Original observation, I know. But the fact that I’ve yet to see a professional (or even non-professional) anime review site that dropped this goddamn practice means the problem hasn’t gone anywhere, so I’m going to bang on it even further.
So I was reading Bobduh’s recent Symphogear review last week and my reaction to it was the same as when some Skype friends of mine praise the show – absolute indifference with the occasional facepalm. First off, it stated that Symphogear wasn’t a traditionally good show, which is already a big warning sign because I could say the same for Friday the 13th and despite the negative critical backlash they got, they’re slasher classics for a reason. It then went on to mostly praise plot points rather than what actually happens, which never gives me a good indication of whether the product is worth my time or not (although given how I struggled to marathon S1 and dropped S2 four episodes in, that ship has sailed long ago). As Goddard once said, “it’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them”, something I apply to practically every medium I interact with let alone anime. So even if I did like Jojo, idol shows, or magical girl anime, saying it’s an amalgamation of them doesn’t tell me anything.
But the one thing I really did not like about the review was the fact that I had to see a score at the end after reading, because I had long since gotten that Bobduh thought the show was fun when he name dropped Chris, and seeing that extra bit of meaningless indication of the show’s quality just made me groan. See, this is one of the big reasons I never bothered to apply for one of these professional anime sites next to the fact that I don’t want to listen to commentaries and they’d never let me namedrop obscure movies and Donald Trump. If I don’t want to see the score, why the hell would I want to write it myself?
Some of you are aware of this, but I’ve never really been in support of scoring things. I wasn’t exactly a dictator about the practice at first and compromised in order to make my opinions appeal more to the mainstream crowd; but my hatred of numbers, letters, “recommended” labels, and such kept growing the more I did it to the point that I got fed up and deleted all the scores on my anime list, leaving people to actually question where they were. They are a poor way to represent complex (and sometimes flexible) opinions regarding what’s essentially unquantifiable art, and I especially hate how MAL requires me to put a goddamn number on every review I submit there – let alone put numbers on all those other categories like enjoyment and character. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, it’s bad. Why do we have to overcomplicate things regarding whether Accel World is better than Sword Art Online if you don’t recommend either anime to anyone?
There’s also that problem where reviewers use scores as a recommendation to say what their readers should watch without taking their own interests into account. Let’s go back to Bobduh’s Symphogear review again to show you what I mean. He gives the show a B+, which by his standards is a decent recommendation given how often he throws As around. However, if you don’t know Bobduh and hold Bs in high respect like I do, then you’re going to think the show is a high recommendation. And assuming you share my taste, if you didn’t read the review, then you’re going to feel pretty damn betrayed like I was when I jumped into that Now and Then, Here and There anime aka City of God if it wasn’t the least bit good. And I have zero interest in seeing little girls get tortured regardless of reasons, so any general recommendation that includes Gakkou Gurashi in it is going to get broken when I get involved, even if said recommendation also includes Cowboy Bebop and Haibane Renmei.
But the biggest reason I hate scores is because some readers use it as an automatic tool to determine whether or not the review is worth reading rather than the writer’s actual credentials and whatnot. As in, they already have their opinion solidified on the product and want to see it justified. Or alternatively, the number is way different to what’s expected and that’s what draws them to read. Whilst I’m not going to say my reviews are on the same level as Dan Whitehead’s or even Stark700’s, I’m pretty sure a good chunk of the “not helpfuls” (and maybe some of the “helpfuls”) that my stuff on MAL receive are because of the number assigned not being in-line with the common consensus. Then again, the Baccano review I wrote scored alright despite my contradictory opinion regarding how it’s not one of the “best anime EVAR” so maybe my Saekano review really was bad.
No matter how I look at it, scores are a fundamentally flawed system that’s both reductionist and over-complicated. If you want to know whether the review is stating whether this anime is worth your time or not, do the same thing you’d do when judging whether a novel is thought-provoking and well-written. Read the whole thing and decide for yourself. Actually respect the writer by looking at all the words he crafted just for your amusement instead of blowing them off because you noticed he gave a C- to whatever ufotable is producing. Simple as that, assuming the majority of the human race actually has a brain that can make their own decisions based on the evidence in front of them. Which given the number of people who still complain that reviews should be “objective” and that any review that’s based “entirely around the reviewer’s own views” is garbage, wouldn’t surprise me at all if that wasn’t true.
PS: Thank god MAL got rid of that stupid ratio system and now displays top reviews on each anime page based on the number of “helpfuls” only. Now if they’d just make it so I don’t have to score anything.