Episodic Blogging: What They (Don’t) Do Well

[Commie] Space Dandy - 03 [C54C578C].mkv_00:00:22_02-03-14

Anyone who’s had a hand in editorial blogging before recognizes the difficulty of coming up with something interesting to say on a regular basis. In fact, here in my weekly struggle contemplating what the heck I should write about, I gave up and figured, “well, why not write about other people trying to write?”. Shitty introduction aside, here are my personal thoughts for what I believe are the strengths and common problems with episodic blogs.

+: They have an immediate audience.

It is no surprise why episodic blogs form the largest subset of the blogosphere. Say you watch an episode of Space Dandy, and you liked a particular scene enough that you’re curious how others received it as well or as little as you did. Or maybe after seeing an episode of Shingeki no Kyojin, the next thing on your mind is to discuss with others what might possibly happen next. The excitement after roughly 24 minutes hasn’t exactly worn off, and without another episode to continue on with the work, anime fans need to vent what’s currently on their mind in a live discussion.

The high amount of activity is of course because new anime hold the largest proportion of viewers watching a show simultaneously. This means it has the greatest potential for current, insightful opinions about a work. These are after all the most readily discussed subjects at the time, compared to attempting to bring up a show from, say, the 60’s, which few are willing to discuss with you in comparison.

-: They age poorly.

Scene discussion is rapid and fleeting. Episode impressions are temporal relief with poor long term results: it is accessible to a collective audience only at the time the episode is released, and never to be read upon again. Few readers are willing to read thoughts about a particular episode unless they watched it recently as well.

Only a blog’s most ardent followers would watch an older series and read that blog’s compilation episode by episode. Viewers in general prefer reading an opinion about the overall show and how each episode worked in tandem with one another if available, not reading conjectures that could easily be verified by continuing on with the next episode. Episode posts simply do not preserve well unless under exceptional circumstances.

[Underwater] KILL la KILL - 10 (720p) [8D12E723].mkv_00:13:10_02-03-14

+: They’re easy to produce.

Episodic blogs are the most punctual of all aniblogging formats. This is because the content to be written about is always readily available in the form of a single video. There is no need for cross-referencing, coming up with novel ideas, or watching multiple episodes at a time. Because the analysis is localized to those 24 or so minutes, it is easy to jot down a few notes as you follow along, and then expand upon your opinion about what the episode does well or doesn’t do well.

-: They’re, uhh, too easy to produce.

It is precisely because episode impressions are easy to produce that writers don’t feel obligated to take any steps further in order to venture into branched paths (if they had desired to do so, at least). By relying on this format, the writer tunnel visions himself and forgets about other—potentially more effective—methods of examining a work. Most of all, the format bars any method that glomps more than one work or episode at a time, and it removes potential thought relating to more generic concepts present in anime altogether.

This is even assuming the episodic blog actually aims to have an opinion in the first place. There is already a significant majority who dilute over two-thirds of their posts with needless paraphrases (something a robot could do), and then restrict their own opinion into a paltry 3-4 lines. Short of flat-out finger pointing, several of the most popular episodic blogs don’t even have any opinions, and are nothing but glorified platforms for their followers to slap down opinions and pat each other on the back. Others just crack jokes along the way, having little to do with the episode except for pointing out memes or catchphrases.

Shoujo Kakumei Utena Adolescence Mokushiroku [511D87A2].mkv_00:04:51_02-03-14

+: They are the perfect exercise for improving analysis.

Because the writer/viewer is only examining one episode at a time, it is a good sanity check to verify that one’s opinions are well-founded. If you believe for example that Kill la Kill takes more part in offering fanservice than forming a satire of it, episodic articles allow you to take a particular scene and dissect it in order to explain precisely why this is true. A vague assertion now becomes almost irrefutable via a strongly argued perspective.

It is also too often the case that when people argue over works, they lack proper evidence to support their claims. Using a particular scene puts both persons on equal footing, and it is much more difficult to allow room for that “well, it’s just your opinion man!” claim when it’s down to the basics and an argument about the effectiveness of a short 30-second scene.

-: They repeat things… over and over again.

Let’s face it. Few anime are worth dissecting episode by episode to the point of writing 500-1000 words a week. Also, the majority of anime (or granted, any medium) cannot be analyzed this way without frequently coming back to the same ideas. If a work begins to suffer from melodrama one episode, it is highly likely that it will do so again. Some deviation in analysis can occur by examining how the drama has changed and what separate scenarios have caused them, for example, but it is more often the case that the effect of that action on the work will be extremely similar.

Also, because episodic posts separate a work by plot progression, this confounds most natural forms of criticism which breaks down a work by its core themes, strengths, and/or weaknesses. Want to write about the effectiveness of Chuunibyou‘s comedy? Well, shit, it’s better to have that as one article which shares examples from all parts of the work, rather than to arbitrarily split the analysis into all thirteen episodic posts.

This is not to say however that episodic blogs are flawed. These are just a few of the difficulties that bloggers of this nature face, and such articles suit a particular crowd of people. Episodic blogs are great precisely because of their ability to interface directly with the community and provide food for thought when next week’s episode is so very far away. I do personally believe that there is a lot of improvement to be made in many of these blogs, and one should keep in mind not to veer off from the blog’s primary purpose, lest it share the same fate as that growing ungodly majority of summary/Wiki-esque articles.

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10 comments

  1. As an episodic blogger I agree with your first positive post the most, and won’t argue with the negative ones. The rush one might feel about an individual episode not only prompts people to seek posts about it, but to write one themselves. And that’s great. There’s a sense community that forms around good series, and writing about it and sharing comments is a way to celebrate it as it goes along. The more the merrier!

    I’ll say this about “repeating things.” At its best a blog might look at a recurring theme each week and comment on how it’s different from last time, how they’ve developed it, or in the case of Nagi no Asukara’s endless harping on “change,” how you wished they’d drop it. It’s a process of discovery, watching and writing week by week.

    And if the show turns out to be crap, I’ll just make fun of it. That’s fun too.

    1. Great point about the repeating. I think given enough new material, it’s possible to orient episodic posts in such a way that every post may be contingent on the same idea, but they examine that idea under different lenses and scenarios. As you state, there’s also the potential in discussing the concept’s growth, stagnancy, or how it shapes up with other recurrent themes in the work. There’s a lot to say, supposing that the writer tries hard enough that is.

  2. I notice you have Lost in America on your blogroll. Is that blog your idea of the ideal episodic blog? I do notice that Guardian Enzo does tend to repeat his opinions in every post, but he tends to actually frame his analysis of an episode around a central thesis. I think this gives his writing a greater sense of cohesiveness and structure than most other episode blogs, which seem like Frankenstein-ish constructs of various disjointed impressions.

    My own personal experience with episodic blogging tells me that this is a really easy thing to fall into. You just don’t think about basic writing technique and structure when all you think you’re doing is telling your readers what you thought of a particular episode. But all good writing needs an argument and a purpose, and it’s kind of remarkable how many otherwise clever and witty writers become so uninteresting to read, simply because they pursue no form at all.

    1. Oh for sure. Structure does a lot for an article, and reading a hodgepodge of one-liner reactions helps nobody. I’d say Enzo is one of the best at the job precisely because of what you stated. Whether or not you agree with his opinions (I oftentimes don’t), you learn something from every post—whether it be a new perspective, a reinforced idea, or even a small piece of trivia. I feel this is one of the most important aspects of episodic blogging. It shouldn’t need to share the same opinion as the reader, but it should offer something insightful in its discussion.

  3. Things has passed since I wrote an editorial on episodic vs editorial blogs and things has obviously change in the past year. I think the problem with episodic blogging is that most of these posts is basically spitting out one’s thoughts or even an analysis, slapping a synopsis of the episode and call it a day, which makes it simple to get into. To me, a well-thought out analysis is better suited for a few editorial posts instead of 12 separate posts.

    As a whole, I don’t find most of the episodic posts all that interesting. Not only that, I’m moving away from episodic blogging for the most part and just giving my overall thoughts weekly for the fact that it takes more time to write the post for each episode opposed to writing an editorial analysis that will have a slightly bigger payoff in the end. This is obviously why I mostly read editorial or review blogs often since it’s easier to form some kind of opinion and get the overall picture.

    1. This is my problem with the majority of episodic blogs as well. Because it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of “watch episode -> slap down some thoughts -> publish!”, few are willing to polish their writing enough that whatever is written is actually worth the read. I believe there is potential in substantiating those thoughts via particular scenes, which is something broader analyses won’t be able to cover in as much detail. But yeah, the mindset tunnel visions bloggers all too easily.

  4. Aleksei Edison · · Reply

    I quit the episodic scene, it was too lame and it caused the site to shed a writer too. Me and Donny switched to an editorial focus, and it’s been a lot easier on the schedule and the mindset, a welcome feature of writing editorial posts.

    After countless hours of manpower and brainstorms, we’re about to unleash an unholy fusion of the editorial and episodic posts pretty soon. It’s probably going to turn out exactly like how I imagine it to be, haha.

    1. Looking forward to it!

  5. This was an insightful read, and I found comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one out there who has struggled in finding the perfect blogging equilibrium. I had stuck to episodic blogging for a good year and a half before switching over to editorials, and it was around that time when I started to realize the shortcoming of only writing episodic articles.

    You’ve pretty well summed up my thoughts regarding the pros and cons of episodics, so I don’t really have a whole lot to add here other than my own personal experience. I did find when I first started blogging that episodics were a great way to get comfortable with writing an analysis, and by doing them weekly they played a large part in helping me improve as a writer. Eventually though, I found I ran into the same set of problems that you mentioned, such as the write-ups covering the same ground week after week and the articles just not challenging me enough as a writer. Additionally, I found that episodic blogging required me to adhere to a very tight schedule, since the peak interest for a new episode only lasted a couple of days after a new episode had aired; fail to write your analysis on time and nobody really cares. Eventually, blogging became rather stressful for both me and my co-bloggers, so the shift to editorials was a relief for all of us. Although episodics were a great way to keep our blog on people’s radars (albeit with a degree of predictability), they were simply too time consuming to maintain and limited our audience to only those that were following said shows.

    On paper, I think the idea of episodic blogging is a good one, but unless you have a large and dedicated team of writers, it’s not really a sustainable practice. On the flip side, editorials offer a great way for even a single writer to get his or her thoughts out on any topic to the rest of the world; the world is your oyster in this case. I’ve also found (from my own experience as well as observing other blogs) that readers tend to be the most receptive to articles with a central theme or statement that isn’t tied to a single anime. This stands to reason as writing about, say, the effectiveness of plot twists in Kill la Kill versus the same topic in anime and then referencing Kill la Kill will appeal to a broader audience, allowing more readers to get engaged with the topic. Of course, writing editorials can sometimes be a challenge, since you have to come up with the content and ideas yourself, and possibly research multiple sources. But overall, I’ve found it to be more rewarding.

    Ideally, striking a balance between editorial and episodic content would ensure everyone is happy, but that’s really easier said than done. I guess blogging is really about finding what works best for your writing ability, your resources and above all, you as an individual.

    Anyhow, great article once again and I’ll be looking forward to reading more from you, nil! :D

  6. […] of legal streaming. Early this year, a now retired blogger named Nil wrote a good piece on the strengths and weaknesses of episodic blogging. I started to realize some of the points the author made after I changed to more of a variety […]

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