I left two similar comments tonight on blogs, so I’m putting them together here.
I’ve gotten several compliments for my episode summaries for Card Captor Sakura, by no means a new series. On the flipside, I’ve also been the target of several puzzled looks and questions on why I am spending my time with older series, which everyone can presumably watch for themselves. I remain peacefully in my zen of simultaneously Doing It Right and Doing It Wrong at the same time.
I’ll interject here to say that anyone can watch the latest episode of anime out of Japan, as well. At worst, they won’t understand it, and are in need of an episode summary to explain the events of the episode. They might also enjoy commentary and thoughts. Damien combines episode summaries with his own “CHECK!Point” moments. The episode summaries hold a purpose to him, allowing him to check up on the episodes of an episode quickly if need be. The CHECK!Points and commentary on silly things in the episodes make his posts worth reading to others. The episode summaries don’t exist to help out people watching the Japanese episodes raw. It’s not their purpose, as far as I understand it from what I’ve read from Damien.
Here is the comment I left:
On the flipside, I’ve also been the target of several puzzled looks and questions on why I am spending my time with older series, which everyone can presumably watch for themselves.
For me, that’s exactly the whole point. After I finished watching Petite Princess Yucie, I looked to see if anyone else had watched and wrote about it. This was before I found any anime blogs, then I came across one sort-like-a-blog with posts about the Petite Princess Yucie episodes. I went through them in backwards-order (from the final episode to the first), and enjoyed reading this person’s thoughts of the show as they watched through it. From me reading through it, there were moments of, “Oh, you didn’t understand that part? I thought it was plain to see,” and “Wow, I thought the same thing about that!” and “I…didn’t even consider that. That sure explains things…”
I understand that if you’re just writing episode summaries and nothing else, then it’s only worth it if to other people you’re watching something new that other people cannot watch for some reason (or, perhaps, something raw that other people will watch without understanding). If you write more than just an episode summary, if you write your thoughts on what is happening or will happen, or if you make observations which others might miss, if you put something extra into it, then it’s worth reading for anyone currently watching or having watched the series, no matter how old it is. And if it’s something a person watched long ago, seeing the posts and reading their contents might be enough of a push for them to re-watch a series they loved.
“Moe Check!” was one of the first anime blogs in a time when I almost couldn’t find a single anime blog in a Google search, in 2007. How could I extensively search Google in early 2007 and not find a single anime blog? Because I was doing searches for blogging about Petite Princess Yucie, about Seven of Seven, about series I had seen. I don’t watch the latest out of Japan, so I would never have found a single anime blog which covers only the latest raws/fansubs. “Moe Check!”, on the other hand, was a relatively easy find for someone like me.
Following this, I came across a post by Bateszi at Bateszi Anime Blog, with the post “Thoughts on blogging; mass-market episodic anime blogging“. It goes:
… I’m having fun watching the likes of Kaiji and Ghost Hound, but to write anymore than that would be a waste of time, and generally, I think it’s pointless talking about anime that’s already being adequately covered elsewhere.
I’d argue that it depends on ones definition of “covered”. One can write about something differently from the masses. Kero in “Leave it to Kero” liked to talk about the outfits Sakura wore, for example. Still, generally, he’s right.
This is something that I’ve never really grasped about episodic anime blogs too, because so many of them copy the same formula of mini screen-caps, boring plot synopsis and a couple paragraphs of tacked-on opinion. Inevitably, most of them are saying the same things, all written within hours of each other and titled “Clannad 14″ or whatever.
This is where I try to be different in that I pile on the thoughts and opinions and drop the episode summary. Whether my thoughts are worth reading is another story, but they’re what I like to read (as I put in my comment, reproduced below).
Much like web forums, episodic blogs are more about in-depth commentary and discussion; simultaneously, they attract hardcore fans, but alienate those like me, people looking for broader and opinionated reviews that draw on more than a measly 20 minutes worth of stilted animation.
This is why I want to write more previews and some reviews, but I don’t write them very often.
Episode reviews are great from a fans perspective, but they sure make the anime blogging community insular and inaccessible to outsiders. May be they are better off being discarded as things of the past and placed where they belong, on series-specific forums, instead?
I have different types of posts planned, but they fall into the “fan” category I believe. For example, I have my upcoming pages on voices, but that’s intended as a way for me to keep track of voice actors in series I’ve seen, and helps neither the newcoming or the fan, really…
He writes more, so be sure to read the whole piece.
Back before I started my own “anime blog”, I had just finished watching Petite Princess Yucie, and wanted to see what other people thought about it. I saw some reviews of the early episodes, but not much else. Then I came across a sort-of-blog where someone posted their thoughts on the series episode-by-episode. Since the most recent post appeared first, I read every one of the pieces from episode 26 to episode 1. There were no episode summaries, I don’t think, just raw thoughts and opinions. I enjoyed reading this very much.
I actually did have something I was getting ready to put online, which would be series reviews. But after enjoying the episode-by-episode thoughts, I decided to try that out for myself. I’d be writing something like what I enjoy reading, and it will keep me writing, and hopefully I’d improve. I didn’t know about other anime blogs as they cover the latest Japanese series, and generally don’t touch the older and licensed ones, which are what I watch.
At one point, I came across something about how bad an upcoming series called “Lucky Star” would be, and that led to a whole lot of anime blogs about how bad the series would be, then a whole lot more about how perfect it would be. Suddenly I was able to find a bazillion anime blogs by doing Google searches on the names of these “recent” anime series from Japan.
What I noticed about almost every one I found was the format listed here: screenshots, episode summary, and a short paragraph or two of thoughts.
I understand the reasons for putting in the episode summary, but for me, I wanted to read thoughts on series I had seen, not summaries and thoughts on series I hadn’t seen. And if I had seen, or was watching, the series, I wouldn’t need episode summaries.
For my own postings, I don’t bother with episode summaries. Rather, they stand as an archive of what I thought of each episode as I watched through a series. Add in episode titles and screenshots, and I can easily locate an episode if I need to reference it for some reason. This is one reason I “don’t skip episodes” in my posts.
I’m hoping to write series previews/reviews more as I complete series, but I often read previews/reviews for other series (not necessarily anime), and end up not being able to write something anywhere near as good. It’s a wave of inspiration followed by a tsunami of deflation…
My questions on the post of topic would be: 1) If someone were to try moving away from the episode summary format, but isn’t Jeff Lawson, what would you propose? If someone can’t go all out with editorials, would the suggestion be to cut back on blogging? I’m trying not to put that to an extreme, but if I did it would be asking 99.9% of bloggers to stop blogging until they can come up with something worthwhile =P
My own suggestion to bloggers trying to branch out would be this: Install something so you can see what people are searching for when they find your blog via Google, Yahoo!, MSN Live, etc. Look at what they searched for and what page they landed upon. Ask yourself, “Did they find what they’re looking for?” If not, ask yourself, “Are they looking for something anime related, something one can find on a blog?” If so, ask yourself, “Why am I not writing a post to fullfill what people are looking for?” I get so many people landing on my hanbok piece that I really need to update it and clean it up, putting even more research and information into it. Everyone reaching that page via a search engine is looking for hanbok information, not anime information, but that doesn’t mean I can’t provide both.
I write what I like to read from others. What more is there to say?