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: 

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been there…

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. 

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I don’t actually know what half these words mean

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.

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don’t binge Nagi no Asukara…

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. 

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some profoud stuff happening here!

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.

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I beleive this says it all

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…

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63 thoughts

  1. I lack the willpower to binge-watch anything, but I have no problems getting to four- or five-hour gaming sessions. Two episodes a day is my limit.

    1. interesting – I’m going to assume you pay close attention or none at all….yeah I’ve no clue what I’m talking about

  2. I am not going to say much here because I have 42 ongoing manga on my list, to which I add two new ones a week on average.
    Anime though, I’m not an avid watcher so…

  3. I tend to take my time with episodes (about 3 a day at most if I have a day to myself) or else I get /too/ attached to shows, characters etc. and want to know more (I’ve called that the “yandere tendency” in the past). The one time where I can’t avoid this is library loans, and those are usually for 2 weeks, so by necessity I have to binge those as hard as I can in order to not forget to return the disc. Another exception is if I’m on the final 4 episodes or less of a 10 – 13 episode show – I tend to finish them in one or two goes because often endings have the greatest amount of continuity nods and are the most compelling parts of the series.

    1. 3 a day tends to be my sweet spot too – I actually watch 1/2 episodes of a long running series then 3/4 episodes of a shorter one. I put more thought into this than my diet.

  4. Naturally, I prefer binge-watching, as stated in my post that you linked at the beginning of this one (thank you so much for that by the way!)

    That being said, I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t experienced all of these things you mentioned at least a few times. Especially the whole forgetting things. There are so many shows where I’ve honestly forgotten what happened in specific episodes, which is likely because I decided to watch 12 episodes in a day instead of taking my time to let the events sink in.

    On top of that, when getting towards the end of a series binge, I often find myself feeling really… Beat. Worn out. Exhausted mentally. It’s kind of unfortunate, and it’s also why I’ve started taking my time more towards the end of shows, so I DON’T feel that way.

    Some very good ideas in here Irina, and thanks again for sharing my post!

    1. Oh yeah…i can see that. I think 3 days for a 12 ep show is my rythm or else I get emotionally frazzled and numb.
      Thanks for writing your post. You were my muse

  5. I tend to prefer binge-watching where possible simply because I find myself forgetting what happened from week to week if I watch while something is airing! I tend not to watch more than one a day if I’m doing so, though, since I always have games on the go that tend to take priority so I can write about them.

    The one exception I’ve made to date is Ano Hana, which I watched all of in one evening (after acquiring a beautiful DVD box set) and destroyed my emotions for like a week. There were many tears.

  6. You should totally watch “Outbreak Company”. It is about BL Rotten Girl manga destroying the Gate kingdom before the Gate events result in harem etc versus the Roman empire remnants. Its a funny show, but has consequences beyond it.

  7. I wonder what Rotten Girls make of Konosuba and other ecchi harem anime? I mean, the girls are really mean to the guy, and mock him, but they still hang around, and Rotten Girls are famously afraid of males and pregenancy, and gay men are all about the sexxing with other gay men, but girls with chestiness are going to be very anti- both of those stereotypes. So what do these groups do when faced by the typical heterosexual fantasy complicated by mocking?

    1. I love Konosuba and NGNL but really disliked HinatoNote. I don’t think I’m particularly afraid of either men or pregnancy ut I do know men who seem to be afraid of me and terrified of getting girls pregnant… I also may have misunderstood the semantics but I thought rotten girls was a blanket term used for women who enjoy BL storylines not necessarily lesbians.

      1. You have the right definition of Rotten Girls, however I do wonder if that’s just a precursor to going actual lesbian later. I don’t have enough observational data to know for sure. I tend to avoid those kinds of people.

        1. Well I still have no issue with BL and know a lot of people of all genders and sexuality who enjoy those storylines when they’re well written…
          I think it may be more of a question of peole liking good fiction.
          I appreciate you haven’t decided to avoid me yet…I mean out of all the very good reasons to avoid me, my enjoyment of yaoi storylines is probably pretty low on the list.

          1. This is a safe place to discuss things and I’m not very interested in BL, other than as a joke. The BL plot in Outbreak Company and the BL manga exwife in Gate were both used for humor. My exwife liked BL more than she liked anime itself, and she really hated cute girls shows. I feel very paternal around those cute girls shows, and want to pat them on the head. I can be tolerant online. Its when your partner wants you to cosplay as BL characters in the bedroom that things get too creepy.

            1. It might be fun to write a post on the nature of BL, and how it is used in anime, and if its a goose-gander eye candy thing or if its every bit as exploitive as moe, just of a different demographic being abused for money. How did you feel about Ouran High School Host Club, which satirizes BL tropes and the indifferent cross dressing Haruhi. There’s also Shokugeki no Soma, which sexualizes both genders by stripping them and coating them in various liquids when eating the food. They look like porn stars in those scenes, rather than moe cute. Are tournament anime naturally BL or is that just the mindset?
              Its funny in this scene, but imagine if a friend who interprets EVERYTHING in BL terms says that out loud everywhere you go. Like in family restaurants. Or at the grocery store. That is a different kind of funny, the kind you edge away from.

            2. Haganai has a character named Rika whose BL obsession is the best anime example of the Rotten Girls causing public disturbances.
              There’s other characters like her in SNAFU, and various series have a BL girl who tends to froth at the mouth when they get their chance to talk. Its become a trope, the drooling rotten girl.
              In fanfiction, BL writers really like NOT labelling the Yaoi in story descriptions. There’s also the transgender stories as an excuse for Yaoi in forums where such things are banned as NSFW, so violating forum rules has created enemies of forum members. This is just trolling for attention, same as any troll, and it harms any chance for tolerance. That’s another problem with BL enthusiasts. They ignore the politeness because too many are just after attention and don’t care if the only attention they get is negative. Not all BL fans, obviously, but the trolls have ruined quite a few web archives in fan fiction. There’s been several purges of but the BL fans are in the administration so they purge the wrong stories rather than tag them properly. As a librarian archiving and cataloging stories is part of my job so using the right tags is important. Using the right search tags to exclude offensive content is just good manners, and should be done to avoid problems. Instead trolls try to ruin everything, and succeed more often than not. Sigh.

            3. I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with fanfiction forums. I haven’t quite ventured in the general fanfic community yet as I barely have time to keep up with just general fic.

            4. Well, that will consume quite a lot of your time if you ever get into it. Suffice to say that Rule 34 is true. Most of the BL in the world is in Fanfiction, and quite a lot is written in great detail. Forums just allow more discussion and reviews others can see easily, though has plenty. There’s some weird politics going on with the BL fanfic, however, and administrators of the boards tend to allow those posts, even explicit posts of BL but have zero tolerance for hetero couple fan fiction. As a librarian this makes things difficult because of the CIPA (pornography) rules means I can’t recommend a site or story which has pornography/eroticism in it, and is really uneven about enforcement. There are ratings filters which default to SFW, however BL writers often lie about their story and get away with it, meaning a child will see gay porn while looking for something clean to read from their favorite series, like Harry Potter. Harry/Draco and Draco/Hermione porn are equally offensive to readers, since Draco was Magical!Nazi and but got a happy ending despite his crimes. That’s one example, but its a major problem when trying to recommend stories safe for kids.

            5. I guess it depends on what one’s particular hangups and prejudices abut sex and or erroticism are.
              I don’t know enough about the subject to speculate on the nature of BL in my imited experience it follows narrative structure of traditional romance storylines but tends to lean a but less on damsel in distress and *innocence* tropes which I tend to find a bit boring. Again in my limited experience it’s a little less acceptant of homosexuality than standard yuri stories but not that dissimilar.

  8. I’m the same way… I will binge certain series in a row (Baccano! and Gin to Saji were two of mind), then again if I get a series on DVD from the library I almost have to binge it the same day otherwise I’ll get a fee. lol

    But I’m sure it’s easier for some (me) to watch as they air since it doesn’t feel as big of a time suck then binging a series for 6 hours straight. Knowingly using my time for anime… just makes me uneasy at times. It’s much easier to watch on the train when I’m not expected to be ‘doing’ something makes it easier? I dunno, I’m weird like that I guess. But interesting thoughts nonetheless!

    1. oh I get it. I’ve mentioned it on this site once or twice but I tried to curb my anime habit by only watching when I work out and now my life is constant muscle pain…. I have issues…

  9. Ah, you have discovered the Binge Paradox. Watching anime best contemplated for days between episodes to get full enjoyment can be ruined by binging more than one at a time. The paradox comes in when you can’t know the truth until you’ve watched the episodes and discovered watching 2-3 is less enjoyable than waiting between single eps. Ah, the grief. Ah the despair. And in modern shows with half as many episodes this is even worse.

    Some shows are best watched with an anime pal who is either watching it with you or simulcasting over the phone (what I do). Unlimited minutes phone plans (or skype) are good for this, btw. You can discuss the mysteries, notice out loud how this show is similar to another, make a prediction about where the plot or action will go (and after decades you get good at this), and enjoy an adult beverage. Multiple beverages make the later eps of the binge a little… blurry? Its not recommended with overly emo plotty shows, but great with comedies. And watching comedies with a friend is great. The humor in Trigun is much better with a friend on the line. Same with Devil is a Part Timer or Couldn’t Be a Hero So I Got A Job Instead.

      1. I do with a friend for 18 years now. A couple times a week. Better than regular tv, certainly.

          1. I’m told they can be rented or leased if you don’t have the credit rating to buy one with a loan.

            1. I do recommend that sharing anime is best with someone who has similar taste in anime. BL rotten girls are not going to have fun with guys who like Shounen Jump tournaments, though if you twist them you’ll get both humor and probably offend them. Try to get similar shows to your tastes and recognize that some shows you like your watching pal won’t, and accept that those shows are to be watched alone, with the shows you both like shared. That’s what works for me.

            2. But I’m both rotten and shonen trash… I do agree in principal although i have had great time discussing shows with people who seem to have more or less opposite tastes from me lately. I’m thinking occasionally mixing in something that’s not at all your style could be interesting too as long as the other person isn’t a jerk of course

            3. Sounds like you need another Rotten Girl to watch with, or a gay male friend willing to watch anime with a Rotten Girl.

      2. I did that a while ago, except I didn’t have a new enough device to skype and my phone is a pay by the minute… So we just fb messaged each other and tried to make sure we were watching it at the same time. *sigh* didn’t last very long, cause I couldn’t take the late nights, (he’s a marine in California and didn’t get off till midnight or later my time.)

        And this is a really long rambling reply to a comment to a reply to another comment. It’s midnight, forgive me. Don’t know why I’m up when i just said I can’t take staying up….

  10. I’ve never really thought about it much. I watch airing shows weekly and binge my backlog. There are shows that are better suited to binging and others that are better suited for weekly watching, but it’s complicated. One important thing to note her is that in the anime fandom I’m comparatively old. My earliest memories of anime?

    Switching on a black-and-whilte TV around five minutes before the show airs, because it takes a while to warm up and the picture comes on. Bingewachting was impossible, even VHS tapes were in the future (and we never had one of those until very late). So watching shows weekly is sort of a default I’ve grown into through ancient TV structure.

    The second thing is that I watch anime to unwind after/before work, and for that purpose the weekly structure is ideal, since I don’t have to make annoying decisions such as: “Shall I watch one more?” What’s there is there, what isn’t isn’t. It’s a comfortable routine.

    Binging anime is more comparable to playing video games: you switch on the console and play – open end. Sometimes, the next day, you wish you’d kept your deadline and gotten enough sleep. Mostly it works out fine, but there’s a sense of discipline to it that watching weekly doesn’t have. Watching weekly shows is more relaxing. As a result, shows I binge are on avarage better than shows I watch weekly: binging is more of a commitment.

    I sometimes binge-watch anime after work; I never bingewatch anime before work (even though I could easily get one or two episodes in, same as watching weekly). It’s the strict deadline by which I have to finish that makes the difference. Weekly shows? No discipline needed: can’t watch more than has been released.

    1. Interesting – I hadn’t considered the built in framework. Mind you the idea of waiting for he picture to come in would have made my head explode. I work out while I watch anime. I stop when my body hurts too much to go on….

  11. I binge watch everything besides hyped shows… (like 6-7 eps a day)
    Meaning that I haven’t watched Ancient Magus Bride, Made in Abyss, or that gem show past the first episodes…
    I’m sitting halfway through Food Porn, and somewhere in the second season for MHA, even though I have enough fun watching to want to continue them…
    I think I’m doing life wrong!

      1. Kinda meant in a day…
        Usually I can make it through a season of a show in a week.
        But my choice in shows typically sucks…
        Like why are there so many magical high school battle anime? Most of them even have bad animation!
        They’re kinda like popcorn though…

  12. Personally, I’ll binge watch comedy and romance genre animes. For mystery, psychological and drama animes I like to take more time (to process what I watched). Any other genre will depend on the anime itself.
    Great article 🙂

    1. Thank you – I’m a baby and I bindge mysteries cause I’m too curious to find out what’s happening. I watched Another in one sitting…

  13. Sometimes my brain doesn’t want to think so I pick a show that I “think” I know is lighter. But I love shows that will make me think, but I can’t watch them all in a row. I need those shows like Food wars to watch in between those psychological dramas.

  14. i always perk up when neuroscience is mentioned. i get a bit nervous when dopamine is mentioned because it’s always linked to those kinds of fuzzy behavioral addictions that dont feel super substantiated.

    it’s true that dopamine corresponds to pleasure and a feeling of reward, but you could almost think of it the other way. you feel a sense of pleasure while watching an episode which corresponds to a certain level of dopamine release. which would have more of an effect: an immediate, subsequent release of dopamine or a separate stimulus a week later? you could make a similar argument that the anticipation incites a similarly strong response.

    this is not really a criticism. my answer is i dont know. i know it goes without saying, but i think different people respond to different stimuli in different ways. some may respond more favorably to an immediate reward while others may respond more favorably to a sense of anticipation. and none of that is to say that i think those are the only factors. i know there’s a lot more going on.

    1. I completely agree – if we want to get finecky I’m a norepinephrine girl myself as my reuptake is slightly faster than usual due stupidly self induced metabolic disbalances. I’m not going to pretend to know everyone’s particular neurochemical patchways.
      But I hadn’t taken into account anticipation at all – mostly because sustained anticipation is not simething that comes naturally to me. It’s a beautiful point and changes the equation a lot.
      Brilliant Marth!

  15. I’m full of it.
    Rarely do I just watch something for the sake of nothing.
    I’d pick out things that I thought have made me wanted to watch them.

    Until I can no longer find a reason to stick around for, I’d put that series on hold since there are like thirty thousand other shows I could get to instead…

  16. If you can get tired by watching multiple at one go–Don’t binge.
    If you only crave it more and more with each episode–Binge.
    This has been “Binge watching with Plyasm”, thank you for tuning in, see you next comment.

  17. Very interesting take, I don’t usually binge watch anime, mostly because I hate the idea of something I like being over quickly so I try and spread it out as much as possible. And then of course there’s some shows I physically can’t binge watch because I get restless. Some shows I’ll start watching and enjoy but the episode goes by so slowly that I can’t bring myself to watch another one for a day or two. Whereas others go along at such a pace that before I know it I’ve watched 6 episodes! The last, long running show I binge watched was Fairy Tail, think I watched all 277 episodes in the space of about 2 or 3 months. I’m still not sure if that was a wise decision but looking back at how those episodes were paced, if I’d been watching it week-to-week I might have enjoyed it a lot less than I did.

    1. See I’m like that too but in a more stupid way. I’ll devour a show I love then refuse to watch the last episodes for months…

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