The blogosphere is funny in that if viewed exclusively, it gives a skewed perspective of public opinion. Even though there are a hell of a lot of blogs, and between them the full spectrum of opinions on a show is covered, the percentages of people holding those opinions may be opposed to real public opinion. For instance, a number of bloggers may love To Aru Majutsu no Index, but even more dislike it—in spite of the fact that in general, Index is a well-liked series, and if every anime fan was voicing their thoughts, it’d have more of a positive presence in the ‘sphere.
Individual perspective doesn’t help. I’m going to break out the statistics in a moment, but first I’ll state that none of my favorite anime are generally considered bad. The only show on my list that has a score below 7.5 on MAL is Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, which is the show I care least about insofar as feeling defensive of its quality.
But because I’m a super-big fan of a show like Canaan, its negative press in the blogosphere makes me feel like I’m part of a small minority who likes the show, when in reality, while it’s not the most popular show on my list, it’s still generally liked overall.
I think MAL is an excellent meter for the online, non-Japanese anime fandom. By this I don’t mean the average anime-watching, sub-fearing, semi-casual anime fan. I’m aware that statistically, MAL wouldn’t represent the tastes of everyone at Otakon—many of whom are super-big anime fans that have yet only seen ten shows (and as much as many of us wish it wasn’t, this is possible and far more common than people who’ve actually seen more than a hundred different series.)
No, rather, I’m thinking about the anime fandom of “people like us” or maybe “anyone who would actually read this blog.” This accounts for the likes of bloggers, forumites, the /a/ community, and those 5000 seeders for the latest Index episode that make you think “holy hell, there are 5000 people watching this?!”
People from all walks of the anime community are on MAL, but there’s a better reason that I trust the stats: they make sense under observation. FMA Brotherhood is the highest-ranked show on MAL, which makes perfect sense. Likewise, all of the highly-ranked shows are ones that I know are well-liked and on a lot of favorites lists.
Then on the “popularity” side, accounting for the volume of users to have watched a show, the top five are Death Note, Bleach, FMA, Naruto, and Code Geass, which again makes perfect sense. So I’d like to say that these stats would be a good way for me to compare my tastes against popular opinion amongst my brand of anime fans.
I barely have to look at these stats to conclude that my tastes aren’t abnormal because, again, none of my favorite anime are poorly ranked on MAL, meaning that the majority of people who watched them liked them. The difference between “liking” a show and “loving” it is essentially the difference between “things that work for everyone” and “things that work for the individual.”
If the majority of people like a show, then it has a lot of things that appeal to everyone. Only the things that really set me apart from everyone else are what nudges it into my favorites list (assumedly I would score all of my favorites 10/10).
But if a lot of my favorite shows are particularly highly ranked, then it means my personal biases are mostly the same as everyone else’s. Bias accounts for at least one point of any show, which is why the highest-ranked shows on MAL never break an overall score of 9.2, and only a handful even reach nine. But for a show to have a nine, it means that my ten accounts for bias that’s only a little bit different from everyone else’s, as opposed to if I gave a ten to a show with an average score of six, meaning I had a particularly unique bias towards that show.
On the chart above, only shows with an asterisk beside their Rank # were scored under an eight, so twenty-three out of my thirty-two favorite anime are exceptionally well-liked in the general anime community, with the other nine not falling too far behind.
The popularity rankings of my favorites are unsurprisingly a lot more diverse, which doesn’t oppose the idea that my tastes are well-aligned with the general public—it only means they’re broader. I like everything that everyone else likes, as well as a lot of things they haven’t heard of—but there’s nothing that I like which no-one else likes.
Theoretically, I should be able to make quadrants out of this data with the following extremes:
1. Shows that everyone’s seen and everyone likes
2. Shows that everyone’s seen and no one likes
3. Shows that only a few people have seen, but all of them like
4. Shows that only a few people have seen and none of them like
However, because I don’t have any favorites that no one else likes, I can only separate it into:
1. Shows that everyone’s seen and everyone likes
2. Shows that only a few people have seen, but all of them like
Beyond that, I have to specify to what degree those things are true.
Determining how many people have seen something using the popularity rankings is rather difficult. There’s obviously a huge fjord between the top ten and the rest of the top one-hundred, with a few crestfalls on the way down to the bottom. Going on the rankings of my favorites and how I understand their place in the fandom, I can make these guesses:
The top 100 consists of two kinds of shows:
1. Shows that came out in the past five years and were well-known in the online community
2. Shows that are widely regarded as “classics”
Out of my favorites, Cardcaptor Sakura, Cowboy Bebop, Eureka Seven, FLCL, End of Evangelion, and Serial Experiments Lain fall into the “classics” category.
Bebop and FLCL are the most widely-known, both having aired extensively on US television. Moving closer to rank 100, the specificity of genre to which the series is a classic expands. Eureka Seven falls in at 55, being respected among mecha fans and also having aired for some time on US TV. Cardcaptor Sakura is very highly regarded amongst mahou shoujo fans, and was seen by many people in its dub form on US TV. End of Evangelion is a lot further back than Eva itself, demanding that people like Eva before they watch it, but being as Eva is insanely popular, it still places. Lain rounds it out at 96, being a show with a large pre-blogosphere and extremely diehard fanbase that’s talked enough about it that the obscure genre doesn’t put it further back.
Meanwhile, Baccano!, Bakemonogatari, Durarara!!, FMA Brotherhood, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Lucky Star, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Toradora fall into the area of anime that came out in the past five years and were talked about extensively.
But again, a fjord exists. TTGL, Lucky Star, and FMA Brotherhood are in the top 20, which is the zone of shows you’d have to live under a rock to never hear about in the anime fandom. While they’re only a few numbers behind those, significantly fewer people have heard of Toradora and Higurashi; but still, those shows were explosively popular in every part of the fandom. Meanwhile, Baccano, Bakemonogatari, and Durarara all nestle into the high 50s area, clearly dedicated to shows that made a big stir in the blogosphere, on forums, and on /a/ in spite of mild obscurity in general.
Right behind that in the ~150 zone are shows that have strong cult followings in the fandom, but didn’t have the sheer level of buzz that their friends in the ~70 range had. This includes Gintama, ef ~a tale of memories~, and K-On!!. (NOTE: I only took statistics for the second season of K-On, because I prefer it by far to the first season, which was a lot more popular. The second doesn’t rank poorly, but the fact that it’s a sequel means it won’t call back as many people as the original.)
After that, I’d say everything between 150 and 400 falls into the area of shows that got fair press in the blogosphere and on forums without quite the powerful following that the others had. Here we find Canaan, Evangelion 2.22 (again, this is part of the sequel syndrome where only fans return to the series; also accounts for Cardcaptor Sakura Movie II being a lot less popular than the show itself and falling into this zone), Kara no Kyoukai, Kure-nai, Shiki, Sora no Woto, and Summer Wars, between which is a lot of variation, but for basically the same reasons.
Anything above 400 is where it gets more specific. The next one up is Nanoha A’s—note that I took the most popular series in the franchise that I actually like, so the sequel thing comes into play here as well, and the original show is decently higher on the list. Then comes Petit Cossette, which I honestly thought would be way lower, but is probably here because of being played a few times on US TV.
Next is Revolutionary Girl Utena, which I was shocked to see so low on the list, considering that it’s ancient, pretty well-known, and definitely widely regarded as a classic. I’m tempted to believe that it’s placement is incorrect and is some kind of black swan.
Beyond that is Hidamari Sketch, for which I took the popularity and rankings of both season one and season three. Season one has the highest popularity (in the 600s)—accounting for people that didn’t make it any farther—with the third season falling way back into the 1400s. Accordingly, because of the rule of sequels, the third season is also the highest-ranked, since only big fans would put up with it for that long.
Once we pass HidaSketch, we enter the Total Obscurity Ghetto. This is the realm of shows that people only find out about when one of the cult mega-fans shoves the series down their throat. The practical heralds of this area are Manabi Straight and Simoun, which I’ve been cramming down throats forever. The Sky Crawlers unsurprisingly haunts this ghetto as well.
By far the most interesting statistic in this batch is my least-popular favorite, Strike Witches 2. The first season is monumentally higher on the list, having gotten a ton of buzz when it aired; but unlike other shows I’ve listed, Strike Witches wasn’t nearly as well-received, leaving only a small fanbase that would return for the sequel. It’s a real shame, too, since the sequel is so much better!
Now let’s look into the rankings. Once more, may I reiterate that only Petit Cossette has a score below 7.5 (it’s 7.3), and is accordingly the lowest-ranked on the list. Since Cossette isn’t a show I’m that diehard about, it’s basically an outlier on this list and should be ignored.
What I find totally amazing is that I have two of the top five-ranked anime in my favorites list. That is, two of the only five anime with a score above a nine. Moreover, they—FMA Brotherhood and Gintama—are numbers one and three. Two of the top five is very good odds.
Moreover, of those five, I’ve only seen three. I haven’t seen Legend of the Galactic Heroes nor Clannad After Story, so I can’t say if I’d also agree with those scores. I’ve seen number five, the Haruhi movie, and I do like it quite a bit, though it doesn’t crack my favorites list. I’ve also got number six, Eva 2.22, on my list, so you could say I’ve got three of the top six—even better.
I have thirteen total favorites that are in the top 100, which fascinates me. The top 100 stretches just below scores of 8.5, and considering the sheer amount of anime in existence, they’re all absurdly popular shows. Consider also that this list accounts for movies, OVAs, specials, sequels, etc., so there are a lot of series with multiple incarnations padding the list, further proving the popularity of everything within. 41% of my favorite anime are highly well-regarded series.
Of course, thanks to that aforementioned padding, anything in the top 300 is an extremely well-liked anime. Consider that FLCL, which Anime Insider (popular magazine) once ranked #2 behind Cowboy Bebop on a list of the greatest anime of all time, is ranked #246.
That accounts for the next eight shows/25% of my list. 66% of my favorite anime are extraordinarily well-liked.
Now, consider how many of my favorites are scored below an eight. I’ll include Hidamari Sketch season 1, since while season 3 is way higher on the list, I also haven’t seen it, and the first is the most popular anyway. All of the numbers with an asterisk beside them are shows ranked below an eight, which means ten shows/31% of my list. The remaining 3% of the list belongs to Shiki.
The highest-ranked series with a score below an eight is Serial Experiments Lain, falling in at 415. Hidamari Sketch isn’t doing much worse (besides, we know it has other seasons higher on the list), and Kure-nai and Simoun are looking pretty healthy.
Things only start to get more dangerous with the approach of Canaan and Manabi Straight. Then we finally fall off the edge with The Sky Crawlers and Strike Witches 2, which are probably well-liked, but not loved by as many people. And finally, at the back of the world, with the only rank over 1000 (excluding Cosette) and a score of 7.55 is poor Sora no Woto.
So, how about those quadrants? Let’s break them down a bit further:
1. Shows that everyone has seen and everyone likes [both scores in top 100]: Baccano!, Bakemonogatari, Cowboy Bebop, Durarara!!, FMA Brotherhood, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Toradora — 25% of my favorites.
2. Shows that a lot of people have seen and all of them liked [ranked in top 100, popularity ~150]: ef ~a tale of memories~ and Gintama — 6% of my favorites.
3. Shows that a decent number of people have seen and all of them liked [ranked in top 100, popularity ~600]: Evangelion 2.22, Summer Wars, and Kara no Kyoukai — 9% of my favorites.
4. Shows that no one has seen, but everyone who did liked [ranked in top 100, popularity 600+]: none
5. Shows that everyone has seen and most of them liked [ranked in top 400, popularity in top 100]: Cardcaptor Sakura, Eureka Seven, FLCL, Lucky Star, End of Evangelion — 16% of my favorites.
6. Shows that a lot of people have seen and most of them liked [ranked in top 400, popularity ~150]: K-On!! — 3% of my favorites.
7. Shows that a decent number of people have seen and most of them liked [ranked in top 400, popularity ~600]: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (A’s) and Revolutionary Girl Utena — 6% of my favorites.
8. Shows that no one has seen, but most of the ones that did liked [ranked in top 400, popularity 600+]: Hidamari Sketch (later seasons) — 1.5% of my favorites.
9. Shows that everyone has seen and most of them thought were pretty okay [ranked 400+, popularity in top 100]: Serial Experiments Lain — 3% of my favorites.
10. Shows that a lot of people have seen and most of them thought were pretty okay [ranked 400+, popularity ~150]: Canaan — 3% of my favorites.
11. Shows that a decent number of people have seen and most of them thought were pretty okay [ranked 400+, popularity ~600]: Hidamari Sketch (first season), Kure-nai, Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, Shiki, and Sora no Woto — 13.5% of my favorites.
12. Shows that no one has seen, but most of those that did thought were pretty okay [ranked 400+, popularity 600+]: Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight, Simoun, Strike Witches 2, and The Sky Crawlers — 12.5% of my favorites.
The results: As expected, my tastes fill the whole ranges of popularity and appreciation (as far as its existence above 7.5). I find it interesting that the category “shows that everyone has seen and everyone likes” contains the biggest portion of my favorites (25%). The better part of my list consists of popular and well-liked shows.
However, there’s also a clear break at the bottom for totally unpopular cult classics comprising their own 25%. Those shows account for the most unique parts of my personal bias, which is exactly why a lot of them are the shows I get the most defensive about (Kure-nai, Canaan, Sora no Woto, Strike Witches) and do the most promotion of (Shiki, HidaSketch, Manabi Straight, Simoun). For those shows to appeal to me on the same level as shows that also appeal to everyone else, there must be powerful personal ties to those shows.
Now, some titles~
Favorite with the worst odds stacked against it [likely to appear on fewest favorites lists]: Strike Witches 2
Favorite that will always be my little baby [fewest viewers will like it as much as I do]: Sora no Woto
Favorite I’ll always be the most defensive of [hugest fjord between popularity and appreciation]: Canaan
Favorite which shows that I really do like what everyone else does [most popular and highest rated]: FMA Brotherhood (Cowboy Bebop may be a better example because I like it more)
Favorite that probably has the best fan community [very few viewers, but they all love it]: Hidamari Sketch & Revolutionary Girl Utena (and I can confirm it’s true for both)
Total black-sheep favorite: Le Portrait de Petit Cossette
Verdict: Maybe I’m actually a pretty decent representative of anime fans!
How do you think your tastes compare to the common fan’s?