Without a doubt, watching seasonal anime is a staple in the schedule of an active member of the western anime community. We mute hashtags for shows we watch on Twitter, catch every new episode as soon as we can, and some of us load up our anime lists with a whole slew of plan-to-watch shows right before the season begins even if we know won’t get around to all of them. Others wait to see what’s good from the season before diving in, and some people wait until the season ends to marathon the show they wanted to see the most. Seasonal shows drive this community and give us something new to talk about with every week that passes. Seasonal shows are a near requirement to feel active in this constantly breathing community. Today I want to argue something that no doubt has been discussed at least half a dozen times by people who have been in this community much longer than I have, but that I’ve never seen talked about at all despite how obvious of a topic it should be. What are the positive and negative things about watching seasonal shows and having seasonal productions drive this fanbase?
The reason I think this has to have been discussed before despite never seeing anyone talk about it is because of it’s obvious influence and place in our community. Seasonal shows are never not a discussion point. I’m yet to see a single season pass without getting asked “What shows are you watching this season?” and “What’s your favourite show this season?” At the same time, for every time I’ve been asked those questions I’ve noticed someone get burned out from anime because of seasonal shows. Which honestly isn’t surprising.
While anime is most commonly used as escapism and a look away from reality to indulge in fantasy, I’ve seen countless people burn out from the medium. With forty-five new shows beginning to air next season alone (according to AniChart) and with many people super into seasonal shows, it’s no surprise that burn out happens. This is one of the negatives of seasonal shows being the forefront of what the community bases itself on. There’s no possible way for someone to find the way to watch fifteen to seventeen hours of anime every week in order to talk to everyone in the community regardless of what show they’re watching this season while also juggling a normal life. The most shows I’ve been able to actively keep up with and finish by the conclusion of a season is seven and even then I still struggled. So then how on Earth are we supposed to be an active participant in every discussion we find ourselves in that is talking about seasonal shows?
Well, the easy answer is watch what’s popular and watch what everyone else is watching. No one is watching every show (except insane people who are willingly subjecting themselves to torture; you know who you are) so why kill yourself just to talk to people about the shows of the season? But that’s not a solution to burn out. Burn out doesn’t happen because people are insane and watch 180 hours of anime every season, burn out happens when people don’t care enough to keep up with what’s popular anymore. With fourty-five shows all going on at the same time, without caring enough or having enough time to dedicate yourself to all the popular manga publishing, and with hundreds of people all voicing what they’re excited about at the same time, sifting through everything and figuring out what’s popular and what you should watch to discuss things with everyone else gets undeniably tiring. It’s something I stopped doing awhile ago for a reason I’ll get into earlier, and it’s the reason so many people have told me they don’t watch anime as much as they used to or that they’re not into anime at all anymore.
How this is so easy to tell is the reason is because the same thing is happening in pop media. Between Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Stranger Things, and god knows what else writers at Netflix and HBO are coming out with as I write this post, the amount of streamable shows that everyone is watching is at the same time, keeping up with what’s popular is tiring; especially on top of a normal lifestyle. Luckily I care little enough to not be effected by this issue, but when I turn around and look at the community I write weekly opinion pieces for, the same damn thing is happening. I may not care about all the popular shows coming to Netflix next week, but I started watching Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon this season because it was popular and New Game! back when it was airing because it was popular, and even Re:ZERO because it was popular. As mildly relieving as it is to not be caught up in the storm of popular streamable television, I’m caught up in an equally tiresome cycle in the niche community of anime.
On top of this, we have an issue I mentioned in my post “Stop Complaining and Enjoy” in which people complain about every show coming out due to them holding it to an overly high standard. Now I say “every show” here with a bit of leeway as everyone who complains doesn’t hate every show or even complain about every show, but when a seasonal show spikes in popularity this pretty easily finds its way to the top of things people need to be arguing over. What inspired that post was a handful of people on Twitter all complaining about the same thing in the most anti-productive ways (though I can’t remember exactly what it was) and it happened so often before that post that I felt the urge to rant about how annoying it was. Seeing as the reception for that post has been, and still is, amazing something tells me I’m not alone in the department of that annoying the living hell out of me. Arguing constantly and getting annoyed constantly by other people who complain explicitly for the sake of complaining without ever offering a reason as to why something’s bad is easily something that’d drive others out from the community, while also easily being something that can be sparked consistently by the guarantee that new shows will be coming out every single quarter.
But those negative effects don’t matter when we’re growing so fast that those who leave are, in some senses, replaced. While seasonal shows cause burn out and get people to flee the community out of tire, seasonal shows also breath and unending life into this community. It’s because we can expect upwards of forty shows every season that new people can get caught in. That’s a minimum of forty shows that all have a chance of both wearing someone down and bringing someone in.
While I’d argue that the culture of seasonal shows is more of a burden than something helpful, it’s undeniably something that’s forcing growth into the community, much how I just mentioned it’s happening in pop media. Netflix is booming and major cable networks are now racing to get their hands on a streaming platform to take advantage of this growing market. With people’s lives becoming increasingly busy, addicting streamable media is becoming everyone’s primary wants, and anime just so happens to be an addicting streamable form of media.
Now that most people have access to the Internet in most places around the world, streamable media is preferable and when a medium like anime is coming out with something new every single quarter, that gives everyone something new to watch and talk about every single quarter. That means firstly, new subjects and topics for anime-based discussion will never go away at the current rate and, secondly, a consistent influx of new members of the community will remain present so long as new anime remains streamable. It’s almost relieving to know there will always be something to talk about (especially from my position where I’m supposed to talk about a new topic every week) and that at the current rate there will always be new shows to watch. In a way it’s also almost relieving that the community not only is far from dying but in a prime position to grow indefinitely. But it’s time to look back at the negatives I mentioned earlier.
Is it a good thing to have a community hyper-focused about a consistent and huge income of new productions with an impossibility to keep up with their popularity or even a fraction of the number of productions being created so rapid-fire? No. While it is relieving to have an endless well of topics and discussion points, the fact that this is one of the primary focal points in the community is problematic. Members of the community burn out in all cases that I’ve seen because of these airing shows and a failure to keep up with them. I’ve stopped caring about what’s going to air next season entirely, I don’t livetweet the shows like most other people, and I just tag along with whatever’s popular three or four weeks into the season because I don’t have the time or will to care anymore. I hardly talk about airing shows on Twitter because I don’t have the time to dedicate to consistent conversation about anime. I look out for what people are enjoying, I find what I might like, and I stick to two, maybe three shows a season now. My favourite genre is psychological, but I’ve seen more slice of life shows than anything else because they’re so guaranteed to be the same quality and to feed to the same audience. While seasonal shows are great amidst the busy world we all live in, I’d argue that focusing in on them as a primary point in our community is doing more harm than good.
Thank you all for reading today’s post! I tried out a little controversial opinion of mine (or at least I hope it’s controversial otherwise this is gonna look dumb…) this time around and I’m curious to see what everyone else thinks of this topic. Of course, seasonal shows aren’t killing anime or anything, they’re just kinda annoying to me and I thought I’d talk about that and postpone what I initially had planned for this week until next week after I see Kimi no Na wa in theatres. As always, if you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m sleeping in too late and complaining about video games, you can follow me on Twitter. I read every single comment despite not replying to… well any of them, but I’m genuinely curious about your thoughts so please share them! See you all next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by artist soyatu.