Three years ago I wrote a post discussing how, over the years as I’ve watched more and more anime at a given time than I used to in my early years as a fan, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to remember every single one. Recently czai over on the Blacksheep Project wrote a post dealing with a similar topic about how she remembers some of the 200 anime she’s watched more than others and why that is. So today I was inspired to revisit this topic of how well we’re able to remember all the anime we’ve ever watched…
To recap a bit, before the days of streaming videos and torrents, watching a full anime series in its original Japanese form with subtitles, was pretty difficult. You would have to track down VHS copies of the few anime that were available subtitled at the time, usually long after they aired in Japan. Even when anime DVDs started becoming easily available here in the US in the early 2000s, that was still pretty much the only way of watching anime outside of dubs on TV. So within any given year in those days, I would never get to watch more than 10 new anime, most of which were old series that had already had their day in Japan. But because there were fewer anime to watch, I was able to focus much more of my time and passion on each one. I had time to rewatch them and indulge in their individual fandoms because I didn’t have access to any other new anime.
Fast forward to nowadays, where we have instant access to roughly every single anime, whether it aired decades ago or is currently airing, the average fan now has the choice of watching as much or as little anime as they want. Most fans I know, myself included, choose to watch as much as they can fit into their lifestyle, which is still much more than was available before. Instead of only watching 5-10 new anime per year, I’m now watching that many new anime per season, and just as I’m done with those, new ones are ready to go for the next season. So, unless I really have the motivation, there’s no break to rewatch those anime and pick up old ones or else I’ll fall behind with the current shows. I used the term “mass anime consumption” in my other post to describe this way of watching anime. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, since it’s fun to be able to keep up with what’s popular in Japan, and because most anime fans are now watching the same new anime, we can all discuss it together and are better able to build up the fandoms for these shows. And without the ability to watch anime seasonally, the anime blogging community may have never developed, or at least not as it has today. But mass consuming anime does come at cost, which is the individual time, and memory, we can allot for each.
Which brings us to the main topic of the post. It’s natural that the more different things we’re exposed to (different anime in this case) the harder it is to remember every single one. According to MAL, I’ve watched about 400 anime titles (counting anime I’ve completed, dropped, am currently watching, or are on hold). And how well do I remember each of those 400 titles? As a whole…not that well. I’ve noticed that two main things determine how well I’ll remember an anime: how many times I’ve rewatched it, and if I strongly liked or disliked it. So the anime I remember the best are my favorites because I obviously really liked them, and because of that, I’ve taken the time to rewatch them. My big favorites like Haruhi, Wolf’s Rain, and Azumanga Daioh, I’ve rewatched 6-7 times each! So I remember mostly everything about them and they won’t be leaving my memory anytime soon. Likewise, for anime I really had issues with, like the second season of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, and Moretsu Pirates, I remember details about them only because they frustrated me. I don’t remember as much about them as my favorites, like what happened in certain episodes, because I haven’t rewatched them, but I remember more about them than the average anime.
For some people, other factors besides the two I mentioned determine how well they’ll remember an anime, like how recently they watched it, the circumstances of how they watched it (if something major was going on in their life), or whether they watched it all at once in a marathon or watched it weekly. For me, length of time passed ultimately isn’t a big factor since it doesn’t take more than a month for anime to start to fade from my memory. If I haven’t rewatched it, emotional impact is still the biggest factor. So I remember more about Sola, an anime I watched 5 years ago, than I do about Tari Tari, an anime I watched just last year, because things in Sola were more memorable to me. Marathon viewing makes it easier for me to remember what happened in each episode while I’m watching them, since I sometimes forget what happened in the previous week’s episode when watching weekly, but once I’m done with the series it still won’t stay in my memory any differently. And I can’t recall any anime that stuck in my memory better because of the circumstances under which I watched them…watching certain anime at my universities anime club was fun, but still didn’t make details of the anime itself stick in my memory any better.
But for the 300 or so anime I only watched once and didn’t find extremely good or extremely bad, I only have vague memories. I do remember at least some things about every anime I’ve seen, for example, I’ll always remember having watched them and a few things like what they’re about, what some of the characters are like, and my general feelings about them. But beyond that, I don’t remember individual episodes or scenes unless they really had an emotional impact on me, like they were really sad or really funny. Likewise, if there’s a large cast of characters, I doubt I’ll remember all of their names or much about them, again unless something about them really stood out to me. Even for currently airing anime I sometimes have trouble recalling names or what happened in the newest episode. It’s become a habit of mine in recent years, when I’m sitting down to watch the new episode of an airing anime, to look up the anime’s episode list on Wikipedia and read the synopsis of the previous week’s episode to refresh my memory. I don’t really need to do this as I typically start remembering what happened before as I watch the new episode, but it helps. I only do it for some anime though, like the ones with a lot of characters or complicated plots, like Attack on Titan. Also, if I’m planning to watch the sequel of an anime that aired a while ago and I can’t remember it well, I’ll read through the episode summaries of all the prequels on Wiki. I did this before I watched Shakugan no Shana III and just recently before I started the sequels of Railgun, Monogatari, and The World God Only Knows.
So…does the fact that I can only thoroughly remember a small percentage of the anime I’ve seen mean my memory sucks? I don’t think it sucks in general, but in this case it kinda does I guess XD I can totally understand the handful of fans who don’t watch anime the mass consuming way – they’ll pick just one or a few series to watch at their own pace, whether a new series or old one, and really take the time to focus on each one, maybe even rewatch it a few times, before moving on to a new one. But for the majority of us who like to keep up with the current anime, all the new titles coming in leaves little time to rewatch or fully indulge in the old ones, so series are constantly coming and going into our memories. Maybe some people who watch a lot of anime all the time are able to remember them all well, which is great, but I’m sure most of us who have been watching seasonal anime for several years now can’t vividly remember each one. I suppose it just comes down to how you want to enjoy anime. For me, keeping up with what’s recent in Japan and being able to discuss them with my friends and blogging acquaintances is worth it to me even if I can’t give each series I watch the individual attention I used to give in my early years as a fan. Even if I don’t have detailed memories of 300/400 of the anime I’ve seen, I know I enjoyed most of them when I watched them, and they all contributed in some way to my own personal relationship with and passion for anime, and that’s what counts ;)