Eh. Better late than never.
I haven’t made it especially clear what my rating system is, and I figured now would be as good a time as any to clear that up. That way it’s done in time for the new season! So let’s get into it.
The thing is that I’ve never liked numerical rating systems. Things that use the “1 to 5 stars” mentality. They’re just not especially helpful or informative. And they don’t really tell you much about the priorities of the person viewing the work in question. That and they don’t say much about the viewing experience. Yes, that’s what the review is for, but a lot of people don’t really read the review, let’s be honest. They wanna know immediately what to expect from the work being talked about. So why not give them something with a little more… perspective? That and having titles like this is more fun.
My point is that my own rating system doesn’t really utilize much of a scale. The categories are more like descriptors than some sort of numerical scale. So when I review something, just know that where they are on this list doesn’t necessarily equal them being good or bad. They just describe the experience. Some of the more vague ones you’ll just have to read the review to determine the context in which I’m using them.
World’s Finest (Formerly “Highly Recommended”)
These are the top of the crop. The best there is at what they do. World’s Finest is a title given to any series that exceed the expectations of not only themselves but also their peers. This is your S-Rank. They aren’t just technically good, they’re emotionally captivating, visually striking, and deeply intriguing. They’re either extremely original or utilize common conventions in such a way that they seem almost like something of a revelation. They may not be perfect, but any flaws they have are inconsequential. They’re a cut above the rest. These are the works that truly exemplify what it means to Go Beyond: Plus Ultra!
Super Effective! (Formerly “Recommended”)
Sometimes things are just good. And it’s as simple as that. This is the category for the things that get basically all the important stuff right. They’re well balanced and everything you could hope for. They have just the right blend of all the necessary elements to make a truly enjoyable series. Whatever faults they have pale in comparison to their strengths. And unlike pure Junk Food, there’s no denying that those worthy of being called Super Effective have all the right moves.
The name sort of implies that these are shows you don’t have to think about much, if at all. Not the case. “Easy Viewing” is basically the equivalent of a “Cooldown Experience.” It’s something you more or less watch to relax. It’s a show or episode that has a soothing, maybe even a healing quality. Typically they’re very calm and laidback. Usually, there’ll be humor, but not of the especially riotous variety. Whatever conflicts they present are seldom treated as particularly dire. They’re things that you might watch after some other show has ripped out your soul. Or maybe if you’ve just had a rough day. They’re warm, happy, feel-good types of things that you just kick back to enjoy.
I’ve written an entire article describing my thought process on this. Junk Food is a category that can go both ways. It’s ultimately a show, episode, or whatever that’s either fundamentally flawed, or just not trying to be especially good, yet still manages to be highly enjoyable, for one reason or another. Maybe something about the execution is captivating, like its style. Maybe it manages to follow all the usual beats but does it in a fairly refreshing way. Or maybe it’s just plain fun. Whatever the case, they may not be the best things out there to recommend on a broad level, but something keeps me coming back to them, despite that. While you may be able to just turn your brain off and enjoy the ride, you might just miss something genuinely good, in the process. As such, they’re honestly worth the attention.
These are the shows that skew close to that lower rung of being Junk Food but without the benefit of actually being all that enjoyable or entertaining. Which isn’t to say they’re necessarily bad. They just do their job. At best, they’re serviceable, maybe good for a chuckle or a few minor heartwarming or awesome moments, but not enough to hoist up the entire thing. At worst, they’re mildly boring, hitting all of the expected notes, but never hitting any of them well enough to stand out at all. You won’t walk away any dumber. Nor are you in danger of being particularly angered by it, unless you’re just one of those people who (in my opinion, unrealistically) needs everything to be 1000% original. But there’s certainly nothing here that’s going to impress anyone to any large degree.
As with the “Junk Food” category, Guilty Pleasure showed up in a recent Electric Editorial on differentiating the two. Basically, a Guilty Pleasure is something that’s objectively bad. However, unlike Junk Food, which is enjoyable despite its faults, a Guilty Pleasure is enjoyable because of them. This is the “So bad, it’s good” category, in other words. Generally, for something to wind up here, it’s earnestly trying to be good in some capacity. Yet you can’t help but laugh at its failure to do so. A comedy that’s funny for all the wrong reasons. A drama that’s more laughable than dramatic. Poor animation, wildly nonsensical plot points, the list goes on.
What The Heck Did I Just Watch?
This is where the Semi-Perfect Cell clip comes in. These are the series that raise all the questions. They’re usually a bit… off, but entirely on purpose. They could be a beautiful mess (see Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, above) or an incomprehensible trainwreck (see the finale of Anime-Gataris). Or maybe it’s deeply psychological and confounding. Either way, you can’t always make heads or tails of them. Whether or not that’s a good thing will depend on your tastes. The only thing preventing more enjoyable examples from being Guilty Pleasures is that they know what they’re doing. And they usually revel in it. But one thing’s for certain. If you begin watching these, you won’t be able to look away. And by the end, you will ask “What the heck did I just watch?”
(Obviously substitute “Watch” for “Read” or “Play,” depending on the subject matter)
If you choose to experience these…
And that’s putting it mildly, in many cases. These are the experiences that are fit to either put you to sleep or send you into a fit of unbridled rage. They’re the height of boredom or the most rant-inducing works out there. Sometimes they’re just confusing to the point of irritation. Sometimes they’re just so low in overall quality that they’re not worth the time. Sometimes a series can even be serviceable to an extent, only to foul up so royally that they just lose whatever goodwill you’re extending them. Whatever the case, there’s nothing to say about these but… PASS.
And that’s basically my rating system. Hopefully, now you’re a bit less confused. And just in time for anime reviews to get started up! Look forward to it! Also, check out EvilBob’s rating system for a refresher on Is It Evil? His system is a numerical scale, but it’s themed, so it’s at least cute. In the meantime, thanks for reading. As always, keep up the awesome, folks.