Watching anime alone vs watching it with others

The most common way the anime fans I know watch anime, myself included, is by themselves. But there are certain occasions where fans watch anime in groups, whether with just one or a few other people at a weekend get-together with friends or family, or with tons of other people at a big gathering like a convention or an anime club. Though I usually watch anime by myself, I’ve of course watched it with others many times over the years as well, and it’s interesting to think about how the viewing experience is different for each…

Even though I’d say 80% of the time I’ve spent watching anime throughout my life has been by myself, I’m not against watching it with others and actually quite like sharing it with friends and family who are fans themselves, or at least open-minded enough to enjoy it. One reason I tend to watch it alone is simply because I only have a handful of friends in real life who would want to watch it with me and we don’t have time to get together that often…and when we do, we’d rather spend that time doing other activities like playing games or going to fun places. The only family I really have is my mom, and I have shown her many anime over years. But her tastes are kind of particular so I have to cherry pick series for her that I’ve already watched, and again, it’s just hard to find time to watch anime with her as well as keep up with my weekly shows. I do it on occasion if a series comes along that I think she’ll like, but it’s more difficult now that I work semi-full time or back when I was a full time student at university. Speaking of uni, I used to watch anime with other people at least once a week back when I was at college and even high school and was in anime clubs. But without that anymore, the only times I’ll watch it in a large group now is maybe once a year at conventions, if I even attend any anime viewing events that is.

But actually, besides lack of free time for me and my friends, the main reason I don’t watch anime with others much is because I’m picky about which series I want to watch in such a setting. This may sound strange but I really don’t like watching anime I’ve never seen before with another person. When it comes to watching a new series, I much prefer watching it by myself. As for why this is, I would say because when I’m by myself, I can really focus on it. Since watching anime is such a spiritual experience for me, being such a big fan and all, I want every new series I watch to get my total attention at least one time through, as well as my complete individual thoughts and feelings, not influenced by anyone around me. This is also why I don’t watch anime “on the go” such as at work, school, or other public places full of noise and distractions. While it’s easier to laugh and share in emotions with anime when you’re watching it with others, that also takes away from how you may personally view it. You might miss a nuance, subtlety, or line of dialogue during an episode if you’re busy talking with your friends while watching it. But I’m not totally strict about this or anything though. If a friend really wants to show me an episode or two of an anime they think I’ll like, or an anime movie I haven’t seen before, I’ll watch it with them. It’s just not my preferred way of watching a new anime.

Which ultimately brings us to how the two ways of viewing anime lead to a different experience. Despite what I just said in the previous paragraph, I really like watching anime with other people…as long as it’s a series I’ve already watched one time by myself. Once I know I’ve given that anime my undivided attention at least once, I’ll gladly watch it again with others to experience it differently (as long as it’s a series I liked enough to want to watch again XD) When I watch it with friends, even if we’re quiet while we watch it, I think about what they may find funny, cute, stupid, annoying, sad, etc., throughout the episode or movie and how my opinions compare. Of course we may comment on things from time to time, laugh out loud at certain things, groan at certain things, debate about things…basically I get to see the anime again through someone else’s eyes, and that’s enriching. If you know the person well, if they’re a close friend or family member, you know where they’re coming from in terms of those opinions, and that’s an overall different experience than discussing the anime online with people you don’t know. And we all know how fun it is when we get to show an anime we really like to someone who’s never seen it before. It’s a great thrill if they end up loving it too, or a harsh blow if they don’t like it. But either way, it lends something to our holistic view of that anime.

And even among watching anime with other people, there’s also a difference between watching it in a small group of friends versus watching it with a large group of strangers, such as at a convention. Compared to what I just discussed about watching anime with people you know, watching anime as someone anonymous in a large group isn’t too much different from watching it by yourself. When you watch anime in a theater-like setting where you don’t know anyone around you other than the fact that they’re anime fans too, the viewing experience can be just as private as watching it alone in your room. The main difference is those certain people in the audience who laugh, “ooo” and “aww,” shout commentary, etc., which can influence you. For example, if a bunch of people roar with laughter at something that you didn’t think was that funny, you may be compelled to laugh too because, well, laughter is contagious. There’s some anime I watched for the first time in anime club – Cowboy Bebop, Gurren Lagann, Seirei no Moribito, Seto no Hanayome, and Claymore to name a few. It was really fun watching them with other fans and hearing their hilarious reactions and randomly shouted comments on things that happened. But for the series I only watched this way and never watched by myself, I have to wonder how my feelings for them would differ if I gave them the “viewing alone” treatment.

Watching anime with others, whether it’s friends or random other anime fans, is a fun experience every fan should try at least once, but it’s also different from watching it quietly alone. Even though I prefer watching new anime by myself, I think you can bring out the best in any anime by experiencing it both ways ;)

27 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Fadeway says:

    Up until last year, I watched everything by myself. Then I joined SCCSAV, where we have weekly groupwatches over skype. A great benefit from this is that I watched a lot of good shows I hadn’t even heard of before. Further, I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but it turns out I find group watches much more fun than solo watching, no matter the show. I didn’t expect this – I even wondered if I should join SCCSAV in the first place, since I’m usually a strong introvert and didn’t expect I’d enjoy a groupwatch.

    This is the feeling I get from a lot of my friends too – since I love groupwatching, I’ve asked many of them to watch any anime they’d like with me. For those who don’t like anime, I’ve asked them to recommend me a movie (since I don’t normally watch live-action). The reaction of most is “Why would you want to watch something over skype?”.

    • Yumeka says:

      I’ve never skyped so I can’t comment on that experience. I would like to try it though ;) One of these days when I feel like spending money on a webcam and microphone, I’ll see about it. Though one thing I used to do when I was younger is watch anime with a friend over the phone – where we’d watch the same show on our TVs at home and talk about it over the phone while we watched. That was fun in its own silly way XD

  2. Hogart says:

    Watching anime (or other things) with my wife or a friend is one of the small joys in my life. You not only get the MST3K effect, but you also gain their insights into it. This can drastically increase our enjoyment of a decent-to-awful show, because we can have fun criticizing it in positive and negative ways. That said, it’s tougher when it’s a show we’re both engaged in; then it becomes a case of waiting for the end of the episode to rush out your thoughts.

    • Yumeka says:

      I know some of the people in my old anime club would watch bad anime just to make fun of them. That’s certainly something that doesn’t really work watching by yourself, and it’s probably the only way to bring out the good in a bad anime =P And yeah, when it comes to group watching really good, engaging shows, I noticed that the crowd remained silent during most of the episode, then as soon as the end credits rolled, everyone would start talking and commenting about it.

  3. Dorry-kun says:

    I watch a some shows with my girlfriend and about as much by myself. While I have to wait for her to watch the latter, which can be a bit frustrating since she’s a busy girl, sometimes she chooses anime I would never watch. This happened with Chuunibyou. Were I watching it alone, I wouldn’t have finished it. Actually I probably wouldn’t even have started it.
    Anyways, even when watching anime together we rarely talk about our opinions on the episodes. ^^;

    • Yumeka says:

      Usually when I watch anime with just one other friend, we’re pretty silent, besides snickering at a funny part here and there. I think some people just like to silently “soak in” what they’re watching while others like to vocally engage with it.

      There’s some anime friends have lent me that I never would have watched otherwise. But still, I watched all their DVDs by myself rather than watching it with them (even if I wanted to, it would take forever for us to find the time to do it).

  4. chikorita157 says:

    Since I never joined an Anime Club, I watch Anime most of the time alone. However, back in 2011, I did watch Anime with other people online. It was fun and all, but it mostly depends on the people who are participating too. Sometimes, I would rather watch things alone, but I think it’s a good social experience and you can add your input once the episode ends.

    • Yumeka says:

      I remember you doing that anime skype-watching thing a while ago. I wouldn’t mind trying that sometime if I ever get a hold of a microphone and webcam. Whenever you get around to going to a convention, try watching an episode or two of an anime in one of the viewing rooms and see how the experience is =)

  5. CoolCARTGuy says:

    I always watch anime alone for a couple reasons. First, there’s nobody I know in real life whom I have contact with enough or interested enough in anime for them to join me. Second, most of my interests are pursued in solitude, from NASCAR to Football stats to anime and manga. In fact, the only thing that I’m interested in that I do share openly is my fascination with the social sciences (namely psychology and sociology) and critiquing pop culture.

    Even with nobody around to share with, watching anime alone can still be quite fun; I should seriously start a “Potatoes are Love” meme based on Sasha’s introduction in Attack on Titan where she is scolded for eating a potato by an army official and offers him half before the scene cuts away to her running laps.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, lack of real life friends to share in the hobby is probably the main reason a lot of people watch anime by themselves more often, even those who like watching it with others. I can see lack of time being a factor too – even if you have friends that are fans too, it’s hard finding time to get together with them to watch it, especially if they live a distance away from you or are busy with work or school. So yeah, you just got to make the viewing-alone experience as fun as you can =)

  6. froggykun says:

    I love watching anime with my friends, but there is a lot of anime that would be way too embarrassing to watch in the company of others, like ecchi stuff.

    As a rule, I think popular action or comedy shows are best watched in company, while the risque or the more intellectual anime series that requires more concentration to understand are best watched alone. Good point about wanting to have the first exposure alone so you can absorb the anime privately. I feel like that a lot myself, but I didn’t know how to articulate it.

    • Yumeka says:

      Since I don’t watch ecchi, I can’t really think of any anime I’d be embarrassed to watch with another anime fan. As for anime I’d be embarrassed to watch with someone who’s not a fan, there are some, but more because I don’t think they’d “get it” (like an average American watching a slice-of-life moe anime) than because I’d be embarrassed. Of course, it depends on the person I’m watching it with and whether I know their tastes or how open-minded they are.

      Definitely agree that action and comedy shows are best watched in groups simply because of all the laughs and “Oh crap!” moments they tend to bring out. Intellectual shows are best watched in silence first so as not to miss anything, and then discussed afterwards ;)

  7. jimmy says:

    I watch anime alone typically (with the sheer volume I consume, it would be impractical to organise group viewing, for a start) but my roommates and I occasionally watch a good show together (Code Geass and Princess Jellyfish, for example) and watch one show a season together on average, typically a sequel to a series we’ve liked – Fate/zero, YuruYuri, this season it’s Attack on Titan and OreImo. I don’t know if it adds anything in particular to the experience of the anime, but it’s an enjoyable way to spend time with my friends. I agree that the genre is important – action and comedy or series with otherwise strong entertainment value work the best, while a more intellectual series like Serial Experiments Lain or Legend of the Galactic Heroes would kind of not work. I tried watching Boku no Pico with these same roommates, but the guy apparently couldn’t get past the whole “man-on-boy” thing and found it “gross”. A shame, really.

    “For example, if a bunch of people roar with laughter at something that you didn’t think was that funny, you may be compelled to laugh too because, well, laughter is contagious.”
    I disagree, I hate the sound of people laughing at something I thought was lame and shitty. It was probably half of why I didn’t enjoy watching The Avengers very much.
    “It was really fun watching them with other fans and hearing their hilarious reactions and randomly shouted comments on things that happened.”

    I can’t agree with this either. Most “hilarious” and “random” things people have shouted out while I’ve been watching things in a group situation have been very unfunny and totally detracted from the experience. It’s like your MST3K example, except they’re particularly unintelligent children. It’s the sole reason I don’t watch things with my anime club, I can’t enjoy garbage-tier humour when I’m trying to watch a show. (It’s especially annoying when the show is already a comedy.)

    Now, a group anime experience that was fantastic was watching Wolf Children in the cinema with a Q&A session afterwards with the director Mamoru Hosoda. So yeah, if you get the experience to watch an anime with the original creator, do it.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, anime with an emphasis on entertainment value – comedies and action shows – are great fun to watch in groups. But intellectual-heavy, artistically-inclined shows that require concentration and individual interpretation don’t benefit much from a group watch.

      I totally get what you mean about people shouting out stupid comments when watching anime in a group setting. I’ve certainly heard my share of such comments, but at the same time, I’ve had quite a lot of good laughs at some of those comments too. I guess the bad ones are just easy enough for me to ignore. And I guess people laughing at something I didn’t find funny doesn’t bother me much because I don’t mind if someone thought it was funny – unless it’s something that wasn’t supposed to be funny to begin with.

  8. Kal says:

    I think the same way. When watching new anime, I prefer to watch it by myself. So I can pay attention to it, and understand what is going on. I do not have a group of people to watch anime with anyway. I will sometimes watch anime with my cousin sometimes, and I give some specific anime for my dad to watch, but I really prefer to watch it by myself for the first time. I’m the kind of person that pays great attention to what is going on in a series, so watching with others would be distracting. It actually drives me crazy when I’m watching anime with my cousin, and someone else comes in and starts talking and interrupting. I immediately pause until they are done so we can continue.

    So I’ll stick to the solo experience. Watching a lot of anime in a group would probably drive me crazy…

    • Yumeka says:

      I also quickly pause whatever anime I’m watching if I get interrupted, such as my mom coming into my room to ask me something or if the phone rings. And if I miss even a few seconds, I’ll go back and watch it. Like you, I really like to pay utmost attention to every anime I watch. But again, just one time. After that, I don’t mind watching it in a group setting or among other distractions.

  9. Kai says:

    Wow that’s almost exactly how I feel. For first time watching, I almost always prefer to watch alone. There are maybe two people I feel ok watching new series with, and even then I have to cherry pick the genre. If it’s a series I’ve already seen, yes, I like to watch it anew with someone else, because I can experience it through their eyes. Get a fresh look. Sometimes it’s amazing how different a show is to someone.

    The only exception to that would be a show that is ongoing that I’ve been watching forever. Fairy Tail, for example. If new episodes of that came out again, I’d watch it with another fan in the room. As long as they knew when to shush and when to exclaim. ^_^ I’m picky about noise-making.

    Other than that, I like how you put it. Watching anime is a spiritual thing for me, since it represents so much in my life.

    @froggykun
    I can’t imagine trying to watch an ecchi show with anyone else. Maybe whoever I’m dating at the time, but that’s it.

    @Kal
    Yes, I am SO there with you. I can’t stand it when I sit down to watch something with someone, and then people come in and start chatting. I pause faster than they can usually START talking, and I just give them my best military glare. I’ve had a LOT of practice haha.

    • Yumeka says:

      Definitely watching an anime you’ve already seen with someone else who has never seen it is a great way to see it anew through their eyes. And in doing so you may discover things about it that you didn’t experience when you watched it alone. There have been a few times where I watched anime episodes that both my friend and I have already seen, but we loved so much that we wanted to watch again. Not sure if that lends anything to the experience, but it’s fun :3

  10. Different strokes of course, but I LOVE watching anime with other people, preferably a crowd. XD

    A few years ago at AX, I got to watch Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer with a fully engaged audience and the feature’s director sitting in the audience. It was incredibly fun to hear/be a part of the audience’s reactions, whether laughter, cheering, even the groans at the end (the movie’s ending is kind of infamous).

    Also at AX, I recall watching the first episode of Gundam Unicorn with a big audience. There are a few reveals and an incredible action scene involving two mechas at the end that literally had the audience screaming with excitement, including me.

    I would watch anime with others nearly all the time if I could. XD I mean, I also appreciate watching it by myself, but I guess I figure I can watch it by myself again later – but watching anime with others is a great shared experience. =D

    • Yumeka says:

      I do like watching anime with others, but more in the setting you described (a crowd in a theater) than with a few friends at someone’s house. The latter is more intimate obviously, and that can more influence my feelings and overall experience. But when you watch it in a large group you’re still sort of alone (unless friends are sitting next to you or something) but can take part in the laughs and thrills of the nameless fans around you. I’ve watched a lot of anime movies like that over the years and it is indeed fun…though I’ll always want to go back and watch them by myself eventually =)

      • Actually, I just thought of something.

        I really enjoy watching new episodes of ongoing animes and then immediately reading the comments in Crunchyroll. Often I’ll leave my own comment as well. Reading others’ comments and leaving comments myself is a way of sharing my anime-viewing experience with others and it almost feels like it’s real time, like I just watched the episode with a bunch of people.

        I never realized that this was why I did this, but now I know. XD

  11. Frootytooty says:

    I used to watch everything by myself, even when I joined the anime clubs in high school or university. The problem with watching episodes with a large group is that you inevitably get the smartasses who feel inclined to make ‘witty’ remarks every few seconds and ruin it for everyone else. Also, because it’s not exactly convenient to get everyone together everyday to watch a series, you may end up having to wait a long time between episodes if you only watch it with your anime club.

    In the last few years, however, I’ve started watching anime with (overseas) friends over MSN. We co-ordinate our timing down to the second (gotten good at that, haha) and then watch it at the same time, commenting to each other via IM. I’m the kind of person who finds it difficult to concentrate on anime unless it’s quiet, so this is a great way to share the experience with a friend without talking over the anime itself whenever we have something to say about it. And because we’re watching it in the comfort of our own homes, it’s easy to marathon a series.

    I still watch most of my anime alone as it’s just easier that way. Watching with 1 or 2 other people is the best alternative, and although it requires more preparation as everyone haas to want to watch it (and certain genres, such as slice-of-life, are better avoided), it often ends up as a very enjoyable experience.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, the many smartasses in anime clubs who insist on talking during the anime all the time can be annoying. Maybe I just had a good group at my college club because, while people did comment during the anime we watched, they didn’t do it that much, and when they did, what they said was usually pretty funny XD

      I’ve never watched something over IM with someone, but it sounds fun. Like you said, it’s the best way to have a group watch that’s also quiet :3 I just never got the motivation to set up a time to watch something online with friends. Will try it someday.

  12. Artemis says:

    I adore watching anime with fellow anime-loving friends when I can, regardless of whether I’ve seen the anime before or not. Weekly anime night at my place with two of my best friends was honestly some of the best times of my entire life.
    I don’t mind watching anime I’ve seen before with friends who aren’t as familiar with anime, but I wouldn’t want to watch a new anime with someone whose taste in anime I’m not sure of.
    These days though, I watch most anime on my own purely out of necessity – out here in rural Japan, I don’t usually have anyone to watch it with.

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s great that you and your friends were able to have consistent anime nights with each other. I’ve had friends who would have liked to do that, had lack of free time and traveling distance between us not been a factor.

  13. Nopy says:

    My personal experiences with watching anime with other people haven’t been much different from watching anime alone. Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m watching anime I just phase out whatever else is around me. Talking about an episode afterwards happens regardless of if I watched with people or not, just at different times.

    • Yumeka says:

      The few times I’ve watched an anime I’ve never seen before with someone, I usually phase out everything around me too and try not to talk so I can concentrate. And when I’m showing someone else an anime I’ve seen before but they’ve never seen, I like to keep it quiet too so I know they can focus on it XD The only time I like to talk during an anime is if we’ve both seen it before.

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