Initially I was replying to this status on the AniList global feed, so you need to read that to discover where I’m coming from.
I haven’t really been in the mood to blog new stuff recently (aside from a bunch of posts that don’t seem to come together), between being forced back into lockdown and the new season being slow to start, so most of my stuff (as I type this in July 2020) is reactionary or pulled from my drafts folder. Sorry about that.
Advance sidenote: I say “work” a lot in my reply because a lot of this could apply to anime and light novels as well as manga, but the status specifies “manga”, so I’ll be specific when my example is about anime when it shouldn’t be.
For starters, what is the definition of “obscure”? Is there a threshold of obscurity, or a numerical value that indicates exactly how obscure a work is? Same with “underrated” in the title. This is the problem with not explaining your premise enough – however, there is also a danger in going in the other direction and overthinking small details, which I am prone to doing.
I can’t speak for everyone’s rating system, but I can speak for one person who I will use as a reference for this post – myself. I’m not someone who’ll hesitate to give a work a score it needs, whether that be below or above a “7” (I assume this is 7/10, because 7/100 would really suck). I’m just picky about my favourites – sometimes I’ll add something to my favourites section, then doubt myself so much that the work will eventually leave my list because I’m too ashamed of it being there, as if someone will judge me for it (true story for the anime of Netjuu no Susume). For me, 6/10 (60/100) is average, but rating a 3/10 (30/100) is where things truly start getting terrible. A 4 or 5 means it just misses the mark for me, so I don’t necessarily think that a work I’ve rated a 4 or a 5 has to be considered “underrated”. In fact, I’ve dropped some of the biggest works…I gave Bleach a 50/100. This is exactly why I specify that things I’ve rated in the 50 – 59/100 range “may top other people’s lists”.
The reason why different sorting methods exists is that one sorting method doesn’t suit every possible purpose in the world and every person in the world. Popularity and average score are just two of the methods that please the most people through a “majority rules” kind of consensus. The easiest ways to unearth rare gems are to either 1) sort ascending for least – most popularity/average score/whatever other scoring system you want or 2) think about why certain works are rare and then act upon this information. I basically took option 2) with this, since I do have the ability to read a bunch of manga which may not be accessible to others for a variety of reasons.
Although tags would be able to lead readers to a hypothetical new favourite manga, don’t discount there could be someone searching for a work by name or other methods as well – I know when I was reading scanlations a lot more, I picked up a bunch of series, based on browsing databases and Anime News Network for far too long, that I’m still rediscovering them in the AniList database to this very day. For instance, I completely forgot I’d read Lost+Brain until I found it in the database. Also, don’t think word-of-mouth is the only way people get recommendations (I will include taking recommendations from written sources such as forums/forum games, specialised “if you liked [popular manga/anime], you’ll also like…” lists and blogs as “word-of-mouth”) – aside from actively searching for new works by browsing the database, there’s also “running into” new manga/publishers/what have you (as in, just finding a work on the shelf in a bookstore, library or other place and becoming smitten with an aspect of it so much, you’ll find other works like it).
I’m not shunning your opinion – as a matter of fact, because my reply is so long in comparison to yours, you can tell I was able to muster up enthusiasm for it – enough that I could say my slump was over after writing this, even – and I would agree with you if you’d thought out things a bit more. (Then again, I have already admitted I overthink things quite a bit.) I also admit my usual method of discovering manga is actually what I’ll call the “scattershot” method – if I think it looks interesting and I can understand it, I go for it! This is how I keep finding new manga to add to the AniList database, outside regularly reading Anime News Network. Normally, I only get access to part of a manga or only get access to the manga for a limited time, while with anime, I have to wait an additional week if they’re newly added to the service if they’re not locked to me entirely – that’s just the way the anime/manga system encourages you to pay – which is why, unless I know I have the ability to pay for it or come back for it later, I try to dig into whatever I get as soon as possible (although not as fast as possible – to enjoy things, time is definitely going to have to be on your side).
So how do you find new manga? Searching through databases? Taking recommendations from bloggers?