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.