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On Partial Reviews and Keeping Up With the Joneses

November 8, 2004

(WARNING: This editorial is rated PG-13 for harsh language. Reader discretion is advised.)

We only review an anime once we watch it in its entirety:
As opposed to sites like THEManime that unfortunately review an anime after only watching a few episodes, we only review an anime once we have seen every episode. The reasons are simple enough, and I find it absurd that sites like THEManime consider partial viewings worthy of being reviewed.
- StealthEvolution.com (policy page)

Shit like this really sticks in my craw. When you are starting out and have less than 50 reviews on your site, perhaps only one or two of which are of series longer than a single season, it's really easy to criticize other sites with partial reviews and say that's not the way to go.

THEM Anime has almost eight hundred reviews of TV shows, OAVs, and movies, some written way back in 1996. Some of these reviews are of titles that have not concluded, such as Inuyasha, Naruto, Pokemon, and Hamtaro. To think we should refrain from reviewing such titles until their conclusion is absurd, if not laughable. After all, do you really have to watch every single episode of Dragon Ball Z to figure out that it's about grunting, posing, and power levels? I didn't think so. (If you answered "yes", then you should reboard the short bus you rode in on.) Don't even get me started on Legend of Galactic Heroes, which I imagine our friends at StealthEvolution might profile some time in the year 2048. (By the time they get to Sazae-san, we will probably be living our second or third lifetimes as anime reviewer clones operating from our renegade space station on Alpha Centauri.)

That being said, there have been some reviews based on titles that have concluded which continue to be partial. There are several reasons for this. In the case of Genocyber, the reviewer (myself) was so offended by the first three episodes that finishing off the last two seemed like an exercise in futility. I can only take so much of exploding children's viscera, you know. Another example is Rizelmine, a television series that I found singularly annoying within the first 23 minutes, and subsequent viewings and word-of-mouth from others within the club have not budged this initial impression so much as an inch.

Apparently, some people think we have a "responsibility" to see an entire series before reviewing it. In some cases in the past, that hasn't been possible -- the second half of Utena for example was very long in coming to the US, and the second season of Super GALS has been held up in licensing. But for stuff like Rizelmine and the upcoming Final Approach, it doesn't take long before you realize it's not worth your time or money. It's not like it's a Miyazaki movie, where the whole thing ends within two-three hours ... why should I be obligated to waste time on endless filler episodes (I'm talking to you, Chobits and Love Hina!) when we haven't even covered one-quarter of the anime extant today?

With the advent of downloads, it's easier to invest time in a series you may not like, but as we have a policy of not downloading licensed anime, we do not have this luxury with every title out there. I'm a college student living on an extremely tight budget -- and if you think that "my responsibility to my readers" means that I buy a box set of a series I despise in order to review it instead of paying my share of rent, you're a jackass.

The real problem is this: I don't get paid directly for writing anime reviews. Neither does anyone on this staff. All donations go to covering website costs. We do the best we can without any material benefit to ourselves whatsoever. We still haven't gotten screener copies, largely because I've been too busy with college work (and my day job in the past) to keep in constant contact with the relevant distributors. We are people who enjoy anime, and who happen to enjoy writing about anime, but anime is not the only thing in our lives.

We aren't the be-all end-all of anime reviews, and we know this. But we are trying to cover as many of the 4000+ anime in existence, from children's shows to magical girl fantasies to mecha dramas to hentai, both popular and obscure. We don't want to wait until everybody already knows about a series before reviewing it -- people do ask us for advice on the newest stuff, and I am frustrated when I have to say, "Wait until it finishes." For eight years we have been battling the fact that all anime review sites start behind the curve. Period.

We avoid partial reviews when we can, but sometimes, it really is more important to get the word out about a series before it has finished in its entirety. This does not compromise our integrity -- we give our honest opinions on what we have seen, and if the continuation changes our minds, then we will write to reflect that (see: Digimon and Berserk). But saying it is our "responsibility" overstates the case. This is our hobby, not our job. We don't tell you what to watch, we only give suggestions based on our own opinions. (Unless "suggestion" has somehow changed meaning in the English language and become a synonym for "command". What do you think I am, your parish priest?)

Sophisticated or not, anime are still cartoons, diversions, stuff you spend money on to kill time.

If the idea of partial reviews offends you so much, then please, go to StealthEvolution. They don't post anything less than full reviews there (except for the titles they haven't reviewed yet that inexplicably still have star ratings). While you're visiting, feel free to bug them about not having reviews for Inuyasha and Naruto. After all, shouldn't everyone have an opinion on those shows by now? ^_^

UPDATE

StealthEvolution.com no longer exists. We rest our case.

- Carlos Ross


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