The Importance of MyAnimeList

If you’re an Anime fan, then it’s pretty likely that you’ll have at least stumbled upon MyAnimeList. It’s a website that serves as both a way of Anime fans keeping track of the shows they watch and as an online database that contains information of just about every Anime you could think of.

You’ve also probably heard that MyAnimeList was recently shut down for an extended period of time a couple of weeks back, and even now much of the sites functionality remains unavailable despite the site itself now being back up and accessible to the public.

MAL
NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

With MyAnimeList being down a lot of Anime fans, myself included, were a little frustrated. It may seem a little silly and a tad overdramatic but for many of us, regularly updating our Anime lists is a ritual that has become an essential part of our viewing experience. And not having that part of our routine, even for a handful of days, was pretty awful.

And of course, while we decided to vent our frustrations and meme it up, several members of our community decided to use this as a means to push their ridiculous agenda. The idea that MAL serves no purpose beyond creating a culture where Anime fans are more interested in “showing off” how much Anime they’ve watched, “flexing their e-penis”, as opposed to just watching, enjoying and critically analysing Anime.

Now, I won’t deny that this is some what true, as I’m sure there are plenty of people that use MAL for the sole purpose of showing off the vast amount of Anime they’ve seen as a way of proving how “superior” they are compared to someone else who’s only seen 100 or so shows. But to say that this applies to the vast majority of the user base of the website, or to suggest that the nature of the site itself purposefully encourages and develops such a culture is, in my opinion, completely stupid.

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Is it really so hard to believe that most of us just use the website to keep track of the Anime that we watch? Because believe it or not, people like to remember what they have and haven’t seen. Shocking, I know! Would it surprise you even more if I told you that people use it to document their ever evolving and changing tastes and preferences through the websites rating system? Wow!

Sarcasm aside, while I can’t speak for anyone else, I’m a pretty scatterbrained person. I have a terrible memory to the point where I can’t remember what happens in 80% of the Anime I watch, let alone which Anime I’ve seen or haven’t seen during the decade and a half that I’ve been an Anime fan. MyAnimeList allows me to build a list that is personal to me, that helps me remember which shows I’ve seen and those I’ve still to experience that may interest me.

On top of that, I enjoy making favourites list and keeping track of my taste in Anime and how it evolves over time, which is why I enjoy rating every single show I put on my list. I even go as far as changing scores over time if I find that I no longer consider the show as good/bad as it was when I first watched it. And sure, number scores may seem trivial to a lot of people, and that’s fine, but I like using numbers, and it works for me. And this whole meme of “MAL reduces all critical thinking to a mere number” is ridiculous. My number scores are based on my own personal metric for what I consider to be “good” or “bad” and nobody but me knows what my criteria is. It’s not a “mere number” and I go through a lot of thought before scoring each show on my list. And I’m not the only one to do so.

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MAL also allows us to keep track of the shows we want to watch which, if you’re someone like me who wants to watch literally thousands of shows, is incredibly useful. You think I’m going to remember each and every one of the thousands and thousands of Anime that I eventually want to watch in my head? Of course not! Are you insane?!

And do I even need to say that I and many others just kind of enjoy adding Anime to our lists? That we find it cathartic? That we like doing it? Why is it a crime to have fun? Lighten up a little. It’s just an Anime list.

tanaka-kun-01
Why so serious?

But of course, MAL has many more uses beyond just being a website that allows you to keep track of your Anime.

The site also serves as a very comprehensive and useful database containing information for the vast majority of Anime that has ever been produced, and it is updated on an almost daily basis with newly announced shows or older series from years ago that may have been missed. Do you want to find out what a show is about? How many episodes it has? If the show has a second season? If the show is based on a Manga or an original work? What studio produced the series? Who the director was? What voice actors/actresses played who? When the show was broadcast? In most cases, you can find all of this information and more on the page for that particular series. While there are definitely other online resources out there that can give you this same information, none of them are as comprehensive or collect them all together in one place in the way that a shows MyAnimeList page does, and to completely gloss over this useful feature of the website is deliberately choosing to omit much deserved credit.

MyAnimeList also allows you to find shows that are similar to ones that you’ve already seen. Want to find an Anime like Hunter x Hunter? MAL can suggest you shows that are considered similar in the Anime Recommendations section. While I myself have had some what mixed results with this, it’s a pretty useful feature that saves the annoying task of publicly asking “Anime similar to X?” on Twitter or a forum and can sometimes help you find some really great shows. And if you like a particular genre, then there’s also genre tags to help you narrow down shows based on genre.

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It’s how I found this show!

And none of this has even touched the sites use a social media platform for Anime fans. MAL has a discussion forum where users can post topics about pretty much anything to engage with other Anime fans and each users profile has a comments section too, which I’ve seen many users use to chat with one another publicly. The site even has a Private Message feature, allowing fellow fans to chat more privately away from the public eye. And while I myself don’t personally use these functions myself, outside of Private Messages which I rarely check and respond to very slowly (sorry), I do think it’s pretty great that the site is essentially a less powerful social media platform for Anime fans. Yes, the forums can often be toxic, but a lot of users also just know how to have fun and engage with one another in a positive way. A handful of bad MAL users doesn’t make the entire site a terrible place.

MyAnimeList has its fair share of problems, and is far from a perfect site, especially given this recent unscheduled downtime that lasted far too long and that continues to plague the website with broken and unavailable functionality. But to say that the website has no value and no worth beyond people showing off their gigantic Anime lists and that it prevents all critical thinking because you don’t like numbers is unbelievably stupid.

MyAnimeList is an important tool and resource for Anime fans, and we should be grateful that a website like it exists, regardless if we actively use it or not.

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What do you think of MyAnimeList? Do you use the site frequently? Or not? Let me know!

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30 thoughts on “The Importance of MyAnimeList

  1. I use MAL as a more detailed travel log of my anime adventure—a casual log that doesn’t include OVAs or films of the same franchise is backed up on the notes section of my phone, of which I’ve kept since I started watching anime! For me, the “rating” gimmick comes last, although it is kinda cool to see how other anime stack up against each other. (No, I do not use MAL as a definitive guide to tell me what I should and shouldn’t watch lol.)

    But the fact that it acts as a database for information such as the season it aired, episode length, actors and actresses, OP and ED listings, etc. is absolutely valuable for a fan like myself who uses such information in reviews.

    I don’t think people should be 100% dependent on MAL to both a.) dictate what they watch and b.) store their viewing catalog. When the site goes down, like it unfortunately had, it makes me glad I’ve been backing up all my shows on something as trivial as a phone note! Still, it’s a useful tool that I hope sticks around for years to come.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. i honestly feel really accomplished every time i update my MAL. it’s fun to keep track of, and i was personally really excited to see when i hit my 100th anime & things like that. i don’t really use any of the community functions, i just like keeping track & knowing what shows i enjoyed!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I felt lost when MAL went down, I was scare cause I couldn’t update my watch list and sad cause I couldn’t add any title to my PTW list.
    It also made me realize that rely a lot on the website when I write my review to get the info like when it’s air and the studio who made the series…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Right there with you man. I use it to keep track of what episode I left off on since I watch stuff like once or twice a week, sometimes holding a show in limbo for a month or so. Not only that, but when people ask me for recommendations I go in my watch list and pick out a few from my 7-10 range that I think they’d enjoy. Lastly, for writing it is invaluable. I constantly fact check stuff there like air dates, VA’s, and character names. To say it is only a tool for flexing (which for some it is, as you touched on) is really dumb.

    Enjoyed reading 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to be a frequent (and by that I mean I always had it open) Myanimelist user, but the recent fiasco with MAL got me to finally switch over to AniList, and I’m actually pretty glad I did. Even though MAL may have been the first and most popular anime listing site, most of the other popular ones are substantially better in terms of graphical design and interface. Of course, it’s still a really important part of the history of the Western anime community, and is a pretty good platform overall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting. Perhaps I’ll check out AniList and see what it’s all about.

      While I do really like MAL, and the simplicity of its design, I do understand why others would enjoy other websites more for the opposite reasons.

      Thanks for reading and sorry for the late response. I’ve been on a brief hiatus since getting married and have just managed to come back.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s totally fine, getting married is a more than reasonable excuse for not answer comments for a while.

        I hope you like AniList if you try it. I was a pretty active MAL user before but since I started using it instead I really haven’t felt any need to switch back.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. You always introduce me to arguments people make. I’m sure I saw someone say that people are using MAL to show off, but I think I just blank them out lol.

    That being said, like you and probably many others, I use it to keep track of what I’ve watched and what I plan on watching. My account on MAL is set to private (well..not anymore) with no friends mainly because I use it just for this feature. When the site went down, I was fasting and taking a break from anime so I thought that I wouldn’t mind not having access. But when I wanted to see the latest news, I was blocked and that is what hurt me the most. Oh, I was also doing the Salty Anime Challenge and needed to look through my list to see what fit the day’s question.

    If people think that it’s meant to just show off, then they clearly don’t know what the site is for. Regardless if you only have five animes or 600, it shouldn’t matter as long as you’re enjoying anime.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad I can be the one to introduce you to such stupid arguments haha. I saw it all over Twitter and it was really rubbing me the wrong way…

      That’s an interesting way to use the site and makes a lot of sense if you’re wanting to use it exclusively for private use.

      It has been a real pain not having access to some of this really useful info, especially for things like weekly reviews and Anime Challenges.

      Thank you for reading and sorry for the late response. I’ve been on a short hiatus, but I’m back in full swing now! (I hope!)

      Like

  7. While I use the database on MAL quite regularly to find out what was out during a season, what is coming up in the next season, and basic production information about an anime, I don’t have an account. Reading the reviews on MAL, I frequently find myself flinching at some of the highest rated reviews because they are literally just tearing into one aspect of a show without any kind of thought or balance. I did consider MAL when I was looking for an anime community and decided against it and went for blogging.
    That said, I know that a lot of people do have quite a positive experience on MAL. For me though, I keep my own lists of anime and to be watched and I’m still fairly heavily paper based with that sort of stuff, so I don’t really need that feature.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah… The MAL reviews often leave little to be desired and barely go deeper than surface level which makes them pretty much useless.

      Before becoming a blogger, I used to write reviews on MAL (and other similar websites) and while I’m grateful for how it helped catapult me into writing my own blog, it’s not something I’d ever go back to. The format itself is pretty restricting and you tend to get lost in a sea of terrible, base level reviews. It’s been made even worse now that they’ve removed the “unhelpful” option and reduced all feedback to someone clicking “helpful” and nothing else.

      Thank you for commenting and for reading the post! Sorry for the late response, I’ve been on a short hiatus after getting married, but I’m back now! (Hopefully!)

      Like

  8. I’m not a MAL user, but whenever I write a review I will always refer to MAL for the miscellaneous information as you mentioned (# of Episodes / Date of release / Character names & Seiyuus / Song name(s)). This was before I started making notes in a notebook on the anime I watched.
    While MAL is back on, the extra-info pages for Character info and Seiyuus are still unavailable, which is a slight bummer. I might not understand the e-ego factor in MAL, but occasionally I do use MAL users reviews (with a pinch of salt) to decide on whether to give the series a try or not.
    *
    It’s nice to hear from your experience about the positivities on MAL :))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s pretty interesting actually. I also use MAL as a resource for posts I write about specific shows because it’s easy to find and simple to digest. It’s cool that others do the same.

      And yeah, that’s a bummer. It’s a shame that after all this time the site is still barely functional beyond adding things to your list. The notifications and forums are still broken even after all this time. It’s getting a little ridiculous now.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Sorry for the late response, I’ve been on a short hiatus after getting married!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey no worries man, I saw your update on twitter! The important people in your life comes first! 🙂
        (*throws virtual celebratory flowers and petals*)
        They really need to fix those web structures… maybe their team of monkeys are not skilled enough compared to Google-sensei’s. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I have an account but I don’t use it all that much. Back when I first started watching anime and realized I needed something like MAL to help keep track of everything, I found MAL a bit confusing and a bit too complicated for what I needed and wanted at the time. So, I started using anime-planet instead (and it’s what I still keep using as I really jut used it to keep track of things and nothing else). But whenever I’m looking for information on an anime, I prefer MAL or anime news network as both of these websites have far more detailed information than anime-planet.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m willing to bet most of the people so openly criticizing MAL right now either A) haven’t actually experienced it, or B) will crawl back as soon full functionality is restored.

    Following up on the forum remarks, this downtime HAS been rough. I’ve been in several great and several heated discussion on the forums, but I also poll the MAL community almost bi-weekly on topics for our podcast (best special moves/abilities, best series for people new to anime, etc). Not having access to those forums, profiles, or the app has been a major hindrance for the show.
    I think Anime News Network is a better complication of information, but I think MAL is more user-friendly for finding said information. It really is a great tool.

    The only real criticism I have for the site is in regards to the ratings. It’s difficult to take the number rating seriously when you have people giving 10’s and 2’s after having watched just 2 or 3 episodes. I think those are the kind of reviews that give some legitimacy to the “MAL reduces all critical thinking to a mere number” argument.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been a couple of weeks now, and the second point you made is most definitely true. Once the forums are properly back up, everyone who bitched will likely be back to their same old antics as usual.

      Wow, that’s really rough, and even after all this time, the forums are STILL down! I hope you’ve managed to figure out your podcast stuff during this time as I can imagine how irritating that must be.

      ANN is also a great source of info, but as you said, it’s not as easy to find on there as it is on MAL. Plus, I’ve never been a big ANN fan for various reasons (that I won’t get into here 😛 )

      I really do think that there should be a system in place for ratings that only allows someone to properly rate a show if they’ve either completed it or dropped it, because the averages tend to be screwed, mostly by shows being showered with insane amounts of 10’s for having a good opening episode. There’s also the problem of shows being given 10’s before they’re even out, like with One Punch Man, which managed to get into the Top 100 Anime before it even started airing! It’s a bit insane.

      Thank you for reading and sorry for the late response, I’ve been on a bit of a short hiatus after getting married!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. anime-planet user here. It’s like MAL, but less drama. I would sometimes like the opportunity to rate shows 1 – 10 instead of 1 – 5, but then I realize it might be too much of a hassle. Anyway, I’m MAL drama-free.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m well aware of Anime-Planet, and I used to be a very active reviewer on there a few years ago. You can still find my old reviews on there, although they’re under a different username and hardly reflect who I am today (I was a huge asshole back then!)

      The 5 star system is one of the reasons I decided to switch over to MAL. as I prefer the 1-10 scale, but I do remember having a good experience with the site overall (and the community was much less prone to drama and bickering)

      Glad A-P is still working out for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A lot of the things you mention aren’t entirely endemic to MAL, although MAL seems to be the biggest player in popularising a lot of functions anime databases/tracking sites have on the whole. Then again, I’m an AniList user (and I’ll only go back to Hummingbird – now Kitsu – if something along the lines of the MAL fiasco happens to it) so I can’t really speak for every anime-tracking site or database in existence.

    Something I will agree with that people have brought up is that the completeness of the database is useful and easy to access via search engine, to the point where for the few reviews I’ve done, I’ve used it as a resource.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While MAL is not exclusive in what it does, I’d definitely argue that it’s the most relevant of these kinds of websites and holds the largest percentage of the market share (if you could call it that)

      I’d definitely say that MAL is the most “complete” of the databases, although like all there are still plenty of shows and specials that haven’t been added/are still pending approval.

      Sorry for the late response, I’ve been on a short hiatus for a couple of weeks since getting married.

      Thank you for reading and for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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