Just moments ago I read this post on Observationdeck about reading books in one go vs reading it slowly. While it got me thinking about my own reading habits (which involves a severely detrimental pull list) it also got me thinking about my anime habits. After looking into which shows I actually finish and how fast that happens I found a few commonalities. So I thought I'd share a story with you guys about what I think builds a good anime.
Everyone I know watches anime for a different reason and in a different way. One friend of mine is absolutely crazy about shounen and went mental trying to predict the ending of Fate/Zero. While another friend of mine can't enjoy a show without romance and loves slice of life. Right now, I'd say I'm watching sports anime the most (after all, it's the best way to spend lunchtime).
But as you know it's not as simple as that. I hear many people complain about fan service, I see the same type of shows become the 'blockbuster shounen' of the season and have yet to see someone not enjoy a Ghibli film. This all boils down to one thing: plot.
So why is it that plot is so important? Originally I had planned to make this article a discussion about which shows you savour vs which ones you watch in one go. However, (like I do too often) I went off on a tangent and found myself musing more about why some shows fall through the cracks and others don't.
Looking at some of the more recent shows (that I can remember watching). Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Attack On Titan, Samurai Flamenco and Black Bullet are a few shows I dropped pretty soon, despite them being very interesting. After all, it's hard to argue that Attack On Titan doesn't have a fascinating premise. But when it comes down to it, that's all these shows have. A scenario (read: reason for violence) and violence. Or in the case of shows like Space Brothers it's a reason for the main character to fight for what he's fighting for (in a nonviolent manner).
Yes, I said it. Most shows nowadays are simply fan service and violence, with only a premise to back it up. While I've mentioned it before, a show needs synergy to be good. All the elements that you see in shows that have lasted through the test of time, Cowboy Bebop, Great Teacher Onizuka, Steins;Gate. All balance plot, interest, humour, tension and character growth. Too much of one of these elements, and too little of the rest leads to a bland experience.
Of course though, this is just personal taste. There's no denying Attack On Titan's success. It is possible to enjoy a show based on one element alone. Then what is it that makes shows like this so successful?
In the case of Attack On Titan, I was obsessed with it for a few days. After all, it's not that bad. The idea behind it is fascinating, humanity is on the brink of extinction and under threat by massive titans. There are many questions it asks and it keeps teasing you with answers and new questions in perfect rhythm. But that's also it's downfall. All it has is it's peculiarity. Each episode tries to beat the previous one and it get's more over the top by the minute rather than balancing it's ups and downs. (However, it's still epic, there's no denying that).
Finally, a show I love (and finally getting back to my original plan for this article). There's Urusei Yatsura. This is a show that I'm currently savouring, afraid to finish it. Urusei Yatsura (explained by io9 as the japanese Simpsons) is the perfect example of balancing ups and downs. Each episode is an individual story (however, episodes are still canon and have character development, but it could do with more of that). Most episodes are the same, an odd adventure featuring any of the characters and where anything can happen. But just when this gets bland, they throw in an episode that's different. Either serious, romantic, touching or exiting. But whatever it is, it blows your mind. Not because of how good it is. But because of the build up. And I think that's what I'm trying to get at here.
Anime in general can do with a reminder that build up is good. That you don't have to put something in every episode to keep people coming back, like fan service. That you don't have to beat the previous episode with a new cliffhanger. If you make a good show, one that's good because it's written well, people will watch it. Hell, Cowboy Bebop has neither stunning visuals nor large breasts and it's arguably the best show out there.