Ratings and Rankings

I think that yesterday’s and today’s entries have something in common; they can both be applied to each other. Yesterday’s entry talked about finding the familiar from the new, which is something many anime fans are constantly staking out (and the “new” is displayed neatly for them in the form of anime seasonal charts). Today’s entry centres mainly on anime ratings, reviews and rankings, something that people often do for books too.

I remember coming across an argument between two anime fans about Psycho-Pass. One said it was great, the other pointed out that it wasn’t so. Both of them had supporting arguments and examples to show why the plot was well-written (or not) and the character development grand (or not). Ultimately, though, neither of them could go around to the side of the other, because there’s no objective standard to judge whether an anime is good or not. It depends on what you expect out of it. People are arguing because they don’t want to look like they’re giving in without a fight — because their point deserves to be explained and elaborated on in depth. They’re not arguing to get the other party to see things their way, because they know it’s impossible.

And this is why anime reviews and ratings mean nothing to me. I’ve seen rave reviews of anime that I simply disliked (think Sword Art Online) and mediocre reviews of anime that I found actually pretty good (okay I must say I can’t remember anything that fits in this category). In any case, the reviewer just has different tastes from mine, and if I want to know if I’ll like the show I might as well check out the objective facts — what can be found on Wikipedia. I’m sure the true anime fans stake out anime before they even air, which means they don’t consult anime reviews. Plus there’re so many anime reviews out there, and it can be difficult to find a reviewer with the same tastes as you. What you can do, though, if the reviewer includes it, is find similar anime just like the one he’s reviewing. Some reviewers draw parallels between 1 anime and others, and if you love that anime it can be quite reliable to use that guide to locate similar ones, though of course comparisons are also not foolproof.

Another thing that people like to do is have top 10 rankings. Top 10 favourite anime, top 10 favourite seiyuu, top 10 favourite characters. Rankings are, I must say, very fun to look up, and one gets to cheer when one sees one’s preferred anime up there, and also wait with bated breath for the anime occupying the #1 spot. While it seems easy, making a top 10 list can feel forced. First of all, there’re probably many anime that occupy the same spot on your list. I like XXX best of all, but I like AAA and BBB quite equally, though better than CCC probably. So both AAA and BBB will be tied for #2, but what about CCC, DDD and EEE then? It’s likely that the lower one goes down the list, the more anime one can imagine filling the same spot. Forcing them into a hierarchy is quite pointless.

Second, 10 is probably the worst number to use to rank anything. People either have fewer than 10 favourite anime, or they’ve so many they can’t narrow them down to 10. 10 is also too large a number to process in one go (I bet you won’t be able to remember my top 10 list in the correct order if I write it here). And is anime #10 worth watching at all? It’s hard to tell. I’d say most people have about 5 or 6 anime that made an impression on them, and the remaining 4 to 5 are there to fill the gap.

Of course, I’m not discouraging you from trying to write your own ratings and rankings, but I just want to remind you that not everything can be forced tidily in numerical or statistical form. So if someone point-blank refuses to name you their top 10, it doesn’t mean they’re any less of an otaku than you are.

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