Cataloging sites are an important pillar to any Anime Fan since it keeps track what we watched, completed or planning to watch. People share these lists with others so other people can see what the person watched.
The evolution to good and easy to use Cataloging Services have been a rough one. MyAnimeList from the opinions of other users have been rather negative for unnecessary changes, random bugs and no open APIs that its been a frustration for both regular users and developers alike. AniDB hasn’t changed much and still too advanced for the average user. AnimePlanet is rather new still and still missing some features. However, its still better than MyAnimeList in many aspects. Lastly, Melative, the whole kitchen sink remains powerful and became more accessible to users. However, it does not have a really pretty web UI. In this State of the Union, I will discuss my thoughts on what’s good and what’s not good about these services and which one benefits the user the most.
Note: Fanart used in this post is made by えびばーちゃん
AniDB has been around for a while as an advanced user’s Anime cataloging system. AniDB is catered for the power user since it uses advanced API via UDP, which is pretty hard for most programmers to grasp. Also, the updating system is not as simple for average users. AniDB does have one thing that other services don’t have, a Java based program that can through your fansub collection and catalog them.
For those who read Manga, AniDB is simply not the right website to use since you can’t catalog Manga, which is a disadvantage besides its user unfriendliness.
AnimePlanet is probably the closest alternative to MyAnimeList you can get since it has some of the same features like Anime/Manga cataloging, Blogs, Forums, list status signatures and the ability to have favorite characters. Compared to Melative’s Anime Database, AnimePlanet’s database is also incomplete, but still improving. Not to mention, AnimePlanet is still in continual development, compared to MyAnimeList, which their development have become stagnant. I guess having a group of people working on the project can drive cooperative development compared to a company owning a site and not making any improvements whatsoever.
Like with Melative, AnimePlanet can import Anime/Manga Lists from AniDB and MyAnimeList XML.
The import process was rather simple and it imported all the titles from MyAnimeList, unlike AniDB. It records a log of what was imported, which is pretty useful in finding titles that don’t exist in the database.
Although you may find that some of the library cataloging features like the number of Downloaded episodes/DVDs, start/end state and etc missing from AnimePlanet, the interface is rather simple to use for an average users. Unlike MyAnimeList, AnimePlanet allows decimal scores, which allows people to put down scores like 3.5/10 for example. Still, the scoring system is rather restrictive since you can’t have a score like 75.5/10 or something like that.
AnimePlanet only shows the most basic information and does not list people who are in the production team. However, it does have an extensive list of related Anime to get you in the right direction on what to watch next…
Lastly, AnimePlanet does not have an Open WebAPI. To be fair, its still a new service and I don’t expect them to have an API right now. However, they are planning to make an official mobile application in the future, which will be good for people who watch Anime on their mobile devices and want to update the list without viewing the full site.
Overall, AnimePlanet is a decent alternative to MyAnimeList, but still missing a number of features and information in their databases. After they fill in these gaps, they should consider opening up their service more by providing APIs so that developers can extend the functionality by building web apps and also desktop programs to manage lists without going to the site directly. Once they have Open APIs, it will give an advantage against MyAnimeList over openness.
Months after the controversial redesign, MyAnimeList haven’t changed much. It remains one of the most closed and buggiest cataloging services out there. Unlike AnimePlanet and Melative, MyAnimeList owner is not interested in optimizing or improving their services. This is the main reason why there is a good amount of people complaining on how buggy the site is.
Also, Developing for MAL is still a royal pain the ass. I know since I developed for it and have to deal with the Unofficial MAL API going down at random times. Thats right, MyAnimeList needs an Unofficial API just to fix its rather incomplete Official APIs that the owner is unwilling to fix. On the other hand, for those who doesn’t use the API like the closed sourced MAL Updater, they have to go through HTML Scrapping. HTML Scrapping is a lousy and difficult way to develop a program since something can change at any time, which results in the program’s functions being broken. When the program breaks, this leaves a lot of angry users you have to deal with.
On the bright side, it has clubs that allows people with the same interests to participate on the same manner like on Facebook. Also, it has advanced features like tags, start/end date and media tracking features (number of episodes, DVDs, etc). If you don’t use these features, you won’t be missing much if you left MyAnimeList for a different service.
Most people think that Melative is like MyAnimeList. No, it’s serves a completely different purpose besides cataloging Anime and Manga. It can catalog practically every media (for example: Visual Novels, Light Novels, music, Asian Drama, movies, books, etc) out there, allows the user to live blog the media and display them everywhere.
Melative is about Openness and the open display of data. For example, you can show your whole Melative Anime Library on your WordPress Blog (see About Chikorita157 > Anime Library for an example). Other notable examples demonstrating Melative’s openness is animelist, customizable display of Anime Lists (similar to MyAnimeList list customization features) and AniAir, which lists the currently airing Anime times and episode.
A few months back, a new Melative WebUI design was launched. It provided an easier interface for average users to update their libraries and the timeline compared to the old web interface. However, Melative is still not as eye catching compared to the other services, but still functional.
The open nature of Melative also allows developers to make programs rather easily without frustrating themselves with a fake API or HTML scrapping. Notable desktop programs that use Melative’s Open APIs are Melative Library, a MAL Updater like library tracker. MelScrobble/MelScrobbleX, a Melative Scrobbler and live media microblogging client that detects currently playing media. Lastly, MelativeMicro, a desktop client oriented for microblogging specificly. The mentioned programs with the help of the API allows people to update without using the WebUI.
Although Melative database is incomplete like AnimePlanet, it provides a lot more data that rivals MyAnimeList. Because of the open nature of Melative, titles that don’t exist in the database can be added easily and missing information can then be added by other users. This means people can get the latest and accurate information without being misled by outdated information.
Some may be bummed that there is no place for socialization besides the timeline and no ability to love/hate characters/people or create status signatures as you seen on Melative. Don’t be discouraged since Melative is still a work in progress like with AnimePlanet and features are being added on a continual basis.
Not to mention, Melative allows users to import data from different sources like MyAnimeList, AniDB, VNDB, etc.
Overall, the Cataloging services are shaping up rather nicely, except for MyAnimeList for the reasons I mentioned above. From the services above, I can only recommend AnimePlanet and Melative. The reason being is that they are accessible to the average user and they are improving continuously. If you used MyAnimeList before, AnimePlanet will be the best choice since they are pretty similar in features. For those who want to share their libraries on other sites, manage all their media in once place, microblog about Anime and/or manage their accounts with a desktop client, Melative is the best service to use. Sure it has some rough edges, but once you get the hang of the site, you might love it.
As for MyAnimeList, they really need to get their acts together and optimize the site and complete the official API. Otherwise, it can go rot in a ditch. (No offense for those who like MyAnimeList…) ¶