Just how often do we rewatch something, and just how much does “not knowing what happens next” drive us to certain consumer (or non-consumer) decisions? The more I think about this topic I realize two interesting notes. At first my answers to these questions merely fill out the presumed value of a bigger economics picture, but it seems that it can help answer some substantive questions as well. Like, what do well-received anime series have in common?
The questions about rewatching and why we watch/buy shows we have not seen are invariably linked, I think, because the same mechanics play in part to answer both questions. One way to look at it is a simple, common-sensical approach that a great show is worth re-watching. In some context this means you simply pull out that copy of Haibane Renmei to feed your melancholy soul on a snowing Saturday afternoon. Another context means I bought Cowboy Bebop to rewatch, partly, but also as something to have in my library so others can watch it too. At least in both instances we are making use of what people buy home videos for.
The reasons that drive us to pursuit new, unviewed material are different, it seems. Perhaps, and for many bloggers, it means to find out what is new, and to discover if this new anime is of any merit. As long as there are new anime coming out, they will naturally find its audience and people will watch new things. For some, they watch new things only because it’s “good” — on par of the old things that are “good.” (“Good” here meaning having one or more desirable attributes.) Many people decide new things to buy based on this standard. Sometimes some of us stumble upon new shows.
But the pattern that is underlined by both is a matrix between quality and sharing. To some, a pursuit for new is a qualitative matter: we hate cliffhangers and unanswered questions. To others, it’s to find more of the same: “good” shows, show with attributes we like. Also, in the process of blogging, or mapping it into the fan scene consensus, or simply talking about a show that interest you, it generates interest for that show. It brings people into awareness of its existence, and in turn, an interest to see it.
To that end, a “good” show that gets talked about all the time is de facto the show that will get watched the most. Evangelion comes to mind. A show that no one talks about, and is crap, will not get watched. I can probably name some names but that would do the really obscure and crappy show no justice.
That much is probably common sense, too. But what’s interesting now is how we could tweak the parameters of “Interest” (to denote what makes sharing likely) and “Quality” to explain some other things one sees. Like the popularity of Naruto or DBZ. Like why Kirameki Project is obscure. Like the importance of the first episode. Like the importance of sending out the “right” “vibe.” Like how to market your show to the right audience.
To me, after all this analysis, it seems to describe my anime watching habits pretty completely. The reason why I watch a lot of new TV fansubs is because “new” is a qualitative trait I look for in shows–being kept up as to what’s happening in the scene, what are the new developments. It’s also a preference towards art style, as I don’t particularly like certain styles of retro-looking animation.
What’s interesting is that shows themselves can create “Quality” elements. Watching the 16 episodes of Simoun, for example, creates a (very, very strong) desire to find out what the hell happens next. For some, the first 2 episodes of Fushigi Yuugi would have done the same, at a lesser degree. Or the first 2 episodes of Initial D. The “pilot” effect is strong when coupled with this sort of hook. Some people look for this kind of quality as a “good” thing, too. There are other responses which a work can solicit from us, that people desire. A very funny show naturally is qualified by its humor or jokes. It could even be a tongue-in-cheek sort of humor, but as a rule of thumb there aren’t too many people who can appreciate it to the extent as other more obvious traits.
There are also places where “Quality” and “Interest” overlaps. These elements, both qualitative and external to a show, are where the most excellent shows and franchises do well in. I suspect why Suzumiya Haruhi’s “perfect storm” rationale behind its massive popularity is a combination of hitting people with the right kind of qualitative traits (high production quality, good acting, suspension of belief, the right genre) and some not-so qualitative traits: such as capturing a very important, vocal segment of the fanbase; a wide approach instead of a narrow, element-based appeal; and having the right amount and right type of marketing (during a market lull to a degree).
On the “Interest” side of thing that tend to be external, we have obviously, the right kind of marketing. Samuel L. Jackson, for instance; or the name GAINAX. Shoujo is a good tag word in the North American market, as another example. Even having the right OP/ED song by the right kind of people makes a huge difference, but that might also be qualitative.
A strong fan interest kindles more fan interest. Hype begets hype. Suiseiseki is not a lonely doll but the banner of an army. VIPPERs. Dancing VIPPERs. SaiMoe. Animesuki forums. Anime conventions. Comiket. 2ch. And many others. All these are factors, “Interests” which leverage people into buying, watching, rewatching, or finding out about shows. It may be simple word-of-mouth. It could be hype. It could be just that a person sees for the first time images from a new show, and is interested.
It’s almost like double whammy, this blog entry.
Because I’m going to talk about something slightly different based on those concepts that I laid out: the effect of your non-economic decisions that may affect what you buy, what you re-watch, or some combination thereof.
Imagine if you watch a lot of anime–about 15 hours a week. Let’s further suppose that money is not a constraint: you’re doing well with enough disposable income to buy enough DVDs to fill 10 hours a week (not very hard, if you think about it); what’s left a Netflix subscription (or the like) will fill the gap. However there are plenty of shows you like and you could watch fansubs, if that’s what you want. You know where to get them. Even raws, too. The option is also there to visit a local anime club to get a few hours into your quota.
For a show that has a huge fan following starting to be aired, you read a lot about it and it piques your interest. You see the fanart and some of the promo art and you like what you see. You find the inevitable fansubs when it becomes soon available after the show started to air. Let’s call this anime Whitewashed Chemist Hikaru. You even heard that there may be a quick licensing plan for this show from a major vendor locally, who may secure its airing rights.
There’s this other show, Fate Clannon, which is coming out on DVD in your local region. You saw it fansubbed while it was on the air in Japan and you thought it was pretty entertaining as the girls were cute, guys were cool, and the story was tolerable, especially considering it was a TEROGE adaptation. Routinely you see some awesome fanart from this show because it also have a big Japanese fan base, but not so much locally.
You know this show is crap, but it occupies a special spot in your heart. Guranouta has its following, enough to warrant a healthy stream of fansubs. You don’t think it will get licensed anytime soon, but who knows this day and age? However, because you like this show so much you’re contemplating about importing as the R2 DVDs come with various bonuses that is hawt.
Lastly there’s this show that seems interesting but it takes some working-into. Simunkoku Rumble. The show is epic, serious, but dotted with memorable moments of laughter and suspense. It seems like a real committment though, with its high episode count. Both buying and watching, really. It’s questionable as to how well this show stands to rewatching, partly because it is long and partly because a lot of the hook lies in the surprise and tension each new episode brings.
Whitewashed Chemist Hikaru is a show with both high interest and quality content. Its popularity is guaranteed, and it will be well-received. Rewatchability will depend on the specifics, but there’s no worry about it either way. Fate Clannon, however, is likely to suffer the most from previews and not stand up to re-watching/purchasing for those who has seen it. The interest elements will diffuse after the interested parties fulfilled the experience, so to speak. Guranouta, OTOH, is purely interest-driven, and with sufficient interest in a topic, it can overcome any sort of the reasonable economic barrier we can foresee in the market. The problem lies with the shows that are like Simunkoku Rumble. The qualitative boon is obscured by a diluted basis of interest, coupled with a higher bar to admission because it takes some time and viewer committment for the content-generated interest to catch on.
In a way this illustrates how hard it may have seem to get a show like Fushigi Yuugi licensed. Or Twelve Kingdoms. OTOH strong pre-existing market interest necessarily means franchises in the same series tend to have weaker qualitative elements as they can get with it by merely supplementing the pre-existing good will with what they think is important to the franchise.
The end of this rant comes to looking at Kanon. In less than three week’s time we will see unfold an anime series that:
1. Has a significant pre-existing fanbase.
2. Many pure qualitative strengths (production value, voice acting, music, etc).
3. A “sequel” where the distinguishing point lies in the qualitative strengths except for “self-generated” qualitative enjoyment that comes from viewer investment in time and effort.
4. Good timing (Not completely sure with this one)
5. Not a light commitment.
6. For my purposes, a rewatch.
Good or bad? You tell me.