Crazy wine people make wine tasting an experience in of itself. Enjoyment of wine can be casual and serious; you can bust open an affordable Californian variety to entertain, or something a little dearer like Chateau Margaux to share with someone intimate. Or as I know it, as a fund raiser.
The same can be done with TV watching. Indiscriminate use tend leads to brain haze and hours wasted (like alcohol!), but if you are watching for something very specific the TV potentially can be equally rewarding.
In constructing the framework I concede that anime on TV is just like anything else on TV. That’s not where I stand on the issue–films shown on TV isn’t the same as films shown in theatres, but for the sake of this mental exercise let’s just presume you consume anime like a typical North American–Adult Swim and other TV outlets, DVDs; and while we do watch them occationally through a club, a con, a movie screening, on the computer or iPod, it’s not in the scope of this exercise.
So with that out of the way, common sense dictates that you should spend good time to watch stuff you want to enjoy. If you’re going down memory lane and popping some classic show you own on DVD into the player, you can probably afford to do it wherever and whenever, because it is not likely to change the way you view the show and the show isn’t likely to affect you. On the other hand you’re check out some edgy new show you heard about being odd or visually weird, it’s important to keep a clear mind and be able to pay attention to the thing. Don’t do it while you’re half-falling asleep; or busy doing something else (unless it’s as important to you as that). The important thing is to understand like everything else you do, how you perceive depends on how much attention you give it; how much effort you are putting into perceiving and thinking about it; and having as little getting in your way as you can.
That much is common sense–it’s just a matter of thinking about it and realizing it and caring enough to do something about it. I think most of us watch TV the way we do because that’s how we treat it. But does that befit an otaku? Regardless of how much of a geek you are when it comes to anime, however, there are some much more subtle things you can think about too.
The expected audience. Believe it or not, not all anime are made by the same people, for the same people. Duh. Despite that (and get this), some shows can be very similar in terms of content yet are meant for very different people. There are genuine magical girls shows, and there are magical girls shows made for drooling pedophiles, for instance. There are angst-filled robot shows for teens, and there are angst-filled robot shows for adults. Get this right. It’s not to say just because you are category B and the show is for A, you won’t enjoy it–plenty of drooling pedophiles likes Card Captor Sakura and Wedding Peach. But those who like Nanoha A’s for its silent angst and 80s stylistic comments is going to find most other Magical Girl offerings quite the bore. This is rather elementary, and it ties in nicely with the next point.
It helps to know the broadcast schedule. More importantly, is this a prime-time TV affair or a midnight otaku-only sell? Take Eureka 7 for example, it’s got a primetime weekday slot. This kind of stuff you can show to just about everyone. By the same token Emma, the British Romance, by all means a much tamer existance, is a late-night show. What does that mean? Sometimes it can help you distinguish between “for fans” versus “for everyone” in the case of Card Captor Sakura, for example, but other times it gives you other clues about what kind of an expectation you should probably have. Now I unfairly used Emma as an example because it is rather the counter-example to this rule as it is made with a serious, and non-otaku appeal in hope that it can reach that market segment. On the other hand, this kind of thing is exactly the tip-off you can get by looking at the time slot. The most useful application of this rule applies in weeding out children’s programming. After all, large amount of TV anime in Japan is still kids programming in the most typical sense–think Dora the Explorer and their ilks. YMMV, anyways.
Prime your mind. When you’re sad, watch something either really sad or that will uplift you. If you’re low on attention and high on spazz, watch something spazzy and require little attention. Here’s a corollary, too: if you want to watch something slow, tire yourself out first by watching something else if you don’t feel like you’re in sync with that kind of pace. Sometimes by watching the OP instead of skipping it, that could also do the trick. Listening to the right kind of music beforehand also works, and I do this.
Mood is important when watching with friends. Some things are just funnier to watch as a group, but other things are easier to get engrossed with when you watch alone. Some things can come out differently depending on who you watch it with. Experienced and well-connected people can watch the same thing two different ways just with who they watch it with. High level technique! An easier application is when you want to show something to your friends. Be a little sensitive not only to their tastes, but also to their moods. This should be a no-brainer, but it helps if you ask.
And so is ambience. Keep things bright! I don’t get why North Americans dim things when they watch tube TV. I guess glare can be a problem but more often than not it makes you more tired while watching TV. Selecting the right show at the right event–party, background noise, whatever–takes just a little thought but can make a big difference.
Pacing is very important. Anime as a TV form are often aired weekly as 22-minute segments of actual material. Marathoning is rarely the designed mode to consume anime, as a result. If available, chart out good chunks of the show to watch, in pieces, if you know how the show will pace itself out. If doing an episode at a time is too slow, or you’ve hit a stretch in a long TV series where it’s just too slow/too exciting, use your flexibility as a home video owner to pace that so you can get through it faster or with more enjoyment. One thing to consider is to actually force yourself to watch climaxes that spans over episodes in pieces and not all at once. Sometimes it helps you enjoy the show more if you take a break and let your brain work over the material. It will help you understand the material and give you more insight to what’s going on. If it’s a really good show it will even challenge your imagination. I personally found that when you marathon a show you tend to not enjoy it as much because you don’t have the time to grow to like it. Of course that also depends just as heavily on what the show is doing, so I don’t know how much that is a real effect. Certainly, though, watching slower shows in small doses works much better.
Try to listen to it, too. Anime are often consumed with subtitles, but the music can make or break a show. Don’t skip out on it unless you’re sure you can live without it. On the other hand for ou dub watchers, voice acting can make and break a show too. Pay it attention, and experiment with the different dubs you can find on a DVD. In my own experience the dub track make pretty lame background noise if you’re the kind of person who always leave the TV on; but then again those kinds of people don’t nitpick like what I’m doing now.
There are a lot of other tricks you can use to suit yourself and maximize your enjoyment when you watch something. Most of these principles applies generally and doesn’t limit itself to TV watching nor anime watching. Of course, they’re all just things to think about and may not apply in specific instances. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk; friends don’t let friends waste time watching anime you recommended to them and end up “not getting it” either.