Rating anime

Attaching numbers to our opinions about anime is an easy way to stay organized amongst so many titles. After all, it’s not very plausible for most of us who have watched hundreds of anime titles to write full reviews of every single one, so giving it a number rating on sites like MyAnimeList (MAL) keeps things simple. However, as keikakudoori has recently pointed out, everyone not only has different opinions about the anime they watch, but different ways of rating them. A “10″ rating given by one person could mean something different than a “10″ rating given by another person. Thus, to remove the vagueness given by a standard number rating system for anime, I wanted to delve further into what my ratings means…

I never really thought about an anime rating system until I signed up for MAL in mid-2008. Since then, I’ve been rating all the anime I’ve watched using their 1 through 10 numbered system, with 1 being the lowest (unwatchable) and 10 being the highest (masterpiece). If you’ve read my previous post about head scores and heart scores for anime, my ratings are usually determined by my head score, with the heart score sometimes playing a part. For example, even though I’m not that into the Ghibli movies (average heart score), I give them high ratings on MAL because I recognize how good they are. And although I’m a huge Pokemon fan (high heart score), I know the anime is not the best quality, thus a lower rating.

My personal opinion behind each number is as follows:

(1) Unwatchable – I’ve never given an anime this low of a score. I honestly can’t imagine an animation fan like me finding an anime with absolutely nothing good about and nothing I can enjoy in it.

(2) Horrible – Again, I’ve never given such a low score.

(3) Very bad – Haven’t given this score either, but I would imagine this would be an anime where there’s just like, one good thing I find in it while everything else is utter crap.

(4) Bad – I guess I’m just not that picky when it comes to anime and I try to focus on the good rather than the bad in everything I watch, hence I’ve never given this low rating either. But if I did, it would be a title that has a few more good things than a (3) rated one, but still mostly crap.

(5) Average – These are titles that I liked a little, but for the most part they bored me or were full of issues that I felt were begging for improvement, i.e., unlikable/under-developed characters, flawed/uninteresting plot, etc,.

(6) Fine – These are anime that I find “okay.” Either I half like them and half don’t like them, or I do like them but I can see that as far as head scoring goes, they’re below-average. I couldn’t really recommend these titles to anyone unless they have specific tastes.

(7) Good – Anime with this rating are ones that I liked and thought were pretty good, plain and simple. They’re not great but not bad, just good. I had some issues with them, but enjoyed watching them for the most part. Both this and a (6) rating means I liked the series, but this one leans more towards overall positive feelings about the anime while a (6) is more negative.

(8) Very good – These are anime that I felt went the extra mile than a (7) rated one. Even if they had some flaws, something about them made them stand out to me, whether it was cinematography, art style, a certain memorable character, or any number of things. An (8) rating basically means “above average” to me. These tend to be titles where my head and heart scores are almost the same, with one or the other dominating a little.

(9) Great – These are excellent titles, not quite masterpieces, but almost there. Lots of great things about these; unique and interesting story and characters, quality animation and music, or some other form of goodness. What prevents them from being a perfect (10) is either my lower heart score feelings interfering, or just one or two noticeable, but not incredibly significant, issues. I could easily recommend these titles to anyone even if they’re not a particular fan of that genre.

(10) Masterpiece – These are the gems that give anime a good name and keep reminding me why I’m a fan. As far as I’m concerned, these titles do 99% of what they’re meant to do right, and in no uneventful way either. Even if my heart score for these titles is low, their greatness is so obvious that it doesn’t matter. Every fan should watch them since I believe they define all that’s great about anime, or even the animation medium in general. I think they could even impress some cynical non-fans. Basically they’re just that – masterpieces in storytelling, characters, visual beauty, or some combination of great attributes.

I think MAL’s rating system is pretty good, which is why I’ve been sticking with it. The only thing I would like to improve on it is to add middle ratings, such as a “7.5″ rating between a “7″ and an “8″ because I often find myself torn between two different ratings.

I’d also like to mention that I think ANN’s way of rating anime in their reviews is pretty good; writing a synopsis and full review, assigning a letter grade to things like “Story” and “Animation,” then finishing it off with quick bullet points of pros and cons. If one wanted to skip the time-consuming task of writing the synopsis and review, just the letter grading and short list of pros and cons would also be a great way to give easy anime reviews, perhaps even more telling than MAL’s.

So, what do you think of the 1 through 10 rating system for anime? Have you seen rating systems on other sites that you think are better? And feel free to share what each of the 1 through 10 rating numbers means to you, or your own personal rating system if you have one.

30 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Adam Skinner says:

    I think rating anime based on objective standards rather than subjective perception misses the point. If you aren’t into Ghilbi flicks, then don’t rate them higher than you know you should.

    Board Game Geek uses this kind of subjective standard. In that paradigm, it’s “how often do I want to play the game?”. Then again, not everyone applies that standard to it. I don’t even apply that standard myself: while it’s the base, there are longer and complex games that I really enjoy that I don’t have the stamina for sometimes. So it’s more of a measure of enjoyment for me.

    I apply the same thing to my anime ratings. I rate the anime once I’m done with it, based on the feeling I have at the end of it. While it’s occasionally beneficial to talk about specific aspects (sound, visuals, story, characters), at the end of the day it’s not about any one of those things, nor are they all weighted equally in every anime. Maison Ikkoku is one of my 10s. By modern standards it looks very dated, but looks isn’t everything. In fact, it pales in importance to characters and story. Many slice of life shows are essentially devoid of story, and rely on comedy and character and “feel”.

    My average rating is probably something like 7.75/10. I imagine this is higher than most people, and higher than more experienced people – I’ve seen perhaps 150 different anime series/movies/OVAs, but AniDB lists me as having voted on 225 distinct entities there. The thing is, I’m not watching series blindly. I research, read reviews, and make intelligent decisions before I decide to watch something. I also add in some of the currently airing titles as well; I often won’t rate the ones I’ve dropped, but sometimes I will. In cases like Kimagure Orange Road, I’d invested so much time before I realised that it was repetitive crap that I simply had to finish it.

    Anyway, don’t rate objectively; rate subjectively.

    • Yumeka says:

      Thanks for the thoughts.

      The thing is, even if I have a low heart score for Ghibli movies or other titles, I still enjoy them and like them, I’m just not “into” them like I am with my favorites. So I still wouldn’t want to give them a low rating just because of that when I know how good they are. So I guess my way of rating is a little objective, but it’s simply based on my feelings and thoughts rather than just personal enjoyment.

      I agree that animation quality isn’t as important as story/characters, especially for older titles that look dated. And though MAL doesn’t say it, I think that my average rating for anime is the same as yours and I also tend not to rate anime until I’ve fully completed them (or at least watched a lot of episodes if they’re one of the long-running series).

  2. Anonymous says:

    I honestly prefer a 5 point system because with a 10 point system, some feel 7 is average and others feel 5 is. With a 5 point system, 3 is average for everybody.

    • Yumeka says:

      Ah, that’s a good point. The 10 point rating system allows people to be more specific, but its disadvantage is exactly what I’m saying in this post – that the meaning for each number rating is different for each person. So unless everyone on MAL makes their own post like this, we’ll only have a vague idea of what their ratings mean XD

  3. digital boy says:

    Watch Kai Doh Maru and Ninja resurrection and see if you don’t put your 1 and 2 to good use lol.

  4. Jan S. says:

    Although I almost never drop anime series once I start them, it has to be at least a “7″ for me or else why am I watching it…? (When there are so many 7-and-above series out there to watch?) The few occasions I’ve given a “6″ on MAL is when I got caught up in the series sufficiently where I couldn’t drop it, even though it had flaws and wasn’t all that great, and so I finished the series and gave it an overall 6. There’s nothing on my MAL list that is under a 6. (I try not to start watching anything that looks dodgy or suspect…)

    For me, I couldn’t give series or films a high score because I know they’re quality – if I did not also really like, or love them. So I couldn’t rate like you rate the Ghibli movies (i.e., high head score so you rated them highly, even with low heart score). The heart score counts for a lot with me. The only possible exception for me was Death Note, which I gave a 10 to, even though I can’t say I felt a lot of love or emotion for it. It was brilliant, so that rating was more on head score, admittedly. ;)

    • Yumeka says:

      It sounds like your rating system is along the lines of what the first commentator on this post (Adam) is describing – subjective only =) It also reinforces my reply to the second commentator (Anonymous) – that a number rating system is disadvantaged in that the meaning behind each number is different for each person.

      The main reason I keep watching anime I would initially rate with 5 or 6 is because I like to give them a chance, especially if they’re only 13-26 episodes long. I know lots of anime tell a complete story that needs to be seen from beginning to end in order to be fully appreciated/understood. I know I would have given shows like Air and Occult Academy lower ratings if I hadn’t watched their final two episodes. This is also the reason I don’t give most anime a rating on MAL until I complete them. But for longer series that I rate low, or series that just plain bore me, I’m more likely to drop them.

  5. Glo says:

    That’s a very similar rating system to mine, although I rate out of the following:

    1 – Horribly bad. Unwatchable. I’m going to kill myself. I’ve never given a one.
    2 – Extrememly bad. Why did I watch this crap!? I’ve given maybe two titles a 2.
    3 – Blech. Stilll pretty bad, but I could stomach it long enough to complete. Maybe there were a few things I kind of sort of liked.
    4 – All in all, a decent show. It wasn’t bad, but nothing really stood out much either. It was more on the good side than the bad though.
    5- A quality, good, show.
    5* – A really good show. It had a lot that made me go “Oh yea!”, although there was still something missing to give it that extra kick.
    5^^-Equal to you’re ten. I call these classics. Meaning I will always LOVE these titles no matter what.

    For some reason, I sometimes rate series I drop, but I never give them ones. Sometimes, I don’t rate them at all…..I should change that.

    • Yumeka says:

      Ah, so you use the 5 point rating system. It sounds pretty good =)

      I’ve rated the (very few) series I’ve dropped, but I’ll only drop them after I’ve watched at least half of the episodes if they’re 12-26 episodes long, or at least ten episodes if they’re a 50+ episode series. I feel that that’s a sufficient amount for me to judge them. But for series I’ve dropped or are on hold after having watched only like, one episode, I don’t feel qualified to rate them.

  6. Yi says:

    My point system is almost identical except for 5-7. I consider 6 to be a fair recommendation, something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to recommend to another. 7 is a very solid recommendation, while 5 is something that I don’t hate, but don’t particularly enjoy. I think I might switch to yours though as your delineations are less muddled.

    As a side note, I don’t actually like assigning a score for categories (animation, plot, characters… etc.) These categories affect one another way too much that I think not considering them holistically is kind of awkward.

    • Yumeka says:

      Glad you like my rating system ^.^

      As for not rating those categories, I think rating animation is viable since that’s important to some fans regardless of other factors, and it’s also harder to debate. Plot and characters can be tricky though. For some series, I really like just a few characters but not the rest, while for others I don’t feel attached to the characters but I love the story/plot. Not sure how I would rate the categories in these situations, especially with just numbers and no explanation.

  7. kluxorious says:

    I rate according to MAL as well and I try to be as unbias as possible when I give my rating. It’s hard though because usually my heart take over which is fine by me because it is MY rating.

  8. keikakudoori says:

    I, myself, would like an additional .5 rating from 7 to 8 since this is the most difficult range when rating for me so I can be fully able to give a proper score. For now we can only do it manually by adding a note in the tags section but it’ll be really great if MAL could implement it. Adding grades for animation, plot, and others as mentioned here would be a great addition too.

  9. Logopolis says:

    I went to using tiers because I found that numbers were getting silly; in order to recognise my favourites whilst maintaining standards, I was having to go up to 13/10! The trouble with numeric “out-of” ratings is that they assume the existence of an ideal; a perfect way of making something which full marks represents. Once you’ve rated something 10/10, it should be impossible for anything to be meaningfully better. But finding something meaningfully better than my 10/10 has happened several times in my life. And most really good shows I see expand my ideas of what storytelling is capable of, stretching further any notion of perfection.

    (Also they suggest rating poor stuff in as much detail as good stuff. But if something’s only worth a 1, why watch enough of it to verify this?)

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s a very good point. I gave both Summer Wars and Spirited Away a 10 rating, but would I be able to choose which one is better amongst them? Yes. So that would mean one of them should technically be an 11. But like I said in the post, my personal 10 rating means I consider them one of the gems among anime, etc., so it doesn’t really matter if I personally feel one of them is a bit better than another.

      Also a good point about 1 rated shows, but since I’ve never watched anything I would rate below a 5, I couldn’t say.

  10. Joe says:

    After entering every title I could possibly remember watching into my MAL account, I faced the difficult task of trying to rate them all. There was a time that I would have tackled this with great gusto and some kind fo systematic methodology, but I really just can’t be bothered to do this sort of thing anymore. I think the biggest insight that I got from joining MAL was realizing just how little anime I’d seen compared to most of my peers in the various clubs that I’d joined. Sure, I knew what I liked and what I didn’t, but could I really begin to accurately “grade” them all if I knew that I was still a long way from being the kind of truly experienced, educated, and enlightened viewer that I feel I’d need to be to adequately do so?

    I still assigned a handful of ratings to certain series that had left strong enough impressions on me to actually do so (for better or worse), but for at least two thirds of my listed titles, I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Maybe I’ll change my opinions on them in the future, or maybe I felt like I wasn’t quite “ready” to rate them just yet. Would I ever be? Did I need to watch them again first, or to just see more anime in general to gain a better of understanding of their relative quality? Who knows!

    I do feel a little troubled by how, out of the 4,329 titles on MAL that have actually earned a weighted score from the community, only a measly seven titles have actually earned a score lower than 5, a rating which MAL lists as “average” (or at least not the absolute bottom of the barrel, as it seems to have turned out to be instead). Rather, the median score on MAL is about 7.09. I’m no statistician but I feel like it reflects some kind of tremendous misunderstanding on the part of our community as to just what constitutes “good” anime.

    Do most fans just “love watching anime” no matter what it is? Do they tend to have low standards for it in general, or are they just more willing to ignore its poorer elements and focus on a title’s positive aspects instead? I’m just talking off the top of my head here, don’t mind me.

  11. Yumeka says:

    LOL, actually I was quite the opposite when I first joined MAL. I had a lot of fun rating all the anime I’d seen. However, I did feel a little uneasy rating shows I hadn’t watched in years and only remembered a little about. But I do revise my scores on MAL every now and then as I’ve watched more anime and become a more knowledgeable fan. If you don’t feel like an “educated” enough fan to rate certain titles, rate them as if they were a regular TV show or movie instead of a part of anime fandom. Just a thought.

    And wow, I had no idea that so few titles on MAL had earned anything below a 5 overall. The questions you raise about it are very interesting too (I feel inspiration for another post coming on…) Perhaps MAL should switch to a 5 point rating system ~_^

  12. f0calizer says:

    Your post got me to take a good look at my MAL rankings for the first time in a while!

    I realized that I share with you a tendency not to rate things below 5, all except for one item that I found really unsatisfying. I tend to divide anime I like but am not extremely enthusiastic about into two categories, going along with your 5 (average) & 6 (fine) vs. 7 (good) and 8 (v. good) classification. That’s why I have so many items listed from 6-8. I reserve 9s and 10s for anime I often talk about as fine examples of this visual medium, which for me would be Ghost in the Shell, ARIA, and a few other works like Millennium Actress. Also, I’ve reserved 10s for some anime because they work very well in conjunction with their manga versions. Planetes, for example, is a fine anime, but the anime creators made several changes to the storyline that deviated from the manga. But the changes were done in such a way that the anime worked very well in its own right — it showed different aspects of some of the characters and the world they were in that the manga did not. In other words, you couldn’t say that the manga was “canon” and the anime was not or vice versa, because each one had its own merits, and to get a full sense of the world of Planetes you would have to read/watch both versions of the story. That deserves a 10 in my book!

    • Yumeka says:

      I didn’t know that about Planetes. I also like to judge anime in their own right rather than whether or not they follow the manga perfectly. For example, the first Fullmetal Alchemist series was quite different from the manga, but many agree that it was a great alternate telling of the story. On the other hand, Death Note followed its manga nearly perfectly while Love Hina did not. I rated the Love Hina anime lower not because it didn’t follow the manga perfectly, but because of all its other attributes, regardless of the manga. I know manga to anime comparisons are important for some fans when judging a series, but as someone who rarely reads manga, it’s no big deal for me.

  13. Aaron B. says:

    I never rate anime; I never have and I never will. I can certainly see the advantage of using a flexible or customizable system to reflect one’s interests, categorically, but I’ve always found it difficult for numbers, letters, stars, cupcakes, whatever, to encourage as much level-headed discussion as a full-length article.

    Numbers and letters don’t reflect the depth character dynamics or purposeful dialogue; stars don’t reflect directorial style, camera work, or editing style; and cupcakes, for goodness sakes, can’t really tell you whether a series’ invented mythology is wholly and successfully integrated into the narrative, or whether nuances in the production design hearken back to a previous generation’s work. This is also why I try lean more toward a critique than a review, proper.

    I agree that most reviewers have a tendency to “…assume the existence of an ideal.” I think we’ve all probably fallen into this gorge more than a few times, which is why it’s important to take a step back every once in a while and reassess our philosophy or ambition for watching content in the first place. Even if the structure or format of the Review doesn’t change, re-evaluating how (and why) you arrive at your final perspective is always important, I think.

    • Yumeka says:

      Good thoughts as always. I agree that a rating system can’t tell as much as a review of a few paragraphs can. But I feel it’s necessary since most people don’t write time-consuming reviews of every anime they’ve ever watched. So to give a vague idea of how they feel, they can use the rating system…it’s better than nothing basically =)

  14. Shance says:

    I think I’ll take this opportunity to be a little elitist about myself.

    To tell the truth, I haven’t thought of rating the shows that I watch, since I mostly categorize them into four simple categories: The one that I liked, the one that I didn’t liked, the one that I didn’t like but watched anyway, and the one that I like but didn’t watched anyway. This brings me into the case of why I don’t use any other site to rate how a show went, and why I don’t post these outside my social network (I can’t say I do it only on blogs since I do describe what I watched on Twitter Google Reader, and IRC, but that’s pretty much every site I visit aside from the blogs I read and comment on).

    I think I’ll use the right to tell people how it went instead. From there, people can tell how much I liked a show and rate them according to their own criteria and preferences.

    • Yumeka says:

      It sounds like you’re interested in your experience with, or how you felt, upon watching anime rather than rating them by how good they are. Certainly a viable way of doing things =)

  15. Odin Force says:

    I think the 10 star system is really good and detail for archiving purpose. However, every media product has a certain “life span” in people’s mind. No matter how good a master piece is (e.g. Neon Genesis Evangelion), you don’t want to watch it again every weekend. So I have a 3 star system for myself:

    1 star: don’t want to watch it again within at least 3 years.
    2 star: want to watch it again once in at least every 3 months.
    3 star: addicted to it and can watch it again once in every 3 weeks.

  16. Yumeka says:

    Interesting…is 3 your favorite number? ^^,,, Though I’m surprised you don’t have a rating for something you’d never want to watch again in a million years XD

  17. ~xxx says:

    I preferred the letter grading system…

    well, I am bit well rounded in numbers and often I put decimals so I really screw up on numbers.

  18. sami says:

    I think there are several Anime that deserves rates from 1 to 3, for example:

    (1) Unwatchable : (school days) (onegai twins) (one piece)

    (2) Horrible : (gintama)(ef- a tale of memories)

    (3) Very bad : (hanbun no tsuki ga noboru sora) (shinigami no Ballad) (gilgamesh)

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