Pacing, I imagine, is a word fans of my reviews even prior to Anime Corps have grown to hate with a fire burning ten times greater than the sun. In every single review I’d mention pacing. When asking about my favourite shows, pacing was a big deciding factor on it’s place in my heart. Pacing to me is what the ending is to that one popular Canadian reviewer on YouTube. If the show has crappy pacing, the show itself is crappy; and for good reason. Pacing can make or break a show much more than a bad ending or a terrible start. Pacing is the reason shows like Madoka Magica and Steins;Gate are so good.
Well now that I’ve typed out the word “pacing” enough times that its starting to look like it isn’t a real word, we can answer the question of what is pacing and its extreme importance? What’s so special about it that I end up obsessing over it whenever looking at any show objectively? Pacing is how a show balances the movement of time through the show’s narrative with the exposure of the show’s exposition and conflict. Shows like Mekakucity Actors and Glasslip had awful pacing (Glasslip in general just made no sense, but that’s aside from the point); the passage of time experienced by the audience and progression through the plot didn’t make sense in accordance to the exposition we were offered and the progression against the given conflict. Rather than immersing your audience in your world and story, with poor pacing you leave them confused or disoriented. They don’t know what’s going on either because you’re going too fast or because you’re sporadically changing so often that the show is just impossible to follow. The non-existent anime, Tsukihime, is a clear example of this. The show was always moving either at snail pace or at hyper speed and that made anyone unfamiliar with the Type-Moon world beyond confused and made the whole show a disorienting mess.
Good pacing, on the other hand, can make an otherwise boring show addicting and beyond engaging to watch. The best example for this would be the Monogatari Series. Though hugely dialogue focused, the pacing and explanation through dialogue makes the show engaging. You don’t care if an entire episode is spent as one character talking for one long monologue because each character voice and piece of dialogue is properly paced. The speed at which characters talk varies from one to another, adding a level of depth and characterisation as well as a unique level of pacing that allows the audience to unconsciously change their own pacing according to what character they’re watching and listening to; it’s the most brilliant thing ever and quite honestly the perfect example of good pacing in a show.
A more accurate way to compare the effects of good pacing would be to compare Studio Deen’s Fats/stay night which aired originally in 2006, and ufotable’s Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] which aired primarily in 2014. Deen’s adaptation feels slow and grudging, you’re not as engaged in the character interactions or what’s going on, you hardly pay attention to what exposition is given to you because the show slows down before explaining something, and it never really speeds back up. Deen’s adaptation is slow and boring but it presents itself as an epic war action series. Meanwhile, ufotable’s adaptation is nicely paced, rather than getting endlessly slower and slower, the speed of what’s being presented to you always matches the intake of information or wage against the conflict. While Deen and ufotable adapted different arcs from the original story, they’re both close enough for you to compare which adaptation is better paced and feels better.
While a lot of this comes down to feeling, pacing can make or break a show. Imagine if every character in Monogatari spoke at the same speed and tone. Imagine how boring that would be; imagine how much better Mekakucity Actors would be if it used this same addictive technique.
Anyways, that’s all for today! If you like what I do here and how fancy I make my crap opinions look with my large vocabulary and arguably powerful diction torn straight out of one of Holden’s reviews; perhaps consider checking out my Twitter so you can see what my procrastination looks like in real time! Jokes and references aside, see you all tomorrow!
The featured image for this post was drawn by artist Nekosugi.