Diplomacy in Reviews

The other day I was thinking about what my biggest pet peeves are when reading a review, and while there are a few, instead of listing them I figured I’d write about what I consider to be the biggest one.

And that pet peeve is when someone writes in a way that completely lacks diplomacy.

First off, I absolutely acknowledge that someone’s blog is their own blog. They can write whatever they want, however they want. That is their right. But I, as a reader, also have the right to dislike what I read. Which is why I don’t see any issue with writing about what I don’t like to read in someone’s review.

As I mentioned, there are several things that will turn me off from a review. But after thinking through the list I had come up with in my head, I realized that none were as irritating to read as a review that is completely undiplomatic.

What do I mean by that?

My personal interpretation is that it’s when someone writes in a way that carries a “I’m right, and you’re wrong” tone. Basically when it feels like someone is stating facts when they are in fact, not facts, and just opinions.

But it’s not necessarily just that tone that gets me. What really gets me is when you couple that tone with disingenuous, nonsensical, or irrelevant arguments. Fact is, some things are facts. But in a review, most things aren’t. What generally irritates me the most is when someone writes a bad argument with a very standoffish tone.

I feel like this sort of thing is more common in negative reviews, but it’s definitely possible in overly positive reviews that refuse to acknowledge any issues and possibly throw out jabs towards those who didn’t like the anime.

I’ll try to construct an example of this.

Let’s say you’re reading a review of Overlord. The writer disliked it, and the writer’s arguments are something like:

“The worst part of Overlord is that there are no redeeming qualities. It’s just such a cringeworthy power fantasy that finishing the anime was a challenge. Honestly, I don’t even see what Overlord was trying to accomplish – people can just watch One Punch Man if they want an example of a proper overpowered protagonist. Why even watch Overlord? Also, video games aren’t fantasy, they need to stop tagging anime like this as fantasy. It’s not. If you want actual fantasy, do yourself a favour and watch Spice and Wolf instead of this video game trash.”
– Umoy

Admittedly, it was difficult for me to think that up. But it does have that sort of standoffish tone I was trying to explain, coupled with some awful arguments for why “Overlord is a bad anime”.

Ultimately though, it’s the lack of diplomacy, not the arguments, that gets me. Because even that paragraph could be saved with a little diplomacy in the writing. Honestly, you can say ANYTHING, and if it’s diplomatic enough, I’ll be right there nodding my head and having no issue with it. It’s often not WHAT is said, but just HOW it’s said that’s the issue.

“For me personally, Overlord just had no real redeeming qualities. While I know many others like power fantasy anime, there are only a few anime in that field that I’ve actually enjoyed, like One Punch Man (which you should check out if you like overpowered protagonists). Unfortunately, Overlord didn’t do it for me there and so I had trouble finishing it. Also, while Overlord has fantastical elements, I tend to prefer a more classical fantasy anime that doesn’t incorporate video game mechanics. Like Spice and Wolf.”
– Yomu

A little diplomacy goes a long way, I think. It’s all about adding that emphasis on individual opinion, as well as acknowledging that others may think differently.

And you really can say anything, it’s all about how it’s said.

“Erased was a bad anime not worth finishing. Why? There were no mechs. Despite the poster clearly making it look like a mecha anime. Instead of having mechs, they decided to make this boring anime that’s been done a million times before, seriously. They could have easily put some mechs in the anime. I had to suffer through several episodes of the anime just to realize that it was a total waste of time.”
– Umoy

“I couldn’t finish Erased. This may sound stupid, but the reason I didn’t enjoy it was that I thought it was going to be a mecha anime and it wasn’t. Before starting it, I saw the poster for it and for some reason I thought it looked like two characters inside the cockpit of a mech. So, I figured that it was going to a mecha anime following those two characters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish it because I was really expecting a mecha anime, and not a drama or whatever Erased actually is.”
– Yomu

Just wanted to throw another example out there because it really is the tone that’s the issue.

You can write that “Divine Gate is a good anime because the characters have interesting names” or that “I didn’t like Sword Art Online because it didn’t take place in France”, and if it’s diplomatic enough, I’ll just nod my head and think something like “I can see where they’re coming from” or “I don’t quite understand, but alright” without issue.

That’s really about all I wanted to say about this topic.

For me, it really just comes down to how the writer goes about framing their opinions. Because in the end, they are just opinions. And while it’s expected that someone’s blog post is going to contain their personal opinion, I still don’t appreciate reading something that is written in such an undiplomatic way when I know that the writer could have easily framed their opinions differently.

Of course, I also appreciate a good argument in a review, especially if the writer wants to convince me of something.

But the point I wanted to get across here is that the argument itself isn’t even the issue.
It’s all about that diplomacy – the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and tactful way.

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.

13 thoughts on “Diplomacy in Reviews

  1. Opinions disguised as facts seems to the a major blight at the moment. One thing I hate about these sort of reviews is that it puts me off commenting as it seems like the blogger has more than made up their mind and anything I say to refute their one-sided argument would be dismissed as just my opinion…

    I’ve read a number of reviews where, in my opinion, the blogger has completely missed the point of a series and it makes their arguments appear even more ridiculous as they state them as facts.

    I think people mistake diplomacy as trying to please everyone when, as you point out, it’s about making whatever view you have without telling anyone that thinks differently they’re wrong. It’s yet another barrier to getting engagement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah I should have mentioned that, it’s a huge turn off for engagement. Basically the difference between shouting at people with a megaphone, and inviting them to share their own thoughts.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Tone is incredibly important. As you pointed out, it can change the words in a sentence to mean anything really. It affects the entire feel of your blog and how people see you as a result. I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt a bit and say for negative reviews, it’s generally hard not to trash a series you really didn’t like, but that’s something you need to learn. As for positive reviews, they need to remember that other people will see their stuff. I feel like once you understand that, you would reel back appropriately and start to take a friendlier tone. I feel like the problem mostly stems from inexperience, but I’m sure there are exceptions.

    As for me, I originally had a more analytical tone, but I eventually remembered the reason I liked my reviews before and dialed back. I like to write, not as if I’m telling you something is or isn’t something, but like we’re both just friends having a conversation. So my writing is fairly casual now, and I hope that makes it understood that what I write is just my opinion, and everyone is more than welcomed to tell me if they disagree.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah. You can even trash an anime, and if it’s done with the right words and tone, it will still only come off as “but that’s just my opinion” as opposed to coming off as “this is factually trash”.

      And yeah, I feel like I used to write with more authority than I do now. Even with analytical posts, I tend to write like “this seems like…” and “I think that this means…” instead of just outright making claims that could be wrong. Because even if I’ve studied the anime scene by scene, I could still be wrong in the end, and a lot of analysis is up for interpretation anyways.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely the biggest sticking point for me, especially because a lack of diplomacy / standoffish tone tends to have this “don’t bother engaging with me, I’m just here to shout at you” feeling.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I guess it may just be boiled down to people wanting to vent on the Internet without any regard for who will be reading their thoughts.

      Or, people who think that other people are genuinely interested in their opinions enough that they can write as if their opinions are factual.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: The Otakusphere: Education, media and pretty pictures – In Search of Number Nine — An anime blog

  4. Thank you for writing this post and bringing this subject to discussion. I’d like to add that, in addition to turning off readers, some bloggers seem to lose sight of the fact that the anime they love (or hate) was written by a human being who has feelings, illustrated by a human being with feelings, worked on for days, weeks, even years by an entire group of human beings with feelings who labor over what amounts to their “baby” and then send it out into the world hoping to entertain – only to get back some truly awful, cruel even, reviews of their work. Any anime that made it all the way through production to our eyeballs must have had someone who thought well of it at some point – and most likely, lots of people who like it – even if others hate it. It’s certainly outrageous to turn that into a name calling contest, or a sort of one upmanship of who can be the most rude and hateful in a witty way. I guess maybe there are people who do like to read that, but I’m not one of them. Who needs any extra negative vibes in their life? After all, isn’t anime our escape from the stress of RL? All of which is to say – what you said, yes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, and right back at you: yes.

      It’s totally okay for someone to not like something, and even to put their opinions out there and explain why. It’s all about how it’s said.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely agreed. You hit on something that I’ve been thinking for a while now. There are a few prominent reviewers, including a couple of prominent anime reviewers on YouTube (though I don’t follow that scene much these days so not sure if they’re still around) who I have big problems with, and mainly for just this reason. One example I remember: “Fate/Apocrypha was clearly a piece of trash and anyone who says they like it should just admit they like trash.”

    I haven’t even seen Fate/Apocrypha; for all I know I’d completely hate it. But hearing that arrogant tone still annoyed me. If I’m writing about a game or anime or whatever that I didn’t like or was a bit cool on, I always try to see how and why someone might like it and take my own opinion into perspective. Of course, I won’t back down from my opinion, but as you say, you can hold your opinion while practicing some diplomacy.

    I just don’t see the point of trashing someone else’s taste, except to feel superior over others because you have better taste, and that’s just ridiculous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, often for me it’s not the opinion itself that annoys me, it’s just that arrogance. Especially when there’s no real arguments to at least back up said arrogance.

      And yeah, I don’t know why some people write like that, unless they are actively looking to get into an argument or something.

      Liked by 1 person

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