Some say patience is a virtue, but not these anime fans.
The barrier of entry for watching anime is extremely low in Japan these days. Unlike previous eras of expensive direct-to-video releases, almost all animation now being produced in Japan airs on free, broadcast television, so watching the newest series doesn’t require any greater commitment than turning on your TV or setting your DVR.
Given that ease of access, you might expect fans in Japan to be pretty forgiving of anime that gets off to a slow start. However, a recent survey’s participants showed themselves ready to pass judgement on a new anime at a very early stage.
Internet portal My Navi polled 213 college-age anime fans, asking them how long they’ll give a show before deciding whether or not to watch more of it. When the results were tallied, nearly half had said they’re willing to drop an anime after just one episode.
When do you decide whether or not to watch more of a new anime?
● After one episode (46.5 percent of respondents)
● After two episodes (16 percent)
● After three episodes (18.3 percent)
● After four episodes (1.4 percent)
● After five episodes (1.4 percent)
● After six or more episodes (0.9 percent)
● I always keep watching until the end of the series (15.5 percent)
By the time you account for opening and ending credits, plus commercial breaks, a single anime episode usually ends up only being about 20 minutes long. As such, more patient types might argue that just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, it’s also foolish to evaluate an anime by its opening episode. However, one could argue that in today’s anime industry, where the vast majority of series are based on a preexisting comic, novel, or video game, most viewers are coming into a new show with some measure of familiarity with the source material. For them, the anime itself isn’t something entirely new, and many may feel that after 20 minutes or so, they can make a decision as to whether or not they want to see more, based on the early adaptational choices displayed in the initial episode.
The survey also asked participants what aspect of an anime is most important in determining whether they want to see more, which garnered the following responses.
● Story (72.8 percent)
● Dialogue (10.8 percent)
● Vocal cast (5.6 percent)
● Character design (5.6 percent)
● Production quality (3.8 percent)
● Other (1.4 percent)
While it’s common for many fans of passive entertainment media to profess preference for strong narratives, it’s still kind of surprising to see character design place so low on the list, what with the iconic artwork associated with many of anime’s greatest hits. But then again, it’s important to remember that the question merely asked what the primary factor is in deciding to watch more of the anime or not. If all a show has going for it is attractive character art, the anime merchandising machine now is so developed, with a constant stream of character-based posters, figures, and pillow covers, that fans don’t really need to actually watch the show to get their fix of gazing at the character.
So should you ever land that dream job as an anime producer, keep in mind that audiences like a good story, and that you don’t want to keep them waiting very long to get the ball rolling on it.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s trying to figure out if the 18-year break he took in the middle of watching Fushigi Yugi should count as ‘dropping’ it.