I have often thought what separates an anime watcher from an anime fan is that the latter has a frame of reference for her tastes within the medium. She can tell a good anime from a bad one on a deeper level beyond entertainment values. Perhaps even… a connoisseur of the arts. 
“The connoisseur might be defined as a laconic art historian, and the art historian as a loquacious connoisseur.” – Erwin Panofsky
Tastes and history. I like to think those are the things we—the fans of anime—have over the average watchers, who have only ever seen Spirited Away once at the theater, or Sailor Moon as little kids. We have built for ourselves a context that is more specific than, say, all visual entertainment, such that we are able to compare, distinguish, appreciate, and judge anime with an anime-specific standard. Utena, Maria-sama ga Miteru, Madoka, Totoro, and countless other favorites have shaped our expectations and tastes, and have elevated us to connoisseurs of anime (or maybe of a specific genre of anime).
A while ago, I was asked to write on a seemingly simple topic, “What makes a 10/10 anime?” 
At first, I wanted to approach the question as objectively as I possibly can—giving a long list of important factors: character development, animation, story, everything. However, in time I realized that would be a somewhat irrelevant exercise. After all, although we all have an anime-specific frame of reference, that frame is only specific to each individual. And, it is surprising just how incredibly specific our tastes can be.
Yes, I did not actually answer the question. Allow me to try again.
“What makes a 10/10 anime for you?”
After taking some time to look over my anime list and some of my past reviews, I think I have an answer.  My favorite anime need to clearly get across their vibes. Well-drawn characters, mind-blowing plots, gorgeous animation, and lovely romances are all nice things, but for me to really enjoy something, I need to get a sense of and immerse myself in an anime’s essence. Its ethos, so to speak.
This all sounds a little abstract, so let us look at an example, one of my favorites ever, Haibane Renmei. Haibane Renmei is a cute short series that is full of imagination; the series not only allows for so many different interpretations, but prompts the audience to explore them. Yet, what I enjoyed the most about Haibane Renmei has little to do with any of that. Rather, it is simply its atmosphere—a quaint small town that is wonderfully relaxing yet harbors just the tiniest sliver of angst, waiting to be discovered and calmed.
Some other favorites are clear in their ethos: Samurai Champloo and its anachronistic hip-hop beats, Ghost in the Shell and its urban digital future, Aria and its healing atmosphere. Now, let us, instead, take a look at one that is a little less obvious.
I doubt many anime fans would give Witch Hunter Robin a ten out of ten, but I love this anime. I love the lifestyle Robin has. Her quiet world, the classy bar, a secret job, and those relaxing days spliced with the occasional mystery and excitement all hold so much allure. I am a connoisseur, enjoying the fine tastes of that vibe.
- Be warned, there is an air of pretentiousness in this post.
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