This is actually something I’ve been mulling over ever since I started this blog. How do you rate an anime a perfect score of ten? Initially, I used the rating scale of 10 as a way to just put the anime in a simple perspective, since my reviews are ridiculously long. Overtime though, I do believe there should be some criteria to efficiently score an anime. Of course, everyone’s rating scale is different and their considerations are also different because reviews are very subjective. The factors affecting your rating reflect how the individual experienced the anime. I am a massive story slut, but I know others aren’t. I could tell you that I love Mouryou no Hako to death, but I also know a lot of people doesn’t like it. It does beg the question though, how do you consider a perfect anime when the very idea of critiquing anime is very biased? I spent four years answering this question, and I have no answer for it. I do want to share my thoughts on what makes an anime perfect though, in my own biased way. Let’s read on.
First of all, it’s very complex. I think my explanations will not satisfyingly answer the question, but this is how I rate a perfect ten. The first thing I did is that I watched and critiqued a f*ck ton of anime. I believe I’m at three hundred forty plus anime reviewed and analyzed. While doing these reviews, I always ask myself “what necessary things does this anime need to get a score of ten?” just to put my own criteria into perspective. I also ask myself “what makes this anime land on this certain score?”, and I’ll admit that I change some scores from time to time. I stopped doing that once I understood what my personal criteria in rating anime are. I actually understood it once I ranked the anime I reviewed.
Take for example, um…this lineup, Spring 2014. I ranked the anime there in terms of their score, and it makes my criteria pretty clear. I think this is also a great place to start. Before I give my criteria for a perfect score, the anime needs to clear the basic stuffs first. I’m talking about the usual elements that make an anime great. The premise, story, characters, animation, music, use of theme and genre, the pacing of the anime, AND THE ENDING makes up the basic stuff. If an anime gets an OVERALL favorable basic rating from me, then I’ll consider where I’ll put it on the rating scale. I assure you, a lot of anime barely clears this hurdle. It’s also worth pointing out that one bad element (like one dimensional characters) won’t affect a great anime, because the other elements picks up the slack. I consider the overall rating of the anime, and I really start nitpicking on the basics first. Let’s take a look at the Spring 2014 lineup. This’ll be long and tedious, so I’ll put a bar below. You can skip it, if you want.
9/10 – Haikyuu – In terms of the basics, this anime is top notch. The characters are compelling coupled by the pacing of the anime and the story. Production IG also doesn’t f*ck around with the animation, so it definitely deserves a nine. Why not a ten? The ending is incomplete as it has another season to follow.
Break Blade is pretty much the same. The characters are great, the hero’s journey and the wartime element is great as well. The pacing is incredible as it hypes robot battles in a smart way. Why not a ten? This is a mangalure, which means the story is incomplete and it urges you to read the manga afterwards. As you can see, the ending of an anime really affects its rating and it’s actually something a lot of anime studio overlooks. It’s not a surprise since most anime are just adaptations meant to sell the original source.
8/10 – Bokura wa Minna Kawaiisou – Great chemistry with the characters and the comedy is solid. It lacks a bit on the story though, and that’s really one of the negative aspects of a comedy anime. It’s meant to just make you laugh, so the story doesn’t take much priority. I also don’t expect a comedy anime to always have a great story, but I tell you that it is possible. Comedy anime usually grows the plot overtime, like Gintama, but even long running ones like Ranma ½ can have a weak story. Comedy often just needs a premise to work with, and it’s different from a story.
Ping Pong The Animation – Again, basics are all well done. The anime tripped on the ending giving us a rather unsatisfying conclusion to the story. It was rushed and a bit clunky considering how smooth the character introspection and drama was built up.
Gochuumon Usagi desu ka? – Great animation, amazing use of its marshmallow format, and the characters are loveable. This, again, falls flat on the story. Of course, like Comedy, marshmallow shows doesn’t need a great story but it can also be done. Mikakunin de Shinkoukei has a great story despite being a marshmallow show.
Kenzen Robo Daimidaler – The story is stupid, and the Ecchi genre pretty much has the same constraints as Comedy. The focus on the genre affects a lot of things and, in this anime, the characters and story took a big hit. In terms of themes and genre, this is pretty great though but it’s brought down again by the bad ending.
Selector Infected WIXOSS – Great story, characters and pacing. Unfortunately, the genre took a big hit. It’s a card game, right? Or is it a nihilistic magical girl show, like Madoka? You can have both, actually, but the anime had trouble executing it.
7/10 – Hitsugi no Chaika – The basics are pretty solid, but this one took a dive on the ending as well. Generally, you can’t give high points for a show leading up to a second season because the ending is always designed to make you want more, not to be a satisfying conclusion to the show. Then again, I can’t wait to see the second season so it’s all good.
JJBA: Stardust Crusaders – The themes and genre is great, and this lives up to the same ones in the previous arcs. This one had trouble in the characters and the pacing of the story. The fights aren’t as exciting as the ones in the first season, and the transition to “Stands” was a bit awkward.
One Week Friends – Again, the theme and genre is entertaining, but the pacing is a bit off. The anime tip toed around the characters’ development and the show really only showcased its premise of a guy liking a girl with amnesia. However, it never really grew out of its premise. This is usually a problem for manga, since the anime only covers the introductory phase of the original source intentionally leaving out the true plot development. Read the manga, is the usual reason.
Knights of Sidonia – This is divisive, but I liked the animation. I do know others don’t, and that takes into consideration. The characters are also a bit poor despite the interesting story progression. The use of its themes and genre is great though, and the action is pretty entertaining.
6/10 Nanana’s Buried Treasure – LN anime have a lot of recycled themes and genres, so they often limit themselves to really be anything above a score of “seven”. In terms of this anime, the exposition is a bit messy and it affects the story. The cliché characters are strengths of this anime though, but the poor use of Ecchi and Action are glaring negative aspects. Wish fulfillment and fan service is often the foundation of an LN anime, and I can’t really rank it high when they all look alike if you start dissecting and reviewing them.
Kanojo ga Flag wa Oraretara – I love the use of themes and genres here, because it pokes fun of harem and Ecchi. However, the ending is a big problem.
Mekaku City Actors – Alright, our first original source. Well, sort of, since the anime is adapted from a couple of videos. (I know there’s a manga but that one’s messy as well) O. Screenplay anime are often a headache to review. In this show, the characters are poor and the story is confusing. Shaft’s choice of animation ruined the appeal of the videos it adapted, and the ending is just really unpleasant.
Baby Steps – Sports anime are easy to review. They often just fall flat in one area. They do have great story, pacing, characters, and use of themes and genre, but it’s often the ending that’s the problem. Sports anime are often adapted from long, I mean LONG, sports manga. The ending is often open-ended and unsatisfying. This anime also continues to a second season.
Captain Earth – Another O. Screenplay. Same problems. Poor characters, story, pacing, themes and genre and even the ending is a just unpleasant. Why a score of six? The animation and soundtrack often drags it upwards.
Inugami to Nekoyama-san – This is a five minute anime, I think. You can’t expect it to have high points in the characters, story, pacing and, sometimes, even the animation. These shows only excel in one area: the themes and genre. For this show, the use of shoujo ai bordering yuri is pretty clever. (the manga is more yuri)
Kamigami no Asobi – Alright, a VN anime. Visual Novels are a lot more restrictive to success than manga or LN adaptations. For VN, the game experience can never be properly translated to an anime. Hours of gameplay cannot be justified properly, and the various routes present in visual novels just make it a lot more harder to adapt. VN anime usually score a six, because the characters, story, themes and genre, and pacing falls flat. I take special consideration for VN anime, and I consider a different criterion to it. “Faithful adaptation” is something I use for VN anime. How close is it to capture the intention and spirit of the game? Coupled with the animation and the soundtrack (provided by the same actors in the VN) drags the score up to a six.
Black Bullet – Another LN anime, and this one displays a different problem for these kinds of adaptations. While manga anime often just provides the introductory phase of the story, LN anime does the opposite. They cram four or five volumes in 12 episodes, and that amounts to four or five stories with different content stuffed in one anime. It can be confusing, and Black Bullet has this element. In terms of the basics, boy, it’s awful. Characters, story, pacing, themes and genre are all lost in the clusterf*ck of the adaptation. It’s often just the animation, and the entertaining element of the premise that salvages LNs like this one.
Kiniro no Corda Blue Sky – Same as Kamigami no Asobi, with the identical problems and high points.
Mahouka – UGH. It’s pretty much the same as Black Bullet with a lot of stories crammed in 24 episodes, and it also has the same weak points. Poor characters, story, and pacing. The themes and genre is good though, and the ending is interesting. It’s open ended, but it’s satisfying to a degree. F*ck you, Mahouka.
No Game No Life – The themes and genre is good, but the characters, story, and pacing aren’t. The premise is strong though and the ending is satisfying, but even the animation took a bit of a hit here.
Seikoku no Dragonar – This has tentacles in it, but the characters, story and pacing are awful. The premise is strong though, and the themes and genre is decent. As always, the premise also drags it up. A lot of LN anime has great premise to start of the story, and I consider them separate to the story because they’re the deciding factor on whether you’ll invest in the anime or not. The story is what happens after the premise is established (usually episode four and beyond), and I consider if the story respected and developed the premise well. LN anime can’t do that properly.
5/10 – Akuma no Riddle – Poor characters, story, pacing and themes and genre. The animation is great though, but it’s ultimately the ending that soured everything.
Date A Live II – AKA, a reason to have a movie about the series. The ending is pure marketing tactic, and the basics are flat. It even had a mild use of its themes and genre, because the second season is so forced that it’s painful.
Mangaka-san to Assistant to – Another five minute anime, so it doesn’t really need much thought.
Fuun Ishin Dai Shogun – An O. Screenplay anime. Poor characters, premise, story, pacing and themes and genre. Even the animation sucked, but the robot fight scenes were entertaining to a degree.
Love Live II – The animation and the soundtrack is great. Everything else sucks.
Soredemo Sekaii wa Utuskushi – The age gap is bothersome, but yeah, as well as the characters, story, pacing, premise and the animation. The themes and genre, in this case: Romance, is decent though.
4/10 – Escha and Logy no Atelier – A true video game adaptation, and this one had all the basics wrong. Even the animation is problematic, but the soundtrack is decent.
3/10 – M3 The Dark Metal – Anyone who saw this will understand why Mari Okada is a bad writer. Go ahead, quote that. Anyways, this falls flat on the basics except the animation. The ending is also laughable.
Gokukoku no Brynhildir – The basics are all bad, including animation, but the premise is solid enough to enjoy this show. The ending will be hard to swallow though.
Blade and Soul – The characters, premise, story, themes and genre, animation and pacing are all bad. Across the board. The soundtrack is pretty good though.
As you can see, the basics are important to considering something for the perfect score. There are also some shows that are just made for certain scores, and that’s fine. Genres can limit a show terribly, but there’s nothing wrong with that. A strong Comedy anime can beat out a forced drama anime any day. It’s all in the execution. It took me four years to properly organize my thoughts regarding the basics, but also understand that this is just my own criteria. You’re happy to determine your own, and you actually should since my bias is different from yours. You might think Mahouka doesn’t suck or Mari Okada is not a sh*t writer, and you should start from there. Respect my own opinion though, since your sh*t opinion is as sh*t as mine. Also, don’t moan like a b*tch. It makes me sad.
Anyways, I’m sure you can notice two things that a lot of the anime came up short in. The ending and the themes and genre are the two basic factors that affect the anime’s score. Being a manga adaptation, LN adaptation, VN adaptation or original source affects how the overall package will turn out. It’s a big gap to even reach a score of nine, so the perfect score is really reserved for the ones that just met all the basics and more.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. I have three criteria to determine if an anime deserves a perfect score. Based on how it stacks up with its basics, I’ll now determine if the anime meets my other three criteria. Let’s also point out now that I have three anime that got a perfect score from me. I also have two more, actually, that met my three criteria, but I’ll keep them a secret for now. Let’s focus on the current three anime with a score of 10/10.
First of all, it is GENRE DEFINING. In terms of how it plays up its genre, the anime should be the first one you’ll think off. Time travelling anime. It’s Steins Gate. Dark Magical Girl show. That’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The anime is able to not just play the strengths of the genre it’s representing, but it also becomes a strong part of the genre. It’s able to affect the genre, and other shows will surely come after trying to be as good as the anime. Some shows will soon consider this genre defining anime as the bench mark for a good show on this genre. Madoka has done this in spades, as proceeding magical girl shows often have a hint of darkness or grittiness in it. Madoka didn’t invent this style, since it’s been a part of the genre since Sailormoon and beyond. Madoka represented these themes to a tee though, and it has affected the genre thereafter.
As for Steins Gate, the time travel anime is very minimal. Some shows use it as a plot device, but it’s never the main theme of the show. Well, there’s that bible anime but I don’t think there’s anything else. As it stands, Steins Gate is the benchmark for a good time travel anime. These stories are also so hard to pull off, and I’ll just ask you to watch the ridiculous time travel twist in Buddy Complex to understand why. Horrendous. Mirai Nikki also, kinda, has time travel but the ending screwed that anime. Oh, the recent ERASED had time skips but look at how it ended as well. Time travel anime is often a big trap, so seeing one come out amazingly well-presented clearly deserves a perfect score.
What about Baccano? I’ll agree that it doesn’t really define its genre. Also, what is Baccano’s genre? It’s like a weird action/gore thing. If it fails in this area but clears the basics, then we’ll consider the other criterion: RARITY. Relating to the themes and genre once again, these anime are just the creme dela crème of their field. Baccano is one of the greatest light novel adapted anime out there. If you look at Spring 2014, most of the LN anime doesn’t even come short to clearing the basics. The wish fulfillment and the recycled themes often ruin a LN, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s how the show meant to entertain, then there’s no beef with me. However, some adaptations can clear the basics and go beyond it. Baccano is a rare example of a light novel anime that is just good across the board. The ending is iffy, but everything else makes it an outstanding anime. To be considered a rarity, the adaptation either has to be top notch or it has a really original theme attached to it. I once consider Watamote for the perfect score, because it’s an anime you’ll never come across with ever again. However, Watamote’s comedy and lack of character development hindered the anime to even get a nine. I’m sure the main character is well presented, but the rest of the cast isn’t. The story isn’t also that strong. Of course, I also considered Attack on Titan for the perfect score. You’ll never see another AoT ever again in terms of its violence and intense pacing, but the story is really lacking. It had too much flashback and world building clearly meant to bulk up the manga’s length for no reason.
Steins Gate is a rare example of a really top notch VN anime, because it’s able to present all the routes and stay faithful to the spirit of the game. No other VN anime has come close, and I doubt there ever will be a VN anime as solid as Steins Gate. Between the weird ones like School Days and the otome ones like Dramatical Murder, I doubt that we’ll see another Steins Gate. The other two anime from the same series, Chaos Head and Robotics Note, also sucked so there you go.
And the last criterion for a perfect anime is LONG LASTING APPEAL. This is where my utmost bias rears its ugly head. This is just something so subjective, but it’s an element I insist on keeping. If I watch Baccano twenty years later, will I still enjoy it? The answer is “yes”, and a good indicator is on how well the basics are executed. The characters, premise, story, pacing, themes and genre, animation and soundtrack should be able to hold up after such a long time. I’m sure Baccano’s basics will still be refreshing after that time, as well as the other two shows. Sure, the animation might be laughable by then, but the other parts of the basics should be so good that one blemish won’t ruin the entire thing. Look at Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue. The animation isn’t the greatest thing ever, but a certain ballerina decided the basics are so good that she should lose her mind as well. Really, you can only be confident with this criterion after you’ve seen tons of anime. The good ones really just stand out easily, while the unexciting ones don’t. It’s something a seasoned critic should be able to tell just from his own gut.
With that being said, let’s do a quick application of my criteria to an anime I want to give a perfect score to. I’m talking about Kino’s Journey, and I already told people about this anime being perfect back at my lazy post last week. Anyways, let’s start with the basics. The characters are great, and they’re compelling despite lacking a real personality to them. Kino’s personality is an enigma to some, and this makes the story refreshing. Meanwhile, the one off characters are just majestic elements that bring the individual stories to life. Kino’s Journey has dramatic episodes, but also feel-good ones and thought provoking ones. The characters really elevate the story to a masterful degree. I think the first episode is enough to convince you of this.
As for the story, the use flashbacks, backstories and twists are so amazingly presented in this anime that it’s crazy. Kino might just be a traveller, but the places he visits all contain amazing exposition to them. The animation is pretty ordinary, and the sepia tone of the show might be an odd choice for some people. I believe it adds to the experience. For the themes and genre, I believe the first episode is also a great indicator of this. The thought provoking piece is masterfully presented in such a short time, and it’s able to really bring a smile to your face. The presentation of the twists and the irony are so chilling that it’ll really stick to you. The soundtrack is also great. I don’t really go in-depth with this criterion, but Kino’s Journey certainly has some memorable songs. Hell, I still remember the poem about the maggots.
As for genre defining, this anime certainly raised the bar in terms of shows about travel. It has a bit of fantasy, but they’re all presented wonderfully in this anime. This anime hits big with the other criteria. It’s rare and it has long lasting appeal. The anime aired at 2003, and I guarantee that it’s still an amazing anime to this date, 2016. Sh*t, that’s thirteen years ago. The twists and the individual stories are something that’ll captivate audiences. It’s also very rare, because there’s not a lot of anime that has a solid story as Kino’s Journey. For a LN anime, it’s also very rare these days to encounter a thought provoking light novel like this one, unless it’s about incest because that’s the dive pool LN ended up in. 2003 was a young phase for light novels, and then the Japanese perversion took over.
I want to watch Kino’s Journey now.
Again, I’d reiterate that these are my own personal criteria. I don’t expect people to have the same, but it helped a lot when it came time to rank the anime I reviewed. Going forward, encountering a perfect anime will be something I won’t really be on the lookout for, but I sure would love to cross path with one in the near future.
Anyways, that’s that.
Thank you for reading.