Oftentimes we debate with our fellow anime fans which periods were the strongest for anime as a whole. I tend to avoid such discussions because it almost always involves generational bias. Not only are people more likely to watch more anime contemporary to the time they started watching them, they also remember those titles more fondly than what they’re (not) watching now. Nobody can resent us wearing those nostalgia glasses, because we all do that shit. Some will think fondly of the reign of Haruhi, others will remember sci-fi shows like Haibane Renmei, with the oddball mecha fan holding the 80’s OVA stock in dearest memory.
But one thing does get on my nerves. It’s when people who started drifting away from anime fail to register that disinterest does affect their perception of anime quality. So they rant. This isn’t something specific to anime fandom, gamers do that too.
I get it. From the time we started watching anime we have grown as people, our tastes have changed, and anime as a medium went through several transformations. But the fact remains more people watch anime now than ever before, with the number of new productions each year on an upward trend.
What do we say then? Can we trust other people’s wisdom that certain times were better for anime than others? Which year’s offerings were the strongest? Or can we just agree that my Evangelion will be your Haruhi and vice-versa? These debates often come down to arguments trying to substantiate claims either with perceived community hype or perceived overall anime quality. That’s fine, but our memory and attention capacities have limits. In the end everything is just an opinion.
In an attempt to once-and-for-all end the debate, I went back to the scraped Anime News Network Encyclopedia data that I’m using for another project. I’ve had 4614 titles to work with from the 6156 titles that I retrieved from the ANN API. Some of them were missing ratings and vintage values, which I promptly ignored. I grouped the titles by years based on their vintage and averaged the averages of their user-submitted anime ratings. I took both the Bayesian and weighted averages and came up with the chart below.
I want to warn that population characteristics change over time. Keep in mind, ANN hasn’t even existed before 1998, so take that factoid into account as you wish. Without futher ado, here’s what my script came up with. Parties interested in the code can chat me up on Twitter.
As we can see from the chart, most users thought 2008/09 were the strongest years from the last decade. Can’t really blame them, as they offered the most popular, long-running shows of all times. Remember CLANNAD, Code GEASS or Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood? Yeah. In earlier decades, we see a very strong period ranging from 1978 to 1982. This was the era of Yamato, Rose of Versailles, Gundam and Macross. Do take into consideration that production yield was ten times less in those days than what we’re seeing from the industry now.
It’s not that surprising to me anymore that the fanbases usually vouching for these two eras are that vocal about it. One was struck with a concentrated dosage of awesomeness while the other was overwhelmed with the sheer count of excellent productions.
That being said, this is ANN’s user base we’re talking about, but I hear MAL’s has its own pitfalls. Every sample population will have its drawbacks. Still, these are all averages of averages, so as representations of single year sentiment they should be pretty good. Now that you have statistical proof that some years are better than others, you can go back to arguing with your fellow anime fans. That’s better than having a boring community, right?