Aniwords – Why You Keep Watching the Same Show Over and Over

I’m always sort of amazed how just watching one show can trigger a series of thoughts that tie a bunch of disjointed ideas together in my head. Thus it was with Hanayamata, and now here we are with a new Aniwords column on slotting in character archetypes into genre shows and why it all actually works.

Here’s the link!

The Asterisk War


5 thoughts on “Aniwords – Why You Keep Watching the Same Show Over and Over

  1. Isn’t that basically the thesis argued in Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals? That modern otaku are not interested in stories as a whole because stories are increasingly meaningless in a post-modern society and instead are looking for their shot of moe in discreet chunks, looking for those elements that interest them personally? In which case a generic show which offers just such chunks and not too much extraneous material is of course superior to a more original show that requires additional effort to get to the good bits.


    • I haven’t read Database Animals yet, but that sounds about right. You could also apply that concept to sakuga fans, as well, I suspect.

      I don’t think these two kinds of appreciate entirely disqualify someone from being capable of the other, though, which I think is an important point to remember—and one it seems people are very liable to forget.


  2. We’ve all made that post on forums or social media after we finish a really good show. No, not the long, rambling gush about how amazing it was. The “can anyone recommend me another show just like this one?” post. It’s something akin to the mere-exposure effect in psychology, I think. For those who haven’t heard that term before, it describes the tendency people have to initially distrust/dislike/reject something new and different, but over time start to like it more as they spend more time being exposed to it. Humans like to talk about being open-minded, but it takes a conscious effort to actually BE open-minded, because our natural programming is geared to seek out things that are safe, familiar, and comfortable to us. That’s true of our entertainment, too. Internet anime fans complain loudly about shows that are “too formulaic” and just doing everything they expected from it, but then they complain even more loudly when a show strays too far away from the formula and doesn’t do everything they expected from it (see 95% of the complaints about Aokana this season). This is why we get so many shows every anime season that are just small variations on the same three or four basic formulas, because even if people won’t admit that’s what they want…that’s what they want.


    • Hey, I was doing a bit of research on the mere-exposure effect while I was getting ready to write this post! Decided not to put anything about it in, though.

      And yup! There was a reason I deliberately avoided being critical of fans who consume anime this way (plus, most anime fans who are going to complain about shows being too formulaic don’t realize they don’t at all represent the main body of anime fans). We all, to a degree, just want things like other things we like—even if we don’t realize or admit it.


  3. I always get a little confused when it comes to the topic. It’s a game of similarities vs. differences. On the one extreme end we have stuff like the monomyth, or “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and on the other extreme end you have “it’s all in the execution,” and things like that. Some things are certainly easier to compare than others, and I don’t think it’s very controversial to say that a show like Humanity Has Declined is further down the uniqueness scale than, say, Kimi ni Todoke. But even there you have problems with selective attention: a small difference, for example, in a genre you like will be more significant than a comparable difference in a genre you don’t like. (On the other hand, a small difference in a genre you don’t like might make a huge difference, if – for example – it adds an entry point into a show you wouldn’t otherwise have.)

    Chivalry and Asterisk War were definitely very similar for me, to the point that watching both in the same season would have been confusing. So I dropped one (CoFK) and kept another (AW). Despite the similarities, though, my choice was not random. I definitely dropped the one I was enjoying less (and I’m quite happy I stuck with AW, since I enjoyed it more than I thought I would – I’ll be back for the second cour). One obvious reason for me to pick AW over CoFK was the character desing, but I’m sure that’s not all.

    It’s often like that with me. I can’t easily tell why I like one thing, but don’t like that other, very similar seeming thing. Why do elements annoy me in one show, but not so much in another? Why do I like A Channel, while not liking K-On! much, even though the former was certainly riding the tailwind of the latter? It’s not hypocricy (as people have suggested to me); it’s a very real difference in enjoyment – I just can’t tell where it comes from.

    It’s all a game of similarities and differences, and – at least to me – it’s not easily penetrable. The reason I give nearly everything a chance is that I can’t really predict what I’ll like or not. I mean I did predict that Rakugo will be my favourite this season, so it’s not completely blind, but I do tend to be wrong about as often as I’m right.


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