Why I Don't Like to Talk About Shows That Aren't Over or Blog Episodically

Let’s say you’ve just met someone for the first time (episode 1). His name is Joe. You and Joe talk for about thirty minutes, get acquainted, find out perhaps that you graduated from the same college or whatever, and then you say ‘seeya’ and part ways. Now, after talking to Joe for just thirty minutes, how well do you think you know him? Well enough that you think you can judge him?

You don’t know shit about Joe. You don’t even know his last name. You haven’t met or even seen pictures of his family, you don’t know his life’s story, and you don’t know his personal thoughts. You just know his name is Joe and he graduated Brown University in 1995, and maybe that both of you are huge Hunter S. Thompson fans. But are you going to go telling all of your friends about Joe? Are you going to post about Joe and what kind of guy he is on the internet? I don’t think so.

If you liked Joe that first time, maybe you’ll hang out with him some more (halfway point). Perhaps it’s more of a casual friendship – someone you like to hang out with every now and then, perhaps in the presence of others. Or perhaps you’ve even found yourself really enjoying his company. Maybe you’re even feeling just a bit emotionally attached to Joe. But you still don’t know all about Joe. You still don’t know where he grew up, what his parents are like, or how much of a bitch his ex-girlfriend was. At this point, I won’t blame you if you tell some of your friends that Joe is a cool guy, or invite him to parties, but I still don’t think you’d be making any definitive statements about him.

Well, now you and Joe have been hanging out for about a year (completed series.) You guys know each-other pretty damn well now. You hang out at least once a week and you liven up the places you hang out. People know you are buddies, and they invite you places as a pair. You can tell someone all about what kind of guy Joe is, and Joe feels comfortable confiding in you and leaving you in the company of his family. Joe is a true friend, and when someone asks, you’re quick to tell them how much you know Joe.

Now it’s been a couple of years, and you know Joe like the back of your hand (rewatches.) You can finish his sentences. You can tell how he feels just by looking at him. You and Joe don’t even need to hang out all the time to always feel connected, and when you’re looking to do something, you always give Joe a ring to see if he wants to come. You feel like you’ve known Joe forever. You know his history, his secrets… fuck, you could write a book about Joe if you wanted to! People don’t even need to ask you how well you know Joe – you’re like a pair that’s only packaged together. If someone wants to know you, they’re also going to know Joe.

This is you and Joe.
This is you and Joe.

Now, this overlong analogy is standing sort of in the replacement of a post I’ve been half-working on for over a month called ‘exercising discretion on how much you should know before writing a review.’ The point of the post was to be that before you say anything definitive about a show, you should get to know it on the maximum level, and that discretion should be used as to how much that level is. It’s obvious you don’t want to write a definitive review on a show before completing it, but there are shows like Serial Experiments Lain that purposefully conceal information and reward rewatches that you really should take time to fully grasp before you claim to know the show enough to say something definitive about it.

This post isn’t so much about reviews, though, as simply talking about a show at all before it’s finished. People love to do episodic posts and talk about shows as they air, but to me, it feels like a largely uninteresting way to discuss anime. This is why when I talk about anime as it’s airing I mostly end up diving into the technical side of things (who works on it, how it looks, how it’s written, directing, pacing, etc.) and less on about the plot, characters, and themes. Because truly, how can we say we understand these things before we see them develop fully?

I direct everyone to Twelve Kingdoms, a show known for it’s complex plot and extremely well-developed characters. Twelve Kingdoms was not very popular at all when it first aired. And why is this? Because in the first episode, the main character, Youko, is a whiny little bitch. She’s a complacent coward the likes of Shinji, and no one wants to see that. I’ve seen many, many accounts of people who initially dropped the show because the main character had seemed so unlikable, or had heard such. Now, let’s say I’m an episodic blogger, and I watch the first episode of Twelve Kingdoms, hate the main character, bash the show, and drop it. The message I am telling everyone is ‘this is a show with a crappy main character, don’t watch it.’ And some people wont.

If these bloggers had watched as many as two more episodes, they probably would have realized that this was a show about massive character development, and if they’d gotten to episode six or seven their whole perception of the show from the first episode would have been flipped on it’s head. But now they’re stuck with this negative impression. Even when people start talking about how great the show is, the negative bloggers might put it off because of their negative impressions and only watch it and fall in love with it some six months later, or the people who read about how bad it was on his blog have to be lucky enough to get the new perspective of someone else later in the series.

For me personally, it doesn’t really feel right to talk about a show before I get to know it. When I talk about the early episodes of a series, I just feel awkward. While the technical aspects are absolutes and therefor easy enough to discuss, everything else is a perspective liable to change as the series progresses, and getting ideas and biases in my head early on is not going to help the rest of the series. This is also why I have a tendency to marathon most of what I watch.

I don’t think there’s something inherently wrong with talking about a show as it’s airing, I just think you should really get to know Joe before you talk about him to your friends, whether it may lead you to telling everyone he’s a great guy when he ends up being a dick, or if you make people miss out on a friendship with a really great guy.

[I expect comments about how gay I am for Joe]

Related Posts:

The Epic Journey is a post series that’s all about me trying to understand and love shows on the deepest possible level.

We Remember Love is usually all about exploring your favorite anime, but lately he talks about shows that are still going on. As a result, I can’t really read those posts.

Umi Monogatari is a perfect example of a show that I felt way too awkward trying to talk about after the first couple episodes because the tone was shifting so much.

25 thoughts on “Why I Don't Like to Talk About Shows That Aren't Over or Blog Episodically

  1. It’s true that, following your example, we can’t tell much about Joe after just meeting him. But we can tell something: Our very first impressions. Of course, if somebody would say something fixed about a show after just watching an episode or two in the post, he would be a dumbass, but going with ‘I think’ and ‘It seems’ and ‘We’ll see’ it’s OK, isn’t it?

  2. First off, if Gouda is Joe, then I immediately knew that I f*$king hated Joe and after 2 more meetings I found that I was right in dismissing him as a complete dumbass. Just the thought of Akane Maniax pisses me off. I enjoyed the ending, but only because I hated almost every other part of it, and other than maybe 1 minute combined of funny gags and chibi scenes, the show was terrible.

    Back to the topic at hand, you make some interesting points, but first impressions count and they count for a reason. For instance, almost all shows degrade in animation quality as the episode count increases, so if a show looks ugly in episode 1, it is probably going to look much uglier as time goes on. And it seems impractical to be unable to discuss how you feel about the show (and how your feelings change) only after watching the show several times. This isn’t how we usually talk about other people, and it isn’t how we usually talk about anime. I think the burden is on the reader/listener to take what you are saying with a grain of salt knowing that your opinion is not yet complete.

  3. Pfft. I can write about an airing show, not for the purpose of being right, but to create fun for people who watch it with me. Shows are fun to talk about, people do it in forums. But I don’t like forums, so I post on my blog — where I can manipulate images, create slideshows, go as long as I want, etc etc etc.

    If you can’t handle being wrong, then I dunno what to say to you.

        • I guess that totally depends on the person, because I fucking hate suspense. I just want to get things over with.

          I mean, I’ve used the words ‘my opinion’ and ‘for me’ a lot int his post because I know it’s different for other people, but I just can’t like weekly watching. It does so little for me – 20 minutes of a show does not satiate me, and half of the fun of watching a show for me is being able to viscerally dissect it afterward. That’s why my favrotie posts to write are ones like the Epic Journey or my reviews where I really get to say with assuredness exactly what I liked about every element of a series.

          Weekly watching does nothing for me. Fuck, a lot of the time, I forget most of the plot between weeks. I had to restart Kure-nai 3 times because I kept loosing track of what was going on, that having been the show I did the closest thing to weekly watching. I restarted Toradora twice as well. Maybe it’s different for people who only watch currently airing shows, but chances are, I’ve watched upwards of 13 episodes of other shows in the week between releases, and at some point I stopped thinking about the last episode of that show.

      • It’s fun to talk about because it’s FRESH. A whole bunch of people saw something last night. You articulate some of what they’re thinking, so you all talk about it – sometimes to agree, sometimes to disagree. I have a post titled “I fail at Bakemonogatari (Epiphanies after watching ep 04)” [ http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/bake0/ ].

        It was hella fun to write, and I got such a great time discussing it with commenters and people who made reaction posts. Also what Kabitzin said.

        SS!AB is the best paradigm for episodic coverage. It’s like an office water cooler. People gather around it every morning to talk about the shows they watched the night before. Fun and informal.

        You don’t have to write the most definitive and correct post every single time. That’s not the point.

        Personally, I don’t do summary + reactions. I write editorials for every episode. That’s just my thing. I didn’t want to do an inferior SS!AB, I’m happy enough it exists.

        So if you’re writing from a paradigm of ‘doin it rite|doin’ it wrng’ you’re going to end up having arguments in your comments section… from those who actually care enough not to outright dismiss your opinion and not just ignore you as just some other crap blogger. If you think you’re awesome (which you always say you are), then you can make it fun for everyone.

        • I will say, your Bakemonogatari 4 post is one of the best episodic posts I’ve seen, and suffice it to say I’ve never seen an episodic post that pleased me, with the exception of Anime Kritik’s K-On! posts which were all cerebral masturbation. Your post, while good, worried me strongly. It felt like what you were saying made sense, but I know NISIOISIN and I know Shinbo. Neither of them is ever straightforward about anything, and anything they do might have no meaning whatsoever or all the meaning in the world. And I like that you handled the post by saying ‘look, I’m not really sure about this, but here’s what it looks like’.

          But I would have enjoyed that post so much more after the series was over, and you knew. You knew that what you were saying was how it was, and better yet, you had further perspective on it. You would have been able to truly capture everything about that phenomenon in that show.

          But you’re right, you don’t have to be correct and definitive. you can just post things, and see if people have fun with it, and interact with it. I just don’t feel so much like it gets me anywhere. I don’t feel like I achieve anything from that, no greater understanding of the show, and no explanation of it to others. Maybe that’s not important, but I think it’s probably what I’ve mostly dedicated this blog to.

          And honestly, there are plenty of individual episodes or moments in anime that I feel the need to post about before I’ve finished a show, but those things are more like exceptions to the rule. I only have one in a hundred episodes that I feel the need to post about, and there’s no promise that those episodes come from a currently airing show.

          I want to understand what makes episodic blogging interesting, I really do. I have written a number of episodic posts about current shows, even in the past week. Unfortunately, I haven’t been talking about anything popular enough to generate discussion, and my posts have all felt really bland and uninteresting to even myself. And I’ve tried to read other peoples’ episodic posts, but more often than not they manage to fill me with rage, seeing people go absolutely nowhere with their inconsequential thoughts on a show.

          But you’ve challenged me now. So I’m going to do it again anyway.

          • Go do it. Make it fun and interesting! Mind you, I don’t always succeed.

            While wanting to leave a lasting, or permanent mark on what a show is about may be interesting… it’s just not worth it. That kind of thing is done in the academe, for literature — and that kind of shit doesn’t even last (despite reader panels, peer reviews, editors, etc.). People make interesting readings about interesting books. To me, that is enough. Anything further is superfluous and/or arrogant.

            My take is, if you approach something with too much seriousness and grandiose ambition, it’s likelier to disappoint you. It may even rob you of the fun you’re supposed to be having watching it, and even worse while writing about it.

            That said, all this episodic stuff I’m doing is all TRAINING FROM HELL for my Macross Frontier episodic coverage. That shit I’m doing is ambitious. And I spent hours making a slideshow for episode 07.

            • I don’t disagree that overly ambitious posts can rob you of fun, but my biggest and baddest posts are always the funnest for me. After all, I aim for the top~ and as long as you’re convinced that you are correct, it won’t matter if you can’t prove it to others, really. I just do what I can to convince myself.

  4. In response to both Gagron and Kabitzin, yeah, a first impression is one thing, and Kab, you make a good point on the grain of salt thing. The point you make about animation is what I would consider ‘technical’ and as I said, technicalities aren’t a problem to talk about because they are absolutes. If I say ‘Shana has shitty animation’ after the first episode, it’s not a matter of how much I’ve seen, the show just has shitty animation. I’m referring more to stuff like theorizing and character statements, hence my example.

    I think another good example is Toradora. People came into Toradora with a lot of assumptions, and as the show progressed, people all developed their own theories as to what would happen or why something was how it was, and then a ot of people bitched when their expectations were betrayed later on. However, I think they should have been finishing the show before thinking they knew what it was about.

    Also, Kab, LOL at you not liking Gouda, because I only watched a little bit of Akane Maniax and I loved him, but this was a case of getting to know a different person. you see, I liked Joe because he looks exactly like Domon Kasshu from G Gundam, and is played by the same voice actor (Tomokazu Seki) and even has a mech in the OVA. This was a case of the show being a massive inside joke that only some people would understand, and I’m actually going to do a post about such inside jokes later.

  5. What about a show like Eden of the East? When you finish you can look back and go ‘hey, that was pretty good’ . But the best part was halfway through when you didn’t have a clue what was going to happen. You have fun trying to second guess the characters and try to spot any foreshadowing that Eden so loved to throw about.

    BTW 12 Kingdoms is hopelessly boring. Hurrah for biased views!

    • I didn’t watch Eden of the East, because I violently despised it, but I don’t tend to like having the answers withheld from me.

      And yes, 12K is hopelessly boring. That’s why I never finished it either.

  6. The problem’s a lot worse than the one episode review. You should see all the judging that goes on in season preview posts. It’s like writing about Joe before ever meeting him. By the way, you’re gay for Joe.

  7. Well I agree with you on the point that it can be unfair to a show to label it complete and utter shite after say one episode. Unless I really hate a show I’ll try and watch at least 3, if I still hate it by the third ep then I won’t bother with the rest of it.

    I haven’t gone for episodic these season, I just did a first impression for the two shows I actually bothered to check out. To date I’ve only completed one show by episodic blogging at that was Macross Frontier. Oh and I’ll be finished with my episodic piss take of Hakushaku to Yosei, but that’s on another blog.

    The main reason I think I stopped is because I found it writing episodic posts boring as all hell. I just couldn’t maintain enthusiasm for blogging about every episode. I think there is something to be said for watching something the whole way through and then discussing the highs and lows of the show.

    Unless you have so much enthusiasm for a show that you find you have a lot to say about it every week.

    I also agree with gl, that it can be fun to discuss a show as it aired. I remember having a ball discussing Ghost Hunt as Impz was posting about it on THAT.
    Since it was part mystery it was fun with us all figuring out the clues together and then getting to see if we were right at the conclusion of the mini arcs.

  8. Why blog episodic?

    Because by the time you’ve finished the series and started to summarize it, every damn thing that can be said about it has been said a trillion times over by everybody else.

    If your goal is to write both “evergreen” and relevant articles about a media, you’re in for an uphill battle. Often, the two are at odds.

    • I’m aware of this, as well as of the fact that my lack of relevance is exactly why my blog is unpopular.

  9. I’m not a blogger, so I can’t really give much of a solid opinion on what makes blogging it appealing, but I can explain it from my, personal, view as a Reader.

    I’m somewhat mixed in this whole thing. I like some Episodic reviews, and dislike others. It’s all in how you do it, which is pretty obvious.
    I hate Write Ups that explain the episode. I don’t need to read 8 paragraphs explaining what I just watched.

    I’m only interested in the “Thoughts/Personal Take/Opinions” on the episodes. The things most Bloggers seem to stick beneath the Wall of Text that could be passed off for the entire bloody Episode Script.
    I’m interested in peoples opinions, how they view things, what it translates into for them. That’s what I prefer. I find it more worthwhile to read, since only one blog will have it.
    All the other blogs that post the ‘script’ are posting the same ‘script’ for the most part. Not word for word, but they’re typically not creative in how the describe it, so reading the ‘Episode Summary’ from one blog, and the one from another, is quite a bit like re-reading the same Chapter of a book twice, maybe by a different Editor, but they still don’t do anything fancy or that different compared to the other.
    That, I find, is boring to read. And it actually lowers my opinion of a Review/Blog/Writer if they violate it enough.

    Your personal opinions are you own. You think Character A beat the shit out of Character B because Character C was using some Magic Power of Mind Control? Awesome, explain it. I won’t find this opinion on any other blog.
    Well, I might, but it will not be expressed the same.
    As a reader, I like being entertained. Reading differing opinions, break downs, predictions is what I like.
    I’d love to see 8 Paragraphs of stuff like that, as opposed to ‘Episode Scripts.’

    That’s for that..
    As for what it does for the Series, as opposed to reviewing it in Chunks, or only after you’ve completed it, my opinion is pretty indifferent, I think.
    Once again it’s all in how it’s done. I’ll respect someone for talking about a show, even if they drop it after an episode or two. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it, I wouldn’t expect you to continue watching and blogging it for the sake of giving it a ‘fair shake.’ That’s just not how things work, I think.

    Series Reviews will often times miss something that an Episodic Review would have pointed out, something of interest. A good music track, a particular joke, whatever. That’s the main problem I have with Series Reviews. You talk about so much at once, you’re bound to miss something that would have been fun to Discuss as, say, the series was going on, and this is what I imagine Bloggers blog episodically for, for the discussion.
    It’s possible, but it’s hard to discuss a full series with someone. Going “Hey, remember back in episode 16 of Legend of The Galactic Heroes when..”(terrible example as it sure isn’t current.) won’t generate the same discussion after the series has ended as it would if the episode had just aired. People know what comes of a situation, which makes speculation pretty meaningless, and a lot less entertaining to discuss and formulate.

    Sorry for the length of that, but, it was too interesting. D:
    Your fault, as far as I’m concerned. :P

  10. Apologies for skimming the comments, there’s a lot of em. But by reading the post it sounds like you’re not condemning writing about incomplete series — you’re condemning judgments based on incomplete knowledge. There is a difference, and here’s why (if you don’t agree with the first two, I bet you at least can get behind the 3rd):

    1. Opinions are not value judgments. Personally I’ll never make a value judgment until I have the complete picture. In fact, I like to let things soak in and will wait even longer than you. But I will state opinions. That’s fun, and valid, and if you’re too embarrassed that you might speculate on something that turns out to be wrong about an anime… I dunno. It’s just not a high-risk situation if you ask me. It’s fun to make a go of it sometimes.
    2. You easily can write posts as you go without judging at all. This is still valid, it can still be fun to read, it makes you seem less like an idiot, and if you say it’s not proven in action then you’re not reading ghostlightining. He does fairly well at it with a lot of subjects.
    3. I don’t want to be cruel to any bloggers, but: Most of the blogs that make these kinds of hasty value judgments based on 1-2 eps are likely not really worth reading. That is just a symptom, not the whole problem. As a bonus, most of them find very little satisfaction in that type of blogging and disappear pretty soon anyways.

    The impression I get from you is that you make a lot of relatively quick judgments after the fact but feel you’re justified because you’ve seen the whole Joe. Considering how fast your MAL multiplies, you physically have to judge fast. Are you really writing posts two years into your friendship with Joe? No. Is that ok? Yeah.

    That brings me to my second point, this: As much as we might like to, or wish we could, or try to, our minds can’t stave off judgment for 12-100 episodes just because we have an incomplete picture of a series. Our opinions are formed along the way. That’s not a weakness or a fault — that’s awesome. Just like the viewing itself, it’s a journey.

    Now, I’ll give you this: blogging can unduly influence how you view a show, but that goes for any style of blogging: whether you’re going to go write a post immediately like Kabitzin and have people talk around your water cooler, or whether you’re going to write a “review” after the fact, you’re thinking about that while you watch. Can’t be helped.

    • I’ve gotta say, you win this. I agree completely, and see where I’ve been wrong about some things. This is definitely something I will take to heart as I attempt to break into the world of episodic blogging.

  11. I like episodic blogging, ’cause I can pick out a particular scene in an episode, and run with it, be as wild and crazy as I can be. i don’t get any fulfillment out of sizing up a series and giving my opinion about it, especially since there’s a shit load of blogs out there doing the same thing. Yes it’s true, some readers will lose interest, but if your style of writing is entertaining enough, most of them will come back. Episodic blogging may not get a lot of comments either (especially if it’s a young blog), but that should NEVER be the main focus of writing. I would rather someone read my blog, leave, and come back again, than to leave a dumb comment as a way to spam me. In the end it’s about visitors to page views. That’s the only way you know if your content is sticky enough to hold an audience.

    • I actually forgot about your blog, i really love teh way you do episodics. Maybe I’ll steal some of your style :D

  12. ghostlightning has also said it in his GRSI comment, that episodic blogging is fun because of the social aspect behind it, watching it with a group of people, speculating what would happen next, seeing how the anime would unfold week by week :)

    was about to say that SDS’s recent article on “reviewing unfamiliar genres” would be relevant to the topic of ‘exercising discretion on how much you should know before writing a review.’, but you’ve already read that, so heh

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