More often than not, what I decided I wanted to talk about today isn’t particularly an argument, or at the very least I’ve never seen anyone argue over it. Due to what has become more or less a common practice in more popular storytelling of starting a story after it’s prologue, often times a story is told out of order and the prologue is eventually touched on later. This becomes a little confusing for people wanting to get into a series with half a dozen entries that aired in a confusing way to get into. While the answer is never the former, a question I’ve heard a billion times is “Should I watch this in chronological order or airing order?” or even sometimes “What order do I watch this in” from time to time. So let’s talk about this question for a little.
Eventually when you get a story that likes skipping around and have confusing names for each part, there comes that point where people looking in at the series have no idea where which part goes. This is particularly a fault of the beloved Monogatari Series that have names which make airing order something I even have a hard time remembering perfectly but when people ask what order they should watch the series in, especially now that the prequel movies are out, the answer is always start with Bakemonogatari and then follow airing order. While I agree with this and see why this is the most common if not only answer to “What order should I watch this in?” when it comes to the Monogatari Series, it’s interesting to me because I don’t even know how the series would look in chronological order. If instead of starting in the middle of everything and even eventually start jumping around the timeline in a way that helps feed into the mystery of the series, what if we knew how everything happened in order? It’s a thought that’s interesting to me because I don’t know how experiencing it in chronological order would be and while the recommendation is to follow airing order, why exactly do we instinctual say that without question?
Primarily, I’m curious because of how I got into the controversial and admittedly convoluted Fate series was by starting with the Fate/Zero anime and then I went on to watch Studio DEEN’s adaptation of Fate/stay night. I didn’t know there was an order I was “supposed” to watch the series in so I just watched what I knew existed and learned it was a prequel afterwords when marking it as finished on MAL. Once I watched the original Fate/stay night and found it as severely lacking in comparison to one of ufotable’s best shows, the order I was “supposed” to watch the production in made sense. There was no way a production from four year prior was going to properly stack up against a prequel done by an animation studio that was making a name for itself with it’s absolutely gorgeous visuals and excellent adaptation of Type-Moon’s Kara no Kyoukai. As a result, the order I was “supposed” to watch the Fate anime in was starting with Fate/stay night as I imagine the production is at least a million times better without the expectation that it somehow lives up to Fate/Zero.
But then Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] TV came out, or in English ufotable’s adaptation of a different rout in the Fate/stay night visual novel. While it was an adaptation of a different rout entirely, causing the story to differ to a considerable degree, ufotable’s Unlimited Blade Works adaptation blew Studio DEEN’s adaptation completely out of the water. Now from a perspective like mine, there was no reason not to tell people to start from Fate/Zero. I haven’t out of trust that Fate fans have a reason to put the original adaptation in such high regard, but as someone who accidentally witnessed Fate in chronological order rather than airing order, I can’t help but wonder what it’s like the other way around. This isn’t to say I disliked Fate in the order I watched it, in fact I’m rather fond of Type-Moon as a whole now, but the wonder stands.
I can’t just un-witness everything I’ve seen and I can’t forget everything I’ve learned in watching both Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night, as even if I put forth a conscious effort to forget there would bound to be something to jog my memory, so there really isn’t a way for me to watch and experience Fate in airing order. That’s where the center of my curiosity spawned — why are we so quick to say watch something in a specific order when we have no way of knowing what the other order would be like and how experiencing the production in that order would vary.
While Fate has it’s specific reasoning for the order to watch the shows in, I want to go back to The Monogatari Series for a moment. When this grand saga finally concludes, would people be wrong for watching the entire series in chronological order starting from Kizumonogatari rather than Bakemonogatari? As it stands the airing order of the shows is already massively confusing to anyone unfamiliar with the series (at the time of writing: Bake, Nise, Neko, Second Season, Hana, Tsuki, Owari, Koyomi, Kizu, Owari 2) and with adding how the series likes to occasionally jump around in chronology, with Hana being the latest in the story currently and Kizu being the earliest, would it be smarter to tell people to watch The Monogatari Series in chronological order once all of the pieces of the puzzle have been granted to us? While I understand that Nisoi Isin has written many more parts to the story than we have anime adaptations and Studio SHAFT has plans to adapt anything that is added to the story so this could become too long for people who haven’t watched the show since the early days to even care after a certain point, like One Piece or Naruto, it builds off of the question “What order should I watch this show in?” in a way that makes me think.
Ultimately, it’s a question of whether or not ducking and weaving through the intricacies of airing order for more complicated stories has any sort of gain over watching something in the order in which it happened. The second book in Monogatari Series: First Season (aside from Bakemonogatari volume 2) was Kizumonogatari, so what would be lost if someone witnessing the story for the first time in an animated format started with Araragi meeting Kiss-Shot instead of Araragi catching Senjougahara? Of course, this varies from production to production, and in amnesia stories the answer is you watch it in that order because the prequel is a twist, but at large, I feel like it has to do with a desire to have people experience the same exact thing we experienced.
The more days that passed with this question rolling around in my head the more I leaned towards this answer. When we’re presented with something we love and that thing gets more and more complex, we want people to see it the way we saw it. This is an extremely prevalent mindset in YouTube or Twitch communities and is especially common with games that can be experienced completely differently depending on where you start or how you play. This happens with everything from people shaming others for not playing Undertale the same exact way as they did, or what order to play Kingdom Hearts in as for some reason playing the games in released order holds significant meaning to some people. The only difference in this situation is that the only way to make people experience a form of passive media in the exact same way as you, is to decide that watching the production in airing order is the better way to watch it.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, as a lot of the time the question of “What order do I watch this in?” is answered more calm and less demanding, it’s something that I think is interesting to look at. As a passive reaction, we already want people to experience exactly what we enjoy in the same way we enjoyed it. In addition, this whole post could be seen as me trying to get people to see watching productions in the way that I see them. Overall, I hope this was interesting at the very least.
Thank you all very much for reading this week’s editorial! I didn’t expect to take so long on coming out with a post, but the piece I wanted to work on ended up being a lot to juggle alongside other life problems. Expect a good editorial with a lot of effort put into it when the next one comes out, hopefully next week. As always, if you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not writing for this blog you can follow me on Twitter. I’d like to hear what anyone has to say about this topic so please leave any responses in the comments, I promise I read them all! See you all next post.
The featured image for this post was drawn by 東天紅