I thought some people might be interested in my review process and some of the things that influence how I rate a show. And if no one is interested, well, tough. I'm bored and wanted something to write about, and this is what came to mind :)
First, a bit of history. I've been an anime fan since I was a youngster, though my first big obsession was with Sailor Moon, when it arrived on these shores chopped-up and dubbed-over. Then there was Ronin Warriors and various other scattered series. I was, unfortunately, one of those kids who didn't have access to Cartoon Network at the appropriate time to see Gundam Wing, Cowboy Bebop, and various other iconic series first run on American television, so my education in that area is still lacking somewhat. However, things didn't really start getting kicked into high gear until I entered college and subsequently joined the University of Minnesota Manga Anime Society, a student-run anime club on campus. It was there that I first encountered fan subs, both VHS and digital. The first series I ever downloaded was Azumanga Daioh, and it only went forward from there.
Of course like many fans, after a period of intense fandom, I gained experience with various types of anime series and began to get more critical. I went through numerous dry spells where I felt like there was just nothing good to be seen. Finally, in probably February or March of 2007, I decided that I would make it my goal to preview new episodes of anything I could find for the new Spring season coming up, and write about them on my Live Journal, so that my friends could read the reviews and save themselves some time. I think from that season I ended up watching, in whole or in significant part, a good 8 or 9 series, and began to realize just how many potentially good shows were flying under my radar. So each season since I've entered into with renewed enthusiasm, and I generally take away at least a couple of new series to enjoy.
Late in 2007, my friend Boris came to me with a proposal - he wanted to work on web design, and I wanted a better way to get my reviews out there, so he though we could team up and do a website. It's worked out well ever since. He's good at the coding part of the website, which he does all by hand in a text editor, and my output of writing is pretty consistent, so there's a good stream of new content.
As for my review process, it goes something like this. Each new anime season, beginning in January, April, July and October with some stragglers scattered throughout, I spend a week or a week-and-a-half amassing a collection of first episodes, generally though bittorrent (though with the advent of more streaming options, I feel like that might change in the future). When I have a decent backlog, I start my writing. I do a bit of research on the general genre and plot of the series before I watch it (that's where the links in the reviews come from), because some of them get confusing and I have trouble remembering character names otherwise. I watch the episode, summarizing each half at the time of the viewing, and take a screencap from each half to include with the review. After the viewing, I write down my thoughts, which may focus on any number of aspects, including the story, the animation, comparisons to similar series, etc. I sum up the more important thoughts in the Pros and Cons section. After editing (which I do to varying degrees based on how busy I am), I email a batch of reviews off to Boris so that he can upload them to the site and include them in the archives and whatnot.
I think here I'll comment on/defend certain aspects of my reviews. First of all, I don't include numerical ratings in my reviews, and never really have. I think numbers are too arbitrary and don't really say anything in the end. I feel like, even if I don't like a series, if I give reasons why I didn't like it, even someone who disagrees with me could read the review and know if the show might be something that they like. For example, if I said something like "this series is gross because all the girls have gigantic tits", someone who's into gigantic tits would know that it was something they might like. Saying "This show is a 3/10" doesn't really give that kind of feedback.
I think that there are a lot of people out there who might take issue with the fact that I base my opinion on 1 episode, because that doesn't take into account the entire story or any potential character development that might happen throughout the series. While I see where they're coming from, I am also well aware of the fact that introductory episodes are often what get a decent budget and the most attention from the staff, since they have to get people interested in the series somehow. I can think of very few series that change significantly in tone or content enough to completely change my opinion of them. I also don't have time to research or watch every series from beginning to end since I have a day job and only have evenings and weekends free (and I *gasp* do things other than just watch anime in my free time). So first impressions are key with me.
I don't tend to like or dislike any particular genre. Actually, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think that any genre can have good series and bad series. I haven't had particularly good luck with certain genres, including yaoi, harem and general fanservice series, but I'm making a solid attempt to at least try and find a couple series from each genre that I would feel comfortable recommending to a fan of that genre. I would like to be able to judge series more on how good they are as compared to the standards of their genre rather than my own personal objections to them, but I certainly won't stop pointing fingers at things that I think suck crap :)
I hope that provides some insight into what goes on around here. If anyone ever has any questions, feel free to email me (jessi at s1e1 dot com) and I would be happy to answer them here.