The Pleasures of Slow-Paced Anime Watching: A Discussion

When I first started watching anime (circa 2009 with my very first CrunchyRoll account), I loved binging everything that I saw. Not having to sit through commercials was a new experience for me and I wanted to take full advantage. Once the novelty of commercial-free watching wore off, back-to-back to episode viewing became a habit that I didn’t realise I had acquired. It was just the natural way of consuming media. That lasted for about eight to nine years until I fell out of touch with anime and the habit finally broke.

With the rise of streaming culture as more and more services become available to the consumer, binge-watching has become both the popular method of digital media consumption as well as a tactic that can feel like a waste of dollars. For example, if I have paid subscriptions to Funimation, CrunchyRoll, and RetroCrush (focusing on anime services since that’s the topic of our discussion today), yet I’m only marathoning content from CrunchyRoll, then the money I’m giving to Funimation and RetroCrush end up becoming a waste. I would need to watch a comparable amount of content from all three services in order to feel like they are all equally worth the monetary investment. I’m not sure about y’all, but trying to keep up with all that can be mentally and physically exhausting if one is a media binger.

When I eventually found my way back to anime, it was around the time that I started talking about it on BiblioNyan. I added a Funimation subscription to my streaming repertoire (I had CrunchyRoll and Netflix at the time) for some variety. I struggled a lot with finding a comfortable method of engaging with this media since I had been out of touch for so long (about one to two years). Watching an entire thirteen to twenty-four-episode series in a single sitting no longer worked as my ADHD had gotten significantly worse and was around to stay. Not being able to see anime like I used to, was incredibly de-motivating. It was something I dealt with sporadically until the middle to end of 2019.

After having health scares during October 2019, and having to deal with prolonged bedrest, I began to watch anime—as well as other TV serials on my now impressive spread of streaming services—via one to three episodes as a time. It was something I did on a whim and this practise ended up becoming the best choice that I had made in a long time.

Should’ve done this years ago!

There are about three to four different ways things I have learned and appreciated about taking it slow in watching anime serials. There’s less burnout, ability to watch more stuff simultaneously, increased cerebral engagement, being more daring with my choices, and an excellent sense of validation. All of these make binge-watching feel like an outdated and exhausting relic of the past.

The number one aspect of slow-watching that I adore is the significant decrease in burnouts. Watching episode after episode of the same thing for hours on end would be extremely exhausting for me. My eyes would ache, my brain would feel tired, and most of the time the idea of starting something afterwards would be unbelievably daunting. Typically after wrapping up a series, it would take me days or weeks to even contemplate what show to start up next. It was not a fun gig.

However, when I indulge in a handful of segments versus the whole damn pie, I don’t feel nearly as exhausted. I can take a break in the middle before moving on to the next show (if I decide I want to keep watching things) and move my body around, stretch my limbs, or grab some food (I have OCD and it’s challenging for my brain to do a different activity if I’m not “finished” with the current one, such as eating; it’s difficult to explain in writing, I’m sorry). It even allows me to watch many things at once versus going at it via one title at a time. For example, I’m currently watching (and re-watching) nine different serials, three of which are seasonal simulcasts, and it feels amazing. Additionally, the smaller sessions accommodate my ADHD by allowing me to switch up genres, which alleviates my sense of restlessness. This used to be a huge influencer in my burning out, and was the number one reason why I avoided humongous anime shows like Naruto, for example. But if I’m taking it bit by bit, the episode counts are consequently far less formidable and matter less to me, as is evident by my current watching of Naruto Shippūden; a feat I never would thought possible a year or two ago.

Me every time an Akatsuki member or Kakashi is on screen.

Another awesome part about taking it more leisurely is that I feel much more intellectually connected with whatever I’m watching than I would have via one long streaming session. While I understood the overall gist of what was happening, I tended to miss out on the more subtle aspects and key elements of cultural or socio-political themes; qualities that I adore the most about the anime medium. By engaging in smaller doses, I have time to process the episodes seen far more thoroughly, allowing me to absorb the material in an intimately cerebral manner. It helps me with content analyses and building emotional rapport with the characters and overall narrative, which gives way to a richer and more satisfying experience as a whole, even if the show was initially beyond my comfort zone.

I’m not very good trying new things, at least I never used to be. In an effort to live a more fulfilling life, I have been trying to introduce myself to things that I would normally turn away from or cower into a corner from. When I watch something that from a genre or has content or subject matter that is outside of my comfort zones, being acquainted with them in morsels at a time (one to two episodes) allows me to work through any disconcerting feelings in an accessible fashion. Eventually those things that cause such strong vibes of distress or awkwardness dwindle away and I have found something cool and refreshingly different to enjoy. Plus, these sorts of positive engagements shall contribute to my being more open-minded, which is always a great thing in general.

The final quality about deliberate and even meticulous approaches to watching serials is that when I do eventually wrap them up, the feeling is beautifully validating.  The sense of accomplishment that I can receive from ticking off the final episode on my AniList or in my Excel document (my offline back-up) gives me a great serotonin kick and contributes to the enthusiasm that I feel in wanting to start another show or film afterwards. In a sense, one could even say that it works in opposition to burnouts; it makes my desire to continue with the medium more rhapsodic, which is a superb feeling, especially on days when my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is in full-throttle mode.

Yes! I feel so accomplished! Time to celebrate!

As you can see, the grandeur pleasures of slow-watching shows, not just anime—although anime is the centre of this discussion—is positively endearing in any number of ways. I feel as I get older, the desire to take my foot off the gas pedal of life (ironic, given my obsession for racing) gets stronger and stronger. I want to stop and smell the hibiscus flowers even if they are going to make me sneeze. The same goes for my media. In an era where the very idea of media changes so quickly from one day to the next, having that extra moment to appreciate it for what it is now and for how it lays the groundwork for what’s to come tomorrow becomes more and more important. Plus, it also forces some perspective into the very nature of life, such as how we become so consumed with the things we’re doing that we forget the reasons of why we started doing them to begin with.

How about you? Are you a slow-watcher or a binge-watcher? What do you love about the way you engage with media in the present times? I’d love to hear your musings.

Until next time, happy otakuing.

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10 thoughts on “The Pleasures of Slow-Paced Anime Watching: A Discussion

  1. Pingback: Jon’s Creator Showcase: Valentine’s Month Special and Celebrating January 2021’s Finest Content From Around The Community | The Infinite Zenith

  2. Right now I have 6 seasonal anime I’m watching and one movie I’m taking in pieces. That is exactly 1 anime every night if I space it out. I don’t. It’s all on Saturday and Wednesday.

    There are some older anime that I get so “into” that I can’t wait for the next episode. The better the show the bigger the binge. I’d probably binge everything if I could. I must have a binge personality. I have heard that is common in Asperger’s.

    My idea of a slow anime pace is two or three episodes a night. I’ve been known to do an entire season in one day. Something about getting swept up in the flow. I end up forcing myself to slow down or I watch it all and have to look for something new. But when I’m not watching anime, there’s no rush to start. Go figure.

    If I find I’m only watching one ep of an existing show a night, it is usually because I’m not enjoying it that much.

  3. It seems like I go slow, and slower. And yes, I think it’s a significant change for me as well. I remember watching 10 or so episodes of anime a night when I first got Crunchyroll. Maybe two or three series, several episodes every night. I think part of the reason this changed was I kept running into things I really wanted to share with my hubby. And slowly, he has come to appreciate anime and now even makes additions of his own to our watching. I have several things going on now. I’ve tried seasonal and I just can’t keep track of what’s happening in something I see once a week. One seasonal – that’s my limit. The one I am watching now is Noblesse and it works nicely because I showed it to hubby and he likes it. We have a thing where at 7 pm everything we are doing seperately gets set aside and we sit and “watch TV” together. Mainly he chooses based on knowing what we both like because he watches WAAAAAY more stuff than I do. One night a week, Monday, is “import night” and we watch only anime, and J and K drama, with an occasional BritBox thrown in. By myself I usually have one or two series I am binging one to four episodes at a time. And when I wanted to watch Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I got hubby started on it to make it easier to handle those many many episodes. So almost every night we get one episode of Full Metal and it’s gone pretty quickly that way. I don’t know if I can get away with a lot of series that way, but I’d like to as it would let me tackle some of those bigger series like Naruto!

    And then there’s the Saturday morning thing. It’s about half and half anime and vintage cartoons and those series I get one episode a week. They are mostly light kid stuff sort of fare, pretty episodic for the most part, so I generally manage to not be too confused.

    I do have that problem though where if I’m watching a bunch of anime on Crunchyroll, then I keep asking myself why I’m paying for Britbox. If I get watching a series on Britbox, I wonder why the heck I pay for Crunchy and back and forth. I try not to think about it is my only solution, or I’d be switching all over the place all the time. I tell myself that it’s easier to just keep them all going and the little I’d save switching around would not make up for the PITA it would be!

    • I live with a film studies major, so having all the streaming services helps with their studies quite a lot. Plus, I have no life and never leave the house, so I like to have options to fit whatever my ADHD throws at me lol.

      I’ve noticed with English dramas, I don’t have a problem binging them, but I have to be doing something else while watching. For example, when I saw season one of Poldark (wow this show gets dark), I did it while outlining four chapters of homework that I was behind on. Did all of it one sitting (with tons of caffeine). For some reason, English language shows just make me antsy and restless. Nowadays, I do word search puzzles while I watch them and it’s been pretty relaxing. The only English shows I watch without doing anything else are my favourites like Stargate SG-1/Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica (2004).

      If there is a lot of suspense in a particular anime series, then I’ll watch them in bulk with 1-5 episodes at a time. Although, I did binge the entire second season of Golden Kamuy in one sitting, but that’s because I’m outrageously obsessed lol. Attack on Titan is another one I like binging. But for the most part, going slow is comfortable and helps me to really think about what I’m watching, which I love that feeling. 🙂

      • You ought to be able to write off all those streaming services as school expenses 😀 Like you, we don’t leave the house much these days so I figure we break even and I’d just as soon be home and comfy anyway. My hubby would totally watch the SG and Battlestar with you. IN fact, I think he’s on his four or fifth trip through Battlestar even as we speak. I’ve really been dabbling and jumping around lately. Depressed, no concentration. And I don’t want to get too hooked on anything with Dakar coming up soon. I spent a couple hours yesterday watching a drifiting competition – LOL.

  4. Great post! I actually end up often watching a lot of an anime series at once as often the stories are quite intense and details of the story can slip my mind after a while away. However, yes, it may well be healthier to watch in this way over a longer period of time.

    I noticed that you mention OCD and I personally also have my own quirks in the way I view shows, so it is not just you! I hope it is not harming your enjoyment as it is tough at times in my experience.

    • I noticed with action-heavy anime, I enjoy binging them. I think I get caught up in the excitement and suspense of it. 🙂

      Yes, my OCD can make watching things challenging at time as I’m someone who does like to “complete” something before moving on to the next task. It also impacts my ADHD, which is always a good time (sarcasm), haha.

  5. I am a slow watcher myself and I agree with a lot here! I don’t watch in season anime but mostly completed anime and the buzz of people teasing me for stuff that is to come makes me really hype for a lot of things without being dissapointed by the crowd mentallity. I feel out of love with MHA because people were constantly gushing and I felt it was okay.. but with old shows.. I am left alone with my thoughts and I appreciate shows more!

    Because time passes I notices so much more about shows. Imagery they use, recurring themes.. it has time to settle into my brain or something and I see so much more! By not binging it becomes less of a snack and more of a “thing in my schedule” it gets a significance of sorts!

    Tropes being reused also feels much less stale as there is a cooldown! I tried to binge Pretty Cure and I burned out sooo insanely hard because it was the same episode after episode.. and trying to binge a season in a day was just to much I actually began to resent the series and could not pick it up anymore.
    I do plan to retry with a new series in the Pretty Cure universe but the first is kind of ruined for me because of binging.

    I do think some series are better for binging though. Rolling Girls for example I followed in season and it was not exciting enough to keep me waiting each week.. same for Hamatora season 2. I think had I binged those I would have finished them contently.

    • Yeah, I agree, some shows are definitely better for binging. Shows I’ve loved to binge and didn’t enjoy nearly as much with weekly or slow watching include Attack on Titan (I’m waiting for the final season to wrap up before I watch it), Golden Kamuy (weekly watching season 3 and it’s torture), Initial D, Naruto franchise (I watch this slowly, but it’s nice to be able to watch bulk episodes sometimes for specific arcs), and Hunter x Hunter (2011).

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