Objectivity in Reviews. Not.

January 25th, 2009

Before I write today’s review, I want to share a comment I recently posted, because it is relevant to all of my reviews – and I would rather have a URL to point to than to type this out over and over. Once again, someone complained that my reviews are not “objective,” which almost invariably means that I publicly stated my dislike for something they like. This is my response:

I honestly don’t know why you believe reviews are in any way objective. *All* reviews are merely one person’s opinion of anything.

I imagine that many reviewers pretend to have objectivity in their reviews, but they haven’t any, really. All reviews are based on a reviewer’s knowledge and opinion and colored with their personal bias. If I pretended to objectivity, it would only be a ridiculous facade – and ultimately would render my reviews useless. Instead, I’m up front about my bias on anything and you can use that to judge whether a particular anime/manga/novel might be to your liking more easily. If you like what I don’t, go for series I dislike and you should be fine.

If you’re actually objecting to me publicly stating that I dislike something you like – well, then I’m very sorry but I can’t help you there. Feel free to start a blog of your own that praises the things I dislike. That’s the nice thing about the Internet – it’s a pretty open forum for opinion.

And, of course, you are under no obligation to read this blog, just as I am under no obligation to change my opinions or pretend to an objectivity I don’t have, to soothe the people who like the things I do not. Feel free to get these books/manga/anime on your own and form your own opinions so you don’t have to read mine.

I spend a lot of time thinking deeply and widely about what is, *objectively speaking,* comic books and cartoons. If the idea that I disagree with you is so absolutely dreadful that you cannot stand it, I sincerely think you’re taking this all too seriously. But…that is only my opinion.

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22 Responses

  1. Vince says:

    Kudos for stating the truth on the record. I don’t know how anyone would think that a review isn’t subjective.

  2. Casey says:

    Hey, we must be on the same wavelength!

    I wrote about reviews and “objectivity” myself just last month:
    http://kethylia.livejournal.com/713412.html

  3. @Casey – Excellent. What a great piece. I will recommend it to the next griper.

    @Vince – Thanks. I agree.

  4. BruceMcF says:

    I spend a lot of time thinking deeply and widely about what is, objectively speaking comic books and cartoons. If the idea that I disagree with you is so absolutely dreadful that you cannot stand it, I sincerely think you’re taking this all too seriously.

    This is simply outrageous – how can you say something like this about a serious art form.

    … oh, wait …

    … if its a serious art form, then … there goes the objectivity thing out the window again. Nuts.

    Oh well, at least Kaleido Star episodes 25 and 26 are released for free ad-supported streaming on Crunchyroll tomorrow. That is something that has to be an objectively good thing, though now I find I cannot quite put my finger on why.

  5. Rinu says:

    BruceMcF, um, I think the article was about reviews, not facts connected to anime and manga…
    Of course, writing “01/26/09 was released xy series.” and “I think this manga is good.” are two completely different things. I hope you are able to see it – One is a fact based on an event, second is an expression of “personal” opinion.

    I am with you on this one, Erica. And I think it’s waste of my time saying why, it’s just obvious.

  6. Ed Sizemore says:

    Erica,

    That’s a great post. I have people disagree with my reviews, but no one has played the objectivity card on me–yet. If it ever happens I will point them to your post. It’s much more elegant than I could state it.

  7. @Ed – Thanks, glad you approve!

    Personally, I consider it delusional to think a review is objective, just like I think it’s delusional to think that moe is not an eroticization of innocence and youth. But fandom is, if nothing else, delusional, so I just like to occasionally remind folks of the cold, hard facts. :-)

  8. BruceMcF says:

    Rinu, objectively speaking, its Erica FTW.

  9. Rinu says:

    Rinu, objectively speaking, its Erica FTW.
    Lol, okay. Sorry for misunderstanding.

    Personally, I consider it delusional to think a review is objective, just like I think it’s delusional to think that moe is not an eroticization of innocence and youth.
    Well, depends on moe. For example, Azumanga’s Chiyo was definitely moe but there wasn’t any eroticization of the character. But this is OT, so I just want to say it :).

  10. @Rinu – Of course. There are exceptions to every rule.

  11. @Rinu -Bruce was joking. :)

  12. Michelle says:

    I agree! In fact, I had someone at Manga Recon say they try to be objective, but were bothered by something so much, felt they needed to write about it.

    I replied that I put in the personal reactions on purpose! All it is, after all, is just an opinion, as you say. And if people tend to like what I like, then saying that I liked this or that will be helpful. I’m really no good at waxing rhapsodic about deep themes and such; I just aim to’ve been helpful in determining whether to buy a book or not.

  13. @Michelle – Thanks for the input. :-) I’m pretty good at the waxing rhapsodic about deep issues, but when you boil it down to the essence, we are all talking about comic books. lol It seems so silly to take ourselves too seriously. Besides – I can (and often do) learn from a reviewer that disagrees with me as much or more than I can from someone who shares my opinion. In fact, many of my guest reviewers do not share my opinions on certain series – which I why I love to have them share their opinions!

  14. mbeasi says:

    I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this recently, because I’ve noticed that I attempt objectivity when I’m writing for Manga Recon in a way I don’t bother with in my own blog. But in the end, I’m not sure the “objectivity” I supposedly achieve at MR can be considered real, or if it is even what people actually want to read. Great post, thanks!

  15. mbeasi says:

    Ha, in fact after reading the other comments, I think I’m the person Michelle is referring to! :D

  16. @mbeasi – Thank to yet another Manga Recon reviewer for a great comment. Welcome to all of you. :-)

  17. Motormind says:

    I am baffled why people think that opinions about art could be objective , since it’s such a personal affair. I do find it troublesome that you sometimes don’t get the facts straight or tend to miss important plot elements, but I gladly overlook that since you keep pointing me to some interesting series. For one, I still want to thank you for drawing my attention to Hitohira, which has become one of my favorites.

  18. @Motorhead – “important” is just as objective as anything else. And thanks for proving my point – I didn’t review Hitohira. I personally thought it was as dull as dirt. Hafl reviewed it for us.

  19. grace says:

    a review is all about critical evaluation of a book, a building, whatever – a review is not meant to be objective,”just the facts, ma’am” article.

    if you don’t like a review, go write your own! wow, i can’t believe you had to devote blogspace for this when i could have been reading a thoughtfully crafted, pointedly funny and well-written review by you of some hot yuri manga that i will then have to buy.

  20. BruceMcF says:

    Quoth I:”Oh well, at least Kaleido Star episodes 25 and 26 are released for free ad-supported streaming on Crunchyroll tomorrow. That is something that has to be an objectively good thing, though now I find I cannot quite put my finger on why.

    Quoth Rinu:”Of course, writing “01/26/09 was released xy series.” and “I think this manga is good.” are two completely different things. I hope you are able to see it – One is a fact based on an event, second is an expression of “personal” opinion.

    Ah, but read the first more carefully … it does not say that its an objective thing that it was released for free, ad-supported, legitimate streaming yesterday … its says that its an objectively good thing that it was released for free, ad-supported, legitimate streaming yesterday.

    And, did I mention that Kaleido Star episodes 1-26 are now available on “freely available”, legitimate, licensed streaming video at Crunchy Roll? I will go out on a limb and say that I anticipate that season 2 will be rolling out shortly, first for paying members, and then on a free stream.

    Why that’s an objectively good thing … I just can’t put my finger on it. Something about money flowing to rights holders making them more likely to pay writers, animators and voice actors and actresses to make more anime.

    I’m thinking it has to do with getting a definition for “good” that makes everything fall into place, but even though it is a snow day, I’ve got other things to do today.

  21. Rinu says:

    Ah, but read the first more carefully … it does not say that its an objective thing that it was released for free, ad-supported, legitimate streaming yesterday … its says that its an objectively good thing that it was released for free, ad-supported, legitimate streaming yesterday.
    Objectively good thing, hm? You never know if someone from creators didn’t disapprove streaming (a right holder is usually just a company), for example. And it isn’t available in your region, again :p. So in my case, I am not so enthusiastic about it, don’t thinking about it as necessary a good thing. And if I am not mistaked, objectively should be valid in every situation.

    Lol, Erica, just read your Independence post which made me seriously wanted to react but then I read one of response (Declaration of Arbroat) and cooled down. Done was done. Sorry for OT.

  22. No one is more naked in viewpoint, likes, dislikes, fears, fantasies and orientation than someone who writes. Writing is the striptease of selling the self, except often the striptease turns into rapid clawing of clothes. Or as a teacher I respect a great deal said about writing and subjective expression, “There is nothing more frustrating than laying down on the street, hiking up your skirt and having no one pay attention at all.”

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