On Rating Media

This post had been a long time coming, where I discuss grading media with a score, and specifically how I do it, particularly with regards to anime on this blog, but it’s transferable.

Now, each reviewer and sometimes each review is different, there are multiple grading systems: You can have each show start at 10, and then deduct points for anything that bothers you, and then you might not know what you liked, but you certainly know what stopped a show from being perfect.
You can do the opposite, start from 0 and add points for each thing the show does well. Such reviews often have categories, such as “Production”, “Plot”, etc. and either average all of them or you can earn up to a certain mark in each score and then you add up.

I don’t engage in these forms of scoring. I also want to stress again, that the number is the least important and least interesting part of any review, especially mine – I mean, I use so many words to describe my thoughts regarding the media, so  that the final few digits shouldn’t carry so much weight.

I also don’t rate all shows using the same measuring system – I have the “How much do I enjoy the show?” meter, and “How good do I think the show is?” meter (often has a lot to do with aesthetics, but not visual only, but also how I judge the plot to be). I can really love a show that isn’t that good and give it a good score, or not that good of a score. I can think a show is “objectively great” (those are scare-quotes) but not connect to it emotionally, and it might get a good grade or an average one. There’s a sort of averaging going on here, but it’s weighted by how much weight I give to the meter with regards to the particular show – that is, whether how much I like it outweighs how not-great it is or vice versa.

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Gin no Saji / Silver Spoon – A Story About Growth and Dreams – A City Boy In an Agricultural School.

Gin no Saji - Silver SpoonGin no Saji, known as “Silver Spoon” in English, is the latest manga by Arakawa Hiromu, best known as the author behind the best-selling action series Fullmetal Alchemist. Well, this show is quite different from FMA, and is based on the author’s history of having been raised in a dairy farm. The anime adaptation, which just finished its first season, with the next season having already been announced to begin airing in January 2014.

The protagonist of the show is Hachicken Yugo, a freshman in high school who ran away from Tokyo to an agricultural school in the countryside. “Ran away?” I hear you ask? Well, Hachiken felt overwhelmed by the expectations he faced from his family, his peers, his students, and mostly himself. There are hints he was bullied some, but it seems the main issue was that he would only think of his grades, of his future, and the pressure got to him – not because he wasn’t doing well, not because he couldn’t compete with his brother who got admitted to Tokyo University without even trying.

No, his issue was that he didn’t know what he wanted, what his goal was, what his dream was.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that have risen in my mind as I’ve watched it. There will be some spoilers in this post.)

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Pacific Rim – A String of Clichés.

Pacific Rim (2013)I’ve watched Pacific Rim a acouple of months ago, and while it aired another movie which I hadn’t watched was airing – Kick-Ass 2. The reason this is relevant to my story is that my write-up of Kick-Ass 1 is very relevant to this post. Kick-Ass had been a B-movie that had been proud of it being one, with constant winks by the writing and acting cast to the audience. I think Pacific Rim would’ve benefitted from feeling the same way.

I feel this movie doesn’t really know what it wants to be, it has top class production values, lavishly (computer-)generated fights, it has a serious tone to it – the shots are dramatic, the lighting is dramatic and somber, with top class filmography, and most of the cast portrays its role in a serious manner, as if they believe their lines, and that the world they’re acting in is real – some of them are in no way or form good actors, but it’s the thought that counts – serious movie.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that have risen in my mind as I’ve watched it. There will be a few spoilers in this post.)

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Valvrave the Liberator In Light of Episode 10 Discussion – Vampires are About Invasion?

Valvrave the Liberator, known as Kakumeiki Valvrave in Japanese, is an anime from the previous season which I’ve quite enjoyed, and then episode 10 came along. This post will contain spoilers of the complete first season and also contain discussion of sexual assault, for those who need the heads-up. The main reason that this post is not even attempting to be a review or cover multiple ideas from the show is that it feels to me that the show had been designed as a single 25-26 episode run, but had been cut into two parts due to logistics, and it’d be akin to attempting to review the first 8 episodes of Code Geass as if they are indicative of the whole show.

Valvrave the Liberator / Kakumeiki Valvrave - Vampire Moment

This specific post is going to be filled with stories, rather than merely my analysis of the show, the episode, and things within it, and I think it’s appropriate. Valvrave the Liberator is an episode that comes out Friday morning my time, I used to wake up and watch the episode. The week episode 10 had come out had been no different, I watched the episode, then I went online and read some discussions, and then I had to go and lie down because I wasn’t feeling well, as a result of watching the episode, and had to take some time to recover.
I’m known as someone really into anime in several circles I frequent, including Europe-West’s Dominion playing population. A couple of weeks after the episode aired someone I know watched the episode and asked me “WTF?! WTF?! Did they really do that?”, which is a good account of someone’s experiences.

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Accel World – Villains of the Sci-Fi Premise!

Accel World is an anime based on the Light Novels by Kawahara Reki, the author of Sword Art Online, in fact, I’ve decided to watch this show after watching Sword Art Online and loving it as much as I did. Unlike Sword Art Online, I hadn’t read the books, and as such this review would be based only on the anime, and perhaps a couple of points would be drawn from SAO and other media, as usual. I also want to note that the seed of the idea I’ll use in this post, of the show’s protagonists as villains had been planted by this post on Kotaku, reviewing the show.

Accel World Anime PosterLet’s begin with the show’s premise, or the world it’s taking place at, and how it develops it: In 2046, people can access a virtual network known as the Neurolinker via their cellphone terminals. A perpetual victim of bullying, middle school student Haruyuki spends his time absorbed in games in a corner of his local network. One day he is approached by the most famous girl in his school, Kuroyukihime (Black Snow Princess). She gives him a strange program called Brain Burst that has the power to “accelerate the world.” (Source: ANN).

I usually post this later, but since the first half of this post will be dedicated to the show’s premise, including the very next paragraph, then this is going to come earlier than usual today: This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that have risen in my mind as I’ve watched it. There will be a large amount of spoilers in this post.

Now let’s expand that a bit, with what the show actually shows you during its early episodes – Brain Burst allows you to enter a digital world where your mind is accelerated a thousand times the normal rate, every second of real-world time is a full 16 minutes of in-game time. A real world-minute is experienced subjectively as over 16 hours in the accelerated world, which is relevant later on in the show. You can use the accelerated world in order to pause and think about what is going on, have more time to study, dodge incoming blows and many other cool things. The catch? You begin with 100 points, each time you accelerate takes up a point, so sooner or later you’re going to run out. How do you earn more points? You fight with people in duels – you challenge someone whom has no option to turn the duel down, and 10 points transfer from the loser to the victor. Earn enough points, and you can turn in points for a “level up”, which can increase your stats and give you cool powers (Note, it seems one can also choose to voluntarily transfer points to another).

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Determinators – Power Fantasy, Wish Fulfillment, from Fiction to League of Legends.

Determinators are something I love, and knowing that I love it had allowed me to understand why I love some of the media, some of the stories, some of the characters that I do.
Let us begin with the definition of determinator as it appears on TV Tropes:

A character — good or evil, male or female, young or old — who never gives up. Ever. No matter what.

And let me tell you, if you’ve ever played a Dungeons and Dragons game (or specifically came across D&D related fiction), read a bildungsroman novel, watched anime or read manga, or uttered the term “Mary Sue” with regards to a male character, it’s like you’ve come across determinators, and plenty of them.

The hero that gets beaten but then rises once more, or who gets beaten, trains and then comes back, the hero who will not abandon their friends, the hero is a hero. Note, should a villain display these traits, and it’s actually quite common, we’ll call him persistent or a pest, which is also often about time-frame or due to the fact that this isn’t shown on-screen. Take for instance Ash Ketchum, the protagonist of Poke’Mon. In episode 5 his electric Pikachu is beatenby Brock’s rock/ground Poke’Mon, so he trains overnight and comes back in the morning with his dynamo-trained electric rodent to beat Brock. More commonly though, we think of determinators as those who do not give up within the scene, who get beaten but rise up once more.

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