Binging anime vs weekly watching is an eternal debate… Many of my talented fellow bloggers have written great posts about the merits of each type of viewing. Here are a couple that I could find through my increasingly faulty reader app:
I know I’m missing a whole bunch because I remember reading them and enjoying the different opinions. If you know of any, please share the link!
Today however, I want to discuss the more physical implications of binging anime… Bear with me, this is a very shaky theory. It’s more wild speculation than anything else.
First let me say that binge watching (i.e. going through 3 or more episodes in a row for days until the series is over) is my preferred method of anime consumption. I’m not patient and waiting an entire week to learn what happens next is torture.
This said, I have found that certain series I love are unbingeable for me. For instance, I’m currently (as I’m writing this – who knows when it will get published…) watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for the first time and I can’t seem to watch more than one a day (I even skip some days). And I think there may be a neurochemical reason for it. Ok think is a big word.
Basically, watching anime, like most leisure activities, will trigger a pleasure response in your brain and make you release dopamine. You know, like doing heroin… Dopamine slowly builds up and you get something akin to a high. Basically, as you watch episode after episode, your brain chemistry alters, and you get in a different state, which will affect your experience. It’s a bit intoxicating. You start craving the next episode. But what does that mean for the anime itself.
Well it’s a bit like getting a crush. Watching anime in this state will likely get you to empathize more with characters, you will be in a more receptive mood. Most people will find it easier to form emotional bonds with characters over fewer episodes when those episodes are all in a row. The bonds may not last, you may find in fact that series you binge tend to be more forgettable, but in the moment, the visceral experience is stronger.
I find that shows which depend on the viewers forming rapid and solid connections with the characters onscreen, fare better when marathoned.
It’s a bit like finding someone attractive and getting very excited about seeing them 4 nights in one week but then when you hear nothing from them in a couple of weeks your enthusiasm quickly dwindles.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a tradeoff. Aside from the fact that you’re watching hours of anime on end, I mean. For one, getting all that information crammed in a short amount of time can make you miss things. Details and events have more of a tendency to blur together making it tougher to clearly remember the series a few months down the line.
It also doesn’t give you time to properly assimilate everything that’s happening if you’re already moving on to the next thing. This may not be an issue with some lighter slice of life type shows or the superficial fluff I seem to love consuming, but for series that have some depth – or at least a wealth of good ideas, it can be interesting to take the time to dwell.
I like to watch an episode of FMA and then digest it. Turn it over in my mind. Fully assimilate it and drain all the food for thought I can out of it before moving onto the next one. I like to give it time to move into my long-term memory before pushing it out of the way, with new developments.
Psycho Pass is one of my favorite series. I take any excuse I can find to mention it. I’m pretty sure I would have considered it half thought out and somewhat melodramatic if I had attempted to take it in all at once. Allowing the concepts to take root in my mind gave me a chance to appreciate all the different layers the narrative had to offer. But it also created some emotional distance between me and the events of the story. In this particular case, that may have been a good thing as some of those events could be considered pretty depressing. But you know what I mean.
What I’m saying is that a more spaced out viewing will create a different type of experience. More cerebral rather than emotional and some stories will need you to put in the proper focus and time to be fully appreciated.
And what of watching episodes from many different shows all in a row? Well that’s a bit of a hybrid. Because you have to readjust your mindset to the different shows every time, it will keep you a bit more focused, but you still run the risk of confusing the events of one show with another. You won’t get into that intoxicating sweet spot but watching a series you don’t enjoy that much after a number of episodes from a different show will likely make the experience a bit less tedious, although it will also probably highlight what you dislike about the show in comparison. It basically evens out the downsides and advantages of each watching method.
Well that’s a lot of words and very little meaning. I guess my point is that the narrative of the show should be considered when deciding how you choose to take it in.
But this is just wild speculation. I mean the dopamine release bit is based on pretty solid research but everything else is random observation and conjecture based on personal experience. If you enjoy watching entire series in one go, then by all means do so, and if you prefer a casual pace, occasionally taking in an episode here or there, go for it.
I am curious to know if you’ve observed similar tendencies in your own viewing though. Let me know. We can all be like brain scientists and stuff…