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 ;)