Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Picking Favorites

May 15, 2009 Editorial

So I have this problem with the listed favorites in my MAL profile (the anime moreso than the manga). I feel like the list is out of date because I haven’t really updated it since I joined the site last June, and I’ve seen at least a dozen very good series since then. So many series could easily move into that empty fifth slot, and so many other series seem like they’re viable contenders for the titles that are already there. How do you go about choosing? Which factors are more relevant than others? And for a public listing, how much are you going to invest in using your declared favorites to brand yourself?

As far as the branding goes, my favorites list kind of makes me laugh. The only real point of unity is mecha, which I didn’t realize was something I cared for as much as I do until I compiled the list in the first place. What kind of person do I come across with such a list? Gurren Lagann is almost a cop out because there are very few people that don’t care for it; perhaps having it there makes me ordinary. Code Geass is something that might start some polarizing debates on the aniblogosphere, but the first season is almost universally accepted to be more worthy than the second. So maybe that makes me oridinary also. Gundam SEED seems to be hated on a grand scale and many Gundam fans seem to associate liking it with being ignorant. Stand Alone Complex is another title that faces little criticism, but a few dislike it for its rampant politics. So maybe having it there makes me look smart.

So, what does this list say about me on the whole? I am mostly an ordinary mecha fan that enjoys both testosterone-filled gar and intelligent political drama, but is ignorant towards the Gundam franchise. Not really sure if that’s the exact branding I would choose for myself, but I wouldn’t say the description is wildly inaccurate either.

Self-branding is an interesting thing, particularly when it’s of a social consequence and not a commercial one. Sites like MAL allow for the traditional judging that used to take place when you took a look at the books on someone’s shelf or what they’re reading on the bus. It might be bad to judge based on negative stereotypes, but the judging that takes place when you glance over someone’s favorites list is something that I’d consider to be nearly always useful. Whether comparing lists comes up with more similarities or differences is largely irrelevant as long as you aren’t derisively writing someone off completely for holding whatever series in high regard (that would be negatively stereotyping). There’s a difference between thinking, “Oh, this person likes mostly sappy shoujo titles, I guess we don’t have much in common,” and thinking, “lol, this idiot only likes mainstream shounen, what a useless newb.”

If there are only differences, well, no loss, and you’ve saved everyone time by not pursuing a conversation that would have likely led no where. If there are only similarities, then perhaps you’ve found a fangasm buddy with which you can merrily spout fanboyish or fangirlish nonsense with. The best list comparisons come up with both similarities and differences; they are the things that prompt conversations like, “I see you like such and such also, but also that you enjoyed so and so — what was it about so and so that you liked? I didn’t find it very satisfying.” And lovely discussions (or interesting debates) ensue and friendship, rivalry, and comraderie spreads across the Internet! Hurray! Judging is built into our social structure for a reason; it’d be a shame to cast it off completely.

It does make the self-conscious even more self-conscious though. Even online, you have an appearance. Picking the series that go on your favorites list is like picking a fashion to wear. And you have to find something that both satisfy you and your desire to be presentable to the public. Luckily, I’ve never been too bothered by the latter, so I’m fine with people thinking I’m an ignorant Gundam fan for having SEED as my favorite. When I commented on his aforementioned related post, ghostlightning mentioned that all the titles on my list are fairly recent, which might indicate that I’m a newer fan. I’m not, really, but oddly enough, the nostalgia factor hasn’t been that big for me. My old favorites include Gundam Wing, Yu Yu Hakusho, BECK, Dragonball Z, Cowboy Bebop (you know, the Toonami golden days!), and My Neighbor Totoro, but I can see that my love for them is mostly because of nostalgia and not because they’re actually better series than what’s on the list now. It might be unconventional to consider the new better on all aspects than the old, so maybe I’ll seem even more like an ignorant newbie, but hey, whatever, man.

My only problem is deciding what my “real” favorites are and correctly representing them on this damned list.

Back to my dilemma, huh? That favorites list needs updating. Who gets the empty fifth slot? And is there anyone already on the list that needs to be ousted? Here are the new contenders: Ouran High School Host Club, Nodame Cantabile, Mushishi, Planetes, and maybe even Lovely Complex. Score-wise, all of those series I’ve reviewed and scored with a 9 overall, except Love*Com, which has an 8. All of the series currently on the list are also 9’s, except for TTGL, which is the only anime I’ve scored with a 10. Sometimes I wonder about that 10, but if anything else, TTGL is the only series thus far mentioned that I watched three times consecutively in a month. I guess it still deserves that top spot.

Since Love*Com is the lone 8 here, maybe it should be dropped from consideration (especially since there are a lot of other series I’ve scored with 9’s that aren’t up for consideration here), but even though both its technical merits and story/character merits are lower than the competition, it’s a series that I’ve been rewatching random episodes from a lot lately — what does that count for? Perhaps it’s just a weird mood I’ve been in; after all, I don’t usually take so readily to standard shoujo. Should a favorites list represent a more stable subset of favorites, or should it be more flexible? Should Love*Com be represented above the others just because I’ve really taken to it lately? Should it change and drop off as soon as I get out of this phase? That begs the question of, just how often should a favorites list be updated? Is there really anyone e-stalkerish enough to check that often? Or is it more for your own satisfaction?

Personally, I think I prefer the more stable route. It’s too much trouble to constantly update something based on recent whims. Besides, the list is a better branding tool if it has series that stand up to the test of time, right? So Love*Com, as much as I love it, is out. That leaves four other series. What’s the next factor to consider? Mushishi and Ouran probably have the highest rewatch value out of those four. Both series are fairly episodic and allow for better casual watching. Planetes and Nodame are both wonderful, but even though Nodame is largely slice of life, it does have a linear story, which hurts its rewatch potential to some extent since it’s harder to jump in the middle. Planetes’s first dozen episodes are also pretty episodic, but the latter half gets very character-involved and plot-heavy. How important do I want rewatch value to be?

It must be important if it’s one of the reasons TTGL has the top spot, and even though it’s not the second season that’s on the list, Code Geass R2 is the only series I’ve followed as it aired that I watched three times per episode… one for every sub release (Chihiro/Nightspeed, gg, and Eclipse) because I was just that much of a fantard. And dammit if each rewatch wasn’t still fun. I’ve also seen the second half of Gundam SEED an obscene number of times… SAC I like to catch sometimes when it reruns, but since I stopped watching TV altogether, that doesn’t happen much anymore. Maybe SAC is the candidate for removal then…? If I swap out SAC, then I could add both Mushishi and Ouran, but there’s gotta be other factors, right? And even if I do do that, which of the new listees should be ranked higher?

I always gravitate towards character-driven series, so maybe series with characters I like better should have preference. All the series on the current list have strong characters that I love, though it might be worth noting that there are no TTGL characters on my top ten favorite characters list (then again, I also have problems with the items on that list; that can be another discussion altogether, though it would probably be very redundant). Mushishi would be out if it’s a question of character, not because Ginko is a weak character, but just because he’s very simple and doesn’t go through a lot of changes. It’s a hard fight between Ouran, Planetes, and Nodame, but I’d probably also drop Ouran there. Great, so the series with the greater rewatch value are exactly opposite those with the stronger characters. Woe!

This entry has gone on long enough; I’ll spare you the rest of my inner debate. But you understand my problem, right? I obviously haven’t updated my favorites list yet. I really don’t know when I’ll be able to figure it out. Picking favorites really sucks; I love all of these series! But I can’t very well not have any, can I? What would you think of me then??

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  1. ghostlightning on May 15, 2009 11:02 pm

    “If there are only similarities, then perhaps you’ve found a fangasm buddy with which you can merrily spout fanboyish or fangirlish nonsense with. The best list comparisons come up with both similarities and differences”

    While I agree with your assessment that it would make for the best list, I do feel you underestimate the power of having similar lists. You’d be surprised to find out how different people are in how they like a particular show (pet characters, interpretations of meaning, things that work/don’t in the show and what could be improved — just look at Macross Frontier’s shipper wars). In fact, I very much like discourse within the context of a shared favorite. It’s part of the well of possibility that is a big part of the ‘We Remember Love’ ideology.

    The bigger concern is what do you really value? It would seem that you want a perfect representation of yourself as a fan, and perhaps a list like this is too limited a tool for the purpose.

    In my case I acknowledge my own list to be quite imperfect, because it under-represents the Macross franchise.

  2. Kiriska on May 15, 2009 11:13 pm

    You might be right that I underestimate those with similarities, perhaps because I’ve encountered few people with exactly similar lists and of those, I haven’t struck up many conversations. I do concede to the fact that I don’t involve myself in enough discussions in general though. Shipper wars are also volatile in Code Geass’s fandom, but those tend to get too nasty too quickly. Fangirls, what can you do.

    The problem with lists is that they imply that there’s a systematic way to determine what should be on the list when obviously, there isn’t. There are too many factors and the weight each one carries can vary from series to series, making it impossible to determine a single, simple criteria by which to judge. What do I want most out of the list? I’m really not sure.

    Sure, it’d be great for it to accurately represent me as a fan, but I would say that that’s impossible just because people assign different stereotypes and ideas based on certain shows. I can’t tell how I’ll be judged by others for having whatever show, so there’s no point in worrying about that. It’s mostly for myself — I want to know which shows I hold in higher regard than all others. And I want to know why those shows are there in the order that they’re there in. Figuring yourself out is hard.

  3. usagijen on May 16, 2009 12:17 am

    I know exactly what you mean, ghostlightning’s post about branding together with my recent introspect about what “10” Means to me (or how we’re supposed to Rate What We Love (pardon the shameless plug) made me realize how my MAL Favorites is not exactly how I want it to be.

    In the end, I came to the conclusion of wanting to include shows I fell in love with in my faves, perspectives which might change through time, as you either learn to love the series more, or otherwise.

  4. Kiriska on May 16, 2009 12:40 am

    I’ve actually already read that post of yours though I didn’t comment, maybe because it’s another subject I want to eventually write about — the nature of my own ratings. I agree with the comment that said that the main fallacy with most rating sites is that they equate that 10=10=10 and everyone means different things when they put a 10 on something, or even a 9 or an 8. My 9’s might be comparable to someone else’s 10’s since I’m so damned hesitant to assign the value to anything.

    I still haven’t had the pleasure of finding a conclusion for myself though, probably because I can’t properly define falling in love either. There are many shows that I know I love, but which are the ones that I fell heads over heels for? I also tend to try hard to be “objective” which sometimes leads to me rating high for series I actually didn’t enjoy that much but could still appreciate the merits of (5cm/s comes to mind), and for favorites, it makes it hard to choose between several series that are technically equal and which I all love equally (as demonstrated in this post, lol).

    Man, I exhaust myself with my pointless, long-windedness.

  5. Camario on May 22, 2009 8:23 pm

    Reading the above comment, we seem to have similar feelings about 5cm/s…I consider it to be a brilliant piece of work and rated it accordingly, but it’s not one of my personal favorites.

    As for MAL itself, I think narrowing everything down to just five favorites is too forceful and hopelessly inaccurate. I can easily name ten series that deserve to be on the list almost as much as all the others. Sometimes I even add, remove and re-add series for no particular reason other than my changing perspectives or simply due to spur of the moment. Sometimes Baccano! is in, sometimes it’s out. The same thing goes for Code Geass, Gunbuster and others. The only series that’s guaranteed to be stuck there is Legend of Galactic Heroes. I try not to think about it too much.

    Incidentally, while I consider myself a fan of Code Geass, both seasons included….what I find, even to this day, especially ironic and hilarious is that a lot of the bashing and complaints that are supposedly the exclusive property of the second, going by common knowledge or perhaps more accurately common convenience, were first coined to describe the original series. Taking a little walk down memory lane reveals this quite easily. Doesn’t prevent me from putting the series on my favorites from time to time though.