First things first, I have a review in today’s Manga Minis, for DMP one-shot, Hey Sensei? which is definitely my favorite of their BL offerings I’ve read so far.
Now it’s time to get around to my final topic from the poll! Originally in my head, this was called “The Futility of Grading,” but the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a silly thing that was to say. It’s not that grading is futile, just that it is tricky and subjective. I might not like being asked to assign a grade to something, but as others have pointed out, it does provide a shorthand for letting the reader know if you liked something or not. Or does it? Heh.
Case in point: A while back, when I reviewed Heaven’s Will, graded as a B- by me at Manga Recon (the one venue where I am required to assign a grade), another reviewer came around and mentioned that she would have given it a C+. I could see her point. The book is a great big mess, and I said so in my review. But I never could have given it a C, because despite all that, I’d actually really liked it. I could see its flaws and they were honestly glaring, but it had something special about it that really caught me and got me excited about the mangaka and her future work, even if she’d lost her way a bit while writing this story. I couldn’t possibly imagine giving it a C. Sure, I’ve given out Cs to books that I’ve found something good to say about, but I try to find something at least marginally positive to mention about almost everything I read and there’s a big difference between, “This story’s a mess, but the art was fantastic and the characters were really compelling even if their paths were woefully incomplete,” and “Well, this manga pretty much blew, but at least nobody got raped.” Neither of these are actual quotes from my reviews, but lord knows they could have been and it makes my point, right?
So where am I trying to go with this? Hard to say. I don’t know that I can retrain my own mind to feel okay about giving a C to something I genuinely enjoyed, even though I think that puts me at least slightly out of sync with the other reviewers at Manga Recon. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to try to adjust their own grading scale either. That said, how much meaning can the grades have to readers as a whole? I’m not sure. The extremes seem pretty clear, at least. I can’t imagine being confused about someone’s feelings about a manga they graded as an A or an F. But everything in the middle seems a little muddy and I think in order to understand what those grades mean in any one review, the reader must be familiar with the reviewer’s style and grading history. Maybe this is just fine and that’s what we all do anyway, but it is thoughts like this that keep me from attempting to assign grades to manga I review in my own blog.
Again, I’m not sure what I’m trying to get at with this discussion, but I guess what I’m interested in is how other people feel about grading. If you read reviews, do you appreciate reviewers who use a rating system of some kind? Do you think it gives you a better picture of how the reviewer actually felt about the book? If you’re a reviewer, do you use a grading system and if so, why or why not? As a reader, I’m torn. I admit I appreciate Michelle’s grading, but I also feel like I have a better idea of what her grades really mean based on my knowledge of her as a person and a reviewer. So. Thoughts? I’m hoping hearing thoughts from all of you will help me to better understand and articulate my own. :)