When I watch a new show on TV in the United States I watch each show as it is released, one episode a week. Until recently I watched anime in a very different way, I would watch anime after all the episodes were released, usually four or five episodes at each sitting. This led to different viewing experience compared to US shows, albeit one that I did not choose. But marathoning anime is not the only choice anymore. With streaming anime, available hours after the Japanese broadcast, I can now watch Japanese shows in the same way I watch American ones. Now I have to choose which is better, marathoning a show or taking my time to watch one episode each week.
The tried and true method of marthoning a show is an anime tradition. It is the format of choice for anime clubs. It fills my thirst for instant gratification and makes it easier to follow more complex plots. I also like the social aspect of it. You can plan a whole evening around watching 4 or 5 episodes of a series. It’s more difficult to make a whole evening out of only watching one episode.
While marathoning is a more social activity, watching one episode at a time is a more authentic experience. It’s what the creators intended, or at least expected. Plus, it gives me the chance to digest what I am watching; I can think about and judge each episode on its own. Watching one at a time also makes the story more suspenseful. The suspense creates its own opportunity for talking with fellow fans. When I watched Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood I always got excited when the show’s broadcast date came around because I needed to know what happened next. Sometimes, I’d even stay up until midnight to see the next episode of a show like Bleach on Crunchyroll.com. Streaming anime can also promote a different kind of social interaction. You can go on forums and discuss what happened each week and make predictions about what will happen next. This type of discussion feels different to me than talking about a show after its done. The former feels to me like I’m adding something to a series. The latter feels more like a post-mortem.
While I am growing to like streaming shows, I personally like marathoning a series better. I like to be able to sit down and take in a series. It also makes it a lot easier to review a show if I can watch the whole thing in one sitting. Since I finished school I haven’t been able to marathon shows with friends as much, but I hope to start again soon in the near future. I’m open to trying a a marathon of streaming shows, but I suspect that marathoning complete series will remain the best way to watch a show.