The significance of the second viewing

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 =)

27 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Myna says:

    You already rewatched Apollon? My goodness.

    The first time I watched Nanoha A’s, my favorite season of the series, I wasn’t a huge fan of it, still preferring the first season. The main reason was because I wasn’t too fond of one of the primary new characters, Hayate. But as I watched StrikerS, the worst season to me, I grew to like her. So I liked A’s more because my opinion of Hayate changed for the better.

    The same can be said for Last Exile and Tatiana. Fucking loved her in Fam, the Silver Wing.

    I think I grow to love Utena even more upon each rematch because I always pick up on something I never noticed before. I’m halfway through my second viewing of Heartcatch! Precure, and I’m loving it even more than I did before. Definitely, along with Madoka, one of the best mahou shoujo series to air in the past couple of years.

    I can’t think of a cast where my opinion of a show worsened upon rewatch, but then again I only rewatch shows that I absolutely love.

    • Yumeka says:

      The reason I rewatched Apollon so soon is because I thought it would be a series my mom would like so I wanted to watch it again with her when I found a chance. And she did like it =)

      I think a favorite series is one you can watch over and over and it gets better every time, which is the case with you and Utena ;) (and something I plan to discuss more in a future post). I’ve rewatched Madoka a few times and it also gets better upon each viewing.

      I too haven’t had a case where I end up disliking a show I liked upon first viewing, but like you, I rarely rewatch anything but shows I particularly like.

  2. Shikon says:

    I keep meaning to re-watch death note but have yet to get around to it.

    Like you I find myself lacking the time and motivation to re-watch most series which I usually just download and marathon watch, but there have been a few series that I’ve watched a second time and really enjoyed it just as much or even more than the first time. To name a few: Darker than Black, Fate/Stay Night, and Soul Eater. In the case of Darker than Black a second viewing really allowed me to focus more on the character development and appreciate the dark setting of the anime rather than trying to understand all the different factions and what was going on in the story. When I watch a series a second time it always seems more relaxing and casual to me, mainly because I have a firm grasp on the story and can truly appreciate some of the elements which I looked over or didn’t give much thought to on my first viewing. I’ve re-watched very few anime but out of the ones I’ve listed I cant say my opinions have ever worsened, of course the only series I watch a second time are the ones that I love the most =)

    I actually just finished watching the whole Haruhi series a few days ago and I believe that it deserves a second viewing. I watched the episodes the way they aired and I have to say I was a bit skeptical at the beginning but I quickly grew to love and appreciate the characters and the story ( which is original to say the least).

    • Yumeka says:

      Darker Than Black (season 1) is another series I’ve watched exactly twice and I did like it a bit better the second time ;)

      “Casual” is a good word to describe a second viewing; since you already know what’s going to happen, you can focus on other things you may have overlooked since the basics are now familiar to you.

      Glad to hear you liked Haruhi ^_^ Yeah, definitely watch it in the chronological order on your second viewing.

      • Shikon says:

        Yeah season 1 was a masterpiece in my opinion, I loved it. Season 2 ( despite all its criticism) was pretty good, I think it deserves a second watching as well =P

  3. Kal says:

    I’ve re-watched a few series, 2 or even 3 times. And I like them better the subsequent times :) Well, I only re-watch series that I really liked the 1st time around. If there is a series I was not particularly fond of, I’ll probably will not rewatch.

    While I have a pretty good memory for details, There are a few things I forget from one week to another. So marathoning a series is usually better for me. I get to analyze it more, details stick more, so the experience is a lot better for me. Even with angst heavy series (I’ve marathoned Clannad twice) :)

    I had problems starting Haruhi. Episode 0 (which is the “movie”) was a big turn off. And then on the 4th episode when it started going out of order, I just had to stop, and get the proper order to watch it properly. I loved it afterwards, and rewatched it as well, but it was hard to start. I watched Rozen Maiden recently, and I think it was pretty decent. Did you know there is a 3rd season coming? Read that news somewhere.

    Anyway, to me there is great significance in rewatching something I love. And it is usually for the better, and not worse. Like you, I have not had any series that I dislike after a 2nd watch. I usually end up liking it more, but I do avoid series I did not like much the 1st time through.

    • Yumeka says:

      I think being able to watch a series as it airs – especially the ones that create a huge buzz like Haruhi and Madoka – and then watching it via marathon for your second viewing, lets you experience it in two very different but significant ways =) I’ve done that with a handful of shows and it’s great noticing things about them on the second watch that I either forgot about or missed during the first, weekly viewing.

      I head about the 3rd season of Rozen Maiden. I guess I should rewatch the first at some point so I can get caught up XD

  4. chikorita157 says:

    Generally, my opinion hasn’t really changed during the rewatch of some anime (out of the shows I rewatched, I only really did it to Kanon and also Clannad (both seasons) because of the added English dub voices). Surprisingly, the experience is pretty much the same, but the emotional impact was lessened since I knew what happened already, but it did gave me a different perspective on the show. I done a 2nd rewatch of Clannad After Story and wrote a series of posts giving further analysis that I haven’t covered on my first round of blogging back in 2009. But, I think it largely depends on the show as my opinions don’t usually change for my favorite shows (I did a rewatch of Idolmaster as a live watch with other people in the blogosphere a few months ago and my opinion of the show essentially remained the same like it did when I finished it in December of last year) . But my experience is pretty limited as I don’t usually rewatch shows a second time because of time constraints with college work.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, sometimes when you already know what’s going to happen in a show, especially a drama-heavy one like Clannad, emotional impact can be lost upon a second viewing. But the best shows are the ones that can keep you engrossed and tug at your emotions even when you know what’s coming, and I think Clannad AS is an anime like that. I have yet to watch it a second time myself but I plan to eventually XD

  5. Frootytooty says:

    I haven’t rewatched any series completely, since there’s always new stuff to watch, but I have read a few favorite books over and over and I can relate to what you’ve said. The first time you’re blown away by its excellence as a whole, but upon further rereading you start to see its faults. On the other hand, you might also pick up new things that you missed the first time that make you love it even more.

    As for the series you mentioned, I watched them fairly continuously and hence my first impression is perhaps a bit different. With Toradora!, I noticed on my first watch what you noticed on your marathoned 2nd watch, in that there was just way too much angst which got boring fast. And for Haruhi, I had all the episodes when I started watching so I was able to start by watching it in chronological order (and hence enjoying it greatly).

    It seems that the way you take in the material can have a pretty strong impact on your enjoyment of said material, whether you realize it at the time or not. Hence, rewatching can be a good way to ‘rediscover’ series that you thought you liked/disliked but actually dislike/like.

    • Yumeka says:

      Most books I’ve read a second time I end up liking more than the first…maybe that’s because the words in books don’t stick in my mind as well as visual mediums so when I read them again, they’re almost like new. But again, I haven’t reread many books besides my favorites =P

      I think Haruhi is best watched in chronological order first, and if someone enjoys it enough that way, they can then watch it again out of order and experience it the original broadcast way. Being aired non-chronologically was a great ploy by KyoAni for when the show first aired weekly and few people knew anything about it. Now that it’s been around for a long time and the chronological order is available, I think that’s the best way for new fans to go =P

  6. LovelyAngel says:

    There are a lot of shows that I watch where I feel that one viewing is enough. But my favorite shows I watch over and over. Usually these shows do a lot of subtle foreshadowing that goes undetected the first time around. Other shows are simply executed so well that repeat viewings are never tiresome. I think Madoka, Gunbuster, and Koko wa Greenwood I’ve watched at least five times. Kyoukaisen-jou no Horizon is approaching that. Horizon is filled with foreshadowing – but also it’s so complicated that repeat viewings are almost necessary. Shows that have lots of small details that are discovered in subsequent viewings are the best. I rewatch shows that I love, and I tend to love them even more afterwards.

    • Yumeka says:

      Heh, what you’re saying about repeated rewatching of favorites is something I plan to write about in a future post actually XD But yeah, shows filled with subtleties make good rewatches – a first watch for the experience and a second watch for the examining =P Like you, I feel that once is enough for most anime I watch. But if a show really struck a chord with me, I’ll try to find time to watch it again to see if it holds up a second time and I wasn’t simply blown away by the newness of it.

  7. Fadeway says:

    I’m a huge fan of re-. Books I like, I reread. Books that contain useful info, I often read years before I’d need that info, just so I can reread them again when I actually need it. In fact, I’m currently going through a huge amount (there’s gotta be more than 40 hours of audio there) of podcasts on management and career guidance, even though I’m only finishing my last year of hs – I’ll probably listen to them again at some point in college, and then again when I actually need them.

    Similarly with anime – I’ve rewatched between a quarter and a third of the 500 shows on my MAL, some 3+ times, and I plan to rewatch all of them, including those I didn’t like or those I’ve already rewatched. My only criterion for rewatching is that I restrict myself to shows I’ve last seen a year ago, or, if I really can’t help it, six months ago. Hence, my favorite show ever, Madoka, only has a single rewatch.

    I have a slight issue with rewatching in that my appreciation of a series almost always decreases as a result, and this is contrary to my observation that even the worse shows often have some sort of foreshadowing that is overlooked on the first watch. It’s just that the minor tidbits you discover (whoa, Lelouch was dropping hints about his intentions in CG2’s last episode through the latter half of, if not most of, R2!) can never be big enough to counter the loss of suspension, impact, etc. It’s also part of why I love leaving as much space as possible between rewatches – the more I forget, the more I’ll remember and be surprised about.

    I have rewatched Haruhi twice. Still can’t find any exceptional value in that show, and E8 only applies the coup de grace.

    • Yumeka says:

      Wow, that’s some great planning ahead there =D It’s good that your rereading all those books and rewatching all that anime now, since you may not have that kind of time later in life with college and full time jobs.

      That’s interesting that you make yourself wait 6-12 months for a rewatch of an anime. If I find an anime I love upon first viewing, I rarely want to wait that long before I watch it a second time ^^,,, But I can see an advantage of waiting a year to watch something – the novelty and hype will most likely die down by then, plus it won’t be as fresh in your mind, so you’ll have less bias when you watch it again. But yeah, that loss of suspense can be a downer, but not too much depending on the show. I recently rewatched both seasons of Code Geass and liked them roughly as much as I did the first time, but perhaps for different reasons since a lot of the suspense was gone (and strangely I liked season 1 better than season 2, which was the opposite of how I felt the first time).

      Well, I can understand that Haruhi isn’t for everyone. I’ve discussed a few times on the blog about why E8 was made the way it was, but you can always skip all but the last E8 to make the viewing experience less hectic.

  8. Cytrus says:

    The first time I watched Saki, I watched it all backwards for no real reason (I was bored and picked the first show that came up on the streaming site starting from the last episode uploaded at the time, then continued backwards after getting hooked). It didn’t make much sense, of course, but there was something about it that had me keep coming back.

    A couple years later, I would watch the show again, having picked up mahjong along the way and learned more about my own anime tastes. It was incredibly fun the second time around. Instead of suspense, I could enjoy the execution and analyze the scenes from a mahjong perspective. I’ll probably be watching it a third time sometime in the future.

    Another rewatch I remember was Kanon 2006, one of my favorite series. The first time around, I was watching it raw, with limited Japanese ability, but I finally cracked and started downloading subs around ep. 10 when the drama started getting thicker. A few years later, I was like “I have time to waste, let’s rewatch Kanon” and I decided to watch 2-3 episodes at a time. It worked fine for that ten first episodes, but then I was hooked and had to finish everything in one go xD. Your favorite series just have this kind of effect on you xD.

    On the other hand, I watched Cowboy Bebop as a kid, found it fine, sometimes boring, then rewatched it as as an adult and found it fine, sometimes boring. Go figure.

    • Yumeka says:

      Wow, I’ve never heard of watching an anime backwards XD But yeah, definitely watching it that way the first time will give you a different opinion if you watch it the “right way” the second time.

      I’m anal about wanting to understand everything that’s said in an anime, so even with my intermediate Japanese ability, I rarely watch anything raw besides Pokemon and a couple other kids anime that are easy to understand. I’ve never rewatched the episode I watched raw though. The only time I did that was for the 2009 airing of Haruhi, where I watched the live stream raw and subs later, but I had already read the novels so I knew what was going on in the episodes anyway =P

      • Cytrus says:

        I’m quite anal about that one, too. Which often made me go subs over raws. But if you really think about it, going subs is like giving up 20% of the subtleties without a fight. Subbers are doing a great job, but they aren’t perfect (most of them not being professionals, either).

  9. Adziu says:

    I’m very much looking forward to the new Rozen Maiden. I’m one of the only people I know still following the manga, and I’ve always loved the anime.

    As to second viewings, I very very rarely go back to revisit anything, and if I do it’s usually for a few episodes to show to someone else, so that they can know if they want to pick it up or not. About the only times I’ve rewatched something is if I’ve tried to remember something about the plot and completely forgotten it (KonoMimi was one of these, and Soukyuu no Fafner to a lesser extent) or if I’ve stopped watching midway but want to continue, but have forgotten the details (Gunslinger Girls s2, Zetsubou-sensei, Nanoha A’s).

    Generally I have a very good memory for stories, so I don’t feel the need to go back and revisit. I have to say that a major part of this, though, is no longer seeking out active fandom discussions during the airing of a show. I used to love discussing things week-in, week-out with people, but this would totally colour my impressions so that when I actually stopped to think, I realised I was far too influenced by other people’s judgement. This happened most obviously with Mai-Otome, which was much better watched without people’s crazy speculation. I guess this is similar to what you experienced with ToraDora.

    This is also in part because I have a huge backlog of things to watch and only watch two or three current shows in each season now, catching up with other interesting ones later, but I honestly only rarely find shows that make me want to keep downloading and watching right away these days.

    • Yumeka says:

      I know there are some people who rarely rewatch things, even their favorites. It’s strange to me not to want to watch something you love over and over, but that’s just me =P You watch/read/play a ton of media titles so I can understand having limited time and motivation to rewatch things.

      I do get influenced by speculation and opinions about new shows among the anime online community, but for me that’s part of the fun of it. Seeing the fan reaction in real time and being able to discuss shows weekly with people is great. Even if my thoughts are influenced by it at times, I can still get an idea of whether I truly liked something or not and can always rewatch it again if I feel like I need a fresh perspective.

      • Adziu says:

        There are a couple of titles I’ll happily go back to again and again, usually with others. Azumanga Daioh is probably the one I’ll whimsically put on most often.

  10. starsamaria says:

    I rewatch series all the time – I must have seen Kodocha 34769028 times. Approximately. I actually don’t understand how people don’t rewatch their favorite series – I’m the type of person who would prefer to spend time with something I know I love than trying out a new series I may not be as fond of. Aside from falling in love with the characters and their relationships all over again, one reason I enjoy rewatching anime is to pick up on little pieces of foreshadowing or character development I didn’t notice the first time. And sometimes knowing the ending of a series affects how you see a series when you rewatch it – for example, you may find your viewing experience bittersweet when watching a series with a sad ending.

    • Yumeka says:

      Good thoughts about the merits of rewatching and I definitely feel the same way =) I’ve rewatched my favorites many times (something I plan to touch on in a future post actually) and I always pick up on subtleties I didn’t notice the first time. For “deep,” complex series, I often get something new out of them each time I rewatch because I’m a slightly different person upon each viewing =) I also find myself falling in love with the story and characters again when I revisit a series I watched a long time before and my memories of it aren’t totally clear upon second viewing. If I thought a series was truly great when I first watched it, chances are I’ll think it’s even better, or at least just as great, when I watch it again =)

  11. Kamille says:

    I watched Oreimo once and thought it was enough. I didn’t even watched the last 2 or 3 episodes because to me anime like these are just a pointless waste of time. There is no story in it, just characters going through a bunch of tacky/forced situations. The moe grabbed me for a while but it soon worn off….

    Toradora? Now that’s a masterpiece of an anime just like Zeta Gundam.

  12. The Kenosha Kid says:

    “Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader.”—Vladimir Nabokov

    A good story can be more than a moment’s entertainment. It can be something that we live with, and find something valuable in over and over again.

    On first rewatch, we are no longer held captive by the first-time demands of plotting and surprise; it becomes a lot easier to focus on elements of characterization and thematic development (among others), and these are the sorts of elements that give a work staying power.

    And when we first rewatch, we also for the first time have an idea of where the work ends up. We can appreciate each moment not just as the newest moment, and where will it go next? but instead as part of a larger whole. It gives us perspective.

    One can only watch something for the first time once. One can only be surprised once. But one can rewatch and relearn over and over again. So the second viewing is really the first rewatch—the first time we can really get an idea of what a work might have to offer us in the long run.

    Granted, I don’t rewatch or reread nearly as often as I say I ought to, but I do believe it’s an important principle. And I don’t always have to dive in headfirst—I can just get my toes wet from time to time by rewatching an episode or two, rereading a chapter or two.

  13. Kai says:

    I see that most of the shows you watched a second time are mostly simple shows (perhaps except for Death Note), for me I prefer to watch shows I couldn’t fully understand the first time. Evangelion for example, I watched the series for two times + extensive wiki-ing and I still don’t think I had yet to fully comprehend it, what a complex show that is ;p I also might be thinking of watching the Ghost in the Shell series a second time.

    For masterpieces anime like Toradora and Gintama, I don’t think any reason is needed for a rewatch (which I did), whether or not it be simple, or not ;)

  14. froggykun says:

    It’s always valuable to rewatch something. It always tends to level out your feelings about it. You might start out adoring something but in the second viewing the novelty wears off. Or you might dislike it or feel indifferent and then you end up liking it a lot because you can see where the writers are coming from a bit better. I actually really disliked Code Geass when I first watched it, but now it’s my favourite anime of all time. Sometimes, things just take a while to grow on you and you don’t realise it until you revisit it.

    Good post. It’s hard to know which factor is the most significant when it comes to why you tend to see things differently on second viewing, but there’s always value in rewatching something precisely because things will always be a little different the next time round.

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