The “It’s not worth my time”/”I don’t have the time” response

Irrelevant picture A.

Irrelevant picture A.

One dilemma an anime fan faces every new season is determining what shows to watch. Invariably every person will group (subconsciously or not) each show into one of two categories: 1. interesting, or 2. not interesting. The criteria to arbitrate this is of course widely subjective. You may be interested in finally seeing this key animator paired again with this director. Hell, you may just be interested because the poster looks cool or you have a fetish for anybody and anything voiced by Maaya Sakamoto. This is sometimes all a person needs to decide what to watch, and they end up jotting down the titles on a sticky note (oh how ancient) or adding them to some online based table.

Others may find the mere discussion of seasonal shows thought provoking, and so they attempt to follow the most current shows regardless of whether they personally find it interesting or not. To include these shows, they either talk to their friends, lurk among various anime communities, or make an educated enough guess coming from the studios, staff members, and/or marketing.

The second method is perhaps something more experienced fans will usually adhere to, succumbing to the belief that it’s not only the anime that’s enjoyable but also its related discussion. This is what builds a regular sense of community. Current discussion is all that the anime world has in order to buttress its active back-and-forth dialogues. God forbid what bloggers would do if 99% of the episodic blogs had nothing to glorify or lambast. (It would seem Sturgeon’s Law applies to blogs too.)

Irrelevant picture B.

Irrelevant picture B.

Of course, either method is all up to personal preference. What ties these two together however is the fact that no matter what, the true limitation on the number of shows to watch and the particular shows to watch is how each person values time. It’s a matter of opportunity cost, deciding “would I rather watch X, or would I rather spend time doing Y?”. Everyone values time differently, and this combined with their subjective criteria in fiction makes for the diverse set of choices made by anime fans around the world.

Now here’s the typified response whenever confronted with another activity or hobby: “I don’t have the time.” Let’s be frank here. That is ten times out of ten as credible of a statement as a big bag of poo. It’s not that the person doesn’t have the time. It’s that he or she prioritizes whatever they’re currently doing much more highly than the task they regret doing. Is this justified? Actually, it usually isn’t. Humans are widely inefficient beings, and there’s a much larger chance that you’re wasting time doing something extremely trivial (such as watching bad anime) that you personally would prefer not doing over the task that you do prefer doing. Ever wanted to learn Japanese? Get off your butt and stop watching turdy shows. On the other hand, if you’re content with the opportunity cost, then by all means continue with what you’re happy with.

The reason that those who do recognize this but don’t actually do the swap is likely for a very personable and subconscious one: fear of change. The person has adapted so rigorously to their regular schedule that they’re not actually willing to attempt new things in order to break the mold. Alas, to be human!

Irrelevant picture C.

Irrelevant picture C.

Here’s my take on the affair. Having grown more or less accustomed to the seasonal pattern, I’ve come to a point now where many of the shows I’ve watched are simply not time worth spending. If a show is to be discussed in the season but literally forgotten about in just a few months, then I find the experience unstimulating and thus unrewarding. Remember Hentai Ouji? That season of Railgun? Suisei no Gargantia? Yeah, I can’t say I do either. I watch anime not only for the enjoyment but whether I can also gain something out of the experience: from the anime itself or from analyzing its commonalities, strengths, or pitfalls compared to other works.

Popular shows—anything to be watched and discussed for years to come regardless if they are extremely terrible—I will watch. Shows I find personally enjoyable—I will watch. Shows I believe indicate a strong potential—I will watch. Aside from these three, I’ve found the myriad of anime not as valuable as spending the time doing any other activity, e.g., watching a potentially more valuable show (anything on my forever growing backlog), discussing anime in general, or even learning Japanese. I, who’s now incredibly stingy with time, will no longer watch marginally mainstream shows like Galilei Donna and Kyoukai no Kanata, already aside from all the obscurer seasonal shows that anime fans aren’t familiar with even during their season. In other words, there are, what, roughly 40 shows a season? I used to cut this down to around 10, or 25%. Now I’ll be surprised if I watch any more than 3.

I view short term enjoyment much like junk food in that it’s digestible and quick to consume, but hardly substantial and ultimately of little worth. When you spend twenty four minutes every week watching something as absurdly stupid as, say, a pairing of dogs and scissors or Yamakan’s next failure, you surely know you could have done something better with your time. You’ve got roughly 80 years to live. Spend it wisely.

As a quick disclaimer, this is all in the eye of the beholder, and it’s up to you to decide what is truly worth “your time”. Just be sure that your choice is the one you’re most content with, and that you won’t regret not spending some portion of your time doing something else.

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5 comments

  1. It’s definitely possible as long as you understand one thing about limiting the amount of shows you watch: the worth of a show is best observed in 20/20 hindsight. Correctly predicting and committing to a short list of memorable anime per season isn’t easy, especially if you get a Winter 2013 pulled on you and everything turns out to be (relatively) forgettable anyway. That may all be trivial depending on your circumstances and preferences, and for the most part I’ve been doing the very thing you’re proposing for yourself by capping myself at around 4 shows at a time, so I’m just writing this to show a little empathy towards your situation.

    My anime club used to exclusively show currently airing anime and we’d never come to an agreement on what was worth watching. Mostly because we honestly had no idea what was going to be worth watching and even less of an idea of what “worth watching” meant. At least you don’t have to think about that stuff!

    1. I definitely agree with that. I’ve been limiting the number of Fall shows to catch up on, and I’m quite glad that I spent the time abandoning a few of them and reading Rose of Versailles, Mazinger Z, Saint Seiya, Hokuto no Ken, Black Jack, Aa! Megami-sama, and Harlock instead this winter break. (Most of them were terrible, but their seminal importance justifies the read.). Strong predictions are also not necessary, as you can always be relatively exclusive your first time around and then pick up whatever you hear circulates around the web. I try not to restrict myself to a particular number per season insomuch as what is worth the watch. It can vary pretty highly among the seasons, and I recall lots of people claiming 2013 was the worst season yet until the Summer and Fall shows proved them wrong.

      Hahah that sounds glorious. I already have enough trouble deciding for myself that I can’t imagine doing so for a full group. I think my university’s club just goes by popular vote.

  2. Ah, this post hits the right spots with me! I’m going through the exact same phase myself. I’ve looked over all the tons of anime I finished last year and realised that most of them were completely inconsequential and will never be discussed within the ani-community again, unless they get a second season or whatever (yawn). I’d rather spend my time these days broadening my horizons and exploring more artistically important works than the seasonal offerings. The discussion among fans around these “junk food” shows tends to lead to circular debates that just get rehashed every season – and I get tired of that too.

    1. “Redundancy makes a man grow old.” Or… something like that. Yeah that’s primarily why regularly browsing communities like /a/, r/anime, and MAL forums feels like a chore to me. Seeing the same topics and arguments appear again is like deja vu (and not the weird Steins;Gates’ explanation of the term). You could probably see a topic title and map out the entire debate on your own.

      1. Aleksei Edison · ·

        For me what really gets old is that when I notice certain anime of a certain quality, like say for instance, Upotte, I can pretty much discern that’s it going to be a hit on the community, most notably /a/, and they’ll hoist it up on the mikoshi, some might like it ironically or not depending on the quality of the show, get a lot of image macros and .gifs.

        That’s how I know to avoid discussing the show, because the you get stuff like “who’s your Raifu?” etc. It’s not really a discussion, and more of a fan get together, which is fine. If you’re looking to talk about a show seriously or something like that, you’re better off among friends than strangers.

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