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.
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.
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.
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.