On Anime Review, Payola, and Blogging

payola.jpg

I wrote a positive review of 009-1. Honestly, I liked it. I guess the popular vote is that the anime sucks. But while watching it, I actually did enjoy the anime.

Why am I mentioning this? The post about 009-1 was referenced in the context of blog payola, people getting paid to blog about stuff. My review was apparently so positive that people thought I must be getting paid to write it!

The truth is that I don’t ever get paid directly to blog about anime. No companies have given me a cent. They do give me review copies, and I fully disclose that every time at the end of every review I do. There was that one time that a direct download site paid me to write a bad review for them. That was kind of fun.

I felt like I should set the record straight, so I wrote this reply to the post: (I spent a lot of time on it so I’m just going to quote it)

Hmmm, I think the reason it seems like I only ever give good reviews is that I don’t grade on a grade system. I just sorta say what I think about the titles. When it comes to writing the conclusion, I include the pros and cons. But I don’t say “78/100″ or B+/2.

I was looking back and I guess I do tend to be forgiving. I did give “negative” reviews to the Tsubasa Chronicles DVD, and the Bobobo ones, too. And Peach Girl, too. I totally railed on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

I honestly did enjoy 009-1. Maybe it’s because I had such low expectations? Looking at the post, it is pretty positive, but really, that’s how I feel about the series. If I like bad series, I like bad series.

Companies send me free stuff, and that’s cool. I guess you’re right that I might have some kind of subconscious thing telling me to give good reviews because of that. But they don’t pay me. And sometimes they’re really difficult to talk to as well. Believe me, if they have a choice of sending to ANN or me, they’ll choose ANN.

I did take money to do a review on an anime download service, but I fully disclosed it and I gave them about a negative review as I could.

In the end, I’m just trying to do a lot of reviews, and I really don’t make a lot of money from my site (with the ads). Companies give me free stuff and I review it. Call that a conflict of interest if you want, but there’s no way I could review this much stuff if I had to pay for it out of pocket.

I really do hope you continue to read Basugasubakuhatsu. I hope I haven’t alienated anyone by doing domestic reviews…

I got back a pretty harsh reply, and it really made me think. I wrote my reviews honestly, but I guess subconsciously I was holding back since I was receiving these things for free. I know that sounds pretty bad, but it felt to me like biting the hand that feeds you anime.

But Steven was totally right. A good reviewer doesn’t hold punches. I guess with all the free merch I was getting, I let it go to my head. This isn’t to say that I would never say anything bad about an anime I reviewed. I tried presenting the pros and cons, but in doing so, I always sounded more positive than I should have. And that’s bad if you’re a reviewer.

I never meant to do this consciously, but I needed something like that criticism to really pound it into my head.

So I’m putting this on my blog, and I’m hoping that anyone else that feels the same way as Steven is reading this. I’ve always tried to be honest with my readers, and I’m putting all of this out here in the open so we can discuss it.

I’ll try to be more honest with my reviews. If a title really sucks, I’ll say it. If that means that Funimation stops sending me DVDs, well so be it. I don’t think they would either, since that’d be pretty lame.

Do keep in mind though, that I have a taste that’s different from your average anime watcher. I enjoy bad anime. Sometimes more than good anime. I can find an anime bad, but I can also enjoy anime for its badness.

This doesn’t mean I won’t say if an anime is bad, but if I say something that’s otherwise panned is good (like 009-1), it’ll be my honest opinion. I’m still not taking back my positive opinion of that one, regardless of what other reviewers think.

PS I’m out of town for a week starting tomorrow, so if I don’t reply, and my upcoming posts totally ignore this, that’s the reason.

21 thoughts on “On Anime Review, Payola, and Blogging”

  1. You’re letting some elitist punk tell you how to write your blogs? Screw him. If you’re honest, what more do you need to do? Don’t try to please one guy just because he trash-talked about you. My biggest issue with him is how he singled you out from the ton of blogs out there who also do reviews, some of which I definitely question taste and quality and accessibility to anime. Maybe it’s because you get the freebies, or he feels better that his ‘integrity’ is bigger than yours. But once you try to break away from how you truly feel, more people will pick up on that, which defeats the purpose of the review to begin with. If you don’t like something, say it. At the same time, if you like something, say it. Just be honest. The worse thing you can do is to break your integrity because of some guy’s opinion. Just my 2 cents.

  2. It was unfair of Steve to drop reading this blog on grounds of ‘integrity issues’. Who is he to second-guess your intent? It’d be more convincing if he stopped because of poor tastes in anime or lack of depth of insights in reviews.

  3. I should keep some of this in mind when I review DVDs in the future. Then again, I pay for the ones I review – that is, if I get around to writing them up. It’d be nice to get review copies but that would just make me put some kind of pressure on myself to get that one done.

    Anyway, don’t let people get on you about your review style. Most movie critics have certain likes and dislikes that they developed before they began writing reviews and the same goes for anime reviewers including bloggers.

    I also have a question: Do you just keep the DVDs you get for review or do you do something else with them?

  4. Well, what he said certainly made me think about what my blog is really about. And I really have felt some subconscious urge to maybe skew the reviews in favor.

    I have always been honest, though. What I’m saying is that I’ll try to keep it in mind, since I figure it’s something that other people might think about my site as well. And better for me to address it rather than ignore it.

    The point is, I want people to know that I’m not some kind of corporate puppet.

    @calaggie: I keep the DVDs. I usually let my family borrow the ones I think they might like.

  5. Hung, Chizumatic and the dick who insulted you suck monkey balls.

    They’ve got as much ‘street cred’ as a pizza in a backalley.

    And this is coming from me, whom, by blogging drama standards, should be calling you a *** and a *********.

    Dude, if you like it, you like it. You hate it, you hate it. No one should dictate your tastes, not even with huge gobs of cash or peer pressure.

    And as for Steve, well, he can’t do much :3

    (No Hung I am not angry at you or with you)

  6. I heard about paid reviews long time ago but the one that I know of doesn’t require the blogger to post positive reviews of a product or of a site. You can write freely about how you feel about it and you will still get paid. I don’t use it though. Plus you are also required to disclose that what you are writing about. I heard there’s a US law that states you should disclose it if your review is a paid review.

  7. 009-1 is actually pretty decent, if you watch it like you’re watching Charlie’s Angels.

    Anyway I don’t get free stuff for my own reviews i e figures, but I do get some perks like discounts. I don’t know about your side, but the guys who I deal with always emphasise honesty, because to them, if the reviewer is perceived by the readers as having a slant because of his freebies, his review is basically useless when it comes to publicity.

    But then again, if you think 009-1 is ok, then it is ok.

  8. I don’t see what the problem is, especially if you are not getting money to specifically post a good review. You disclose your review copies, and why would you be more grateful for a review copy instead of a fansub? They both cost you nothing, so how should that skew your vote?

    Besides, someone telling you what your opinion is seems rather ridiculous. It’s one thing to agree to disagree, but if you like something different (and low expectations DO make a difference), you shouldn’t be afraid to say so.

  9. Hmm, after reading through the comments on his site, it seems he apologizes for inferring that you were accepting payola, and this is not his intention. He’s simply criticizing you for being too nice in all your reviews, which makes the analysis less useful, which is a valid point.

  10. Newish reader here who decided to keep coming back because your good in-depth and most of all varied reviews.

    I have to agree with FubaredByAnime , that guy had absolutely no place to slant you and his post came across as incredibly condescending. I’m all for opinion but indirect slander tends to irk the crap out of me.

    Fact is everyone should be able to present their own two cents , disregard or use them when making a decision about a purchase , etc. But no has the place to decrease the worth of someone else’s opinion especially not in such an underhanded way and more so since you don’t owe him a damned thing.

    I’ve always been wary of the guy who stirs up “answers” to the questions nobody asked or defending him or herself when there were no accusations made.

    And I’m sorry but no , purchasing all your own review material does not lend to your credibility there is such a thing as blind corporate loyalty. (Ask any Wii owner that isn’t me.)

    So don’t let some jerk make you “question” your method especially one that didn’t have the discuss with you personally. Clearly you have people who swing by who care enough about what you think and thats all that freaking matters.

    ~neob

  11. I don’t know if Steven was right regarding your reviews being too nice, because I pretty much stopped reading your site at some point. You started near the top of my feedlist but were steadily falling down the order since April and are between Bluemist and The Anime Almanac now. The reason is, “new” entries posted after April were not interesting, with the exception of the Director Epidemic entry. Now that Steven drew my attention to it, I realized that your entire mode of operation changed about that time.

    One specific side note to add is how reviewing on a DVD boundary is meaningless in context of anime series. Steven likes how Mr. Beveridge does it, but I am getting an impression that he only likes to look at the set of letter grades.

  12. But, Hung, aren’t you just posting this to generate attention and try to recover your shattered credibility?! OH NOES! It’s an infinite spiral of internet flame marketing contempt! What will be next for the beleagured basugasubakuhatsuer?! CASTING COUCH SCANDAL?!

  13. There are a lot of shows which I consider utter crap but many people enjoy them quite a lot for many different reasons. So I’m really not surprised that you’d like a show which is considered crap by others. Some people are also more vulnerable to group dynamics, so if many guys they know say it sucks, they absorb this opinion and make it their own.

    Expectations can really make a big difference, too. People can easily ruin a show for others by praising it too much whereas a slating review can adjust your expectations so that you’ll actually be able to enjoy it. Also watching DVDs isn’t the same as watching a show weekly and discussing it each time with others. A lot of shows would be rather boring without the latter. For example, I’d never recommend Suzuka albeit I rather enjoyed it but that’s just due to making fun of it on a weekly basis over at Seaslugs! So it wouldn’t be the same watching it alone or marathoning it. When it comes to more serious shows, it’s also a difference if you sleep about it. It’s certainly not the same if you watch a show to write a review about it either. In other words, the modus of viewing matters.

    I usually find it pretty difficult to express what exactly I like about a show anyway. I find it much easier to point out what I dislike, so if I wrote reviews they’d probably be slatings ending with “Nonetheless, it’s one of my favourite shows.”

    Last but not least, it’s anything but fair to rant about you without letting you know. He certainly had a point questioning your objectivity and from the few reviews I read, they really seemed a bit too positive but they didn’t feel dishonest.

    However, writing “I don’t trust him, I don’t believe him anymore” is really dramatizing. If people have such a big problem with your reviews that they have to diss you in public, they can as well tell you so themselves. Some of the comments were meaner than the blog article itself though.

  14. Hung, Chizumatic is a bunch of bull and the guy deserves none of your attention.

    Treat him as if you were swatting a fly. Because there’s better things out there than wasting your time on an idiot.

  15. Regarding Chris’s “it’s anything but fair to rant about you without letting you know”, I beg to differ. Linking is the act of letting a blogger know. Steven has done his part. What do you expect of him, an e-mail to Hung: “Urgently make sure you’re aware that I disagreed with your ideas of reviewing, kthx bye”? It’s absurd to ask for notifications.

  16. Sorry, I came late to the party.

    I started writing an anime blog not very long ago. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do reviews. So far I’ve just been giving my opinion. Isn’t that what a review is? An opinion about something?

    If you like a crappy show, then you like a crappy show. Nothing you can do about that. There have been tons of crappy anime I’ve loved. There have been some great anime that I just can’t stand. Given the choice of which one to review, I’d choose to review the ones I love.

    I think the only time I’d write a truly negative review would be when I was extremely disappointed. Either because the anime was completely different from a manga I love, or because it was passed off as something it wasn’t.

    I don’t have to deal with review copies yet. If I do this long enough that I start getting freebies I’m pretty sure how I’d handle it. The same way I do now. Pick something I like and give my opinion on it, or pick something that’s getting a lot of attention and give my opinion on it.

    Right now I can’t afford to waste money on anime I know I wouldn’t like.

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