Image Credit: p‑suke from Pixiv
…and why I don’t use them.
Now, if you’ve managed to follow my blog since its conception (congratulations for putting up with my nonsense), you’ll notice that whenever I do overviews of an entire anime series (like Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Mirai Nikki, the latter of which I’m ashamed for even enjoying), you’ll notice that unlike review sites like THEM Anime Reviews, Anime-Planet, the anime portion of IGN, etc., I don’t end off my reviews by giving these series some form of a review score, be it stars or numbers.
Why is this? Well, to be frank, it’s because I believe the concept of giving out review scores is the most idiotic and counterproductive thing in the realm of proper critique. Review scores are something reviewers in general, let alone anime bloggers, shouldn’t use. At all.
Image Credit: ちま from Pixiv
The Misuse of the Scale System
While not as bad as the video gaming community, where games tend to be rated much more positively than deserved simply for being a video game by review sites like GameSpot and IGN, the ways people view and use rating systems are still pretty misconstrued across the board of entertainment, including anime. The use of the 1–10 system is probably the best example of ratings being greatly misused, resulting in the masses having a misconstrued view of how the rating system works as well.
For example, in order to avoid pointing fingers, let’s say a well-known site reviews a popular anime series like Mirai Nikki, or Sword Art Online, and gives it a 5/10 because they think it’s an unwatchable piece of filth. Now, I’m willing to bet a lot of you will look at the number “5” and in your heads, will think that it’s a very terrible score.
Funny thing is, it actually isn’t.
Just look at the 1–10 rating scale more closely. Using common sense, it’s easy to rationalize that “10” is perfect and “1” is, well, a complete pile of abysmal crap. So why didn’t this hypothetical site give it a 1? In fact, in a true 10-point rating system, 5 is actually average — meaning it has an equal amount of both good and bad points about it. But with arbitrary number systems like this, people view it within the perspective of a teacher doing a report card. Anything below a 70% is either a D or an F, and within the realm of media, everything below 6 basically equals “terrible”. Even though the actual 10-point system dictates that everything above a 6 is actually above average. What a pickle. Conversely, I’ve seen reviewers go on and on about the good points about a show without stating whether or not it has any flaws, yet give it a 9/10 in the end. If it’s pretty much flawless, why not just give it a friggin’ 10?
With rating systems in general, we have folks who insert decimals at the end of their numbered ratings, or a “+/-” at the end of their letter grade ratings. Can any of you guys tell me the difference between a “7.9” and an “8”? Because I certainly can’t see the fucking difference! With the letter grading, akin to the school grades we use in our American education systems, the plus and minuses basically make it a doubled version of the 10-point system and makes a once-simple (in actual context) rating system into a convoluted pile of crap. It works in school, where if you get a C‑, that means you scored on the lower side of average in terms of percentage. But in the realm of entertainment, there isn’t any statistical bullshit involved with the quality of the work. It’s either average or it isn’t. If you’re not going to give it a straight C, then give it a D. Jesus!
Even in the cases where reviewers use rating systems correctly, a large amount of people who like the series they’re reviewing might go batshit insane because they gave it an average score, because they don’t know a 5 or whatever is actually average! It doesn’t matter how obvious your stance on it in your review is, because…
PEOPLE ONLY LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
Seriously! In reviews that end with an overall score, people tend to skim past all the crucial details and meat of the review, just so they could look at the end score — because in these types of reviews, the score is the conclusion that ultimately matters, and serves as a numerical summary of your review. Why would people bother reading a giant wall of text when it could be summarized by a giantic score at the bottom of the page? This is why people put Famitsu video game scores on a pedestal even though the magazine provides only two or three fucking sentences if you’ve actually bothered reading those Japanese “reviews”. If you gave the series the wrong number as a score due to ignorance of how the rating system works, you’d think that problem would easily be remedied by the readers actually doing their job and reading the actual review… but too bad that’s not the case. Whoops. Looks like you screwed up.
This is why whenever I review an anime or whatever in its entirety, I break it up into bits — talking about points I felt it did best in and points it did bad in, and possibly giving it a final verdict, without providing a review score. I like measuring an anime’s quality by describing the ups and downs to how it tells its story, possible plot holes, animation, the OST — basically with the product itself, not by some arbitrary score that renders my writing pointless. That, and what I view as good and what what you view as good is all subjective — I don’t want to scare someone who might otherwise enjoy that series by giving it a score of 5/10 for example, just because I thought it was average. Even with an anime that I do end up enjoying a lot — I find it hard to give a numerical score to. I just let my words do the talking (as it should) and call it a day.