Good, Great, Godlike – Rating anime & manga

Minitokyo.Crossovers.Scans_289304

Getting ready for the awards? -No, thanks!

You must have noticed -if you’ve taken a look at our review section- that we don’t use any kind of scale for rating. This can be explained by two things: firstly, we rarely write negative reviews, so almost anything you’ll find here is recommended; and secondly because I don’t trust numbers much. 

Let me explain. I understand that numbers can be a very practical tool to give short impressions. Yet they also create fallacies about their objectivity. Last year, almost around this time, when there was a blog carnival going on about how miscellaneous bloggers rate their anime, it was shown that even those who try to rate with ‘their head’ don’t have a stable and concrete evaluation template -with the exception of Snippet Tee.

Consider these questions: do numbers stay with you? I mean, are they a way to remember a certain series? Do you always watch taking them as a guidance? Can you really measure something intagible like love and excitement? Can you tell exactly the difference between 84 and 85/100 or between 7 and 8/10?

Words do the job better; and I talk about a full discription, not just single words. You can’t really get a short cut to it. You might hurry to delete some anime on your planned-to-watch list and need a quick way to do this due to its dreaded length. A grade will encourage or discourage you, but you don’t know the reason why behind the rating the blogger gave. And unless you know him/her and his/her tastes very well, you’ll most probably be in for big disappointment or remorse.

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And now let’s talk about what I review in our blog and what criteria I use.

Before writing a review, in order to decide if my time’s worth it, I ask myself the question “will it remain in the external disk?” It’s a general but important question related to my limited space and badget. Since I’ve started working, this question may turn into “will I buy it?” I’m an anime and manga fan, but my hobbies can’t get priority over other needs I have. I won’t waste money on something, unless I absolutely want it, adore it and I deem it necessary to praize the anime studio/mangaka for the wonderful work they produced.

Of course, before these questions arise, the anime/manga should have been in my radar and should have passed as a choice in my to-watch list. The decision is made based on cross-referenced summaries and reviews by sites like Anime News Network and others, friend recommendations, and for anime it is based on the season preview poster and trailers, too. Lately, I also give more anime the 3-episode try and if I’m not satisfied, I simply drop them.

How do I choose? These 6 factors play a big role: a. design, b.genre, category, themes, c. plot and storytelling, d. message, empathy and later conclusion, e. characters and their development, and f. animation, music / layout. Let’s take them one by one.

a. Character and background design

design_anime

Usagi Drop, Master Keaton, Chihayafuru, 5 Centimeters per Second, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika

When I spot beautiful character design or background art, I just melt. I have a weak spot for anything aesthetically pleasing. For me, this usually means cloud porn, flowers, lighting, watercolor effects and surrealistic imageries, and/or detailed facial features like ‘actual’ lips and depth of eyes.That doesn’t mean that I avoid simpler character designs. Actually, they are often used in great (seinen) slice-of-life.

In the past I would disregard any poster that had ‘moe’ art, but the last two years I’ve come to appreciate certain moe designs; plus they often demonstrate great fashion sense. What I almost always reject are anime with huge boobs, pantyshots and lolis. It not only relates to my visual pet peeves but it also has to do with certain types of anime, about which I’ll talk next.

manga_design

Ran to Haiiro no Sekai, Natsu no Zenjitsu, Red River, Age Called Blue, Shirahime Syo

The manga I pick up and review are characterized by almost the same features. I have an affinity for multiple layers of screentones and details which give both the characters and the environment a plastic quality. I also love texture; anything that looks like sketch or drawings made out of carcoal and ink, be it delicate lines or bold ones. Old school design has its own charm, meaning I’d plunge into such a series with delight, if it also has an interesting story to tell.

b. Category, genre and theme

Hourou Musuko, Ouran High School Host Club, Petshop of Horrors, Sweet Guilty Love Bites

Hourou Musuko, Ouran High School Host Club, Petshop of Horrors, Sweet Guilty Love Bites

One of these days I shall write an anime/manga guide, where I get these things straight, because there’s obviously a lot of talking about them without proper categorization. I don’t mention here demographics because I don’t care much, if it’s shoujo, shounen, josei or seinen- though as I grow older I have noticed that I’m interested more in stories that happen to belong to the last two demographics.  It’s more likely that I watch a daily life work than one that is fantasy, and as far as genres are concerned it’s slice-of-life, drama and romance of all kinds (het, yuri, yaoi) for me. I like comedies, too, of course, but it’s harder to find the right one; I’m picky with what makes me laugh. Gag humor fails on me. Favorite themes are travels, shops, and yokai. Mecha and ecchi stuff are a no-no.

c. Plot and storytelling

Saiunkoku Monogatari, Natsume Yuujinchou, After School Nightmare, The First Class is Civil Law

Saiunkoku Monogatari, Natsume Yuujinchou, After School Nightmare, The First Class is Civil Law

I seek something original or simply something I haven’t tried before within the genres I like of course. Even if the plot isn’t something new, like person A meets person B and they fall in love, I don’t mind as long as the storytelling is sensitive and realistic without necessarily losing the doki doki magic. These things can be judged superficially from a list, a summary, a trailer and a 3-episodes try, but from here onwards these criteria refer to a completed series that might be presented in a post.

Storytelling can be judged only throughout the series till the end, after all. How a series builds dialogue and situations, how it structures its material in arcs with cohesion and/or coherence and how everything leads to a finale play a big role in the quality and naturally in the enjoyment of the work.

d. Message, empathy and later conclusion

Revolutionary Girl Utena, Honey and Clover, xxxholic

Revolutionary Girl Utena, Honey and Clover, xxxholic

In case the story is bad written, I can forgive it under the condition the message is clear, the end of the story is strong emotionally -yet not done in an extravagant way- and the fact I can empathize/identify with circumstances. I don’t mind some questions being left open, unless they are pretty basic or simply too many. A dramatic end is ok, even desired on occassion, yet I dislike with passion melodrama that makes my stomache hurt from the laughs or violence for the sake of violence. And well, since I’m a human being I’ll be partial with ideas I find disgusting, overly romanticized or twisted, eg. love=sacrifice. Sympathy and identification can’t really be discussed without the next factor, which is characters.

e. Character and character development

Spice and Wolf, Twelve Kingdoms, Paradise Kiss, Shutter Love

Spice and Wolf, Twelve Kingdoms, Paradise Kiss, Shutter Love

A character shouldn’t always be gallant and a hero to be likeable. (S)He can be anti-hero without being a total jerk. An intriguing character can also be someone who’s miserable without being a loser; (s)he can have traits you hate, for example, only because you share the same flaws. I don’t like neither too ‘pure’ and lawfully good characters nor evil to the bone caricatures. The past and the present/future should look different; an intentional behavioral fluctuation isn’t bad either. It’s always a big plus when the character interactions are meaningful and come naturally, and it’s even more amazing with an extended cast, when done properly.

f. Animation and music / layout

Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, Clover, Gisele Alain

Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain, Clover, Gisele Alain

Lastly, despite the fact that a good soundrack may enchant me, it won’t save the day. The same goes for animation. Yes, there are series where music and animation can’t be separated from what makes the anime exciting and of high quality. Generally, though I’m willing to forget a simplistic or even dull theme for a series with great characters and/or storytelling, but not the opposite. Animation though is critical for the medium (anime) and it can be a reason to drop a series, if it feels akward and stale (lots of talking with almost no animation for a scene).

In manga, where no sounds or motion exist, layouts try to make up for this lack. A good layout is like a stealth: it does its job without being very observable. It directs the reading, defines time and atmosphere and smoothly drives the story forward. An excellent layout will be impressive and give a certain character to the story. On the other hand a bad layout is noticeable in a very negative way, since you will feel like things are too hectic or shoved down your throat.

So now you have an idea of why certain series make it here and others not (though some will appear in the future hopefully), and what you can expect from us. It’s me that usually chooses what we’ll watch together, but Neko-kun watches and reads some things on his own, too; mostly ecchi and violent (macho) stuff or anything Go-Nagai related.

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14 thoughts on “Good, Great, Godlike – Rating anime & manga

  1. Pingback: The G-Channel Special: The Beautiful World Interview | The G-Empire

  2. While I do use a rating system, I also usually try to include some caveats for who will or won’t likely enjoy a series, independent of my criteria for “greatness”. For example, Texhnolyze (9) feels like more of an “achievement” to me, hence its high score, but I’d be more likely to recommend Bunny Drop (8) to a general audience despite its lower technical merits. I really liked Boogiepop Phantom (7) but found myself ambivalent toward The Tatami Galaxy (8). Still, that’s a hard mindset to get into and I think long and hard about them, sometimes to the point of overthinking.

    That said, your criteria are pretty good ones for the most part and I respect them. I like how they’re not all separate requirements, but different routes a show can take toward greatness; a lot of rating sites and critics break their grades down by parts, but they really shouldn’t be weighed equally for all shows. Character depth is more important to Spice & Wolf, while Baccano! thrives more on a memorable narrative style. That’s why I roll my eyes when people lay out a set of one-size-fits-all criteria rather than opting for something more fluid (even if it means being less technical).

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    • Yes, such a tactic is good, but as I mentioned above, it also doesn’t suit our needs and doesn’t fit in the restrictions.

      “a lot of rating sites and critics break their grades down by parts, but they really shouldn’t be weighed equally for all shows” -Great remark

      Welcome to our new home and thanks for commenting 🙂 I hope you like our site~

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      • I know it doesn’t suit you guys, I was just putting my own style out there to bring something different to the table. Different strokes for different folks.

        At any rate, I find it hilariously naive when people assume that a super-calculated breakdown of criteria makes their opinions more accurate when it doesn’t pay attention to the intent behind the series itself.

        Thank you for welcoming me. I do like your unique style of work, and look forward to seeing more of it.

        Oh, and looking at your animation and music examples, I hope you’re not implying those are the sole draws for Cowboy Bebop and Wolf’s Rain, because both have far more depth to them then they’re often given credit for (and because your article is so good, I have to find something to nitpick at :D)

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        • Oh no, no. I wasn’t implying that the only merits of those two series were music and animation; more like that without them, the series wouldn’t be the same. I can’t forget the jazz being one with the fight scenes in one of the best anime choreographies in Bebop or the way the heroes moved like wolves and flower in Wolf’s Rain.

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  3. A. “What I almost always reject are anime with huge boobs, pantyshots and lolis.”
    Same. If there’s fanservice, I prefer if it was done by adult woman. Lolis should keep their clothes on.
    From the manga example, it seems that you like shoujo art or manga that was done by woman. I admit that (sometimes) shonen art is too simple. Not that man can draw detailed art, but still…..

    B. I’m glad you included Petshop of Horror.
    “Mecha and ecchi stuff are a no-no.”
    Same. The only mecha & ecchi combination I like is Code Geass. The fanservice was done by my favourite female character.

    C. Depend on my mood, I may read any genre.

    D. Melodrama make me want to slap the character.

    E. “I don’t like neither too ‘pure’ and lawfully good characters nor evil to the bone caricatures.”
    Ah, that must be the reason you’ve dropped Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure.

    F. For music, I like Ali Project. I download Rozen Maiden OST for listening the OP-ED. I didn’t even watch the anime.

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  4. I abandoned rating anime last season as well, and looking back I’m glad I did since it really is a useless way for me to summarize my final feelings on any given show. I’ve chosen instead to stick with short final thoughts and to just blog details that interest me while the season is still airing.

    As for picking anime, my preferences are a bit similar to yours, tough I think I have more tolerance for mainstream moe anime and mecha. Some of them are surprisingly entertaining, like Love Live!, or driven, like Hunter x Hunter (2011), or even intellectual, like Eureka 7. But I was interested to see some titles among your examples that I’ve never heard of before.

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    • I don’t rate even in MAL, which is a relative problem when you want to see the compatibility, but it’s ok. I can’t overthink about a number that may change as I watch and read new stuff.

      I’ve heard lots of good about Love Live! but firstly I’m kinda prejudiced against idols and secondly and more importantly I have problems keeping up with what I already watch (5-6 series), so… I might wait until the series is over, check out several opinions and see if it’s for me. Hunter x Hunter must be a great shounen, yet I don’t like violence much. Plus it’s too many episodes to start now :/ Neko has been nagging me about Gintama, but not sure for how long will this drag :/ Eureka 7 is on my to-watch list… one day, hehe.

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  5. “Personal entertainment over quality” is my mantra when writing reviews. Sometimes it overpowers quality so much that I have to give a separate rating directed towards the shows other merits.
    It may not be clear in my G-View ratings explanation post, but to be more specific, if a show is revered by many as being the best thing since sliced bread in terms of plot and other stuff, if I myself didn’t have fun watching it, what’s the point of calling it a masterpiece like everyone else?
    It’s like a video game, good graphics do not always make a great game if the gameplay or plot suck.

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    • Yeah, I understand. It’s very hard to separate your feelings from your judgement. But as I’ve told you in the past for me quality and enjoyment go hand in hand almost always. And well, as I mentioned in the post I try things within the genres I’m already fond of. I have serious trouble comprehending mecha battles let alone sit down, watch and judge such an anime.

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