How to Improve First Impressions


Icon-AnimeSo, it’s the beginning of the season, and we all know what that means: It’s once again time for a cascade of “First Impressions” articles all across the anime blogging community. People are giving their initial reactions to the first episodes of the various anime that are starting to air.

Every season, part of me wants to join in, but I don’t.

Whenever I bother to read a first impressions post, I sort of tune out partway through and end up skipping to the last couple paragraphs. A lot of them are way too long and aren’t very valuable for their length. Further, most of them tend to overlook things that I’d otherwise be excited to read about in a first impressions post.

Let’s break down the formula. First, there’s discussion of the show on a whole, perhaps the pedigree of the studio and staff, and maybe some talk about the hype leading up to the show. Then, we get a synopsis of the first episode. Then, we get the author’s impressions of the story, characters, and art. Some even venture further and try to pass judgment on the show based on the first episode.

This way of going about things has a number of issues with it. Firstly, the very purpose is unclear to me. Is a “first impressions” meant to be read before watching the first episode of a show? After watching it? Instead of watching it? Many of these articles spend a significant chunk simply recounting the events of the episode, which is of little value to those who’ve already watched the episode.

But if you’ve already watched the first episode of a show, why even read a first impressions in the first place? That brings me to my next point.

The “First Impressions” concept has a lot of egregiously unrealized potential. Fact is, I’ve seen nobody try to go beyond the “episode synopsis + opinion on the episode” formula, and there’s so much more that can be looked at past that.

Where’s the preview that assesses a show’s potential? Let’s talk less about what about what the first episode of any given show is (Something anyone could find out just by watching the show) and start talking about what the presentation of the show’s first episode means for what the show could be. Let’s talk possibilities. Let’s talk speculation. Let’s take studio and staff into account to try and predict what direction a show will go in.

Granted, this kind of preview would require the writer having perspective, but that should be expected anyway. I think we can make previews something fun and exciting to look forward to every season; something more than just synopses and opinions; something everyone can find value in, whether they’ve formed an opinion of their own on the episode or not.

We can cut out the synopses and add in our speculations and our assessments of the show’s potential. Take out what doesn’t add value and add in stuff that does. That’s how we make things better.

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15 thoughts on “How to Improve First Impressions

  1. I’m personally not much of a fan of “first impressions” of the first episode type of thing. I think my biggest problem with them is that sometimes people tend to judge an entire show all based on the first episode. It’s always been a personal pet peeve of mine whenever people do that. Not to mention, the way some of them are presented don’t add much insight to the show. It’s just exaggerations of perceived flaws and snide remarks after snide remarks. I’m sorry, but that formula got old after 2009.

    I’m totally on your side with this whole issue. If you’re going to have a discussion of the first episode, why not discuss potential for the show, along with summaries and opinions? And, for the record, if they’re going to review a show, it should be a REVIEW instead of making it seem like they’re just writing up rants.

    • Yeah, the real big issue with “first impressions” reviews is that it often either comes off as though they’re trying to pass judgment on a show that only has one episode out, or they come off as completely without purpose. Then we get people who use the format as an excuse to get on a soapbox and complain about elements they don’t like in anime, whether related to the anime at had or not.

      The problem is, it’s gotten really easy to create that kind of content, and people will eat it up, regardless of the fact that it’s useless content. It’s harder to look in-depth for elements like foreshadowing in order to discuss a show’s potential.

  2. Good article. Completely agree. I’m always looking more at what the potential is rather than just explaining what is there in the most dull way possible.

    • Indeed . The problem’s that it’s gotten formulaic and there aren’t many people out there that want to try and break the formula. People are content to just shove the same format of article out there as everyone else is doing.

  3. I think that these kinds of articles are a bit difficult to write because they.
    1. Are generally required to be written quickly to have any value.
    2. A lot of shows are a bit the same when it comes to first episodes. You don’t know how tired I am of writing so and so is a normal student who gets powers.

    Still I will try to write good previews.

    • I think these are especially true for people who write a lot of these “first impressions” articles. People settle into a formula because that makes them easier to write quickly. That said, I really think that eschewing the episode synopses from these kinds of posts can cut down substantially on the time spent writing them, since that tends to be the majority of the article.

  4. Good article and similar to how I feel about these preview guides. Pretty much the reason you stated are the reason I don’t do them anymore and just to giving my opinions on these first episodes on Twitter. It’s quicker and I don’t have to spend as much time writing a bunch of text to say the same thing.

    • As far as the time spent to value added ratio goes, Twitter is probably the best medium for just giving opinions on new anime. If an entire blog post can be rendered unnecessary with just a couple tweets, the system used to produce those blog posts is broken, and needs to be fixed in order to give those blog posts actual value.

    • Indeed. Problem is, they’ve no incentive to fix what, according to their metrics, isn’t broken.

  5. After reading this, you may be happy to know that I never put synopses in my anime reviews, first impressions or otherwise. Once in a while I’ll have a sentence or two explaining what the anime is about if necessary, but that’s it. My reviews are meant to be read by people who have seen the anime already, so there’s no point in spending paragraphs describing what the anime is about.

    I put my first impressions of all the seasonal anime I pick up on one post, usually a few weeks after the season starts, when I’ve watched 2-3 episodes of each. But even so, I try to keep each one concise and just share my thoughts and opinions on them based on those first few episodes. With that, each of my first impressions reviews is rarely a couple of short paragraphs – I don’t believe in thoroughly analyzing and passing grand judgements on an anime so early on, so there’s only so much I can say XD

    Also, I very rarely read other people’s first impressions, half because of the reasons you described, and half because I just like to check them out on my own without too much influence beforehand.

    • That’s the kind of content I like to see out of a “first impressions” type of thing: Something that’s concise, gives the series a chance, and doesn’t patronize the reader by summarizing the first episode.

  6. Meh. First impression is only relevant to people who don’t want to waste time watching every new shows that comes out and just extrapolate whether they’ll like the show or not from someone’s experience. Also with the number of anime shows per season keep increasing over time (Last fall we got goddamn 54 shows), i can pretty much understand why some people are having this mentality. But i guess I was never really able to appreciate the efforts of the bloggers out there because it takes me more time to read their typical wall of text and click on all the interesting screenshots than to simply watch the episode.

    • That’s kind of my point, actually. First impressions posts are only relevant to 1: People who haven’t yet watched the first episode of a series and want to watch it vicariously through another person, rather than watching the episode themselves and forming their own judgment, or 2: People who’ve watched the episode and (for some reason) care immensely what some blogger thinks about it.

      What we need is some reason for people inbetween to get in on it. I’m saying let’s make this stuff start a discussion. Let’s have people with perspective take a close look at whatever they’re doing first impressions on and give their assessment of the show’s potential and where they think the show will go.

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