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On Second Viewings

Note: Since Mushy is away I’m posting a meta post because he wants us to write stuff and anything but this would require effort.

I recently re-watched the first season of Clannad. Since I had previously seen the show I knew largely what to expect. I rarely watch any show or movie a second time, so I wondered why I bothered with this show. I will try to figure that out in this post.

To start, I’d like to clarify why I don’t re-watch many shows. I have a decent memory and can recall vivid details of many things if I have a trigger to get me there. This means that once I start watching a show a second time I will remember basically all of it. For some shows this isn’t a problem, because the plot is complex or different elements are good enough to catch your attention the second time around. Clannad is not one of these shows, and watching it a second time meant that every flaw glared at me. Some might consider this a low re-watch value, but I think of it differently. I think that Clannad, and shows like it, are interpreted differently on a second watch. Rather, they are interpreted differently if watched through a highly critical lens. Second watches are always highly critical because the knowledge of the source material allows you to focus on other aspects.

Given the nature of a second watch, there are questions you should ask before you begin:

  1. Why do I want to watch this again?
  2. Is this something I want to watch again?
  3. How well do I remember the story?
  4. Will I get anything out of a second watch?

Many of these questions seem duplicitous. They are also interconnected. Still, the answers to these questions can save you a lot of time. Since I didn’t have a lot of warning that I would need to write this post, I’ll answer these in regard to Clannad.

Why do I want to watch this again?

I’m sure some of you are thinking about some show and answering this question “because it rocks and I am awesome.” I hope that show isn’t Clannad. Even if it is, if you love the show that much then you might just skip it all and watch it. For everything else this question will have different reasons for everyone. It’s possible you can’t even answer this question, if so then you should move on.

When I asked myself this question in regards to Clannad I knew the answer right off: I wanted to watch it because of the rating I’d given it. Before watching it a second time I had rated it a 9 on MAL. The rating didn’t fit my memory of the show, and it is wildly off from the impressions of my peers. Those discrepancies make me question both the rating and my memory. Without another viewing I was unable to figure them out.

Since this is a recap, I know that it was due to me forgiving Clannad of its sins and focusing purely on the parts I enjoyed when I rated. Another issue here is that I originally rated Clannad via Netflix, before I had ever heard of MAL. The rating on MAL was scored by me trying to remember how strongly I felt about the show when I gave it a 4/5 star rating on Netflix. Looking back, I think my intent with Netflix was to score the show a 3/5 and give it a bonus star because I enjoyed it. (I could write a whole post on how to rate on Netflix to help the suggestion algorithm do its job.) In case you’re not keeping score, Clannad got a bonus point because Netflix ratings aren’t as detailed as MAL and 3/5 translates to 6/10, then it got two bonus points because I had given it an extra star on Netflix, and finally another bonus point because I remembered liking it more than I did. As a result, show that should be a 5 was rated a 9.

Another, lesser reason is that I wanted to watch this before re-watching After Story. After Story (AS from here on) suffers from a similar but unique situation. When I originally watched AS I was furious about the twist at the end. I gave it some terrible low score like a 2 or a 3 out of 10. (I save 1/10 for unwatchable garbage like Anne B. Real, the kind of movies/shows that leave nothing but remorse in their wake.) Later, I gave thought to my reaction to AS and realized that the show stirred more emotions in me than almost any other, even if some of those weren’t intentional. I reflexively and flippantly gave it a 10/10 and let it fester there, like an infected boil on my MAL page. I have a feeling the truth is somewhere between the two extremes, but I have to watch the show again to make a fair judgment. Before I did that I wanted to watch the original series again so everything would be fresh in my mind much like when I originally watched AS.

Is this something I want to watch again?

This is probably the most important question. I originally had it first, but I decided that maybe it’s best to think on the reasoning for watching before taking on a purely subjective question. Chances are that if you want to watch a show again then you’ve already come up with some reason as to why, or if you really, really want to watch it then you’ve skipped here. If you’re unsure or if you don’t want to watch it then reflecting on why you even thought of doing so is instructive.

As for me, I did not want to watch Clannad. I don’t even want to watch AS again. I am compelled  to do so because of reasons listed in the previous section. I figured I could at least make a post out of it, though. Taking it on as a project made it a little more enjoyable.

How well do I remember the story?

How much you remember is important because it will determine how the second viewing goes. If you remember quite clearly then it’s likely you’ll pay a lot of attention to details that you missed the first time. This might make you like the story better, or as in the case of Clannad it may make you want to rage quit life. If you don’t remember much beyond the gist of the story, then a re-watch can remind you why you love or hate it, which is far less tedious. This is a question that works in favor of complex stories with a lot of characters. For example: an episode of Horizon requires at least three viewings because there are 400 characters and every scene is an allegory and otherwise symbolic.

Clannad was odd for me. I mostly remembered the story but I had blocked certain parts out. I didn’t remember Fuko being so mind-shatteringly annoying. Upon watching an episode or two the entire series came flooding back. It was kind of like remembering that you’re someone’s childhood friend after spending an entire semester hanging out with them.

Will I get anything out of a second watch?

In this case, the question really is “Will a second watch change my opinion?” Obviously the details of this one will change for everyone. I’ve watched some things again purely so I can keep up in conversations about them. I’ve heard of watching a show again purely to bring back the atmosphere and feelings stirred by the first viewing.

Clannad gave me a lot. I remembered why I liked it, but I also realized I’d grossly overrated the show. I also realized why I find the character design in the show offensive, it crosses the uncanny valley such that the only way interpret the faces as human is to ascribe facial deformities to them. I’m not sure if I could have predicted the results exactly, but I knew a second viewing would clear up that pesky overrating problem.

I’m still reading this crap, now what?

I’m proud of you. I really am. You’ve taken a dark journey into my obsession with procedures and thoroughly assessing decisions. Be glad you’ve never had to buy a car with me.

At this point I hope you can see how you can mix those questions up or possibly revisit some in order to get your desired result. I don’t think most shows deserve to be watched a second time. There’s thousands of shows out there in dozens of genres. Normally it is a better use of your time to explore a different show in a given genre than to re-watch one. If you make it through these questions and you still want to watch a show then you should, it’s your time not mine.

3 responses

  1. One of the things about first watches is that I tend to focus on the strengths of the anime and forget the weaknesses. It usually takes a couple of days for the novelty value to wear off before I can get a proper assessment.

    2012/09/10 at 01:54

  2. redball

    Whoops! I’ve been out of it and didn’t see your reply. Sorry about that.

    Anyway, I think second viewings of an episode are very valuable. I’ve written a lot about Horizon this season (over at our sister-blog Classy) and I have to watch each episode twice to fully analyze it. That’s a little different than revisiting an entire season or an entire show.

    2012/09/13 at 18:38

  3. Sounds like an exercise in masochism. And I like Horizon. (Would like it more if it explained what the fuck was going on.)

    2012/09/14 at 02:57