Asking the question: why do good people watch bad anime?
It’s that time of the month again – editorial time! That’s right, by some miracle or black magic I have not run out of ideas yet. Which is good, because it means I can still post things to Metanorn despite having no shows to actually blog about right now. This month, I’m going to rant about the importance of consistent pacing/quality in anime, and how you should choose to invest your anime-watching time wisely. The reason I decided to talk about pacing this month was to address the issue of anime where you have to “grind” through episodes to get to the good stuff as well as shows that start off wonderfully only to burn out in the final stretch. Hopefully by the end of this you’ll realize that dropping an anime series isn’t such a horrible thing.
Starting off slow
After watching Steins;Gate, I questioned the point of having to slog through boring episodes to get to the good ones. Is it really worth it in the end? As a form of entertainment media that’s sole purpose is to keep the viewer amused, watching poorly made episodes because “it gets better!” just isn’t acceptable. When people say a series starts off badly due to pacing, story, animation or any other factor, I lose all motivation to watch it. Yeah, it may get good later on, but I’d rather watch a series that keeps up the quality from start to finish. As a university student, I’m busy, and I want to MAXIMIZE the amount of fun I have in whatever way I can. GO GO ANIME SNOBBERY!
I’m not the type to be completely black and white about things, and I’m not going to just leave it at “if it starts off bad, it’s not worth it.” It’s a shame that you might have to start justifying whether an anime is worth watching by comparing the good halves and bad halves but sometimes it’s actually worth it to hang in there for the greatness you get in the end. Steins;Gate plods through 12 episodes of long dialogues and slowly setting up concepts and character connections as if it had all the time in the bloody world. However, the second half is an incredibly riveting depiction of time travel and the rifts it causes in the lead characters life. That was worth it because the first half may have been ¼ the speed of the second half, but it wasn’t outright bad. It’s generally only worth it if the number of bad episodes is small, the sketchy episodes in question aren’t dreadful, and if the prize at the end is really worth it. The problem is, judging whether something you haven’t see yet will be worth the wait is hard. You can only tell from what others say, and anime is a subjective medium.
There really is no solution to this, I’m just making your life miserable by pointing out all the time you waste watching bad anime episodes. Consistent pacing is hard to achieve, and sometimes the beginning starting off slow just cannot be avoided. Sometimes the best answer is to just skip it. Reborn! dedicates its first 7 chapters to gags before it finally becomes a decent shounen, battle manga and season 2 of Haruhi is plagued with the infamous Endless eight arc. Do yourself a favour and skip it.
The funny thing is, some people refuse to skip anything and treat watching anime like more of a mission than a fun hobby. People comment with things like “Oh, I really should watch the latest episode now” or “I’m so behind, oh noes!” as if it was their civic duty to sit and wait for Mawaru Penguindrum to get subbed. It’s that mindset of having to finish a series just because you started it that confuses me. While not everyone is like that, I don’t understand people who don’t mind punishing themselves with bad anime, offering no other reason for their actions other than how good it feels to complete a series. I think otaku should be critical of what they watch, and carefully draw a line between what is worth watching and what should be discarded.
A Weak Finish
No, I’m not done bitching yet! Let’s not forget anime that start off strong then go out with a whimper. Weak ending case #1 is when you can tell the author just wanted to end the series ages ago, but was forced to drag it on. The plot becomes shallow, the characters stop developing, and things have a tendency to dissolve into a panty shot parade. Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko should have really ended at episode 4 or 5, once Erio took off her futon and decided to integrate into society. Instead, it stretches out into 12 episodes of haremettes prancing around. I dropped it with 3 episodes to spare until the end. Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? has a similar feel, where the charm simply wears off over time and the story becomes dumb.
There’s also case #2 where the ending is a cliffhanger due to the manga still running and the desire for a season 2. This happens a lot, but usually only affects the last episode, which isn’t too bad. The problem arises when the cliffhanger is just the end result of rushing. Deadman Wonderland decided that it had a certain spot it wanted season 1 to end at, and just said “fuck this” to everything else and crammed a frightening amount of chapters into a mere 20 or so odd minutes. It was a mess, but you could argue that most of the series was kind of awry.
Case #3 is just when an anime has to scramble to wrap up the story in the final few episodes. Fractale is guilty of wasting away precious episodes on doing laundry and having the characters screech “ecchi!” at each other before it remembers it actually has a story to tell in the last episode. So although it started off with a nice, promising pace, it had two horrible dips: one where it slowed down to a snail’s pace and another where it went bonkers.
In my opinion, anime that start off well and slowly degrade are harder to drop. A show that begins with an unpromising premise is likely to be dropped on impulse by most people, while it’s a bit harder to give up on something that was previously reliable. This is essentially the sunk cost fallacy – where when you spend a resource that cannot be recovered you will follow through anyways, assuming you’re past the point of no return. Furthermore, you will trick yourself into thinking it was better than it actually was. People then assume because they’ve invested so much time, that it’s worth it to trudge through the last few episodes. Well, no, it isn’t. I’m willing to drop a show with one or two episodes to spare to the end, because I have come to firmly believe that it won’t get any better. If anything, I want to stop as soon as possible to avoid wasting MORE time on something I don’t really enjoy. If I’m dying to know about the ending, there are always summaries to read (on blogs like Metanorn! Hint hint!). Being picky is my style, and it means I have more time to watch anime I love and have fewer regrets about pouring my resources into junk.
Time to strike back!
I’m especially curious to hear from those of you loyal otaku who will follow an anime to the end, like a lemming who will jump off a cliff after its comrades. Is it really worth it to plow through an anime that starts off bad or has a bad ending? How do you feel about dropping series and how often do you drop them? Have you ever regretted watching an anime all the way through? Comment away! (Or just poke into the bonus mini art spam at the end and slip away into the night)
Bonus Art Spam: