Writing Prompt: Is it strange to not rate based on enjoyment at all?

In the mood for some writing, and decided to search for a writing prompt. Luckily for me, the “recent discussions” on MyAnimeList caught my eye, and that is where I found this one, which seemed interesting enough to write about.

So let’s do that.

Is it strange to not rate based on enjoyment at all?

An interesting idea, and one I’ve honestly never thought about. I’ve always figured it was just a given that enjoyment would play a role in a rating. In fact, I’d have assumed that it would play the most important role!

For me personally, that’s how I see it. Art, sound, characters, et cetera… if I didn’t enjoy the anime, the quality of those things doesn’t seem to matter as much. Of course, there’s definitely a link between the quality of those things, and the enjoyment we experience from watching the anime, to some degree.

But even in the extreme case where an anime is beautiful, has an amazing soundtrack, interesting characters, and just seems like something of the highest quality, if you don’t enjoy it, could you really give it a high rating? I couldn’t. If I watched Clannad and hated it (I don’t), despite it’s amazing quality, I would likely rate it accordingly, with a poor rating.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what the rating is supposed to do?
Provide an idea of how the reviewer felt?

I can sort of understand someone bumping up their rating of an anime they disliked because they acknowledge the quality, but then, wouldn’t that be dishonest? If I hated Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (I don’t), but rated it an 8 / 10 because “while I personally hated it, I know that it’s a quality anime“, it just feels like the rating has lost its meaning. “I hated it, but I rated it well” sounds really bizarre to me.

If the reviewer’s enjoyment isn’t what the rating reflects, then what DOES it reflect?
Just the reviewer’s opinion of the anime’s quality?

I guess there may be some serious anime connoisseurs out there that simply seek out anime of the finest quality regardless of enjoyment, but personally, I watch anime because I enjoy it, and I’m going to take a wild guess that I’m not alone in that. As for the idea of anime connoisseurs, well, they wouldn’t be connoisseurs if they didn’t enjoy anime right? Like you’d never find a wine connoisseur that hates wine, it doesn’t make any sense!

Rating the “quality” of an anime is also just as subjective as rating your enjoyment from the anime. One person may love an art style that another hates. One may love certain VAs that another doesn’t, and so on. Plenty of people prefer older animation styles to modern ones, myself included in some cases (for example, I like the character style from Clannad with the overly exaggerated eyes / faces).

Here’s another example: I hate the animation of Devilman Crybaby. I disliked it so much when I first saw it that I almost dropped the series within the first 5 minutes, and I ended up dropping it several episodes in anyways because I also disliked the story / characters.

But I guarantee if I look up some MAL reviews of Devilman Crybaby, many will rate the animation highly, and others will rate the story / characters highly.

So the idea that enjoyment is subjective, but quality isn’t, isn’t a good one.
It’s all subjective to our individual preferences, and those preferences affect our enjoyment.

Nagisa

Which means to me, in the end, it just comes back to enjoyment anyways. If I rate an anime’s story a 10, that means I had to enjoy the story, right? Because the alternative would mean that I “acknowledge a good story, but didn’t enjoy it” – in other words, it would mean that I don’t enjoy good stories. And from there, you could argue that the story clearly wasn’t good if it wasn’t enjoyed, right?

After all, enjoyment is the objective of the story, and if it fails in that, can it really still be considered a good story in the eyes of the one who didn’t enjoy it?

The only other alternative is that someone rates not based on what they thought of an anime, but instead what they think that others will think about it. But in the end, that’s also just subjective and speculation, and can’t exactly result in a proper rating. The idea that “I disliked it, but others probably will like it” is just a guess at best, making the rating itself just a guess, and less based in the reality of the reviewer’s personal thoughts and opinions.

Wrapping up, I think that it is indeed strange to rate anime without any consideration for enjoyment, and I would argue, it’s not really possible to separate the two. If you consider the various aspects of something good, that must mean you found them enjoyable, or else you’re simply lying to yourself as the objective of anime is to be enjoyed!

If you rate an anime highly but claim you didn’t enjoy it, then clearly it wasn’t worthy of a high rating as it failed to accomplish its goal of being enjoyed!

And conversely, if you rate an anime poorly but claim you enjoyed it, then clearly it was worthy of a higher rating as it accomplished it’s goal of being enjoyed!

After all, isn’t that why we watch anime?

Dango Daikazoku

I’m glad I stumbled upon that topic, and I’ll probably find more because it was fun to think about. So often I sit here and think that “I want to write something anime related” but can’t think of any topics. This was pretty handy, so I’ll probably do it again soon enough! It may even become a regular thing, we’ll see.

What are your thoughts on the topic?
Is there any merit to rating an anime without any consideration for enjoyment?
And is that even possible?

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.

20 thoughts on “Writing Prompt: Is it strange to not rate based on enjoyment at all?

  1. The discussion here is why I avoid rating things altogether, because there are so many possible interpretations of rating systems that it becomes utterly useless to use one after a while. At least to me. I’ve enjoyed far too many “40 on Metacritic” games to pay any attention to any kinds of ratings any more. One man’s trash and all that.

    If I do find myself *having* to rate for one reason or another (freelance assignments are the only real circumstances under which this happens) then I do it on one criterion and one alone: “how successful was this at achieving what it led me to believe it was setting out to do?” That’s a criterion that you can look at and find a reasonably clear (albeit still somewhat subjective) answer to, even if you didn’t personally enjoy the work in question.

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    1. Ratings can be very subjective, but I also like being able to quantify my thoughts / enjoyment of a particular anime for anyone interested. Ideally, people will understand that they are my personal thoughts, and so it’s up to them to decide if their tastes tend to align with mine or not in regards to how serious they take my rating.

      That’s an interesting way to rate things. Personally, I couldn’t do it. For example, if someone set out to make an overly political game, and accomplished just that, I would probably not enjoy it and rate it accordingly, even if it accomplished what it set out to do. I just don’t like overt politics in my anime / games, at least the kind we’ve been seeing recently, and so my enjoyment would still take precedence in my rating.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that enjoyment is the most important aspect of rating an anime, or of rating any art at all. Thoughts like “this was a ‘guilty pleasure’, so I’ll rate it lower” or “this is ‘serious art’ so it must be good, so I’ll rate it higher even though I didn’t like it” are completely useless — if the reviewer isn’t going to give their honest perspective on the work, what’s the point of their writing about it?

    I will go so far as to acknowledge all the work put into something I don’t like if it’s obvious that there was a lot of effort. I think there’s a certain level of something like “objective quality” that can exist in art, at least in terms of technical skill. But then just because something is technically impressive doesn’t mean I’m going to like it, even if I appreciate the skill and effort involved.

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    1. “Thoughts like “this was a ‘guilty pleasure’, so I’ll rate it lower” or “this is ‘serious art’ so it must be good, so I’ll rate it higher even though I didn’t like it” are completely useless” – Agreed.

      Yeah I think there are still merits to discussing factors outside of enjoyment, but as you say, it ends up coming back to enjoyment regardless, whether something was masterfully made, or lazily, at the end of the day it all depends on if the reviewer liked / enjoyed it.

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  4. I agree for the most part. The only exception I tend to make is if I happen to watch something that is a genre I do not particularly like, then I will rate it more objectively, because I say “I am not into this but I think if I were the type of person who was, i would like it a lot.”
    For example Star Trek, I am not a sci-fi person but I won’t argue it’s a great show if you like that kind of story. I can rate by how much the target audience enjoys it even if I don’t. However to do that you need to know a little about what people like about the material so I don’t think going in blind would work for this method.

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    1. I can understand that. One genre of anime I don’t like is Cute Girls Doing Cute Things. It’s generally supposed to be relaxed / comedic, but the comedy doesn’t work for me whatsoever and I end up feeling like it’s a waste of time when I watch anything in the genre. That said, I can relate to the fact that if the comedy worked for me, the anime would be a lot better.

      Even then though, I would still put my own personal opinion first when rating the anime, even if I acknowledge that it’s not a genre that I typically like, because, well, it’s my review haha. I don’t really want to speak on other people’s behalf in my own review.

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  5. Honestly I agree with your post. As I pointed out recently in my review of 5 Centimetets Per Second, despite the fact that a lot of people enjoyed it, I couldn’t bring myself to appreciate the characters and the finnicky plot. Likewise if the story has plot holes and the characters somewhat dull, but I still have good memories about the show, or found the morals pretty inspiring, then obviously comes a higher than expected rating from me (Digimon Adventure 02 comes into mind).

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    1. Yeah sometimes it feels like you are going against the grain of popular opinion, but then I think it’s even more important to be honest because that just gives us a wider variety of reviews to read from. If everyone just rated an anime highly because “it’s what everyone does” than many people would likely be deceived going into the anime if they find out it’s not as good as they thought it would be.

      Honesty is definitely the best policy here, and ultimately that means a rating / review will boil down to enjoyment. It can still be influenced by other minor points like plot holes or what have you, but one’s overall enjoyment is the key I think.

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  6. No, enjoyment cannot and should not be separated from critique. I’ve never had any time or patience for people who complain that a review needs to be “more objective” (which of course you only ever hear from people who strongly disagree with said review).

    That said, I think there’s still room to acknowledge a work may have a certain quality even if you don’t necessarily enjoy it. I mean Moby Dick puts me to sleep, but it’s also been captivating readers and influencing writers for 170 years so there’s obviously something in it, or else if it bored everyone else as much as it bores me it would’ve gone out of print centuries ago. So if I were to review that book (god forbid) I’d probably organize my thoughts starting from that angle: what are other people getting out of this book that I’m not, and why am I only giving it two stars instead of five like I’m “supposed” to? The original purpose of reviews, after all, was to guide people who had NOT seen the movie or read the book in question yet. In other words, being a critic wasn’t just about giving your opinions, it was also about helping your readers form their opinions.

    Now admittedly there’s been a shift in the age of the internet (especially among amateur reviewers) towards reviews aimed at people who are already fans of a work, and people who haven’t seen something yet are warier about reading reviews in general because so many online writers are careless about spoilers. But whenever I’ve reviewed anime in the past I’ve always tried to approach it more in the traditional way; you’ll get my honest opinion of course, but my main goal is giving the reader enough information and context to hopefully have an idea about whether they might want to watch this anime, regardless of what I thought about it.

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    1. That’s true. While I think enjoyment is the most important factor to someone’s rating, it doesn’t mean we can’t allow other factors to have an influence, such as a work’s legacy.

      And yeah I’ve noticed that too with reviews. I can’t bring myself to spoil anything in a review for that very reason that people may be reading the review in order to decide whether they want to watch an anime or not. It is strange to just throw out big spoilers and write with the assumption that the reader has already watched the anime in a review (the exception being episodic reviews).

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  8. Hey Yomu! This is a really interesting topic, one I’ve wrestled with for a long time in a past life. Rating scales are a very personal thing, which is good in my opinion. Everyone has their own audience (even if it’s just their friends), and that audience is in most cases going to be familiar with the tastes of the reviewer leaving a rating. So stuff like rating scale, weights, whether the reviewer rates stuff primarily based on enjoyment or on quality of the work, etc, still works to communicate the intent of the reviewer’s rating to their audience. Obviously, things become more complicated when you’re talking about aggregated ratings on sites like MAL or AniList, but honestly, you’re better off looking for opinions of reviewers you trust than listening to ratings on those sites anyway.

    The conclusion I’ve come to for myself is that, when I leave a rating on a show, there shouldn’t be a conflict between enjoyment and quality of a work. I’m probably in the minority opinion here, but while enjoyment of a show is definitely subjective due to individual preferences, I don’t believe quality is subjective. (I could go into a lot of detail describing why I believe this, but I don’t want to inflict that wall of text on you. :P) So to put it simply, if my enjoyment of a work that is *truly* a quality work of art is for some reason less than something that isn’t particularly high-quality but does appeal to my preferences and/or baser instincts, then that is indicative of refinement that needs to occur on *my* end. A

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    1. (Dangit. I accidentally hit Enter.) To continue what I was saying…

      That said, one thing I try to keep in mind when reviewing content is *why* I enjoyed it. Asking myself that question often leads me to realize elements of artistic “quality” I’d kind of only subconsciously noticed while actually watching it, if that makes sense. Like, things that often don’t stand out to me personally. For example, I have a pretty keen eye for visual presentation in anime–stuff like character designs, perspective, scene composition, animation, etc. I also have a pretty keen eye for story beats and themes. But there are times where I really enjoy a show or a part of a show that doesn’t stand out in either of these areas, and when I ask myself why, I realize that the vocal performance of one of the characters was so good that it elevated the entire scene to something “sublime”, if you will. (A good example of this might be Hatoko’s “I don’t understand” monologue in Inou Battle–the show itself is mediocre at best, but *that scene* gives me goosebumps, and is to this day one of the most powerful vocal performances I’ve ever seen in any medium).

      Anyway, I was trying to avoid a wall of text response, so I’ll close with this. All ratings are naturally subjective, and everyone should rate based on how they interact with the medium they are reviewing–to do otherwise would be a disservice to themselves and to their respective audiences. For myself, I prefer to rate based on quality and enjoyment simultaneously, and to make note of conflicts between the two as areas where my own taste can be further refined, not to big myself up to others or make myself more “critically correct”, because that’s silly–but to gain a better appreciation for beauty, artistry, and the hard work and craft of those who work to craft that artistry.

      Thanks for the article, Yomu–it was a great read on a great topic!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, it was an interesting topic to think about. I’m still trying to find an argument or method that somehow manages to separate enjoyment completely from the rating, but I think it’s just not possible, in a typical rating at least.

        As you mention, I agree that quality is less subjective than enjoyment, and there are inherent features of quality that we can observe. For example, I think it’d be dishonest to write off the quality of Violet Evergarden’s animation. But then, I guess the idea of quality itself has many areas we can focus on.

        I’d say that physical qualities, animation / art style and sound / voice acting are something that we can probably agree are much less subjective. We can observe them and often see / hear the quality. Even with older anime we can appreciate how well done they are given the time period.

        But then when it comes to storytelling, characters, and these sorts of things, I think it becomes much more subjective, and can be much more polarizing. Not an anime but I think of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room as an example, haha. Is it a work of art? I don’t know… but some people think so. And this form of quality I would say is more in line with enjoyment in terms of how subjective it is and how much it will vary on a personal level.

        In regards to you rating both quality and enjoyment simultaneously, well I do think there is a correlation between quality and enjoyment more often than not anyways. Even if the story feels bland, if the animation and sound are on point, I often find myself enjoying what I’m seeing. I didn’t really like the characters in Made in Abyss, but I loved the soundtrack and beautiful backgrounds / art, enough to still enjoy the anime overall, just as an example.

        Anyways, thanks for the comment. It’s fun to think and write about these things.

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