I use a rating system when reviewing anime, I put it at the end of my reviews after explaining in words why I like or dislike a particular show and certain aspects of it that appeal to me. Rating systems have been used in all of media to determine an objects value, usually rating it out of 10. The object whether music, film or anime is rated to determine how good the show is in comparison to others of its kind.
I use a rating system when I finish watching a show but it isn’t as precise as when I review it. When I rank it on MAL or HummingBird it is purely to put it into a wide bracket with other shows that I feel are on somewhat of an equal level as that particular one. When I review a show however I try to be more precise with my ratings, and try to weigh the scales in order of what the show tried to achieve. A more story driven show like Code Geass will be weighed more in the story department, whereas a more character driven show such as Death Parade is more weighed on characters. Story; Characters; Animation and Sound are all huge factors for me in deciding how great a show is, but I equally balance all those against my enjoyment of the show to get an overall score of it.
Enjoyment is why I watch anime, and thus I feel that it should be heavily considered when determining a shows quality in my eyes. For example although I recognize how great a series Cowboy Bebop is I simply did not enjoy watching it that much because of all the hype surrounding it. I felt pressured to like it before I had even watched it because of its critical acclaim by the community. Because of this Cowboy Bebop feel within the 6-7 range for me, due to my lack of enjoyment of the show. Whereas a show like Zankyou no Terror which is full of flaws but because I went into it knowing nothing at all, I really enjoyed it and it fell between the 8.5-9.5 range for me. Many people would question why I would rank Bebop a critically acclaimed show so much lower than Zankyou no Terror, but it all boiled down to my enjoyment of the show.
Now some people would question why don’t I only use enjoyment to rank shows, if it’s such an important indicator. Well that is simply because then High School DxD and H.O.T.D would be my top 1 and 2, because I enjoyed them the most. I feel that although enjoyment is key and should be the deciding factor as it weighs 50% for me in all reviews, it isn’t the only thing of importance. A show must be good critically as well as enjoyable for it to be considered a masterpiece. A movie like Boyhood although critically acclaimed, was not enjoyed by a majority of people (excluding me) and thus the movie isn’t viewed as a masterpiece in film, but more so a film study. But in contrast a movie like The Dark Knight is both enjoyable by the vast audience, as well as having enough substance behind it to be enjoyed by critics alike.
Now onto why ratings aren’t important. Rating aren’t important because ratings only matters to the person that is reading the piece. Rating only hold value if people put value on them, my rating system is different to most others therefore most people shouldn’t look at my rating scale because it doesn’t truly show what the series is about. For example I gave NGE a 8.1 in animation; that does not mean I think the animation is 8.1/10 really, but rather how much value I place on animation as a whole and how the show holds up to my animation standard. I don’t value sound and animation all too much, yes sure they are there and I would rather watch a Makoto Shinkai film where I know it will look amazing than Revolutionary Girl Utena with the old aspect ration and the black side bars distracting me all the time. But really once I’m 3 episodes into the show, sound and animation don’t really matter, all shows look and sound almost equal besides a few standouts like anything done by KyoAni and Ufotable.
I like to look at how the overall anime is and how it affected me rather than breaking it up and dissecting it into individual pieces of sound, animation, story and characters. By breaking it up, it takes away from what the show really is; which is a collection of individual parts working together in tandem without a real standout. The rating system is not important because you never truly know how the reviewer actually values the individual pieces of the anime. It undoubtedly will not be the same as how you value each of them yourself in every scenario and will thus do more harm than good.
“Why do I use a rating system then?” It is simply because I recognize why it is needed and its impact, yes sure a lot of people will be angry by me giving Bebop a 6.5/10 instead of a 10/10, and other will see my 1/10 for SAO as too harsh, but both are necessary. Review score give a quantifiable number and meaning to something that is unquantifiable: your feeling, and that is why people value them. Not everyone can pick up on the different descriptive words you use when talking about why you like something or not, they want to know what kind of value you place on it as a whole.
People want to know on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is perfection and 1 is “why was this even made” where do you value the show. And that logic in of itself is flawed, because some people don’t think of 10 as perfection but rather as a masterpiece, and there lies a lot of confusion around the grey areas between 1 and 10. Some would say 5 is an average show like Dragon Ball Z whilst other would consider 7 as average and anything below as not worth your time.
Due to their not being a concrete definition of each number scale there is room for interpretation and countless ideals of how media should be value based on their own scales. Rating scales serve no purpose in proving how good or bad the show is, but right now I feel that they are necessary. Although most people will hate me when saying Spirited Away is a 6/10, that number is important for the reader to gauge how both our preferences align. If I give shows like Akame ga Kill and Future Diary low score like 3 and 4 respectively and the reader considered them as masterpieces rating them 9s or 10s then he/she can now discern that our tastes are not compatible and they can look elsewhere knowing that I’m not for them.
Yes sure they can just read my written review without checking the score first, but what I will list as negative for the show will be considered positives for them and they would not really understand my feelings on what they love by mere words alone, they need a quantifiable value for what I think to make their decision. And the review score serve that purpose, and because I recognize its importance in this regard I try to be as meticulous with it as possible and consider ever facet of it before determining how to weigh it and what score it is deserving.
Review scores hold importance because people assign importance to them, and because I recognize this I try to take care with how I present them. I add a tl;dr section at the end of my reviews to sum up my thoughts for people who were either too lazy to read the review and would rather just look at the score or would like a more compressed and streamlined version of my thoughts. The tl;dr is for them to understand how I feel about the show and therefore what kind of importance I put on each individual part of it as well as it overall, and ultimately why I gave it the score that I did. It will not please everyone, but I do hope it at least gives some contexts to my reasoning behind it.
The review score is ultimately a comparison, “how good is this compared to that”, because your score has no weight to it if you don’t have more than one thing. If you’ve only watched Naruto and you call it a 10/10, you are comparing it to other media that you’ve seen earlier on rather than other anime, as you have no basis for the comparison. So when people see that I ranked something higher than something else, it does not tell the full story. I may like one show over the other, but if I looked at them both on paper, the other might rank higher even though I personally feel that it isn’t as good. I don’t personally score every single anime, but I rather put them in boxes of similar-ish quality in my eyes, I only re-categorize them in my reviews so that others can understand how I feel about the show on a more detailed level.