In 15 January 2015, the Japanese site Yaraon published a chart (without citing the source) that claimed to show the most popular anime series of 2014 outside Japan.

In that chart, Ping Pong The Animation, Nozaki-kun, and Mushishi claimed the top three positions. In response to this chart (and not to let it become a source of excessive contention in online discussions), it is better to take our time to think thoroughly about this matter, which is actually quite interesting from journalistic angle.

When we talk about popularity, of course it’s inseparable from statistics and research method. For example, in a Japanese poll reported by KAORI, the proportion of the sample of the site’s users is explained. In the case of the list of thirty most attractive anime characters, for example, it mentions the sample proportions and the total sample taken. In this case, Charapedia is a good example because they are transparent in describing the number of (proclaimed) male or female participants who voted.

Read more: Top 20 Anime Series of 2018 Chosen by KAORI Readers

Taking the case of the poll held by KAORI to find the most favourite (not the best) anime of 2014 from the readers’ perspective, the poll report declares how many people participated in the vote and when the vote was held (from 10 – 21 December with 315 participants) and since we are talking about favourite choices, the principle of tabula rasa must be considered.

But to evaluate and determine the best anime (or the best of anything, for that matter), rationally, it could not be done merely by internet voting. This is no different to determining the best presidential candidate from the polls of your favoured survey institutions.

When we talk about the best anime, it must be determined with rational and universal reasons (not just to accommodate one particular fandom). It cannot be done by merely holding polls or expressing like or dislike opinions, or whether it’s popular or not, or from the opinions of elitists.

I am one of the staff members who held dissenting opinions in KAORI’s editorial room and proudly nominated Sword Art Online II as the best anime of 2014. My opinion, of course, became a running joke among other staff members (though I do admit to liking Sinon), but I think this series does have universal appeal, with easy-to-understand, safe-for-all-ages story that does not feel clichéd, which means this anime will be most likely easily accepted by many people. At least, it is more universal and easier to understand than Ping Pong The Animation or No Game No Life.

Once again, opinions are personal and have to consider the principle of tabula rasa. But if a survey result is to be used, at least try to present data that have more credibility.

Regarding the aforementioned chart on Yaraon, and other polls and surveys, including those held by KAORI, those polls should not be considered as representation of market preferences (because we need to ask, which market?) and should not taken too seriously as discussion topic.

Thinking smartly and critically in analysing data would not only decrease the potential of online dramas, which are often sparked by taking claims from websites for granted, but would also push those sites (including KAORI) to be smarter and more careful in processing data to be shown to the public.

In the end, the media will only improve the quality of their output if the readers are smart. Be an uncritical and subjective reader and the media will just follow where the current goes.

By Kevin Wilyan | The writer is a senior editor at KAORI Nusantara | Translated by Keinda Dwi Adilia | This article was originally published in Indonesian at KAORI Nusantara on 16 January 2015 | This opinion is the personal views of the author and does not represent the views and editorial policy of The Indonesian Times or KAORI Nusantara

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