persuasive. I need to work on this.
Before I move on, there’s two other things to address: my unneeded verbosity and my poor self-editing. I make a lot of mistakes and I will probably honestly likely keep doing so if I work in these timescales.
As for my wordiness… it’s a work-in-progress. Just comment below every long running sentence I’ve got. It’ll make me angry enough to use the full stop once or twice.
The images of Gatchaman Crowd served no purpose. This is a nice post and Gatchaman Crowds is one of my favourite anime, so there were some pictures of Hajime and her surprisingly deeply written wholesomeness.
Thanks to everybody that’s stuck with me throughout this year. You give me more energy than you realise! Here’s to another year of blogging!