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More ANN Reviews (Now with all-new shiny grade inflation!!) 
7th-Aug-2008 06:16 pm
Just a quick head's up for those of you who don't frequent Anime News Network. The following selection of manga reviews written by Yours Truly have been posted there over the past few weeks:

Berserk Vol. 23 by Kentaro Miura
MPD-Psycho Vol. 5 by Eiji Otsuka and Sho-u Tajima
Yumekui Kenbun: Nightmare Inspector Vol. 2-3 by Shin Mashiba
Sand Chronicles Vol. 1-2 by Hinako Ashihara
Naruto Vol. 28 by Masashi Kishimoto

And, yes, Berserk Vol. 23 marks the beginning of a serious degree of institutionally-normative grade inflation with the bell curve, if you will, centered somewhere around B. Apparently, this best matches reader expectations. By way of comparison with previous ANN reviews, I'm probably grading somewhere between one to two steps higher than before. Fan-favorites are going to get the biggest boost. (Who cares about bones I want to pick when there's an A at the bottom?) Those who want to know how those letter grades are translating into "KethyliaLJreview-speak" should  cross-reference titles I've reviewed in both places, such as Sand Chronicles and Naruto. Oh, and I'm also composing the actual text of the reviews by a new formula. Anyone who can figure out what I'm doing differently gets a big fat no-prize. ^_~ 
8th-Aug-2008 05:13 am (UTC)
The comments on some of those made me laugh. Hard.
8th-Aug-2008 10:00 am (UTC)
Okay, clear that up for me: they took you on as a reviewer because they liked your reviews, which are honest, clear and show your opinion, and now you have to write opinions you don't really have, because their target audience considers certain features of manga to be more interesting than you do? Or something? I.E. you have to change your opinion to keep on writing for them?
Then why did they want you as a reviewer in the first place...
8th-Aug-2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm not changing my opinion. I never said that. My opinion's just being stylistically "coded" differently, as it were. As for why this is happening, an entire book could be written about it (and probably has), but I don't make nearly enough money as a freelance writer to fight for the high ground.
8th-Aug-2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
Wow. I think I'd flip a gasket if someone tried to institutionally impose a grading system on me. And anyway, shouldn't C be the place where it all evens out? When I used to complete performance reviews for employees on a 1-5 scale, we were urged to have the average for everyone work out to a 3. So this seems skewed.

I write for Manga Recon and can happily report that no one has ever tried to change how I've scored something.
8th-Aug-2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
And anyway, shouldn't C be the place where it all evens out?

Theoretically. But people who have lived with grade inflation in life (in schools it's rampant) can't take uninflated grades when reading about their fandom object. Grad school, for example, has three grades: A, A-, B+. ^^;

I write for Manga Recon and can happily report that no one has ever tried to change how I've scored something.

You aren't being paid. (If you take pro bono freelance work, you shoot your career--and everyone else's--in the foot, by the way. Just a warning.) And it's clear from what you said that you also have an institutionally imposed grading system...it just happens to be one you like.

Edited at 2008-08-08 04:48 pm (UTC)
8th-Aug-2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
Fair enough, as long as YOU can live with it (for whatever reason) I'll calm down, although I still can't follow why your opinions have to be "coded stylistically different", heh.
8th-Aug-2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
A heavy editorial hand is pretty standard in journalism in general. But I leave it to people like Robert McChesney to talk about what's wrong with the media; I'm just a peon.
8th-Aug-2008 04:53 pm (UTC)
I must have had a lot of luck then when I was RPG reviewer for 4players.de. Then again we all mostly picked what we wanted to review and were rarely disappointed and I was only there for one and a half years, so maybe I might have had a problem with my opinion at some point, hmm.

However the bosses did have input on whether a certain game was worth reviewing or offering on our servers, which cost them the early connection to NCSoft we had at the time, which might have come in handy when they went high profile in their niche of the games market, hehe.
8th-Aug-2008 04:59 pm (UTC)
Because journalism is fundamental to the health of a democracy, the ethics can be so fraught. Did you know that the Columbia Journalism program tells students not to socialize or accept favors from their subjects at all, ever? Nevermind that this is practically impossible.

Thankfully, in the grand scheme of things, manga reviews aren't important. But when you consider that even prestigious outlets of news and criticism do, on some level, have to give their readers, advertisers, and parent conglomerates what they want to hear--not what they need to hear--it gets scary.
9th-Aug-2008 09:29 am (UTC)
I'm not surprise then that bloggers (without advertising) occasionally are seen as more neutral sources. Depending on the field and their background of course.
So I guess another Watergate case is unlikely to show up these days, is it...
9th-Aug-2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
*sighs* I dunno...I see so much astroturfing these days even on the blogs. Even most of the manga reviews you see these days are based on complimentary review copies, which can obviously be problematic. But then I'm so cynical.
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