I was going through my MAL and Anilist the other day, trying to find material for a post, and I was genuinely surprised by some of the ratings. Who is this odd person I thought to myself. Wait, I liked this show way more than that show, why do they have the same score?  Why is this so low?…

This isn’t even the first time I’ve gone through this sort of thing.  I’ve upended my list and reassessed my scores at least twice before, without rewatching the shows.


Chihayafuru - 24 - Large 07 (1)
I’m not the only one who hugs my TV!

That right there is part of the reason I don’t add clear ratings to my reviews. It’s not that I have any peculiar issues with arbitrary values getting assigned on subjective basis, in fact I find them quite useful. It’s more that I can’t be counted on to agree with my own assessments. I will still generally  have the same perception of the anime (i.e. great supporting cast, sloppy sound design, brutal conclusion that left some important questions unanswered) but I will change my mind on what that means in terms of personal enjoyment and how to represent it in star form.

….as a quick aside, I would just like to shout out Nefarious Reviews. I’ve been a fan of that blog for a while now and that pros/cons rating system, with clear well defined categories and icons for each, is just fantastic. I really wish I had come up with something similar myself, but it looks like a lot of work to set up.

This said, I do in fact assign ratings to my MAL and Anilist, yet even those are not to be trusted. Isn’t that odd? For one thing, I usually add and rate shows right after finishing them. As such my mood in the moment makes a big difference. It takes me a little time to properly assess my feelings about a show and look back on it a bit more objectively. It’s not unusual for me to find that a series I was originally unimpressed with lingers in my mind and goes up in my esteem. Perhaps I had been too harsh. In any case being memorable is also worth something. Alternatively, shows I adored will flitter out of my thoughts and blend in with the crowd. I’ll always remember them fondly (if I ever think of them again) but perhaps they were not quite that special.

This is one reason why readjusting my scores with the benefit of hindsight makes sense but it’s not the only one. There’s the problem with comparison. Now that I’ve switched to Anilist and can play with decimal points, it’s gotten much better. For me a 10 point system wasn’t doing it. For one thing I’ve never scored anything under 4. I know that makes it only slightly under average but what can I say. I usually find at least something of value in the shows I watch. I also have a very though time giving away perfect scores. Effectively my scale is 5-9. But as shows pile up, I often find myself thinking: I liked this series more than this one I’ve rated 7 but less than this one I’ve rated 8. Depending on the day I’ll either average up or down. In time I end up with shows ranked a full point lower than others I liked considerably less.

anime sreaming at tv
this show was decent but the supporting characters are occasionally shallow!!!

Then there’s the intangible nature of enjoyment. Let me take Fastest Finger as an example. I reviewed this little show and was quite open about its shortcomings. Fact is, this is an objectively bad anime. The technical merits are unimpressive and occasionally lacking. The writing is basic, the characters flat. Without being unpleasant, the show is nevertheless subpar in most aspects. If I was to grade it objectively it would probably deserve a 4 (4.6). Basically, it’s a slightly below average anime. If I want my ratings to be as realistic and neutral as possible, this would be it. However, I enjoyed Fastest Finger. It was decently paced, incorporated a lot of sports anime tropes I’m partial to and I like quiz bowls. I also got a general impression of good will from the series, that may in fact be all in my head. As such, if I want my list to represent my subjective tastes, I would rank Fastest Finger a 7. I had fun with it and would watch another season. That doesn’t mean I would recommend it to someone else…

Just like my uneven rounding up and down, I find that I am uneven in the importance I put on personal enjoyment. There are shows which are good. I can clearly see how great they are and I would suggest you watch them without hesitation, that doesn’t mean I liked them. I still tend to rank them high mind you which explains my overall high average. What can I say…I want to live in a world where all anime is good. That doesn’t mean I want to watch a similar series. I wouldn’t want an algorithm to suggest a show based on that rating.

At this point, I could just call it a day and accept that my ratings are abstract at best. However, my particular brand of crazy is simply not going to let this chaos go on for long. And now that I’m sharing my lists with you guys, I feel like I owe you at least some consistency. You’ll read a review here that’s going crazy over a show just to see me give it an average rating on Anilist… That’s bound to be unnerving. Yeah I know no one takes the lists that seriously, or seriously at all. Just play along, my concerns are very petty. I’ve therefore decided to review my scores one last time and I want your opinion. Should I go with objective scoring so that you guys can get an idea of whether you would enjoy a particular series or not? Or subjective scoring so you can mock me for my ridiculous tastes?

anbime all watching tv
we don’t all have to agree as long as we can all enjoy!

55 thoughts

  1. I also don’t have a number or a score. Like you it really depends on what I am feeling at the time. Also I really have enjoyed anime that I know is probably considered trashy but it was just fun and mindless to watch.
    I guess I could have a trash meter added to my anime. Or guilty pleasure anime. I guess I like the good stories as much as anyone but it is fun to find the strong points in an anime that is considered “bad”

    1. Trashy/bad anime that I love…basically describes my entire blog. It’s a good thing people don’t juge me on these.

  2. I would go with subjective scoring, personally. I want people perusing my list to see what I thought about it. If they want an objective score the anilist/MAL scores, which take into account hundreds, if not thousands, of people’s experiences with shows, is probably more up their street! Just my two cents! x

    I loved this post! Would you mind if I used it as a springboard to discuss my approach to rating sometime?

  3. I personally think MAL’s system is a little flawed in how is allots the grades to the number. To wit – 6 = fine. For me anything over 5 is good so 6 should be good, 7 very good and so on.

    Therefore if there is a show I think is good, enjoyable, solid but not a masterpiece (or in my own system 3 stars) then 6 is a comparable to that within MAL’s scale; just “fine” however is doing it a disservice in my opinion. Conversely, the problem arises in awarding shows I think very good (or 4 stars) an 8 or 9 which makes look like I am overrating it purely because MAL has set that number to equate to a lower criteria.

    Perhaps it is my own fault for taking their ratings so literally, but this makes a lot of my 6 and 7 ratings on MAL look stingy when I actually enjoyed the show more than I did. :-/

  4. I’d vote for objective but taking into account enjoyment factor and how much the show means to you. For instance, the average AniList score of Boueibu (LOVE!) was 62% as of a few days ago but I have it scored 80. It has terrible visuals and the characters aren’t the most developed, but the jokes and the commentary you can get from the show are top notch if you know the context. Also, it has the exact combo of genres and tropes to make an instant winner for me, while there’s always such pride in finding out where the voice actors have gone after Boueibu, which is why people might give me sideways glances for giving it such a score, but I stand by my decision.

  5. I, too, hold great respect for Mr.(?) Nefarious Reviews. He’s(?) a trooper, very organized, and stout.

    I’ll be honest when I say I did look through your scores on MAL and raised some eyebrows at a few scores. Good to know that the numbers aren’t indicative of anything concrete, as such with many arguments of simply leaving number ratings for subjects and nothing more. It’s a lot better to get one’s expanded take on things.

    As for the objective/subjective debate… I don’t know. You do what you’re comfortable with. Many would pick subjective right off the bat, but I understand the desire to rank things in a tower of power. Probably a lot more for me than most others, but I always try to make scores into an uneven combo (probably 70-30) of objective qualifications (what I’d be willing to recommend/strengths of various elements) and subjective merit (how much I may have enjoyed its entirety or certain aspects), but again, expanded thoughts are always something I think should be highlighted.

    1. Yeah I’m pretty sure my new numbers would traumatize you even more. I’m not exactly a good example of the average anime fan.

  6. Another vote for subjective. Especially, if all you have is a single numerical value. Objective assessments are only ever useful if you have specific goals in mind (such as if you’re trying to make an anime yourself and your trying evaluate technique).

    10-point scales don’t really work for me either. When I still had a MAL with actual anime in it, my default score was 7, I felt bad for giving a show a 6, and I gave away more 4s than 5s because 5s a sort of undefined noman’s land that meant nothing to me. I’ve given one anime a 1, and it’s an anime you’re better off not knowing about. There’s no sesne of consistency at all.

    Also, a 10-point scale doesn’t have a value for avarage. There are five bad scores, and five good scores. Social scientists use even-point scales to force a bias in the data, and that doesn’t always make sense. It’s interesting to compare 10-point behaviour to 5-star behaviour for me: I find a three-point show is good fun, avarage, not too special, but time well spent. If I have misgivings, I’ll drop it down a notch to 2 stars. That’s exactly my 7-point feeling for a 10-point scale. This makes no methematical sense, but there you go. I wonder whether I’d have an easier time with a 9-point scale, because 5 would be avarage there.

    I’ve once tried looking at my subjective enjoyment of a show and realised even that’s not so easily gauged. I’ve toyed with a system that rates my involvement rather than the show:

    Emotional Involvement, intellectual involvement, aesthetic involvement, fun factor, affection for the show

    It’s obvious that genres will have different focus. A mystery with low intellectual involvement doesn’t work as a mystery. You don’t expect much intellectual involvement for slice-of-life.

    So take a show like Evangelion:

    Emotional involvement: High
    Intellectual involvement: High
    Aesthetic involvement: medium to high
    Fun factor: low

    Affection: medium

    Now if you ask for me for how I’d rate the relative importance of the elements, I’d give you a (30, 35, 30, 5). Which means that the rides a little more on being mindblowing that heartbreaking, and really needs to be pretty. A low fun-factor is adequate – the show is just enough fun to break the otherwise oppressive mood, so in this case a low fun factor is actually positive (though a high fun-factor without coming at the cost of any of the other factor would be amazing! Also very, very hard).

    So now the puzzler: why is my affection rating so low. I’m sure I’d be blown away again if I watched it again. Is it an in-the-moment show? Like a trip you can’t remember well once it’s over? I don’t know.

    This is an entirely subjective scale, both the involvement values and the assessment what makes and breaks the show. But the affection value at the end is still a puzzler. Very often. I’m not always fond of shows I enjoyed a lot, and I’m often fond of shows that bored me for large streches. Why? Is it about what I remember? Is it about a general feeling of belonging? I can’t tell.

    Now let’s take another type of show. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki kun:

    Emotional Involvement: medium
    Intellectual involvement: medium to low
    Aesthetic Involvement: medium to high
    Fun Factor: High

    Affection: High

    This sort of system needs to be tweaked, though. See, a show that annoys me a lot definitely has high emotional involvement, but not the sort that leads to a good rating. How do I deal with this? Do I split positive and negative involvement? Do I go into more detail (I loved the characters, etc.)?

    And what do I do with shows that calm me? Is that high emotional involvement? That feels wrong. In fact, higher emotional involvment would ruin the effect. Is there some hidden value like setting immersion or being engulfed by the mood without being strongly stimulated? Shows like, say, Flying Witch don’t grab you by the throat, and they shouldn’t.

    I guess what I’m trying to do is to look at my subjective enjoyment of a show objectively, and that’s actually also not very easy, partly because what watching the show was like is only accessible through memory, and that’s definitely prone to affection-based revision. A re-watch? I can’t really re-watch in order to rate, because that adds an awkward layer to my watching that lessens the involvement a little, until I forget, but – well – then I forget. I do get to think stuff like, “Well, that part wasn’t actually as boring as I remember it,” or “Did I really think this joke was funny?”

    For example, I’ve just finished re-watching Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko. I remember the show being great until a certain point (which turned out to be episode 8 rather than 7, as I thought), and after that very uneven. Well, on a re-watch episodes 9 – 13 were actually better than I remembered why? I think it’s that after episode 8 the show is relying more on its philosophical content which it doesn’t quite pull off, because the new character introduced has no emotional centre, which means the male lead has to carry all the weight. It doesn’t quite work as well as the more balanced approach before. But knowing what’s going on, I can adjust my expectations and watch the show for what it is – and it gets better. Before the re-watch, I’d have said great up until episode 8, mediocre to good after that. Now, I’d scratch the mediocre. The split after episode 8 is still quite noticable, for me, though.

    1. See this is fascinating and why I’m understanding but sad that you refuse to do your own reviews. SO now I need to watch Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko you say…

      1. Theoretically. The only way to legally watch Denpa Onna I’m aware of, though, is a boxed set from NISA, under the horrible name Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl (two major sins: turns the “woman” [she’s a girl, but the title is deliberately grown-up] into a “girl”, and removes the “Youthful Man” from the title). I’m not sure what means with regard to DVD regions; the PS3 is region-free, so I never cared much.

  7. Scores have always bugged me a little. Like, shouldn’t an average anime be a 5?

    I see anime listed that run in the 6s. On MAL, a 6 is the bottom of the barrel. Desperation time. Yet some of those 6s I’d have given a 9.

    My own rating would depend heavily if I fell in love with a character. If I can fall in love with the entire cast, so much the better. How much I feel for characters is second to nothing else and on an equal footing with the plot. Great art, great music, great voice acting, great choreography and various technical considerations can add to that but if the plot and characters don’t grab, the rest doesn’t matter. OTOH, if i fall for a character or the plot is intriguing or if it is funny enough, not having all the rest is unimportant.

    If I were doing art criticism, I wouldn’t dream of trying to rank Dali vs. Bosch. vs. Van Gogh vs. Michelangelo. And I wouldn’t waste my time writing of an anime that didn’t move me. So I will stick with explaining why I loved Chise or Violet or Yuri or why the plot left me ecstatic or weeping without assigning any kind of grade.

  8. I think you should go with subjective scoring, incorporating how much you enjoyed a show as well as any other aspects you care to value. There’s no such thing as “objective scoring” of a TV show anyway, because you’re still rating things on how you perceived them.

    I find that it’s interesting to look back through a list and see how I scored things at the time, compared to how I’d score them now. And I also find that a lot of the descriptions that places like MAL put on scores tend to compress where you can score things, an observation you make in your post. The worst score I’ve given a multiple episode show is 4 (and those were BAD shows: Kampfer, Momo Kyun Sword, Sin Nanatsu no Taizai, Qualidea Code, Campione, and Brothers Conflict). Why? Because if I watched the whole thing, it can’t have been the worst show ever. And I don’t score shows that I didn’t watch the majority of. So how can anyone sincerely rate something a 2? Why did you continue to watch something that bad? And if you didn’t, why bother rating it.

    But ratings are just personal opinions. And they’re just as useful for helping others determine if they’d like something, no matter what the scale is. The trick is to look at what relative ratings are. If someone likes things you like, and doesn’t like things you don’t like, then their recommendations are probably great for you. If they like similar things in some genres, but then go a different way in other genres, then you can take that into account when you get a recommendation.

    I’ll also add one more observation. I have 15 shows (out of 650 rated) rated at 10/10. But some of them are not shows I like to rewatch. Some of them are actually difficult or impossible to rewatch, like Shin Sekai Yori. But I still think it’s a 10. All sorts of different things go into a rating, and all of them are valid to the person who did the rating.

    1. You have a fantastic comments but now I’m just stuck on two little parts of it – first
      Oh no…Brothers Conflict is bad? It was such a delightfully stupid game and
      second, currently on episode 20 of Shin Sekai and boy…..I completely understand what you mean!

      1. I can see where Brothers Conflict would make a delightfully stupid game. Unfortunately, the anime adaptation is just blitheringly stupid, with way too many brothers, way too much creeping on their new sister, and way too much of Ema just not reacting to anything, just standing around. But at least it does have a delightfully embarrassing end song, with dancing!

  9. Nice post! As you know, I’ve got my own grading system for things, which for me at least always tends to be my more objective view of a show as opposed to a subjective one whenever possible. For me, grading comes about as a composite experience of all aspects of a show, and it’s as simple as plugging numbers into the system once these components are evaluated and weighed accordingly. While I enjoy the analytics of the process, I do think what always comes first is simply enjoying the show before diving into the nitty-gritty bits, and in saying that, an honest evaluation of the entire body of work is my usual approach. So what does this all mean for you? Simply put, grade how you see fit- because my reasons won’t be the same as someone else’s, or vice-versa! As long as you’re comfortable in your conclusions and have a well-reasoned purpose to back it up (heck, it really can be as simple as “I liked this”), it makes for a good discussion whether one agrees with you or not on a show!

    1. Well we saw where grading as I see fit got me…. Just joking.
      I would however like my readers to be able to use my list as a reference which is why I’m curious on their preferences. So far it seems subjective is winning…

      1. Hehe…I think I tend to be a bit contrarian with my less-subjective approach, but it’s worked well for grading…and I still preface reviews with my own personal thoughts because well, I’m not a robot even if evaluating the animated medium is something I do 🙂

        1. I think it’s probably the more practical approach to be honest – also the one that will likely be more enduring. Still I see the appeal of quickly being able to see a particular person’s feelings and personal tastes.

  10. Well, ratings are just rating as well as a number. I watch an anime because I’m so curious why people said it like this and that. My aim is to watch it at first until it finished and give an opinion. I’m not a type of person who didn’t enjoy it at first and dropped the first or three episodes unless I pushed my self and concluded the whole opinion why this anime is bad or good. There are plenty of anime or even movies who have a huge rating yet not really great because of the ratings and vice versa. And the last one, you always have a unique post to talk about. 😊

    1. Thank you so much! Yeah, you’re absolutely right, ratings in general aren’t really reliable no matter how you look at it

  11. I’d prefer subjective scoring, please! There are lots of different sources for reviews that try to be objective, but I’m pretty sure there’s only one place I would be able to get your subjective opinion.

  12. It’s two ratings for me, honestly.

    One rating is on a technical level, meaning how competent the animation, music, acting, etc.

    The other is pure enjoyment. Gurren Lagann is honestly a low 7/10 on the production values, but my enjoyment of it was 100/10.

    Same with Clannad. I really disliked Clannad’s artstyle, but the great story really held it up for me.

  13. Hmm … scoring is always tough. For me, I tend to be subjective with a leaning towards the positive end of scoring. If i’m aware that something that bugs me is going to go down well with anotehr audience though, I may give two scores with that in mind. The thing is, I think that most scores will be a mix of the two anyway. We tend to judge on a subjective basis, but it’s easy to be objective with things like technical details on top of that.

    1. Sometimes we know the things we are partial too as well but that the average viewer won’t necessarily care about…(choice of colors for example)

  14. Honestly I think ratings are always going to be based on subjective scoring. This is your blog, and I am reading it because I like to hear your views on certain things and what you think of a particular anime. Rating and reviews are usually based on someone’s opinion in the first place. What is loved by someone, could be hated by someone else. In the end it comes down to you own personal opinion and that’s what it should be. Even though I might see high scores on certain things (I’m talking in general here) doesn’t necessarily mean I will like it as well. A rating is at least a bit of an indication whether or not someone likes something or not, so that is why I do like ratings. But a mood for instance could also really hamper a score on something. It’s happened to me too. I have seen numerous films that I didn’t like, and on a second watch all of a sudden did enjoy. (Or vice versa).
    All in all though, I think I like subject ratings more, because it gives your opinion on something. Oh…and I would never mock you anyway 😊😉

    1. I would agree 200%! We’re here because we want to know her takes on stuff.

      If Irina’s so inclined, she could do both. Anilist would be for “here’s what I liked” & MAL for “here’s what I would recommend to the general populace”. But I personally wouldn’t bother with the latter: as you say, people are different, so they won’t necessarily look for the same things, resonate with the same messages or even agree with what constitutes good art or writing! So I think it’s better to scrap that idea altogether & recommend stuff on a case-by-case basis. Posts like “Top 5 Anime for Gloomy Introverts” or “World-Building Enthusiasts” would be more reliable. (Not sure if I missed those posts!)

      1. Oh wow that’s a great idea! Plus it would have the extra advantage of being super confusing for anyone that’s not read this comment. I like it!

      2. Haha, what a great comment this was: and I agree with what you wrote here 200% as well 😊
        It’s pretty much the case with everything: what ever one watches or reads, people will always have different opinions, and if they agree with a rating: Great! If not, in my view also great, because else things would become really boring, really quick 😊

  15. Huh. Well, subjective is subjective. I guess fixing it now makes sense. I prefer the Top 50 and Top 100 lists and consider shows based on ‘would I recommend this to a friend” or even “If I recommend this to a new anime fan, will they be annoyed and stop watching anime altogether?” That’s a subjective rating too, but fan tolerance is subjective. And then they develop different tastes. My niece liked Naruto, so I suggested first season of Bleach and Full Metal Alchemist, but there’s been no comment. Some people aren’t good at letters, or gratitude. Sigh.

    1. I’m horrible at top anime lists. As for recommend to – it changes from one person to the next. Maybe I should try to put together a general starter list some day

      1. Yes, that. Imagine a new employee comes to your office and you spot some signs they might like anime and you get to talking and they ask for a recommendation. You’ve been through that. What do you suggest to a newb that will increase their enjoyment?

        1. In this purely hypothetical scenario (I have never been through that but I would probably point them to my AniList if it ever did happen…) I would ask what their favourite movies are and adapt my suggestions to that

          1. That’s a pretty good idea. Cuts down on less likely genres, lets you narrow your suggestions to types of stories they already like. If they like Star Wars, Star Trek, and superhero movies they already like cartoons. Anime just has lower budgets.

  16. I didn’t even completely read your post before typing away, I EXACTLY know what you mean xD
    Rating anime depends on my mood, but I realised that I had started to rate anime based on how much popularity that already have, and I started judging them from a critical professional point of view. I can’t say that it’s entirely wrong, but sometimes I feel it’s just not me writing and feeling that way.
    Precisely the reason why I update MAL as often as I can and depending on my mood/outlook towards things.
    To be honest, once I immediately rate an anime, it tends to get a higher rating than it deserves (Probably because of the feeling of immediately completing it xD)
    There are very few anime that I have rated that get a higher score than what I had initially given (Like March comes in like a Lion).
    Also, here’s my anime list: https://myanimelist.net/animelist/Stilzel
    Send me yours!! I’m very interested to know what you’ve watched, and how you’ve tangibly rated them 🙂

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