Aniwords – What Makes a “Good” Season?

This week’s Aniwords is kind of fluffy (at least by my standards), but with the new season exploding in piles of new anime all around me, I think I can be forgiven by putting out a somewhat less intense effort.

KanColle

Here’s the link!

Bonus Content:

Sorry, I’m almost burned out at this point, so not much to say for bonus content this week! How about this! My favorite year of anime so far in my career has been 2013, hands down. Chihayafuru 2Monogatari SSThe Devil is a Part-Timer!, and many other shows on my top shows list are from 2013. It’s also, coincidentally or not, the year I first started watching anime seasonally—although a number of my favorites were shows I didn’t come back to until the middle of 2014.

How about you guys? Any years that have a disproportionately large number of your favorite shows?

14 thoughts on “Aniwords – What Makes a “Good” Season?

  1. Well, as I mentioned before, I’ve only recently started following new anime seasons. So the vast majority of my watching experience is still from binge watching older shows and while I like watching the new shows, I still prefer to binge watch stuff sometimes. And I haven’t given assessing seasons much thought.

    Thinking on it, it occurs to me that, at least for me, it’s easier to finish mediocre shows when I’m binge watching it and don’t have a lot of other stuff to watch. Whereas the time in between simulcast episodes makes it easier for me to lose interest in or forget about mediocre shows. It takes less momentum to keep moving from episode to episode when they’re all right in front of you than when you have to wait until next week. Which means that I actually hold shows to a higher standard when watching seasonally than when I’m just binge watching older shows one by one. And I think I’m more motivated to only seek out the best older shows to watch in the gaps between simulcasts when I’ve got plenty of good new stuff to keep up with, rather than settling for something average because I’m not sure what to watch.

    Last season was quite good for me. It gave me a few new favorites (Danmachi, OreMono, and BBB), though I ended up dropping quite a few shows because they just weren’t enjoyable enough to keep up with, which in turn gave me enough time to binge watch Soul Eater, so all in all a win I think.

    This season I’ve already got at least two shows that I want to watch for everyday of the week except Thursday and I still haven’t watched the first episodes of about 8 shows I want to try. So I’ve got LOTS of material to watch, but so far I have doubts that this season is going to produce any new favorites. Not sure if more good material outweighs a few solid favorites. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how I feel after summer ends.

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    • I pretty much started the same way you did! Mostly binge watching things—and then I discovered Attack on Titan and was lost to the weekly watching trap.

      I definitely do agree with you that seasonal anime generally feel like they get judged in a different way than stuff out of your backlog. I do wonder if I would have kept up with some of the shows I binged early on (Shakugan no Shana, Kaze no Stigma, etc.) had I been watching them week-by-week.

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  2. (1) Watchhistory

    I’ve been watching anime for nearly all my life. I grew up with World Masterpiece Shows; I watched Heidi, Girl of the Alps when it was almost new (and when so was I). My method of watching was to seek out any anime on TV or in the cinema (going to anime special screenings, when there were any). The best time to watch anime on TV was from the early 90ies to the early 2000s. During this period, some TV stations started airing anime in Japanese with subtitles. My first subbed anime was Silent Möbius. I started watching anime online in 2009, but I was mostly catching up with backlog. I’ve also been following currently airing shows, but very few. I became season-conscious during winter 2011 (when Madoka aired). Since then I typically finish 20+ shows a season.

    (2) General stuff about season evaluation:

    I’m not particularly concerned with the quality of a season, but since anime is a fairly central hobby of mine, I do find myself thinking about seasons with respect to how I’ll be spending my time. This is basically the guiding principle: is my time well spent? This is inherently subjective. Interestingly, season assessment isn’t only about watching anime, though the shows themselves are certainly the most important aspect. One question, for example, is this: will the hobby stay viable? Am I getting fed up with certain trends? Do some tropes yield diminishing returns? Questions like this aren’t directly related to the show’s entertainment value; they’re also about the timing of a show. For example, I might say things like “this is a good season for romance,” or “this is a good season for SF,” or – as I did last season – “We get lots of talking cats this season, no?”

    Basically, there are three questions that I ask myself:

    (2/1) Am I having fun?

    This is the most straightforward of all. Last season was pretty fun. Shows like Danmachi, Show by Rock, or Mikagura Gakuen are fun while the last. Shows like Hibike! Euphonium or Blood Blocade Battlefront set benchmarks for a fun experience (storytelling for Euphonium and visuals for BBB). Last season was lots of fun.

    (2/2) Do I find this season interesting?

    This is a two-pronged question: (a) are there interesting shows, or (b) are there interesting aspects (such as trends) about the season. Last season didn’t have much that interested me. There’s comparing the use of CGI in Show by Rock and Etotama (I preferred Etotama on that front, but I’d rather see no CGI at all). Broadening this into computer-generated 3D effects, I’ll have to say that I don’t welcome the trend, since I tend towards motionsickness, am slightly photo-sensitive and often “subconsciously see the math behind the rendering”. This is a severe blemish on Arslan, and some of the camera/colour work in Euphonium made me queasy. Over the last few seasons it becamse clear to me that CGI is here to stay. If it ever takes over the industry as it did in the USA, I’m out.

    There were no interesting shows I can think of right now. Winter was a much more interesting show, with Yurikuma Arashi and Junketsu no Maria for example.

    (2/3) Does this season give me experiences that means something to me personally.

    This season didn’t give me any favourite shows, but there were some shows that I grew fond of (despite not being the most fun experience of the season). The poster-book example here is Re-Kan, whose sentimentality just hit all the right spots for me (even if it’s humour rarely did, and sometimes hit all the wrong ones instead). There were some elements of otherwise forgettable shows that will stay with me, such as Shingan CrimzonZ in Show by Rock, or the relationship between Subaru and Minato in Pleiades.

    #

    Finally, there’s a fourth point that’s usually not really relevant to me, but might be crucial to others:

    (2/4) Community involvement:

    I’m really more of a loner. I have no twitter. I have no face book. I’m hanging out at one anime forum (animesuki), and in one thread on a writer forum (absolutewrite). And I occasionally reply to blog posts (see this post as an example), but generally this isn’t going to be a thing to significantly impact my enjoyment of a season. It may be a very important aspect for others (e.g. I remember your posts on yurishipping in Euphonium. So there’s basically a fourth question: do you have a good time talking about anime with others?

    #

    (3) Finally, anime season assessment comes in three stages: before, during, and after:

    (3/1) Anticipation:

    I find looking at previews immensely fun. The pick’n’mix of it. Watching trailers, etc. This season, I wasn’t particularly interested in anything, though quite a few shows looked like the might be fun. I’m tickled pink to find myself watching another season of Working!!! Yay!

    The early stages are always somewhat exciting to me, finding my bearings. What am I going to watch? Last season, for example, I was really looking forward to Plastic Memories, which ended up being a bit of a disappointment (but I still had fun watching it).

    The previewing process wasn’t as fun as usual, this season. It’s a typical wait-and-see experience. The getting-into-the-season phase is on its way, and it’s okay if not overwhelming.

    (3/2) Watching the shows:

    An underappreciated factor here is spacing. Last season had lots of fun shows, but many, many of them I watched on Saturday. I hate it when I have clusters on one day, and then a few days with pretty unexciting shows in-between. I like seasons that spread their highlights evenly across the week. (It makes sense for TV stations to cluster shows around the weekend. This really isn’t a criticism of anything; just a reminder of the fact that the spacing of shows across the season is an important factor that makes a season more or less fun for me.)

    It’s a bit silly, really, since you can just save shows for later. But I don’t like the micro-management of that. If I don’t watch a show right away, I might forget that I didn’t watch it, and then I’m confused next week, when I missed development. I tried a temporary link folder in Firefox, but that was actually more stressful than watching lots of shows at once.

    (3/3) Aftermath:

    This is mostly important during the time when I move from one season to the next, as this is when I actually compare two seasons. Basically, there are usually three seasons that are important: last season, this season, and next season. At the beginning stages of a new season, there’s a bit of a blur between “this season” and “next season”, so the next-to-last season willy typically also still serve as a point of reference. Beyond that, I tend to forget when things aired. Sometimes things will happen that sort of fix a show’s timing in your mind, like Madoka airing when that horrible Tsunami hit (which then made you wait for a long time for the finale, which involved a lot destruction…). But generally speaking, seasons stop mattering to me fairly quickly.

    What this also means is that assessing seasons is mostly a question of “Will have more/less fun in the next three month than I had this past three to six months?” Whether this was a good season or not will stop mattering pretty soon. (I find it interesting that you talked about what makes a good season, but in your post above you talked about your favourite year. I can relate to that. It’s impossible to pick a favourite season for me, when I don’t remember off-hand what aired when. Years are much easier as grouping that sticks in memory.)

    (4) So what makes a good Seasnon, then?

    A good and balanced viewing experience. A few fun shows, a few interesting shows, something that sticks with me – all spaced out evenly throughout a season. Some fun or interesting trends to keep track of help the experience, too. I’m already comparing on what Sore ga Seiyuu and Million Doll do for me, especially in the wake of Shirobako. The two most fun shows so far, apart from the obvious returners, are Shinometa and Jitsu wa Watisha We. There’s no really interesting show this season so far (with Gangsta coming closest, as I’m sort of curious where this goes). I can rely on Non Non Biyori for my weekly relaxation. There are still shows to come, but I’m not really anticipating anything. No real excitement so far. It’s an okay season.

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    • This was a super interesting read! Thanks for sharing!

      I think I’m more or less in agreement with you re: balance being important for a good season. A season packed with super adventurous/thought-provoking/intensely creative shows would be exhausting, while a season full of light fluff only would probably get a bit boring.

      Also, I really liked how you take into account more about the season than just the actual watching of shows (the build-up, the aftermath).

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  3. Posted at CR also !!

    I am of #3. Good Depth view . I probally watch more shows than most people . I can back that on your blog!

    I do think a quanity of good shows is needed beside TOP Tier . How can you have say 10 great shows and nothing else ? I think a good balance is 10 Top / 10 good to be really honest IMO

    I like how you say everybody has different interests / but there should be some agreement If 20 people have a show number 1 and 20 people hate it it still is good IMO

    A Top Tier will always have good shows so that is limited!

    So #3. Good Depth is what I use When I see people say one anime makes a season that’s like having rose colored glasses! I will watch thrash shows too !

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  4. As I think I’ve mentioned before, Fall 2014 was really my first time watching a full season of anime in “real time” instead of waiting until the shows were over and cherry-picking stuff afterwards. So I only have three full seasons under my belt to form an opinion on this question. But if you haven’t figured out from the way I arrange my rating scale into buy/stream/skip tiers, re-watchability is one of the things that’s most important to me personally in how I assess and remember a series. I’ve always liked to re-watch or re-read things that I enjoy ever since I was a kid, as my tattered paperbacks of Ender’s Game and Watership Down and my second set of Lord of the Rings books silently attest. That doesn’t mean I can’t recognize that something’s truly great and at the same time never want to see it again (the movie Lawrence of Arabia is a perfect example of that), but as a rule of thumb, if something didn’t resonate with me enough that I ever want to re-watch it, then obviously I’m not going to waste my money buying it, and therefore it gets a lower score, especially if it’s something as lengthy as a TV series that requires many hours of time invested into it. So I guess you could call that one of my primary criteria for how I place a season in context, although it’s certainly related to your #3, the depth of the list.

    By that standard, if we assign all multi-cour shows strictly to the first season I started watching it (so Joker 2, F/SN 2, Otaku Husband 2 all count towards the Fall season, but KimiUso counts towards the winter season since I didn’t pick it up until halfway through), then the best of the three seasons for me so far was spring 2015. It had seven new shows that I watched or will watch to the end out of nine started. Four of those I expect to re-watch eventually (Eupho, Food Wars, Vivid, and Pleiades), and I’m on the fence about two others (Danmachi and OreMono, not because I don’t enjoy them but because they’re both so fluffy I don’t know how much more I’d get from watching them twice). Fall comes next; I finished six new shows out of nine started. Those yielded an all-time top 5 favorite that I’ve already re-watched (Yuki Yuna), one other expected re-watch (Joker), and one on the fence (Inou Battle). Winter comes in last. I only managed to finish five shows out of eight started, with just one expected re-watch (Saekano), one on the fence (KimiUso), and one that’s still incomplete (AssClass).

    As for my favorite anime year, while I obviously haven’t looked at it in-depth, my first instinct says it would be tough to top 2006. Two of my all-time top 5 favorites came out that year (Haruhi in the spring and Kanon in the fall – ah, the golden age of KyoAni!), plus several good-to-very-good shows that I still enjoy like Rec, Air Gear, Sasami Magical Girls Club, Strawberry Panic, Le Chevalier d’Eon, and Ergo Proxy. A surprisingly large number of the shows on my backlog/PTW list also come from 2006, the best-known of which are Code Geass, Black Lagoon, and Higurashi. So basically, for me, it’s a year that would satisfy both #1 and #3 on your list, as well as my own re-watchability requirement.

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    • Yeah, rewatching is definitely an important factor for me as well. I would never buy a show that I didn’t think I would multiple times—basically an essential factor in me deciding if I’ll add a show into my top shows list, as well.

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  5. I don’t think I’ve had a bad season, so it’s hard to define what makes a season good. Last season (Spring 2015) was pretty weak in that there were shows I was watching, but only a few of them that I was actively looking forward to each week. Also, looking back there were markedly fewer shows (5) than the average (9). That contrasts with Winter 2015, which only had two more shows, but I was looking forward to almost as many as I would watch in total in Spring 2015.

    So I guess I could say that a good season has a decent number of shows that I’m looking forward to with some degree of anticipation.

    As to my favorite anime year… that’s not one I can answer. I only really started watching on a regular (seasonal) basis in the Winter 2014 season, not much more than a year ago. Before that, it was marathons of completed seasons.

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  6. I think it depends on what you watch anime for.
    Personally, I’m interested only in the shows that will leave an impression in me long after the season has finished (that obviously depends on my own tastes).
    Therefore, I tend to judge seasons by their top tier (again, subjective to my own tastes, like Shirobako and YKA in winter and Eupho in spring). But I think the other methods you mentioned are equally valid.

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  7. Here’s a (hopefully) fun little test question, for people who aren’t sure where they stand on this issue.

    Out of these two anime seasons, both at least ten years old now, which was better?

    Season A boasts three unquestioned legends on its roster. These are three of the most enduringly popular and critically acclaimed anime ever made and part of the select group of shows that even non-anime fans might have heard of. It also saw the premiere of a massive cash-cow children’s franchise, and a long-running shonen series that was fairly popular in its day, but largely forgotten now. The rest of this season has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

    Season B saw the premiere of one of the most famous long-running shounen franchises of all time, but it’s the only “household name” on the roster. It did, however, see the premieres of 10-12 other shows that are fondly remembered by their fans and often favorably reviewed by anime critics – a few even made Toonami’s lineup back in the day. None of them ever achieved critical mass beyond the anime fandom, though, at least in the west.

    So which sounds like the better season to you? Season A, with three of the greatest anime of all time, two other major franchise launchers, and absolutely nothing else? Or season B, with one major franchise launcher and a very deep roster of second-tier otaku favorites, but nothing that belongs in the “greatest anime ever” conversation?

    Once you’ve decided, check and see which season you preferred:
    Season A
    Season B

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    • I’ve pondered on this, and I honestly don’t think your question is relevant. Bless is asking based on your personal experience, what makes a good season?, you’re asking based on the judgement of history and popularity, what makes a good season?. Two entirely different things.

      For the record, I could only identify two “unquestioned legends” in Season A, one of which is one of my highest rated series ever – the other I loathed so much I dropped it halfway through the second ep when Crunchy added it to their catalog last year.

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      • That’s absolutely true, but the way a person tends to lean in responding to that question is likely to be revealing of how they would approach comparing seasons that they DO have personal experience with. It’s a method of using logical reasoning to learn something about your own subjective preferences, whether your thought process leads you to conclude that the very top-heavy season or the much deeper season, at least on paper, is the better one.

        Anyway, the super trio of Season A is Bebop, Trigun, and Cardcaptor Sakura (which I assume is the one you hated, since it’s the only one of the three that’s on CR).

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