Watchmojo is a very popular website and Youtube channel that built it’s success on a writing a series of top ten lists… A practice that’s a lot more complicated than David Letterman would have you believe. And they’re really good at it, too! Their lists are interesting, entertaining, informative, and they generally know enough of what they’re talking about to produce a satisfying list.
Except when it comes to anime.
Watchmojo has endured a lot of controversy over the choices it’s made with it’s many anime lists, and I’d like to share a few of those controversies with you here today.
1: On their list of the ‘top ten anime series,’ they included Naruto, an anime that’s notorious for it’s unwatchable filler arcs, and animation quality so hideous that people praise it up the ass whenever it has a fight scene that’s even good enough to be mediocre. They also included Pokemon, a repetitive, cyclical series that can’t even follow it’s own logic for more than a few episodes at a time.
2: They did a list of the top ten anime powers, where one of the entrants was the Death Note. Which is a weapon, and not a power.
3: On their top ten Female Anime Characters list, the top spot went to Riza Hawkleye, a character with no agency of her own who is entirely defined by her relationship to a more important male co-star, and who… On a more interpersonal level… Could have easily been replaced with a gun-slinging robot without changing anything other than a lot of peoples’ shipping fantasies. She may kick ass, but Lust (in the first anime) is a much more complex and interesting character.
4: The character of Light Yagami was listed as one of the top ten Anti-heroes, as well as the smartest villain. Is he an anti-hero or a villain? Pick!
5: Top Ten Anime movies did not include Tokyo Godfathers. Personal gripe.
6: They don’t impose their usual ‘one per franchise’ rule for the anime lists, even though it would go a long way in broadening the range of anime that they represent.
Now, you may be asking how mistakes like this are possible. The truth is that their picks for each list are decided not solely by Watchmojo.com, but largely by popular vote. The problem with the popular vote system is that it gives people way too much power without any sense of responsibility or accountability. There is nothing stopping a person from ignoring the specified criteria of a list and just picking whichever anime/character they like best.
For example: If they were doing a ‘best looking art/animation” list, the top spot would go to Fullmetal Alchemist/Brotherhood, because while both of those shows had huge budget issues and look cheap more often than not, they’d be the most popular anime series on the list, and the voters would want to represent them as loyally as possible.
It’s because of this that way back when Watchmojo was taking votes for it’s “Underrated anime’ list, I knew right away that something was wrong. First of all, you can not… Can not… Decide how underrated something is by popular vote. The more votes an anime gets, the more that means people love it, creating a contradiction that could not possibly be more direct and obvious. If anything, that list is ultimately going to become “Top ten anime that didn’t make the first top ten anime list” list.
Well, some time passed, and I had gotten used to having the thin hope that they’d decided not to do the list after all. But nope! They did it, and they released it a little while ago. And what’s the verdict? It’s an absolute train wreck, with a like/dislike bar that’s almost split down the middle. The list contains such gems as the criminally overrated Elfen Lied, the universally popular Samurai Champloo and Angel Beats, the revered Wolf’s Rain, and the highly respected Yuyu Hakusho, which is basically the prototype for everything that didn’t suck about Bleach.
And the top spot? The #1 underrated anime? Baccano. You know, Baccano, the anime that everybody loves and nobody ever has anything negative to say about? The action packed, hilarious Baccano, that has one of the best English dubs of all time? The anime on more favorites lists than Chocolate? Apparently it’s underrated. Hell, when they talked about Mushishi, they stated out loud, and with no hint of irony, that it has received awards from fans and critics alike. Well then how the fuck is it underrated, you dipshits?
Needless to say, this was the last straw for a lot of people. Myself included. In response to this, Watchmojo introduced a new employee, who they called their “Anime guy.” His name is Andrew, and he seems like a pretty cool guy… Except that it sounds like his voice coming from the Underrated Anime list, and quite a few people who’ve noticed this have already demanded that he be fired.
Now, since he’s a new hire, and this list has been in the works for a while, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he didn’t write the list, he only narrated it. The problem is that that’s not the only thing about him that’s bothering me. When asked what his favorite anime is, he refused, saying there are a lot of genres, and it’s hard to decide. I guess that’s a fair viewpoint, except for the fact that earlier in the video, when asked what his favorite movie was, he said without hesitation that it was Empire Strikes back. Because there are a lot of genres in anime, but in American movies, there are like what, two or three? So it must be a lot easier to decide on a favorite movie than a favorite anime.
Okay, to be fair, Japan has a few genres we don’t have much of, like Mech, slice of life, harem and moe. But for the most part, we‘re not that different. They have sci-fi, we have sci-fi. They have action, we have action. They have fantasy, we have fantasy. They have tentacle hentai, we… Also have some really gross porn. I’m not sure I’m willing to trust somebody who doesn’t have a favorite anime, and I’m starting to get a little suspicious about his credibility.
So from here on, I’ll be talking directly to Andrew: Andrew, if you’re going to be the one who’s representing us, then we have to know that we can trust you to do so properly. And I’m not saying you need to watch every single anime… Nobody’s seen every single anime. I bet there isn’t a person alive who’s even seen even half of the anime content in existence. That wouldn’t be reasonable.
I’m also not saying that you need to have a certain opinion, or that your tastes have to meet some sort of standard. Everyone is different, and we all have different tastes in anime. There’s no shame in not going along with the crowd. Hell, your favorite anime could be Boku no Pico, and we wouldn’t judge you for it. At least, I think we won’t. We definitely shouldn’t.
What we’re expecting from you is experience. We want to be represented by somebody who’s seen enough anime to pull of the job on his own merits, who knows the medium at least well enough to take suggestions, but NEVER a popular vote. Popular votes are poison to any list that doesn’t have the phrase ‘most popular’ in it’s title. We want to know that we can trust you to make hard choices, and take some risks on your own shoulders instead of just avoiding accountability by letting us pick. And if you want us to trust you, I know the perfect way you can do it.
All you need to do is give us the link to your MAL account. Or, Myanimelist.com, in full. And if you don’t have one… Which is perfectly understandable… Make one, fill it out, and give us the link, so we’ll have some idea of what and how much anime you’ve seen. It’s not that hard to do, and you can probably set one up in a single day. Hell, I’ll even tell you how to find MY profile, so you can see what one is supposed to look like… You can find it under the screen name Fear_the_Reefer.
If you’re willing to do that, and if you’re not the one who wrote the Underrated list, then we’ll be more than willing to give you a chance. Just make sure you don’t forget that you’re the anime guy, and that you’d better damn well live up to that title, because starting today, whether you like it or not, it’s going to be your full time job to convince us that Watchmojo has the right to be putting out anime lists in the first place… And brother, you’ve got a long way to go to pull that off, so good luck with that.