Beck & A Reviewer’s Dilemma – Live Vs Box-Set Viewing

While this really applies to everyone, I’m sure this is something many other amateur TV commenters on WordPress and abroad have thought about. I would love to hear some feedback from more seasoned reviewers on this…

At the beginning, this wasn’t something I was even remotely thinking of. When I first started watching anime and other TV series the amount of highly rated series available to me online meant that there was no need to search out anything else – I had some serious catching up to do! Also, in the digital age of sites such as Netflix and Crunchyroll it’s almost the assumption that you will be able to watch entire series at the pace you wish.

However, in the Japanese anime world the weekly live TV series – the ‘simulcast’ as it’s widely known to overseas viewers – is still much more popular than the online ‘watch every episode now’ model. While there are arguments for each side in terms of what is better, there is no doubt that the two different types make a huge difference to the experience.

This brings me to Beck, a music series from 2004 that I recently watched. The full review will feature in the next Anime Pocket Reviews, but here is an important snippet.

“For something that, I assume, aired on TV, Beck is a noticeably slower starter compared to almost any other anime series. […] It worked for me – it offered more of a slice-of-life angle and felt very natural – I just wonder if I would have stuck with it if I had to wait a week for every episode.”

This is not the first time I have thought this, but it was such a prominent thought while watching Beck that I had to start asking broader questions about my reviewing techniques. One stuck with me in particular:

Should penalties/handicaps be given to series depending on how they were consumed?

It may seem harsh at first, but let me provide the following statistics that make this question so prevalent.

In the current Culture Cove Anime Ranking, the top 7 were all watched box-set style – with every episode available at once. The only debatable ones here are numbers 1&2. I had watched the majority of Durarara (#1) before catching up to the weekly episodes at the very end of the final series, so I was already hugely invested by then. Meanwhile Attack on Titan (#2) was actually #1 after its first season, watched on Netflix, then dropped to #2 after watching the second season live weekly!

Only 7 of the top 30 anime at The Culture Cove were simulcast weekly as they aired. At the other end of the chart, three of the bottom ten, as of right now, were watched live. This points to an unfair balance towards the box-set series that occupy all of the top 7 spots, and also doesn’t include the myriad of live series that have not been reviewed at all as a result of me losing interest over the course of a couple of months.

I refer you now to APR Ep. 27.

Nana Anime PosterWhat if I had watched Nana weekly? Ranked #4 at The Culture Cove, I remember rushing through this series at lightning speed – about a month, two at most – because I loved it so much. However, it was originally a TV series. If I had watched it as it had originally been released – from April to March the following year, nearly 12 months – would I have loved it as much? No is the blunt, and almost certainly correct answer.

Acca 13 PosterOn the flip side, consider early 2017 series ACCA 13. A gorgeous series to watch with an intriguing political story, my interest began to drift as it aired over two months – I talked in my review about losing the storyline, perhaps down to watching it weekly alongside countless other series. More importantly than that: That’s 12 episodes of ACCA watched at the same speed as Nana’s 47! Is that fair?! Again, the answer has to be no. So what should happen – should I not watch Nana as a box-set to even it out? But then is that being unfair not just to Nana but to myself, wanting to watch it?

Honestly, I can’t think of an answer to give to these questions. However much the stats back it up, I can never imagine penalising a box-set series to balance it out, or giving extra marks to a simulcast series for retaining audience over the prolonged period. I think the answer lies somewhere in acknowledgment – knowing that, in Beck’s instance, the series has been given an unfair handicap (being watched at an unnatural pace) that avoided my attention being lost as it could have been if I watched it live.

In reality this is just something I wanted to get off my chest, but I’m really interested to hear what the community has to say on this one. Not just reviewers, but the general watching, TV loving audience like myself, because we all keep rankings, really! Please comment and share this, particularly if you’re into anime series like us – this is certainly a discussion worth having, and I’m interested to hear the views of more seasoned commenters!

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