thoughts on the AniMetacritic, five years late

I just found out about the AniMetacritic (version 2) today, a sampling of the anime scores of aniblogging’s finest. As a physicist, I naturally found myself drooling at the very thought of this sort of data. It’s kind of like why graph.anime.plus appeals to me: despite its limited functionality, it offers something as simple as standard deviations on my anime scores, scores vs. year, vs. genre, etc. The very act of working with this data to extract something as basic as like “elitist anibloggers believe Legend of the Galactic Heroes is the best thing ever” just sounds so exciting.

At the same time, I’ve always wondered where I could find the definitive list of “good” anime…

MyAnimeList, ANN, Anime Planet, etc. all have userbases that have grown too large, and it becomes a sort of popularity contest (for the ultimate version of this, see the complete joke and shitfest that is Crunchyroll’s “Anime Awards”). While Legend of the Galactic Heroes is top 10 on MAL, a lot of well-regarded shows are stuck with low popularity and low scores. For example, ranking by {scores, popularity}, the divisive yet famous Revolutionary Girl Utena has a {#306, #830}, the original Gundam series has a {756, 1202}, and Satoshi Kon’s trio of Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers all sit at around #230 in scores and >#400 in popularity. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a show that single-handedly defined modern anime, yet it features a score rank of #555.

Without knowing anything, the only way to find out about these shows is, I think, through word-of-mouth. Data-driven lists like MAL’s top anime page pale in comparison to the words of a few experts who’ve gone through the slow process of learning about what’s important and what’s not. And while everybody has gone on and on about their own top 10s, 20s, and 30s, it should have been obvious to make something like the AniMetacritic long, long before 2013. It’s a list of the shows that all of us in the blogging community already knew were considered “good”, but to see it all laid out in a ranking is so… satisfying.

Of course, it’s obviously another popularity contest, but that’s something bloggers are all too familiar with. And it’s equally obvious that this list is idealized by anibloggers, for anibloggers. It was made by a very specific subset of anime fans: people who were most active around 2006-2010, not too long after small-time personal blogs took off, and not too long before other social media took over. But because I fall into that category, I feel validated looking at (most) of this list. It verifies the tiny voices in my head…

Aria the Origination (AMCv2 #2) is top tier? I knew it all along!

Infinite Ryvius (AMCv2 #57) is an amazing show? Sure, I guess!

Nobody else liked Nichijou (AMCv2 #247)? …I knew that.

Anyway, this list doesn’t meet my expectations for a definitive list of “good” anime. It’s five years old, which in anime terms is an entire generation and a half of anime fans. Remember – Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan came out only a year before the AniMetacritic! It also doesn’t hit some of the older stuff (pre-Bebop), because people like me in 2008 didn’t want to watch 1980s shows. There’s no Ashita no Joe, not even on the “obscure” list. And those small sample sizes? That’s an error bar away from a score of 0.

All that said, and even trying to account for my bias as an anime blogger, I still think that this list is the best data-driven option around. I’ll be using it to fill in the (many) holes in my anime history.

P.S.: somehow I got onto the second version of the AniMetacritic along with a bunch of my fellow retired anibloggers (thank you for remembering me, kadian), though not under this name. I’d also like to point out that that account was made before Nichijou, and my (probably lone) 10/10 score would have shot Nichijou up from #247 all the way to… #241.

P.P.S.: with two seconds more time to investigate, I found out that I’m actually NOT counted as part of the ratings so I guess.. uhh .. whatever


Challenge for Antarctic 7-9

So some of the concerns I had in my last post are getting worse. The conflicts in each episode feel more and more fake and contrived, to the point where the (forced) sense of closure doesn’t really satisfy me. Instead, it feels like everything is getting trivialized. The girls’ feelings of uselessness on the ship? Bam. Resolved. Shirase’s lifelong awkward relationship with the expedition leader? Bam. Resolved. (sort of)

Related to this is how besides the main conflict of each episode, everything else is pushed aside. In episode 9, Shirase took center stage while the other three girls melded into one emotionless unit, with no personality to speak of. Instead of showing the fun and varied personalities of the girls (like in the OP and in the first 4-5 episodes), the show has basically made them act and talk the same.

For example, maybe instead of focusing on Shirase’s reaction on getting to Antarctica, there could have been some inner dialogue from each girl. Nothing much, maybe just 5 seconds/one line for each of the three. Mari could have touched on how she’s finally doing something cool. Yuzuki could say how glad she is to have made it with her new friends. And Hina could say… something? I dunno. But instead, we got:

Mari: We’re here!

Yuzuki: We made it!

Hina: Goal!

It’s the same damn thing! Even though the episode focused on Shirase, it doesn’t have to be all Shirase all the time. In such an overdone genre, it was the small refinements that made the girls so likeable and unique early on in the show, and that’s slowly getting sucked out.

Anyway, it’s still a 9/10 for me overall. These last few episodes have lost the magic that made it a 10/10, but it’s still great.


“How much did you like this show?”

A month ago, there was the “Anime of the Year 2017” vote on reddit. At the time, I (obviously) voted for Made in Abyss, but there were many people out there trying to drum up support for a handful of other shows (Houseki no KuniRakugo S2). One comment in particular really stood out:

Rakugo [for anime of the year], and it’s a testament to the quality of some of the other shows that this is even a bit close. Houseki and Shoujo Shuumatsu are my second and third favourite anime of 2017, but Rakugo was the first anime in a very long time that legitimately scared me. There were several times while watching Rakugo that I thought to myself “this might not only be the best show I’ve watched, but it might very well be the best show I will ever watch.” I think that great yet terrible realization is the dream of any dedicated anime fan – I can’t think of any higher praise for this show than that. (source)

In all the tens of thousands of blog posts, reddit comments, and MAL reviews I’ve read, I’ve seen the same few phrases fans use to describe good shows (and I’m no exception!!). Words like “masterpiece” are thrown around and beat up like a punching bag. There’s always people writing disclaimers (relevant? post) about how “harsh” their scores are, or how few 10/10s they give out.

But it’s understandable, right? While a bit of thinking and a lot of writing can answer the question “why did I like this anime?” (and thus propel you to the top of the MAL reviews), it takes different skills to answer the question “how much did I like this anime?” It’s a never-ending search of synonyms like “great”, “fantastic”, “amazing” to “masterpiece”, “magnum opus”, and the worst one of all, “classic.” But do you see what I’m doing? I’m trying to hype something up here, exactly like the people who say how “harsh” their criteria are. I’m no better!

But this guy on reddit is going a little too far, I think.

As I’ve watched more and more anime, I have come to believe that “the best thing I’ve ever seen!” is not at all good praise (though I always end up writing it, even recently). The effectiveness of this statement scales with how much anime I’ve watched, and how varied my anime history has been. Unless I’ve seen everything to date, saying “Nichijou is the best thing I’ve ever seen!” may only say that I haven’t seen much.

Going one dozen steps further is “the best thing I will ever watch.” Not only does this carry the same implications that I said about “the best thing I’ve ever seen,” but it confidently says “there’s nothing else out there that’s better than this, and there never will be.” It sounds good — like the redditor said, it’s the highest praise possible — but it also sounds naive and arrogant. I don’t think I would ever be able to write this, because I know it can’t possibly be true.

It’s not that “the best thing I will ever see” is not high praise. It’s just not good praise.

All that said, Rakugo was really, really good.


Spring 2018 anime predictions, premonitions, and precognitions

It’s been a while since I’ve watched seasonal shows (Winter 2018 has been the first time in… 6 years? 7?). It just so happens that next season has a bunch of adaptations of manga I’ve loved and a ton of high profile sequels too. I figure that even though some of these are bound to flop, it’s an important time to record down the hype I’m feeling at the moment.

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the problem with violet evergarden

…is that I don’t give a SHIT about Violet Evergarden. After writing my last post on Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (which, by the way, has a stupid-as-hell English name so I’m going back to Japanese), I went and watched episode 5 of Violet Evergarden.

I had Violet Evergarden in mind as I was ranting about how Antarctic Girls is falling into the pattern of a “conflict-of-the-week,” and it’s pretty obvious why: it’s an episodic show with a microscopic overarching plot of Violet becoming human. I’m using “microscopic” because so far I haven’t been able to detect any meaningful change in our beloved robogirl. And while the conflict-of-the-week is sometimes interesting, everything revolves around KyoAni trying to make me feel sorry as I watch socially-inept Violet drawing pity as she takes off her gloves.

I don’t give a shit about this character. There’s nothing remotely appealing about a main character who has no emotions, and it’s even worse that every interaction and dialogue has to do with how she has no emotions. I could bear with it for the first few episodes, but now it’s just KyoAni flexing their animation skills and puking out a European Endless Eight where the only thing everybody talks about is how Nagato has no emotions.

you suck