I’ve only recently started watching seasonal anime in simulcast. For one the option hasn’t even been available for that long and for two I generally prefer to soft binge shows. (I’ve coined the term soft binge to mean watching all the episodes more or less in a row over whatever period of time it takes rather than a more traditional definition for binge which would be watching all the episodes in as little time as possible. When I read it in my head, the term sounded kind of naughty so i figured I would explain).
That first paragraph was way more focused and to the point than I usually manage in my posts! Great start!
Like I said, it’s really only been a few years since I’ve started watching any anime as it airs, and watching it alongside the greater anime community is a whole new experience for me. No I often enjoy shows that aren’t that popular so no one talks about them much. In that way the presence of the community in question, doesn’t change anything. But once in a while I hit on shows that are the centre of attention and I have found that there are some good things and some bad about that specific experience.
The popular shows (as in talked about) I watched with everyone else would be probably the Promised Neverland, Demon Slayer. MHA and Fire Force. I think I felt the presence of the audience most on Fire Force so I’ll concentrate on that experience. This said, I’m also feeling it a bit with Tower of God this season. These are the advantages and disadvantages I have found in my personal experience. I think I’ll refer back to this post next time I’m deciding whether to wait for a season to finish before starting to watch a series.
😊 Advantage : Community
Most things are more fun with friends. And these are the type of friends you don’t have to clean your place to invite or give them snacks or anything! Reading the general buzz about a show and watching right along with everyone else just makes you feel like your part of a group activity without really putting in any effort. That’s my sort of social experience. In the end, it’s a little less lonely and that can make you enjoy the anime more in subtle ways. Anything that makes me enjoy anime more is A-O.K. in my book!
🙁 Disadvantage: Spoilers
This is especially true when manga readers are involved and enthusiastic about the source material for a show. They don’t mean any harm and most of them are super careful about not giving away any major plot points or twists, it’s just that the constant squeels of wait till you see what happens next or my favourite part is coming up sort of creates certain expectations for me that are going to affect my viewing experience. What can I say, I’m pretty easy to influence… And of course, if you actually miss an episode that happens to have a big reveal and can’t watch it until a few days later, you better become a social media hermit until you’ve caught up or the surprise will be ruined.
Just to be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people sharing their thoughts and experiences online. Actually I find the excitement really endearing and I hope both the manga readers and instant reviewers keep doing their thing. It’s often that very enthusiasm that has lead me to watch shows after they have aired and discover some new favourites. It’s just that a part of watching along with a lot of people, means you’re going to run into some form of spoiler sooner or later.
😊 Advantage : Explanation
Then again, spoilers can be super useful. I have a preference for cryptic and very allegorical shows. Sadly those don,t tend to be all that popular but still. Even a rather straightforward shonen like Fire Force did have a few symbolic elements and some would have gone right over my head if people weren’t discussing it online. And this isn’t something I would necessarily have found out by myself. It’s really tough to know what you don’t know, you know?
Watching a popular show and following along some of the discussion has allowed me to discover facets of it I would have missed and clear up some vague points as I’m watching rather than after the fact. This makes the things that come after in the show clearer and more significant. There are many older shows I review here and a reader will comment a little bit of trivia or explanation and it blows my mind, If I had known that as I was watching, it would have made it better!
🙁 Disadvantage: Exhaustion
Unfortunately, anime fans don’t always just limit themselves to helpful explanations. Sometimes they just decide to argue about a series until they’ve sucked a lot of the joy out of it. Once again, I’ll talk about Fire Force and the pervasive and sometimes uncomfortable fanservice. Regardless of my personal feelings on the subject, by the time the latter part of the series hit, I was so tired of hearing about it that I sort of tuned out and it made me enjoy the show less.
It wasn’t just people sharing their thoughts and the impact. Or discussing the artistic merits and how it can shape the viewer experience. It was a few very passionate people that decided to make it a morality or validity call. On the one hand you had people who dropped the series accusing it of sexism or even of casualising sexual assault and wondered how anyone could watch this stuff. Which made me feel bad about thinking it was not that bad. On the other you had people lashing out about how unfair, uneducated and just lame (stoopid sjw snowflakes) it was to critique the fanservice in any way, which made me feel bad about thinking it wasn’t that good. In the end, I just ended up associating this vague feeling of guilt towards the series which is unfair to the show.
For the record, it didn’t ruin the experience, I would still watch a second season but maybe not as it aired…
😊 Advantage : Conversation
Bit that’s a worst case scenario and one that pops up a lot when discussion apparently controversial subjects. I’m a bit exhausted by the previous paragraph to be honest… People often tend to focus on the negative. That’s normal. That doesn’t mean the positive doesn’t exist. The Promised Neverland was a huge show based on well known and beloved source material and I somehow manage to avoid every single disadvantage of watching it as it aired. In fact, I found the communal experience singularly rewarding for that series.
And one of the great things were the conversations. People speculating about the world beyond the orphanage and what it could hold. People trying to piece together a timeline and universe based on the few clues scattered throughout. People discussing, calmly and civilly whether the central trio were the most effective point of view characters and whether this particular story would have been better told through a different means. Maybe more of an ensemble cast or form Isabella’s point of view. Whether the revelations were cheap but effective tricks or whether they were instrumental to the lore and not informing the audience from the start served an important purpose other than shock value. These were amazing discussions that made me think about the series more deeply than I would have otherwise and ultimately made me appreciate the richness of the tale in a way I wouldn’t have by myself.
🙁 Disadvantage: Disillusionment
This is a weird one and I think it may apply mostly to me. I know my readers are not quite as impressionable as I am. But it sort of bothers me when I’m watching a series and enjoying it and I start reading online how other viewers think it’s boring, stupid, unoriginal or all of the above. I’m not saying I’m going to stop enjoying a series because someone else isn’t. But it still oddly hurts a bit, you know like when someone is saying bad things about your friend.
And there’s no wining in that situation. If you jump in to protect a show you like, you’re going to get sucked into a pointless argument almost every time. If you ignore it, it still bursts your bubble a little and I always get this little thought at the back of my head that if the series gets a bad reputation they won’t make any more or even shows like it which is sad. For me, the best way is to consider the comment as dispassionately as possible. Try to see what they are basing their criticism on and see if it’s valid. If not, I can still understand their point of view and move on and if so, I can acknowledge that a series is not perfect but I still like it. A lot of my favourites fall into that category. Still, there’s a little childish part of me that likes to hold on to the pretense that my beloved shows are perfect and it should be obvious to everyone, so there!
😊 Advantage : Fun!
I wrote an entire post but in the end it only comes down to one thing. You can ignore the comments and online buzz when you’re watching a series as it airs but you can’t create them when you’re watching an old show. Watching along with everyone else gives you more options to craft the experience you want to have. If you want to pretend you’re the only person in the universe watching a particular anime at that time, you can. If one week you want to see what other people thought about a specific episode that really made an impact, you can do that too. It can take a bit of self-exploration to figure out what time of viewer you are and what type of experience you want but once you do, you should really go for whatever is the most fun for you!
Now if they could just start airing new seasons in bulk so I could both binge and watch with everyone else, I would be all set! Do you watch simulcasts? Have you had any of these experiences? Are there any advantages or disadvantages I haven’t considered?