Back when I first started watching anime, there was a big idea that I had kept to myself and as a reason as to never look back at what I had just experienced for too long. I was without a doubt using the medium as escapism from my life, being an edgy teenager and all, and had very little interest in looking at the medium critically at the time. I wanted nothing more than to consume a lot of new anime as fast as I could and move forward and onto the next one as soon as the first one I set my sights on have passed. Rewatching productions was at the very bottom of my list of priorities, and for awhile it was something I never wanted to do. Today however, I’ve rewatched Madoka Magica more times than I care to admit to most people and I recently finished rewatching Mirai Nikki, a show I adored when I first got into the medium, so let’s talk about a little something I’m going to be dubbing as the “rewatch dilemma”.
The rewatch dilemma, simply put, is the idea that by watching a show for a second time and therefor re-experiencing it, your opinions of it will change and often times you’ll find that you didn’t actually enjoy the show as much as you thought you did initially. It’s not a wrong idea, as logically when you observe the same thing twice it’s bound to lose a little bit of majesty the second time around, and in addition after rewatching Mirai Nikki I noticed a load of flaws I gleefully ignored the first time I watched it, but I want to suggest that perhaps the opposite is more true. Maybe after rewatching a show, you realise how much more you enjoy it than you thought you did initially.
As of writing, I’ve rewatched Studio SHAFT’s Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica a grand total of six times — seven if you include the recap movies — and rewatched Rebellion Story twice. In my opinion, Madoka Magica is still a 10 out of 10 show (at least as far as MAL is concerned, I’m against the idea of artistic perfection but that’s a topic for another day) and each time I’ve rewatched it, I found something new I adore about the series. While my view that rewatching a production is fundamentally the same, my outlook on it is a bit better, because of both Madoka Magica and a new show I talked about just last week, Little Witch Academia.
So first, I’d like to dive in to the negatives more, as I really just glossed over them, and I want to point out that for all I know I’ve just somehow only heard this problem from the few that experience it and normal people who enjoy this medium don’t have the problem at all. Without any further delay, what exactly are the negative trade offs for watching a production a second time? Folks do it with movies and TV shows all the time and those people seem to still love those things all the same, so why are we any different? First thing I want to bring up is re-analysis of a production, that is to say that the second time through we re-evaluate everything we payed close attention to last time and due to likely higher expectations the second time around there’s less for us to enjoy.
Let’s say we’re watching something fairly popular for newbies to the medium for our first time as a newbie to the medium. While any show really would do, I’m going to use Kuroshitsuji for this example. So, our first time through we love it, but instead of focusing on any of the fine details we just enjoy ourselves. From that point, the idea is that to us, Kuroshitsuji‘s current quality is preserved for us. Since we didn’t pay attention to any of the details, to us the production is just good. Then, later if we were to rewatch it but this time with more experience under our belts and a better idea of what we enjoy about productions in general, we may see the show in a different light and due to any sort of reputation we may have gathered from the show while we gained more experience, we may have expectations that the production is actually worse than when we first watched it.
Another common problem that deterred me from rewatching a show is a fear that what made the show special to us will be harder to find when we actively look for it and therefor that something special will be lost. For another example, let’s say when we watched Kuroshitsuji there was a feeling that we got that what we were watching was special in some way. Regardless of what caused it the first time, if we were to now know that feeling that the show gave us and then actively look for it, we’d be disappointed if we couldn’t find it and think lesser of the show as a result.
Overall, the problems I worried about were similar to the problem of hype that a lot of people face. Someone goes and says a specific show is the best thing they’ve ever seen and that seems to be the common consensus, but then you go into the show and get sorely disappointed. I feel like everyone has suffered from this problem at some point or another, at least from the people who would be reading this post. The problem lied in now having self-set expectations to meet and worrying when I watched the production a second time I wouldn’t have an experience the same as the one I initially had.
While this isn’t a problem to come up too often, as rewatching is a rather common practice in the western anime community, I’ve heard multiple people with this problem. Again, those multiple people may just have been the few people that actually experience this problem and I could be ranting about, but I went though all this trouble of introducing it so I might as well share what I’ve decided on as a solution. Through my several rewatches of Madoka Magica and almost enjoying it more every time through, I think I decided on an easy distinction and way to not only rewatch but just watch shows in the first place.
What I eventually settled on, without explicitly putting it down on paper to decide it like this of course, was a distinct separation between enjoyment and analyzing. For example, when I rewatched Mirai Nikki, I made sure to not let all of the flaws that were now apparent to me shine through and effect my enjoyment in a negative way. I still thought the moments that were cool, were indeed cool. I still thought the cute characters were cute. I still let the moments that were highlights for me remain as highlights so long as they were actually that and not just marked up to be that because of a differing taste I used to have — for example I used to like Yuno more than Minene but now due to my taste in characters changing, nothing more, I have the opposite opinion.
This way, if I really have to, I can point out all the flaws like how extremely ignorant the police in that world must be to let some of the things that happen in it, happen, but that didn’t effect a cool moment that highlighted a trait in a character I liked a lot and it couldn’t even come remotely close to effecting how a character appeared and whether or not I thought they looked cute. Flaws in the production didn’t take away from what I explicitly thought was enjoyable the first time around. This mindset easily fixed the two problems I had and it also applied something “new” into how I enjoyed shows.
While analyzing a show could no longer take something I once enjoyed about a show and ruin it, as the initial enjoyment was purely subjective and nothing can subtract from that, analyzing a show can add something else I enjoy to the production. While I sung it’s praises and professed my undying love to it last week, Little Witch Academia is the best example of how analyzing the production made me enjoy it more. When I rewatched Little Witch Academia, I was able to put it up to a more analytic test and when it showed that it was competent even when I was looking for flaws, that just added to my enjoyment.
Overall, the practices I picked up for thinking about rewatching shows has bled a bit into how I watch shows from time to time as well, and honestly it’s a nice mindset to have. I understand that this isn’t anything groundbreaking or unheard of, but it’s still something that’s made rewatching shows I now even agree with others to be written poorly or be riddled with flaws still be enjoyable experiences. I enjoyed these shows the first time around for a reason, and whatever that reason may be, I don’t think enjoyment is something worth worrying about losing.
This is probably the latest an editorial has come out in a long time, but hey it’s still Friday so it still counts. Thank you so much for reading this post! I really do appreciate all the people that read these and I’m always interested to see other thoughts on a topic, so if you’d like to share your view on what I discussed tonight feel free to do so with a comment! If you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not doing my part for this blog, why not follow me on Twitter as well? I don’t have much else to say about this post, so I’ll see you all next week, and perhaps a bit sooner for something I said was coming for awhile now.
The featured image for this post was drawn by ゆらん