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Episode Reviews vs. Editorials: Why the Divide?

Editorial, episode review: it all starts with this.
Editorial, episode review: it all starts with this.

In an astonishing wildfire meme that has spread throughout the anime blogosphere, and this time without the quota set by Owen’s agricultural collective, people are talking about the merits of episode blogging vs. editorials. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is and why they’re being treated as mutually exclusive categories at all. I’d like to propose that an episode review can be an editorial just as much as anything else.

This site falls somewhere in between, really. If you read us, you’ll see that we do primarily focus on episodes, but with a twist: we don’t do summaries, period. I think I only did it in the very, very earliest posts for this site, as I thought it was a formula I had to follow. I abandoned it quickly. Personally I find summarizing boring, especially since in our position (non raw-watchers), they serve no purpose; a site like Random Curiosity is both popular and useful because their summaries help the raw-watching community check on what they’ve seen. Until we get a raw-comprehending writer who gets the “scoop” on brand new raws, summaries are not going to be what makes us stand out. Analysis and original thoughts will.

There’s also my own writing habits. (I can’t speak for Ray or any of our other bloggers here.) You probably also noticed that pure editorials like this one are rare, and when they come it’s usually in response to others who are discussing the same issue. This is why I love the Anime Blogging Collective, as it gives me a writing prompt of sorts and a deadline, too, both of which I need to do anything extensive in a timely fashion. Full editorials take a lot of thought and consideration, and often outlining, before I come up with something satisfactory. They are a lot like short school papers, or at least I treat them with almost equal seriousness and forethought. Maybe it’s the incurable academic in me that does it, but that’s how I approach editorials. And why I write so few of them, and why those I do write tend to be very very long.

Episode reviews (sans summaries), do two things for me. First, they give me a built-in schedule of weekly frequency that is relatively easy to sustain; few episode reviews have taken me more than 30 minutes to write. Second, I actually see episode reviewage as another form of editorializing, talking about issues I care about along with what I think is effective or not in an episode. I’m never content simply to just write a few canned lines of general response like “this episode was sooo great!” For instance, romance shows, which have dominated by reviewing as of late, give me a chance to talk about what love is, human nature, and life in general. Shows like Shigofumi or Mai-HiME give me an excuse to talk about things like mortality, spirituality, character, and courage.

This is a time honored tradition within the modern profession of criticism, of course; if you read the ostensible book reviews in places like The London Review of Books or The New York Review of Books, the reviewer usually spends a lot more time discussing the issues the books raise than judging the books themselves. It was that way from the very beginning of the modern magazine business. For me, like those reviewers, anime is a prompt for thinking about the matters the show presents rather than just the show itself. I’m proud to put something like my gender article or my final review of ef alongside anything else I’ve written, and I hope that a bit of who I am and what I stand for comes through in all my writing here. Even my theological side has come up in unexpected places. And I hope it stays that way. (That said, I sometimes feel guilty in fact for sometimes for not delving into the specifics of episodes, visual ones especially, as other reviewers do. I’ve missed things that way, and missed the initial appeal of ef in part for that reason. My training was in literature and literary analysis, rather than film studies, and I’m still gaining the skills to look at visual media in its own terms.)

That, in brief, is my take on the whole matter. Unless my own or my fellow bloggers’ habits change, you’ll continue to predominantly see episode analysis on this site with no summaries, and the occasional long editorial. I think we’ve achieved a balance between these two forms that is rewarding for me, and hopefully, for you our dear readers!

This is an Independent Internet Meme Collective post. Other participants include:

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