Stupid Eligibility Rules

Production Schedule, Exodus

Just want to vent a little. I Just read that top 2014 anime post from Kotaku, and it’s just the cherry on top of a week of dealing with eligibility rules. Well it’s more like, how do you rank shows that are either split cour, ongoing, or was truncated? I think as a matter of rule it doesn’t really matter.

The long take is that as someone who has spent a lot of time over the years mulling over (although mostly in the saimoe-tournament-style nomination format), there are better ways to do this than others. The question is more like, what is the point behind doing something like that?

Isn’t this the kind of stuff you learn in civics and social sciences? Or even programming? How to write rules that make sense and to affect the outcome so it is desirable? I mean, the rule can be as simple as “only put pegs of the same shape into holes of the same shape” when playing with some toys for toddlers.

But ranking year-end anime series have even less stakes than trying to avoid putting square pegs into round holes (and damage the toy). I’m not sure how it compares to setting selection criteria for waifu wars but if the goal of ranking anime for something like APR or Kotaku is to get people to check out some highlights of the year, why bother with limiting things that are ongoing or split cour? Especially in the APR, it made no sense to me that when the endeavor is to rank anime on an episodic basis every week (and often voters don’t even get to watch everything for that week before submitting their ballots), somehow you now care for the whole shebang?

This eats me in two specific cases. NagiAsu and Shirobako.

By episode 3 I had already declared Shirobako as anime of the year. I don’t think my mind has changed by episode 13. In fact the 10 episodes since had cemented that opinion even further. Does this mean the next 13 episodes can undo my feeling about Shirobako as the best anime in 2014? Maybe, who knows what the future holds? But is it likely? Not by a long shot, and for two reasons. First, who the hell goes back and change ranking for last year for this year’s episodes? I’m sure such persons/things exist, albeit super rare (please link to such a thing if you know) but usually this is not why you set eligibility rules on split cours. It’s more because people feel it is unfair to either give a show 2 shots at AOTY, or that a show should be evaluated completely, or that it should be all available in case someone wants to check it out. However isn’t that just as arbitrary as giving a show 2 shots at AOTY or evaluating a series using any pre-defined length of episodes (1- or 3-episode tests come to mind)? I think it doesn’t really matter either way (and it’s fine to evaluate shows only on the whole; in fact I recommend this), but the second reason makes this worse.

The other reason is because these end-of-period rankings seek to capture a moment of time and preserve it as so. 2014 is coming to a close. These posts are more about what happened in 2014 than the anime these posts seek to rank. I mean why are we writing these posts anyway? Omitting something that happened in 2014 and say it’s something to be evaluated for 2015 may be kind of neat in that you are watching anime in the future, but it’s also kind of dumb to cut them out when they are completely relevant. This is particularly the case for split-cour shows or shows that are long-running.

This lack-of-the-present problem makes NagiAsu difficult to evaluate if it was pushed as a 2013 show (it’s not to say APR or Kotaku’s methodology is bad, but any fixed methodology based on air dates will have these kinds of problems). As a 2014 show it was awesome, so that’s how I’m looking at it.

The bigger, overarching problem, is that people are just throwing around rules without understanding what they’re doing. What context do air dates make sense? If you publish Newtype and are working on the stats and TV-guide stuff, sure. If you are an anime blogger, who cares? What does your audience care about anyway? If you are the APR, do you realize what the poll/questionnaire format means statistically? How does it skew the data? Does it serve or undermine the model? What is the goal? What’s the purpose or vision?

If you are playing it loose, I think most people understand what “this year’s anime” means. You can make exceptions for the Cowboy Bebops out there–to reduce noise on classics/long running shows namely–because the assumption is everyone knows about them. If the purpose is for discovery of shows people (of your readers’ estimated knowledge base) may not know, I think the effort is very straightforward. I mean, if you read comments on Kotaku’s annual posts every year someone talks about Cowboy Bebop. Com’on, your rules are dumb, they don’t even work and causes more problem than it solves, so why not get rid of it or make better ones?

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