This week, we learnt two particular skills. One is that of writing reviews, a key skill for any journalist, in which one puts forth their analysis and opinion of a particular product – with the aim of either recommending it or not to their viewers/readers. Another skill is to analyze pictures, understanding the connotations and denotations of a picture.
By definition, denotation is…
the literal or primary meaning of a word, in contrast to the feelings or ideas that the word suggests.
While connotation is…
an idea or feeling which a word invokes for a person in addition to its literal or primary meaning.
“the word ‘discipline’ has unhappy connotations of punishment and repression”
In class, we were given three pictures one-by-one to analyze. In pairs or small groups, we were told to come up with a question and a reason for asking that question. Then, it would turn into a class discussion based on these questions. The first picture is a good example of this, and I made notes on a google document for before, during and after the discussion, which can be seen below.
The image showed policemen in riot gear and a woman approaching them. They’re on a road. The question me and Robbie had was ‘What’s the conflict?’ as the equipment and weaponry seems to imply a serious situation. With the 3 policeman approaching the woman and a line of policemen behind, it seems to show conflict or suspicion of some kind.
Other people’s questions were:
- Why are there so many policemen around one woman?
- What has she done?
- Is she protesting?
- Why is she not resisting?
- Is it in America?
- Is it a public figure asking for peace?
- What’s the conflict? (This is mine and Robbie’s)
- Why are all the policemen in formation when there is no threat?
- Why are they so fearful when she’s so calm?
Many people thought it was a protesting or arrest, as there was a large amount of policemen involved, while the picture only showed the one woman and no one behind her. Amber brought up the recent happenings in America, with Black Lives Matter and the police brutality there. Greg later on used the metaphor that the policemen resemble the tools of the establishment, with the woman representing the opposite.
I believe this was a good exercise in analyzing the hidden and literal meanings behind a picture – which is perfect for understanding connotations and denotations respectively. I only wish I came up with some better questions, especially for the second picture, as me and Robbie decided to group up with Jamie and Grace, but we were indecisive to what question we wanted to say.
Moving on, a review is – as mentioned above – a written or video analysis of a product. By examining it from every possible angle and in all areas, the reviewer gives a mixture of fact and opinion in order to try and persuade viewers. Many reviewers include a rating scale of some kind, making the recommendation (or lack thereof) easily understandable for readers. Examples of a rating scale is ‘out of 10’, ‘percentage’ and ‘traffic lights (red, yellow, green)’, though it is purely up to the reviewer and/or newspaper for what scale they use.
For this blog post, my industry examples are exclusively review examples, as I find the skill to be more widely used as a career. This allowed me to take extensive notes on the review’s particular style. The 3 reviewers I looked at – and their specific examples – were:
- Zero Punctuation – Doom (2016)
Zero Punctuation is well-known for the high speed, comedic critique of video games. With few pauses, the reviewer (Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw) bases his videos on nitpicking everything the game has to offer, making absurd analogies and not holding back on strong language. While many watch his reviews for their comedic value, they are still informational, though there isn’t a definite order such as ‘story -> gameplay -> graphics’.
There is no review scale present here, leaving viewers to take in the information and make their own judgement.
- Somecallmejohnny – Undertale (2016)
As a more informal reviewer, this strikes a more even balance between humour and honesty. The reviewer (Juan ‘John’ Ortiz) is known for his casual and humble attitude, seeing himself as just an ordinary gamer who wants to recommend titles to his viewers. His humour, rather than being vulgar analogies, is more snarky and punchy with deadpan moments. Unlike Zero Punctuation, he will usually go in the order of ‘story -> gameplay/replayability -> everything else’, though there is nothing that officially tells you of this order.
Like above, there is no review scale, though the end of the video is reserved for final thoughts and a general summary of John’s opinion.
The most formal and structured of reviewers, Glass Reflection reviews a wide variety of animation from Japan (Anime). Tristan Gallant abides by the clear structure of ‘story -> setting -> characters -> animation -> sound -> final verdict/rating’, though he sometimes combines setting & characters or animation & sound, depending on what he is reviewing. His reviews are, compared to the two above, the most informational with a mixture of deadpan and overexaggerated humour spread throughout the video. He keeps reviews to 10-20 minutes long and, at the final verdict, he will recommend two other shows that follow the same genre and/or themes.
There is a review scale which has changed over the years. Initially, the scale was out of 10 with a complicated method behind it. However, it has changed to a traffic light system, with Skip It (Red), Stream It (Yellow), Buy It (Green) and Certified Frosty (Blue) – the last one being unique to Tristan as a ‘absolute must watch’ rating.
Below is an example of my own review. We were given the task of writing a review on the Grayson Perry exhibition we went to see, as well as two reviews on different mediums. For the purposes of highlighting something I am happy with, here are 2-3 paragraph excerpts from each review.
Every tapestry is booming and bursting with colour, which is what you immediately notice upon coming in. Pinks, yellows, greens – everything is bright and in your face, but also as a light and pastel tone. This gives the tapestries a unique palette that gives every object a surreal, childish appeal.
Upon further examination, however, the most intriguing element of Grayson’s work is the social commentary. Product placement and contemporary objects are commonplace in his art, allowing viewers to relate with the scene in front of them. The themes are unlike the childish colours, centering around class differences and, also contrasting the surrealism, contains suggestive imagery. This is the highlight of Grayson’s work. Other artists have used colours in the way he has, but not many have combined it with detailed, social commentary that relies on symbolism and imagery.
When you hear of Star Fox, what game do you think of? For most of you, that will be the second (released) game in the series, Star Fox 64, released for the Nintendo 64. And it’s a reboot. After the second game. This always struck me as odd. Who has ever heard of a series that’s rebooted itself after just one title? Perhaps, because of the first game being on the SNES at the end of its time, Nintendo didn’t want to alienate those who didn’t jump into the game. Perhaps they thought of the first game as a prototype and that they could make the game they envisioned with the Nintendo 64’s superior hardware. Or, perhaps, they did not know where to take the story next and wanted to keep it as basic as possible.
But, whatever the reason, that doesn’t detract from the title’s value at all. This game is a classic. Growing up with it, I wasn’t jumping on goombas or slashing away at evil pigs, but I was piloting a ship blasting countless enemies out of the sky and powering up my arsenal to deal even more damage. It was frantic, but rewarding.
Every story has an ending. It is my belief that in any anime, the ending is paramount. See such examples as Code Geass and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. But, what happens when you already know the ending? What happens when the anime is a prequel? Movies and video games are frequently given prequels.
The news of a prequel anime is rare. You almost never see the prequel treatment given to an anime, for reasons that might forever be unknown. But, as with any prequel, we have to be aware of the ‘Star Wars Effect’ as I call it. If a prequel is bad or tinkers with certain characters, it can spoil the original forever. Darth Vader may never be the same for some people.
But, that is not the case here. ‘Amazing!’, I hear you shout. What is this prequel anime that struck gold? This is the prequel to Fate/Stay Night, directed by Ufotable and written by Gen Urobuchi (of Madoka Magica fame), Fate/Zero. Let’s get this rolling, shall we?
I know for sure, now having dabbled in it with this work, that I like writing reviews. I can appreciate the work that goes into them! With these pieces, I think I did a good job, putting the review into an organized structure and tackling each section one-by-one while keeping the paragraphs flowing and tied together. The two chosen reviews show definite knowledge on the subject, as well good introductions that set the tone and foundations for the review itself. I would definitely want to pursue and explore reviews further now.
- Escapist (2016) Doom (Zero Punctuation). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQGxC8HKCD4 (Accessed: 23 November 2016).
- Glass Reflection (2015) GR Anime Review: Hunter x Hunter (2011). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgnSAOSo-Tk (Accessed: 22 November 2016)
- Somecallmejohnny (2016) Johnny vs. Undertale. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Arh0mzaQhSE (Accessed: 22 November 2016)