Worry Free Viewing and the Math Behind Enjoying Anime

I’ve suspended the Anime Power Rankings since I dropped half of the shows I was watching.  I might start it again when I catch up with Shirobako and Your Lie in April.  If there were any type of ranking, Durarara! would still lead the pack.  Honestly though, I don’t know if that is because it is a higher quality show, or if I just overlook it’s issues.  Durarara! is at the top because it is entertaining, and because that is all I am asking it to be. I am not worried about whether or not the show is worth my time.  I am not trying to decide if it is living up the source material.  I am just enjoying the ride.  This is easy to do with Durarara!.  I have not read the light novels and I know from season 1 that I really shouldn’t be concerned if I don’t understand what is going on. I also know from season 1 that the end result will probably be pretty good.  This has reminded me that when I watch anime, I need to make more of an effort to just relax and try to enjoy the show.

You should too.  It is the nature of geeks everywhere, and particularly on the internet, to take things way too seriously. (Particularly things that were not intended to be taken seriously)  I’ve given this advice out before on forums, but I’ve haven’t said it here yet.  Let’s start with the bad news.  The majority of every type of media (or anything else of variable quality) is going to be average.

Using the T-scores on the illustration above, you can determine that out of all anime being made, 84% are going to be a 6 or less out of a 10 point scale.  By the process of selection,  you should be able to shift your personal distribution slightly to the right, provided you don’t spend time watching shows you don’t like.  To a large extent though, how much a person enjoys anime depends on how much they enjoy the “average” anime.

If you find that you don’t enjoy the majority of anime of anime you watch there are a few things that can you can do to help:

1. Be more selective – The catch here is that you have to really understand your preferences and the anime that you are selecting from.  It takes some experience to figure out what you really like, and the only way to understand what to expect from anime is to watch a lot of anime.  Even if you try to be selective, you are still going to end up with some stinkers, but by weeding out some of the worst shows you can marginally improve the quality of what you watch.

Pro: The overall quality of the anime you view will go up, but not by a lot.

Con: You are going to miss out on some shows you would enjoy.

2. Be patient – Waiting until after a show has already aired gives you the benefit of other peoples opinions.  You can find a reviewer that you generally agree with or you can go to a site like myanimelist (MAL) and use the law of large numbers to help you out.  A word of caution about MAL, a lot of people, for some strange reason, rate shows before they are done watching them.  Hell, some shows are rated before they are even aired.  You have to wait until a sufficiently large number of people have rated a show before you can trust that rating.  However, if you see a show like Steins; Gate that is rated very highly by a large number of raters, you can probably assume that it won’t be awful.

Pro: The overall quality of the anime you view will go up.

Con: You lose the opportunity to discuss the shows you watch with the rest of anime fandom.

3. Lower your expectations – This feels like selling out, and I suppose to certain extent it is, but not every show is going to knock your socks off.  Great animes don’t come out every season, so watching a ton of simulcasts and expecting to see the next big thing will inevitably lead to burn out.  The trick here is not to lower the quality levels you require to consider an anime good, while acknowledging that only a few of the anime you watch will meet those standards.  Try to enjoy shows for what they are and appreciate the ones that give you more than what you expected.

Pro: You will enjoy the shows you watch more.

Con: You are going to watch a lot of mediocre anime.

4. Take a break – If you are unhappy with what you are watching, and the above suggestions aren’t helping it might be time to take a break from anime.  Just because you enjoyed the shows that people generally refer to as great, that doesn’t mean that you are going to be the type of person who will enjoy watching 12 simulcasts during a season.  Trying to wade through all the mediocre anime to find the gems might not be your thing.  There is nothing wrong with only watching a couple of the best shows a year.

Another thing to consider is that people change and tastes change.  A large number of anime fans I have met on the internet have been in their late teens or early twenties.  People go through some pretty big personality changes during these years.  Perhaps anime isn’t something that fits with your current interests.  If you take a break and find that you miss it, you can always come back.  If instead you find that the time you spent watching anime was more enjoyably spent doing something else, then that is what you should be doing.

Pro: You’ll have time for a new hobby and you can always come back.

Con: You are going to miss out on some great shows.

I was dissatisfied with the time I spent watching anime about this time last year, so I took a break.  I spent my viewing time watching shows that were pretty highly rated that I had missed.  When I decided to come back to simulcasts, I decided to be more selective.  What Durarara!  reminded me is that I also need to lower my expectations and just enjoy the ride.  Shows are a lot more fun to watch when you do.




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