Ratings system: what is a masterpiece for you?

The aftermath of Tatami Galaxy got me into thinking I should rearrange and reorganize my method of rating anime series. I don’t give many series perfect scores, but I do like a significant number of series and I gave most of them perfect 10s. I realized that it just didn’t cut it with Tatami Galaxy, though. The experience of watching the series was like the first time I watched Honey and Clover. I was so involved with basically everything about the series, from abundant speculation to interpreting the occurrences of the series; I was also so involved with the characters themselves that I couldn’t help but cry freely during the final episode because all of them have grown, especially Watashi. It was simply then I realized that I would have given 11 for these shows just because they were so good, but that was supposed to be the reason for a perfect 10.


Clearly, something was wrong with how I dealt with things. There were simply some series and movies that scores of ’10’ wouldn’t do justice to them, so I think I have to refocus myself with 10 as an absolute and then go down from there. I’ve managed to pare down my scores and removed some anime from that ’10’ spot, but I’m still left with about seven series that I just feel are absolute classics to me: no matter how I think of them, they’re just personal masterpieces to me. These were the series that I re-watched and have appealed to me a lot, personally, although one is absolutely polarizing. Frankly, I have some preferences among them, but they’re all series that I just have a difficulty giving lower than 10:

1. Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei)

I haven’t re-watched a series as much as this one. I only cried during the endings of two series: this, and Honey and Clover. I really felt the character of Watashi, too, and that pervasive culture of impotence that sometimes seeps into everyone. This is not just the show’s recency coming into play. It’s just that damn good for me.

2. Honey and Clover

This is the second of two shows that I cried during the ending of. It will probably never remove itself from my top three. What the Tatami Galaxy has over it is its intellectual nature: this is more of an affective show.

3. Cowboy Bebop

This series was what got me into being a hardcore fan. It was just a beautiful series.

4. Shingetsutan Tsukihime

Yes, I know. ‘There is NO Tsukihime anime.’ But there was something about the anachronistic nature of this show (the merging of the flashbacks without warning) and its need for re-watches that simply got me. Plus, you really can’t knock on sleeping forever for the sake of the one you love – that was what really got me.

5. Cross Game

I re-watched this series immediately after it aired. It was really good, too, although I still have to compare it to Touch and judge which is the more deserving masterpiece.

6. Ga-Rei -zero-

This was heart-wrenchingly painful and beautiful at the same time. I mean I can gush for each of these shows but that’s not really the point of this post. I saw one of anime’s most dynamic relationships between Yomi and Kagura.

7. Maison Ikkoku

This deserves a re-watch as to whether it’s a nine or ten, but I cried at this series and really, really loved the ending.

So far those are my seven ’10’ series. I don’t know where to put Kara no Kyoukai, but it’s at no. 2 if taken as a series. My top movies are Ocean Waves and the Rebuild of Eva films. I still don’t know what really constitutes a masterpiece, but judging from those series I think it’s the rewatchability of the shows and how emotionally affective it was. I also think consistency is an issue that has to be tackled (thus my reason that Tatami Galaxy is much better than Kaiba for me). I don’t usually give series low scores since I usually watch the series I know I will finish later on.

I’m not offering any answers, but I think it will probably work in the long run. How do you rank or select your masterpieces?

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11 Responses to “Ratings system: what is a masterpiece for you?”

  1. zzeroparticle Says:

    I don’t my method is that different from yours. My criteria mostly lies along the kind of impact it delivers; that is, if I can recall most of the scenes with amazing clarity long after the series has gone by, that’s a sign that the show’s going to get that kind of a rating. If the series tosses up a lot of emotional moments, heartfelt or otherwise, it’s also a very good sign that we’re hitting that level. When a show can combine both criteria into an awesome package, it’s nailed it.

    Of the shows on my list, I daresay ARIA the Origination wins that ‘masterpiece’ rating, as does Monster. Both shows have left that indelible mark in my memory and delivered a lot of wonderful emotional moments.

  2. Vin Says:

    Interesting topic.

    Well, I try to be very ‘analytical’ when scoring things, but always leaving a space for “emotional impact”. Allow me to explain, lol.

    Usually I rate after pondering the question “What is this series trying to accomplish in terms of overall themes?”, and then I judge how well the different aspects help to capitalize that “goal”. In this fashion my rating fluctuate from 2 to 9. I know it’s a VERY subjective method, but I’m okay with it.

    And now answering the question you pose, for me a masterpiece is a series that does a ‘perfect’ job in capitalizing his own objectives plus a certain ‘something’ that defies any explanation. To put it frankly, while a 9 certainly is something that evokes a strong emotional response from me, the difference between a 9 (something truly great) and a 10 (masterpiece) is that the latter has something that I don’t even know how to explain.

    In the end, I’m an irrational being. πŸ™

  3. Vin Says:

    And well, impact over time counts too. The more I remember from a series, the more I value it, and that can affect the rating both in a positive or a negative way.

    I was just going to check H&C. Great. πŸ™‚

  4. Michael Says:


    Yeah, it’s pretty much how I judge what’s good, what’s great, and what’s a masterpiece, which is why H&C has endured for me.


    It’s a pretty organized way of assessing your value of a certain series, but I think it’s good. I agree that masterpieces have that way of being undefinable as to what makes it so good – they just are. Impact over time counts as well, and that’s also why the seven have stayed in that list. I loved Tsukihime because it forced me to think (even though people argue it was bad plotting) and it still remains fresh in my mind. Plus, the sacrifice only helped.

    H&C is a great show, but watch it for yourself. πŸ™‚

  5. Vendredi Says:

    I usually pick favourites based on how enjoyable rewatches are. Things like tone, aesthetic style, and the entire experience of the show matter very highly.

    I’d have to say you’re probably one of a handful that will even acknowledge the Shingetsusan Tsukihime anime in a positive light – although I agree that I think it has a much poorer reputation than it ought to. A lot of visual novel adaptations suffer a lot of decay, just because the medium is very different in animation – the same storytelling techniques will never work as well (Umineko is a particularly strong example of this; the anime makes a valiant effort but I think is possibly too faithful to the VN for it’s own good). Tsukihime at the least is fantastic in creating a particular atmosphere, at the very least.

  6. Hogart Says:

    Masterpieces are shows that are epic to you the first time you watch them, and still don’t lose their charm or enjoyment after repeated viewings, especially viewings years apart. It is not simply nostalgia, or simply because it is the “first of it’s kind”: they truly are timeless in some way.

    They do not have to be “state of the art”, or “game changers”, or otherwise iconic in some way. They can have flaws, but you don’t tend to even notice them around all the awesome going on. The flaws don’t really affect anything to the point where they diminish the work. Or, the flaws only add to the charm somehow (perhaps even intentionally). Masterpieces can even have their off-episodes, but those are rare with relation to the number of episodes in the show or are simply extra material.

    Masterpieces exceed what they set out to do, and often even exceed the expectations of the viewer regardless of hype. Replicating them is nigh impossible… they age, but you are torn as to whether they need to be updated or “rebooted” because you are happy enough with them. You might worry whether such effort will diminish the overall “franchise”, and when such a thing is done it never really feels like it tops the original, or is so similar that it might as well have been the same thing.

    Masterpieces don’t have to be faithful adaptations of source material, as the source material could be weak by comparison. They do, however, need to feel “complete” to a certain degree – they might be awesome overall, but inconsistencies like weak endings or difficult-to-ignore stretches of badness will usually mar the to the point where they aren’t masterpieces, even if they are exemplars of their particular genre(s).

    There is an element of fandom, but not in terms of popularity. They can be under-appreciated, but even detractors can’t say they’re anything less than “very good”, unless they are obviously trolling or going out of their way to nitpick things that are largely irrelevant, even to others who aren’t really it’s intended audience.

    That’s why something like Angel Beats isn’t a masterpiece, even if it has people who call it one. It fails the bulk of the criteria, and only has fandom to back it up. That’s why something like Cowboy Bebop, even though it’s widely praised and possibly over-hyped, is a masterpiece: because it’s got all of these things going for it. That’s why Evangelion isn’t really a masterpiece, even if it’s exemplary and iconic: it doesn’t feel complete, even to this day.

  7. Baka-Raptor Says:

    For me, the factor that separates the great from the greatest is addictiveness. How much did I crave that next episode? Some masterpieces are built to be taken one episode at a time. Nothing wrong with that. I’m just going to rate the addictive masterpieces higher.

  8. Michael Says:


    I agree. Timelessness is a factor with a certain series being a masterpiece.

    ‘Masterpieces donÒ€ℒt have to be faithful adaptations of source material, as the source material could be weak by comparison.’

    Tatami Galaxy, for example, is not quite a faithful adaptation of the source. But it works really well.

    Anyway, great comment.


    I think that’s an important factor, too. That’s why rewatchability is important for me – how engrossing is it, really?

  9. MeoTwister5 Says:

    Well I agree with most of your choices being some of the best around except for two. First off I can’t comment on Gai-Rei Zero because I haven’t seen it.

    Secondly, the reason I don’t regard the anime version of Tsukihime very highly is because I played the game (yes there’s an english patch) and I will always end up comparing it to the original, and considering I didn’t like Tsukihime as much as I did Fate Stay Night, it wouldn’t be on my list.

    Maybe I’ll make my own list if I feel like it. The thing is there is no single title for me that stands above the heap.

  10. Michael Says:


    Man, I can’t believe I missed you.

    >Tsukihime at the least is fantastic in creating a particular atmosphere, at the very least.

    I totally agree. Its inventive storytelling is also quite impressive for me.

    Kuya Jorge:

    Watch GaRei -zero- now.

    I mean there must be some series that stand above the heap for you. There will always be some series that just sweep you off your feet more than others.

  11. ahr Says:

    Quite simply, a “masterpiece” is something I like. Now how I determine what I like is an arcane and incomprehensible process…

    I’d be lying if I said I was free of prejudice when it comes to comparing anime. I give some series disproportionately more thought than others. It might be because of the initial impression I got of it, or some comments on the series I’ve read is subconsciously affecting my judgement, or due to my lack of intelligence, or maybe it was the weather that day, or perhaps it depends on my alertness and attentiveness. So when it comes to rating things, there’s quite a few series which I can’t reasonably pass judgement on, be it because I haven’t understood it well or I can’t remember much of it. Ratings are just my way of simply saying “I like this at this moment in time. I want more of this”.

    …This is all very obvious, I’m not sure why I typed all of that. I think the point I was trying to make is that it’s difficult for me to come up with an algorithm or a check-list when I rate something. It’s just an arcane process.

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