The rating system I use is a comparative system as opposed to an absolute system (like the 5 star or 10 point scale). New shows are evaluated against other shows in their genre (comedy, slice of life, harem, mecha, etc.) and shows that blend genres are compared using the genre they’re the strongest in. The ratings are baselined, with “Good” being the starting point, representing the average for the genre. The ratings, as well as the elements that make up those ratings are provided below. See the full list of rated anime here.
Masterpiece: This anime is an exemplar, belonging at the very top of its genre or category. This rating is reserved for anime that are extremely strong, but also contain something truly special, unique, or interesting that set it apart from just about any other anime in its genre. All the elements in this anime are very strong or above. At least two elements must be masterpiece. I would personally introduce this anime to someone by watching it with them.
Excellent: This anime is highly notable, standing above most other anime in the genre. Anime in this category are really well done. Generally, this anime has extremely strong elements. The elements are structurally sound and powerfully employed. Even if not particularly unique in terms of general subject matter, an anime in this category does something to make it really stand out from the pack. There’s an 85% chance I’d re-watch this anime while showing it to someone.
Very Good: This anime is a strong pick, above average for its genre. This category is reserved for anime that have a stronger execution than many other series. An anime in this category starts to distinguish itself from the pack. This category also contains anime that average out – some really strong elements that are able to mitigate some weaker ones. There’s about a 65% chance I’d personally introduce this anime.
Good: This anime is worth watching – it’s a solid, if average, entry for its category. This category is for anime with a solid execution where the elements are competently employed. Generally, this anime is not particularly strong, but doesn’t contain any glaring weaknesses. While I might recommend it to someone, I’m not exactly likely to watch it with them.
Decent: This anime doesn’t stand out – it’s a little weak for the genre. While it could be worth a watch for some mild entertainment, it can generally be described as “bland.” Some of the elements don’t perform as well as they should, although they don’t necessarily detract from the anime. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but wouldn’t caution against it either.
Not Really Good: This anime was underwhelming – it “missed the mark.” Something about this anime was noticeably weaker than genre average. Generally, there will be some problems with the elements that detract from an otherwise competently executed anime. I might give a caution for someone wanting to watch the anime.
Weak: This anime was disappointing – it was substantially under-performing for the genre. Rather than just a failed execution, there is something structurally wrong with the anime. This category contains anime that have some critical flaw that significantly detracts from what could be a competent anime. Often, the weakness will bring down other elements. I would not recommend these anime.
Poor: This anime was notable for its failings. At this point, there are several critical flaws in the structure of the anime. Rather than simply not carrying their weight, the flawed elements work together to bring down the work. In addition, the weaknesses end up preventing a competent execution in other areas. I would warn people away from this.
Bad: This anime is an example of what not to do. This anime would be a showcase of substantial structural flaws and a completely failed execution. The weaknesses were so severe, they tend to eliminate any redeeming quality in this anime. It’s not even fun to watch for criticism’s sake.
Purpose: The overall path the story takes to reach its resolution. This is the “bird’s eye view” of the path from beginning to end. A strong purpose ensures that the path is always making progress towards the end goal. A weak purpose takes unnecessary detours – it makes the path go places that don’t really help the viewer reach the goal.
Does the anime have a clear goal? What is the overall goal of the anime? Where does this anime end up? How many detours from the goal does the anime take? Do those detours make the viewer lose sight of the goal?
Characters: The actors in the story. Good characters have breadth and depth in the form of “rules” that guide their actions, much the same way as real people do. For example, good characters have unique or complex motives, goals, ideas, ways of thinking, ways of interacting with the world, etc.
How well developed are the main characters and supporting characters? Do they have complex goals, motives, reasons, etc. for acting? Do they have complex flaws? Are the characters closer to a real person or can they be described as a cardboard cutout?
World/Setting: This is where the story takes place. The world itself can be a “character” in the sense that it has its own set of rules and can strongly affect the story. A “bigger” world has more moving parts in the form of events, characters, factions, history, etc. These parts turn the story even without the characters’ intervention.
How interesting and unique is the world in the anime? How much attention to detail went into the creation of the world? Is the world internally consistent? What kinds of things are happening in the background, apart from our characters? Is the world bigger than the characters or are the characters most of the world?
Plot: Important changes or events in that happen in the story. Generally, it’s like a snapshot of a particular situation that changes the course of the story. These snapshots act like stepping stones towards the resolution.
What kinds of challenges, difficulties, or situations are presented to the characters? How do these situations drive the characters closer to the purpose (or end point) of the anime?
Storytelling: A broad category that relates to the presentation of information to the viewer. Artistic elements, writing, tone, mood, and perspective are all parts of storytelling, among others. In broad terms, storytelling is how the various plot points are connected together and guided to the resolution.
How is the information (plot, character development, setting, etc.) presented to the viewer? How many stories are being told? Does the anime shift perspectives? Is the viewer told things that are going on or shown what’s going on? How is the anime’s timeline constructed? Is it chronological, story/concept-focused, etc? Do these devices help the viewer or get in the way?
Pace/Tempo: An important part of storytelling – so important, it gets its own category. This relates to the anime’s ability to manage the spacing of the plot points and the speed of the storytelling. This involves how long the anime lingers on and develops plot points. The pace can control things like mood, dramatic tension, and sense of time. Pace is a little odd in the sense that a stronger pace is less noticeable. In other words, the better the pacing the more invisible it becomes. In a sense, it’s like a good office manager – if it’s doing its job properly, you don’t realize how important it is. It’s only when it goes wrong that you notice it.
How quickly is the information presented to the viewer? Does the speed of presentation allow for an appropriate amount of depth? Does the speed change?