I’ve always believed that any great work of fiction that you enjoyed the first time should definitely be watched at least a second time – the first time it’s new to you and a lot of the value comes from surprises and novelty, while the second viewing allows you to focus on things like thoroughly examining the story, characters, and writing, and seeing how well its entertainment value holds up when you already know what’s going to happen. Anime is no different in this respect and there are many titles I’ve watched over the years where my opinion did change for worse or for better upon a second viewing…
For the majority of anime I’ve watched at least a second time – which is a handful but not a lot due to lack of time and motivation to rewatch any but my favorites – usually my opinion doesn’t change at all or changes very insignificantly upon a second viewing. A few series off the top of my head that I’ve watched twice include Toradora!, Sakamichi no Apollon, Death Note, Ano Hana, Mushishi, Ouran, OreImo, and Eden of the East, and in these cases I either liked them slightly better than I did the first time or a tad bit less than I did the first time. While my change in opinion isn’t drastic for these anime, there are some series where I can pinpoint the reason for the change.
When I first watched Toradora! as it aired in 2008-2009, I was blown away, especially by the latter episodes. As I was watching it weekly I would find myself begging for more after the angst-ridden cliffhanger of each episode and the wait for the next episode each week was painful. Two years later when NISA released the series on DVD in the US, I bought their two box sets and watched the show a second time via marathon watching…and while I still liked it very much, it just didn’t blow me away and leave me begging for more after each episode like my first viewing did. And I’m pretty sure I know why; firstly, a lot of my enjoyment of the show rode on suspense and not knowing how the characters would resolve their heart-wrenching issues. So once I knew how things would turn out, watching it a second time diminished that entertainment aspect of dying to know “what happens next time?” And secondly, Toradora! does have quite a lot of angst which, taken weekly, is very engrossing, but when marathoned can be kind of too much, at least for me. So for my case with Toradora!, a couple of things that influenced my opinion upon a second viewing was lack of unpredictability like I mentioned earlier, and also, how I watched it – weekly versus marathon sessions in this case.
While my second watch of Toradora! was slightly more underwhelming than my first, my second viewing of OreImo was the opposite. When I first watched OreImo as it aired in 2010, I liked it a lot but found Kirino very distasteful, which hindered my enjoyment a bit. When I bought Aniplex’s DVD set some time later and watched the series a second time, I had already prepared myself to try to be more open-minded with Kirino and examine her character more in an attempt to see if I could like her better. And to my surprise, I found her more tolerable upon my second viewing because of that preparation. I also found myself enjoying OreImo better watching the episodes in marathon sessions rather than once a week, as I could better piece together the character changes for Kirino and the others. So unlike Toradora!, my prior knowledge of the series actually helped me enjoy OreImo more than I did the first time, as well as the switch from weekly viewing to marathon viewing.
While it rarely happens, there are some series I watched the first time that I didn’t particularly like only to end up loving upon a second viewing. As I’ve discussed on the blog before, my current favorite Haruhi is one such series. I watched it in the original non-chronological broadcast order in 2006 (after it had finished airing since I was only just starting to watch anime weekly at the time) and I thought it was okay but didn’t like all that much. It wasn’t until a year later when I watched it again in chronological order that I loved it a lot more. The reason? I would have to say because I’m much better at appreciating stories in chronological order ;) Another example like this would be Cowboy Bebop, which I watched sporadically in high school and only recently marathoned a year or so ago. I would say that the reason I enjoyed it more this time is because I myself had matured a lot as a person since I first watched it in high school and could thus better appreciate the classic style and mature themes in Bebop than I could when I was young and a less experienced anime fan.
Speaking of better appreciating anime years down the line because you yourself have changed as a person, I watched Akira one time in high school and found it very disturbing and unpleasant to watch, though I could appreciate the merits of its story. If I were to watch it a second time now, almost ten years later, I wonder if my opinion of it would be vastly different since I’ve grown up a lot as a person and as an anime fan since then. On a similar note, I watched Rozen Maiden about seven years ago, when I was still mostly accustomed to 90s/early 2000s anime and the “moe” style of characters and storytelling was strange to me, so I couldn’t get into it. So again, I wonder if I were to watch it a second time now if my opinion would be any different. And I actually haven’t yet experienced a case where I liked an anime upon first viewing but flat-out disliked it upon second viewing…but I suppose that could happen at some point =P
There are many factors that could determine why our opinions on certain anime change upon a second viewing. I’ve touched on just a few here so feel free to share your own experiences =)