10 highly rated anime off of MAL’s top anime section compiled into a list claiming to be ”the best.”

Sound familiar? Yeah it’s just getting desperate out there.

You know the type of article or YouTube video, the “Top 10 Best Anime” one. Sometimes it may have a genre thrown in there or a number different than “10” to distinguish itself from the pack. If they get real cute they may even have a year or season tacked on.

“Top 20 Best Ecchi Anime”

“Top 10 Anime of 2016”

“Top 7 Best Spring 2015 Anime”

Like most reviewing formulas that go mainstream in the anime community, we beat the shit out of them until they are pretty much useless. Anime YouTubers and anime bloggers alike have pumped out so much of this style of content that their variations have been getting more and more specific to seem fresh:

“Top 5 Anime Action Scenes of Winter 2017”

“Top 5 Best Anime Duels to the Death (2010-2014)”

“Top 10 Action/Magic/Romance Anime”

Yeah, I’m not even exaggerating on that last one or just making something up to fit in another example. You can google it. Someone literally threw three genres together and made a Top List off of that. Our community is seriously that saturated with this soulless content that reviewers have to mix and match a handful of genres to standout.

The worst part is, despite having a seemingly endless wave of these kinds of videos and articles, hardly any of them actually bring value to the reader or viewer.  

Most just over promise claiming to be “the best” (that’s rarely the case), copy and paste the shows’ MAL descriptions, and toss in skimpy explanations for the choices (some don’t even go that far).

Anime Top Lists end up being laid out as prescriptions rather than ideas and that’s ultimately the issue here.Click To Tweet

Luckily there’s an easy way to go about avoiding this pitfall – producing a Top List without it appearing like some definitive piece of content or fact that people should go by.

Wave Motion Cannon’s Josh Dunham once upon a time pumped out a Top List for the best anime of 2016. Guess what it’s called? ANIME OF THE YEAR: JOSH DUNHAM’S TOP 10 ANIME OF 2016.

Right off the bat I know it’s his list from the title alone and not some piece of content that masks itself as objective in order to be a standard for anyone seeking it. Josh’s list doesn’t over promise as I’m well aware that his choices are highly personalized rather than being formulated to apply to everyone.

Karandi James also does Top Lists right. Back on Single Awareness day, she published a blog “Tuesday’s Top 5: Valentine Episodes”.  While its title may not raise the same positive flags that Josh’s did, the first line of her blog states:

“Well it is Valentine’s Day so today I’m counting down my top 5 favourite Valentine episodes.”


Immediately she’s putting herself in a position where the list is her own. She’s not claiming that her choices are the best, or implying that if you’re looking for Valentine’s day themed anime episodes that this is the conclusive list that you should read.

Unfortunately Top Lists like Josh’s and Karandi’s are few and far between. Instead, our community only gets worse each season as a new batch of more specific, poorly conceived Top Lists gets rolled out promising to “show you the best anime” for a given theme.

With that in mind I only have a small favor to ask. Can we please knock this shit off and stop making terrible Top Lists? Please anime community? Thanks for helping, thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.

 

24 thoughts to ““Top Lists” – Why The Anime Community Can’t Have Nice Things

  • D

    For a second there, I thought you were dissing top lists as a whole and felt kinda sad since I’m pretty fond of them. Then I got to the part where you made it clear that it’s the supposed objectivity of these lists that ticks you off and felt way better.

    I agree. Top lists are fun, even the generic ones, but they are by no means objective. It’s all about the compliler’s personal tastes and that’s as it should be. I think some people add a ‘My’ at the beginning of the title, effectively skirting the issues you’ve brought up but yeah, those kinds are few and far in between.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      I’m glad you read it all, and yeah Top Lists that are positioned as objective make me die inside.

      Exactly,they are fun and usually a good quick way to see what a particular person is enjoying. Tossing “My” at the beginning of the title or just making it clear that it’s your personal choices somewhere in the list is definitely the way it should go.

      Thanks for reading D 🙂

      Reply
  • Karandi

    Thanks for the shout out.
    I have to agree that reading a list that doesn’t have explanations as to why things are placed where they are is fairly pointless to read. Some of these just have the title, maybe a picture, and a one line description of what the anime is about but nothing to say why it is better or worse than the other anime on the list.
    You have however made me curious about “Top 10 Action/Magic/Romance Anime”, because I can think of like three anime that would actually fit all three genres effectively (plenty that have all three genres but usually they don’t all get equal time and weighting). So getting 10 anime on this list would be difficult.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      Thanks for writing good Top Lists 🙂

      For the Top 10 Action/Magic/Romance anime, there’s a link to the video in the blog if you’re curious. Sadly the video really doesn’t explain the choices, yet has 50,000+ views in four days.

      Reply
      • Karandi

        Okay, that is depressing.

        Reply
  • MessiahofHumanity

    I think the problem is more of the idea of “objectivity” still existing in the community. If everyone views these Top lists as subjective to the individuals creating the lists, then there is no problem. For example Cinefix make a lot of Top lists, but they along with their community know that this is subjective to them, and that’s why you hardly ever seen butthurt people in the comment sections asking “why didn’t X make the list”.

    But you are right that Top lists have been beaten to death by the community, and it would be better if people actually showed their individual tastes when making the lists, and provide better explanations as to why they put a certain anime in that position rather than just providing a brief synopsis of it.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      You’re right, that’s definitely an issue among our community. Although these top lists are inherently subjective, the vast majority of them are presented as if they were objective in their titles. It would be better if everyone knew that the lists were subjective from the start.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time out to comment

      Reply
  • M0rg0th

    Personally I don’t like these sorts of lists. Most of those lists are dictated by popularity rather than any subjective OR objective angle.

    What I often miss in reading those lists is either an understanding of what the list is about (even if it’s a subjective understanding) or sufficient knowledge to make such a list (if all the series/movies in your list come from the last five or ten years, you clearly haven’t watched enough anime to offer a somewhat objective list).

    There’s value to having lists like these, though. Especially for beginners it can be a daunting task to figure out what animes they should watch and if you’re younger as well you probably don’t have a good grasp on what you actually like and what not. You don’t necessarily want some introspective, insightful review when all you want to know is what’s “cool”.

    Therefore something I personally advocate is highly specific top-10-lists. Like, what are the best gory shounen-series? Or what are the best falling-in-love-stories (in contrast to just making it about the romance-genre in general)? That’s a way better approach to having something interesting to say.

    Like, I happened to read a Top 10 of sports-anime recently somewhere and there wasn’t even one Adachi-series in there. I mean, there’s a reason that the genius who wrote Cross Game, Touch and H2 doesn’t get any new series. His last series “Q and A” was this weird meta comedy that was so out-of-touch with reality that it felt like your grandpa was trying to tell you his favorite jokes while telling you a story from the 80s. And then he wrote Mix which felt like a dated “Greatest Hits”-album. Adachi is SO 80s. Even in his newer series it seemed like he still hadn’t understood the relevance of mobile phones in daily life. But his series have mixed romance- and sports-genre-elements like no other. Of course, catching up on Adachi’s work is a daunting task. Back then it wasn’t all split-cour and 2-cour, instead a good budget would mean you’d get a series like Touch which had 110 episodes. These days you’d only get so many episodes if you have a cheesy mainstream-anime about idols (Aikatsu) or magical girls. Or it’s Sazae-san which will even survive the next millenium, I guess… Man, aside from Gintama I don’t know any anime that’s making fun of Sazae-san. Why is THAT the series to survive the decades…?!

    Reply
    • Prattle

      “Therefore something I personally advocate is highly specific top-10-lists. Like, what are the best gory shounen-series? Or what are the best falling-in-love-stories (in contrast to just making it about the romance-genre in general)? ”

      I agree that narrowing down the niche is better than just making some broad list with a loose theme tied to it, but even those lists still fall to the same issues addressed here. I feel that a full reworking to the approach of this style should be taken on when people look to pump out these sort of things. Ideally they would make it clear how personal they are to them and actually present value with decent explanations of their choices.

      Reply
  • animewardweller

    Aparently everyone is turning into WatchMojo. Nowadays when i see a top list, i don’t even get to see what that person’s take on the show is and what their about. And I find it kinda sad that people are giving up being actually interesting and different just to get views. When looking at a top list, I don’t even care if that person likes X or if Y has ”…like the coolest fight scenes man…”, I just want to see what they have to say about their favorite shows, talking briefly about what’s so great about them. But now even talking has become a formulaic thing and it always goes the same way:”Dude the romance dude, it’s so heartcrushing dude, you gotta watch it”
    Hell, now that I think about it, WatchMojo is even better than a lot of list makers out there. It at least tries to give some reasonable explanation.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      I know right? You pretty much summed up I how feel about the situation

      Reply
  • Cauthan

    I obviously agree that the people out there who are treating their opinions as objective should treat their lists and opinions more subjectively but I also think the whole topic is a bit of a semantic pitfall. As you say, some titles or prefaces may show warning signs of this objective mindset however, once reading into things, the author or video creator elaborates that they are stating their own perspective. So perhaps the thing we actually need is more immediate clarity in how the person presents their discussion. Your example of Josh’s list is a good one where you know the kind of opinion he holds before ever reading a word of the article.

    I think the over-saturation of lists can probably be attributed to how people typically turn to them in order to express their thoughts. There isn’t much utility in them unless you want to know more about what the author enjoyed or why they might have a less popular show present. So I suppose a good direction to move in would be more individuality between opinion pieces but I suppose the list format is so comfortable, familiar, and straightforward a lot of people gravitate towards it over other options. I similarly have no patience or interest in people that copy-paste synopsis and don’t offer something significant in their reasoning. I wouldn’t mind fewer attempts at objectivity and token top 10 lists out there.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      I’m glad we’re on the same page here Cauthan. Thanks for chiming in and giving this blog a read

      Reply
  • Jon Spencer

    I feel this. I try not to do top lists too often and when I do I always keep this in mind. I want my lists to reflect choices that I think are good, not necessarily the best, but that’s ok. I like sharing what I like with folks, especially if it is something that doesn’t get a lot of exposure. Nice article 🙂

    Congrats Karandi for the shout out by the way. You’ve been on FIRE lately!

    Reply
    • Prattle

      Karandi has been doing a great job lately

      Reply
  • Remy Fool

    Everyone kind of touched on what I feel about these lists. They usually lack reasoning to support the rankings, aren’t subjective enough, and go by popularity.

    I personally am hesitant to do any sort lists of that sort (excluding the collaboration I did with Acacia) because I just feel like I don’t have enough knowledge to make a meaningful list. I don’t know.

    Thanks for sharing. Hopefully the lists get better over time.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      If I recall correctly your collab lists with Acacia was actually pretty good.

      Reply
      • Remy Fool

        Thanks! But yeah, I think I’ll hold off on TOP LISTS for now. Not like I have time with these episode reviews demanding to to be done…hehehe ;__;

        Reply
  • DerekL

    See also; Why I generally am avoiding rate-and-rank… But to some extent it’s also unavoidable to place one show over another, even if it’s on a comparative scale rather than an absolute one. Nothing exists in isolation.

    But on the other hand, are you reading too much into the situation? While I agree that there’s generally too many of these, my default assumption is that they’re subjective, while yours seems to be that they’re objective unless explicitly declared otherwise. I can count the number of bloggers I’d presume their lists to be anything but purely subjective (and it’s a spectrum between subjective and objective) without using all the fingers on one hand… And that’s only because they’ve shown a long history of cogent criticism and thoughtful writing.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      For me specifically, my default assumption is that they’re subjective, however – I’m not everybody. There’s still tons of people who click on a piece of content claiming “Top/Best X” that actually expect the best (if not at least a comparable amount of quality) on the inside. The real issue kicks in of course when this expectation isn’t even close to being met.

      Reply
  • sonicsenryaku

    It looks like we both have a thing for Zero this season 🙂
    jokes aside, it’s such a coincidence you writing this post because not long ago i was having a discussion with someone about how pointless it is for some people to separate their favorite list from a list of what they think is the best anime. If that’s some sort of attempt to be objective, it needs to stop because you cant reach objectivity in a medium of art. For some people, that seems to be a hard concept to understand. Is it just me? am i the only one who is perplexed by the idea that someone could have a favorite anime of all time and yet look at something else and say “but i think that other anime is better in all areas of narrative compared to my favorite anime”…..what? i dont get it.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      “If that’s some sort of attempt to be objective, it needs to stop because you cant reach objectivity in a medium of art. ”

      Exactly

      Reply
  • Bruno de Mattos

    I usually don’t watch top lists, and skip them even when I know the person making it and their taste. Specially in video form, you can tell from the length before even watching it that it is a list with a synopsis to each anime attached and no time to reason its placement on said list.

    Reply
    • Prattle

      That’s pretty understandable. I tend to avoid the video ones myself as well

      Reply

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