Hello again one and all. Some of you faithful readers may already know this, but I don’t really follow the three-episode rule. You know, that informal rule that some anime fans have to give any new series three episodes before passing judgement on it.
It’s not a bad idea, I totally get where it comes from. It just doesn’t work for me. I don’t have that type of patience. I’m also very open-minded when it comes to anime so if I didn’t find something to love in an entire first episode, well there likely wasn’t much there at all.
However, I was watching an anime movie the other day and it got me thinking. The entire movie was roughly 90 minutes. A little less in fact, like 86 minutes. And that’s pretty much the same as three episodes of the standard anime. Some anime have double-length episodes to go up to an hour with commercials but they are very rare for some reason.
So basically, what the three-episode rule is creating for the people who do use it, is making them watch the equivalent of an entire movie before making up their minds. What’s interesting about that is what it implies about writing anime.
From what I have gathered, we anime fans accept that a series is going to have a sort of warming up period. You know, a number of episodes that are absolutely necessary for the show to establish the premise, characters and universe. That makes complete sense. And some shows do need to find their footing with early episodes being a bit rocky. Like sitcom pilots.
And this is why judging too early can be misleading. The audience just doesn’t have all the information it needs yet and those episodes aren’t likely to be the best representation of what the show has to offer. Not to mention the audience side of it.
What I mean is that it takes us, the viewers, a certain amount of time to warm up to new characters and get engrossed in a story. Sure there are series that manages to really garb us from the first second but that’s not going to be the majority. And it does depend on the genre to a certain point. Not to mention that baity first episodes are also not the best representation of a series. I’ve been lured into watching mediocre anime with a great first episode plenty of times.
But what does that mean for movies? If the entire runtime of a movie is equal to the period that fans allot to start getting into the story and understanding what’s going on, how are movie writers supposed to approach it?
A little while ago, on a completely unrelated post, a conversation started in my comments section that revealed that most of my readers largely prefer watching series to movies. Some of them hardly ever watch anime movies. And I have to admit I’m one of them.
I never really stopped to think about why but now, I realize that it might have something to do with the three-episode rule. Indirectly that is.
You see, I’m someone who enjoys slow-paced character-driven stories. And it’s very difficult for me to get that attached to a character in a movie. Not that I don’t get attached at all, I do. Just not as much, simply because I don’t spend as much time with them. The limited run time also means that ensemble pieces are pretty rare, how the heck is anyone supposes to develop a cast of 30 characters in a single movie. And unfortunately, it does also mean that tragic backgrounds can sometimes get condense to the point of farcical melodrama as a character has to suffer through what would have been years of occasional misfortunes, in the span of 15 minutes or so. It can make it seem as if there’s never a happy moment.
All of this said I have been watching more anime movies lately. More importantly, anime movies that are not linked to any series in any way. And I’ve come to appreciate some of the aspects of the shorter runtime. In a good anime movie, I have found that the writers have no choice but to trust the audience. As in they don,t explain every little thing. The narrative is put together in a way that allows the viewers to piece together whatever the story doesn’t have time to show and to infer the bits that were left out. I really like that narrative style. I think it adds a not and allows me to make a story just a little bit more for me through interpretation.
Although characters do tend to be a bit more simple and straightforward because of the time crunch, that doesn’t mean they can’t be interesting. And the big advantage I have seen is that they tend to be more consistent. Too many series I have watched try to make a character layered and complex but they end up feeling muddled like they’re just doing and thinking things at random. Because the character simply doesn’t stay consistent to themselves. I’ve noticed that uneven characterization annoys me way more than the average anime fan so this might not be as big a plus to others. To me though, it’s a huge boon for movies.
Finally, movies tend to have a better grasp on their plot. When the story goes from start to finish in a single leap, you’re much less likely to get bogged down in some B plot for too long or lose sight of what you want to do with certain characters. Yes, the pacing can still be awful but I rarely see movies where the narrative seems to have gotten lost.
When I say these things are because of the three-episode rule, I don,t mean it literally of course. I’m just saying that a movie’s limited runtime forces the story to take a different shape because of the way audiences interact with it. And there are advantages to that which is something I had never really stopped to consider before.
It also gives me a newfound respect for movie writers. They have to accomplish a lot in very little time. Some of my favourite anime movies have had a huge impact on me. Arguably more so than series I have watched over 100 episodes of. And that’s just impressive. I don,t have another word for it. Knowing how to choose your scenes that well is pure art.
Now, I still don,t gravitate towards anime movies as much as series. I probably never will. Part of it is the fact that I like both the added length and the malleability of a series where I can watch as many or as few episodes as I want in one sitting. There’s also the fact that original anime movies seem to overwhelmingly be romantic or tragic and those are not my genres of choice.
But I have been getting a new appreciation for anime movies lately and I want to share it with you. In certain regards, movies can bring something unique and very enjoyable to the table and I have been missing out. So to remedy that, please let me know what anime movie I should watch. I understand that a lot of them will be romantic, that’s ok, but if you have a different genre to suggest, I’m all ears. Also please don’t tell me to watch Grave of Fireflies. I don’t think my heart can take a second viewing.