Ratings/grades in reviews are overrated. Why whine about this now? I accidentally found out that I did, in fact, get criticism from people other than Dark_Sage during the Aniblog Tourney (other than “boring layout, no dinner”). They just never gave me any way to find out that they were even talking about my blog unless I happened to be a regular reader of their blog. Which I am not. So I will not mention them either, so they don’t know I’ve been talking about them. One thing they said really stood out to me, and that was “don’t forget to put an overall grade in your review so your readers have some indication of how good the anime is.”
Note: This rant should not be taken as negativity towards people who include grades in reviews or the person who said I should be doing that. It’s a general rant about how unimportant they are, though it was inspired by that comment. I don’t hate you, Person Whose Blog I Don’t Read! It’s just that I know you’re wrong, because I’m incredibly arrogant!
Ratings can only hurt your reviews.
Because they can have negative effects, and have no positive effects. They’re probably nice if you’re not very good at articulating your thoughts, but if you use them as a crutch then you’ll never get better at it. And it’s kind of a big deal for an anime blogger to be able to articulate their thoughts well. Unless you’ve got a really bizarre anime blog, but true to the definition of that word, at least 90% of the blogs out there are not bizarre.
Half the reason I don’t include ratings in my reviews is because I want people to actually, you know, read them. This is kind of a big deal. I put in effort to be detailed about what’s good and bad about the shows I review, and I think a lot of the time I succeed. I don’t write reviews to tell people if something’s good or not. If I wanted to do that they’d be one sentence long. They would just be the “tl;dr” parts of my reviews. I want them to know why, so they will be better able to judge if the show might be something they’d like.
Ratings cannot capture the subjectivity. That’s why I try to review the way I do. If I say a show is a 10/10, not only am I using a stupid rating system but I am forcing my opinion on you that it is a perfect masterpiece. Opinions aren’t universal, no matter how much you may try to make it so. It’s better to talk about specific aspects of a show and why you thought they were good or bad. You’re still talking subjective nonsense, but if you go into detail about what these things are like, then of course it will be easier for people to figure out if it interests them.
Besides, then you won’t see me give an awful grade to Madoka Magica and Gurren Lagann just because they’re popular and I secretly hate popular things. Fact: I have reasons for not thinking those two shows are the best thing in the universe, and though all the hype and fans screaming about how amazing and special they are (they aren’t!) certainly have had a negative impact on my opinions, I’ve got genuine reasons to believe that these shows are flawed and if I write about them I want you to read them!
If people have read your amazing review, in all its glorious details, how does it add to your review to have that little “Final Grade: B-” at the end of it? If they read the thing, do they even need the grade? If they didn’t read it, do you even want them there? I wouldn’t, because unless they’re scouring the internet for reviews that are either positive or negative for a very specific purpose, they’re probably being stupid.
Rating systems themselves are stupid and typically worthless.
First: Ratings are inherently stupid because you’re applying a number to a work of art. I hope that didn’t sound too pretentious, because I’m not trying to say anime is some amazing wonderful thing that everyone should watch. What I’m saying is that each day, when I cook each of my meals, I don’t taste it and say “This is a 7.4/10!” I say “good enough, but could have used less butter and it was a bit overcooked.”
Second: Too subective to be of any use. My 6/10 is definitely not your 6/10, since you put garbage shows as anything under 7/10 (okay maybe you don’t; I don’t even know who you are but most people do) but 6/10 is where I put Summer Wars, Black Lagoon, and Witch Hunter Robin on MAL (where I do use a stupid rating system). Those are generally thought of as pretty decent, aren’t they? And you shouldn’t have to make an entire post explaining your personal rating system… that’s just dumb, and makes them even more useless. How many people are going to go through the effort to read a whole post just to understand a number that could otherwise just be ignored in favour of the rest of the review?
Third: People are not consistent with their ratings unless it’s based on rigorous criteria. Why is pure rigorous criteria bad? Injustice to art. Ignorance of the fun factor. Adding a “fun factor” rating to your final rating does not help. It’s going to sound like a cop-out. It’s going to make me think this is some guilty pleasure that I probably wouldn’t like because I’m not you. No show about zombies would ever get a reasonable rating under rigorous criteria. But is there anyone out there who could not find something to enjoy about Kore wa Zombie desu ka? How about Sankarea, or maybe just the first episode of Highschool of the Dead? Zombie shows aren’t total garbage. They just look like they are if you try to use rigorous criteria.
Now, on to numbers numbers numbers.
I’m pretty sure Scamp has the best rating system amongst anime bloggers. But it’s still annoying because you need to decide on a single anime to compare everything to first, and because inevitably you will like Chaos;Head a lot more than Umineko. But do you actually like Chaos;Head enough to claim it’s on par with Deadman Wonderland? No! As much as Deadman Wonderland disappointed you, you know in your heart that it’s way better than the Chaos;Head anime. But you can’t move Deadman Wonderland up either, because that would put it next to the likes of Noir and Basquash. This is not okay.
We’re gonna need a solution to this problem. I know! Let’s add more numbers! In fact, let’s add decimals! Yeah! Let’s take something annoying from early math classes and jam it into something that we otherwise enjoy to solve a problem that we don’t need to have in the first place! Genius! So after appropriately ranking everything, I’ve finally narrowed everything down to a total of 241 ratings (double that if you added decimals). Now everyone will know I feel about every anime. My rating system is perfect.
Except it’s unbearably stupid and pretty much unusable. Of course, nobody in their right mind thinks through ratings this much, hence why everyone just uses their whatever/10 with decimals and doesn’t spend more than 30 seconds thinking about a show’s rating or what it means when a show is rated with the same number as another show. But since I’m not right in the head, I do. The verdict: the bigger the number, the stupider it gets (unless that lands it on an odd number).
Most people turn to systems out of 5 or out of 10. And Here’s the deal. 10 is stupid. 10 is an even number. That means that unless you’re using 0, there is no middle ground of quality. I can’t be the only one who is genuinely ambivalent to some shows. I need that middle ground, because it seems wrong to approve and wrong to disapprove of these shows. Rating something out of 3 is the best option. It’s the smallest odd number that isn’t 1. So you basically have Approval, Ambivalence, and Disapproval. Glorious. But nobody uses that, because of course there’s a lack of detail with such a small number.
People will misinterpret it anyway. They’ll think 2/3 or 3/5 is a show not worth watching. But that’s not what it means. Why can’t that just mean something is really, really average? Average never meant bad. If you’re reading this, I guarantee that you enjoy multiple shows that are average. I guarantee that you would tell others to watch these average shows that you like. Because average does not mean bad!
Of course, this goes over to another problem. A problem that gets bigger the more numbers/letters you use. And that is that in the typical X/10 rating system, you actually only have 5 ratings. You have the “garbage” rating which is anything below 7, and then you get 7, 8, 9, and 10. The different numbers under “garbage” are really just there to make everything look pretty and more balanced than it really is… which is funny because people typically have more varied levels of “like” than they do of “dislike.” Maybe you don’t think this is a problem. But I do, because seeing all those numbers never getting used irritates me to no end. Just use an X/5 system right from the start instead of disguising it as something else!
Even if you try to be good about making sure all of your numbers in your rating system are good, well-defined, and oft used, there’s still that problem of reevaluation. Not many people would go back, rewatch a show, and rerate it. Not many people would consider it acceptable to edit the content of an old post beyond fixing grammatical errors and the like anyway. You are alive, so your opinions are mindsets are alive. That means they probably undergo growth and change (maybe even reproduction, though that’s kinda gross) every time something happens. Every time you watch a new show. And if you’re someone prone to “honeymoon periods” with anime then everything in this paragraph becomes a huge problem.
Final aspect of this ratehate rant: Using grades to rate shows. As in from a school system. Come on, guys. If anything less than 60% is a total failure, then you are saying that a show that hits over half of all “good points” is still total garbage. That doesn’t even make sense. Deciding what amount of information retained and understood is acceptable is not the same as judging the quality of a thing. Besides, everyone does it wrong anyway. There are only five grades, but the only reason it has so many percentages is because grades are calculated on actual numerical values. Anime does not have numerical values. Windmills do not work that way.
Bold is cruise control for bold. Rant over.