How Do You Choose?

It’s that time of year again, when anime fans everywhere are picking shows from the new season. I usually start out with maybe one or two ‘must watch’ titles on my list, then three weeks into the season find myself wondering why I’m suddenly watching seven or eight shows I hadn’t planned on watching at all.

So I got to thinking: how do fans actually go about deciding which new shows to watch?

Previews are the obvious place to start, and I’ll actively watch preview compilations on YouTube with the intention of finding new shows to watch. But they do tend to fly by quickly, making it tough to tell sometimes what a show is actually about. After watching previews for Summer ‘19 and the Spring season before it, I am genuinely starting to wonder if isekai is the only anime genre anyone makes anymore. 

I think trawling through previews requires multiple watches and careful checking of genres and tags to be able to filter out what appeals. In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of isekai. (That’s five new titles immediately off the list.) Anything with the ‘ecchi’ tag is a no for me too (three more new shows), and school-set comedy or slice-of-life shows don’t appeal to me simply because I can’t relate to the characters anymore (two shows this season). Idol shows always look fun, but then I remember that I’ve tried watching idol shows and I just can’t get into them (one new title this season).

Genre-wise, the only types I’d consider at least a ‘must try’ are horror and sports (odd combo, I know). Sci-fi appeals, as long as the cast isn’t all school kids and there’s at least a hint of actual science – I’m the type to pick holes in the use of tech that looks like magic. I like fight-focused stuff and superhero shows if there’s more to it than just fighting, or if a show is so fight-focused it’s ridiculous – I decided to watch ‘Baki’ simply because I was having a terrible day and wanted to watch over-powered muscle-heads beating the crap out of each other. I never expected it to have any depth, so I was never disappointed. And the instant a character who’d had his hand cut off retaliated by stump-punching his opponent, I new I’d picked a winner.

Based on previews alone, I had a grand total of…one title on my list for Summer ‘19.

That show was Bem, which appealed to me for its central concept of heroes being ostracised from society for their looks (hmm…wonder why that one spoke to me). There is a rugby anime, Try Knights, which I might look at, but it hasn’t seen a whole lot of hype up to now (plus I don’t see Hosoya Yoshimasa in the cast, which means it isn’t really a sports anime*).

There were a couple of titles that looked interesting at first until I looked into them or re-watched the previews. I know everyone’s raving over Dr Stone, and the concept sounds great, but each time I saw a preview all I could think was: where are the women? I get that there’s a girl currently trapped in stone who the protag is trying to revive, and previews show a second woman, but really? I’m getting tired of the big action shows focusing on men, with women as the love interests or the magic-users who have to be protected. And Fire Force would have been on my ‘must watch’ list until I read about the way it treats its female characters. Now it’s on my ‘will try, with caution’ list. 

The next way I pick my shows, and this probably won’t be how most people pick, is by cast. 

If a show is a ‘maybe’, I’ll look up the cast list for particular actors. Anything with Suwabe Junichi, Yasumoto Hiroki, Hirakawa Daisuke or Murase Ayumu will at least become a ‘must try’. It doesn’t always work out – last season I had to give up on Helpful Fox Senko-San after one episode – but I have discovered some great shows I might not have seen otherwise.

So this season, I had To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts on my list even before I’d seen a preview: Yasumoto and Hirakawa, along with Fukuyama Jun, Tsuda Kenjiro, Sugita Tomokazu, Tatsuhisa Suzuki and Ishikawa Kaito. If I was playing ‘Favourite Seiyuu Bingo’ I’d be so close to a full house!

That puts two titles on my ‘must watch’ list, and three ‘maybes’.

Next up is to see what other fans are talking about.

That’s how I came across Given, as it hadn’t previously jumped out at me from any preview compilation. I think this passed my Tumblr dashboard a couple of times towards the end of June. It looks like the only queer rep we’re getting this season, but it also looks decently done, apparently coming from the new wave of BL manga with more respectful portrayals of m/m relationships. It’s also where I heard about How Many Kilos Are The Dumbells You Lift? This has the dreaded ecchi tag, and its protag is a teenager, but I’m willing to give it a try simply for the premise of allowing girls to be physically strong and take part in an activity that isn’t typically ‘feminine’. Episode one does come with typical-for-Japan fat-phobia, but then again, I could find that in any number of Western shows, so my annoyance-meter hasn’t maxed out yet.

Occasionally I’ll pick up a show mid-season, if it’s getting lots of rave reviews, but that rarely happens – I feel like after so many years of watching anime I’ve got a pretty good sense of what I’ll like and what isn’t worth spending time on.

How about you? Do you have a formula for picking out the shows you’ll watch each season? Do you go by previews, or by genre? Do you try everything and trust the Three Episode Rule? Tell me in the comments! I’d also like to know if there’s a show you think is worthy of another ‘I Watched This Crap So You Don’t Have To’!

I’ll probably be watching ‘Dr Stone’ and ‘Fire Force’ this evening with a friend, so check Twitter for my immediate reactions to both those shows.

*Hosoya Yoshimasa is in every sports anime, and every anime with Hosoya Yoshimasa is a sports anime. So if he’s not in it, it’s not a sports anime. That’s the rule.

11 Comments

  1. Usually I will pick an anime randomly by its title then do the 3 episode give it a go but with netflix showing full trailers its easier to just not bother trying it cause the trailer doesn’t appeal. Which is not a good thing. It means I’ve not watched a new anime in a wee while.

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    1. I feel like Netflix doesn’t really *get* seasonal anime. I’ve watched a couple of their full length trailers and they haven’t really given me the best impression of the show, compared to the shorter teasers. Plus I dislike having to wait for the whole season – by the time they get the new releases, sometimes I’ve just lost interest.

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  2. Have I ever mentioned I really like your blog and writing style? It’s all just very natural in the best kind of way. I know there are some issues in/about anime we don’t agree on, but I still respect your side, and honestly, it’s kind of refreshing to hear. (Example, not liking the way women characters are handled in Fire Force.)
    Anyway, I usually just choose a few by looking at the genres and/or descriptions on MAL. If someone recommends something midway through the season, I usually binge watch it once it’s done airing. This season, however, I’m watching a crap ton of shows I may or may not even like. That’s half because I want to practice being a better reviewer/critic, and half because I’m hoping episode reviews of current shows will increase my following.

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    1. Thank you for such kind words! I’m pleased that you’re still reading my posts.
      MAL synopses and tags are really helpful, I find, if a preview is really vague (and of course I rely on it for cast announcements!). And as a reviewer, writing about stuff you don’t like is often more fun than writing about what you enjoyed. You get to be a lot more creative with disparaging comments than with praise!

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  3. Honestly, I try to go in blind to most shows and just watch the first episode if it comes out on a service I use. Then I read everyone else’s first impressions to see if there are any shows I missed that I should hunt down an episode of. Realistically I tend to skip anything based on idols, too ecchi, or too cutesy. Some of these I may start an episode but few last beyond the introduction to the episode because I know I’m inherently not interested in them anyway. Most shows get at least a full first episode watch and those that are either a genre I like or have grabbed my attention usually go onto my watch list. I end up watching a lot of duds but I find a lot of anime that may not be the most popular for a season but I enjoy it. Most seasons I end up with 12 – 16 anime that I follow of which usually only one or two end up being nearly unwatchable by the end.

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    1. Wow, 12+ a season is impressive! Sometimes I worry that I’m too picky about my shows and that I’m passing over something that might actually have been good. But I also find reading other people’s reviews can help me make up my mind about something if I’m not sure.

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      1. That’s usually why I leave a handful of shows in my watchlist that I’m iffy on. Just in case one of them turns out to be something good I may have otherwised missed. As I said, I end up watching a few shows each season I wish I had dropped, but the number of shows I find that I might have passed on from their description or early episodes that end up being fun to watch more than make up for it.

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  4. I read descriptions, and I tend not to worry too much about seasonal series. I’ve only picked up ‘How many Kilos are the dumbbells you lift?’ because it reminded me of my college days a little with my own adventures in weight training. Try Knights is on my list because sports. And ‘Given’ because I skipped the Carole and Tuesday hype train from spring, but … now that I know it’s hyped I’m a little worried. Hyped series rarely ever meet the expectations set so… we’ll have to wait and see. Much like you, most anything isekai too ecchi or the flavor of the year is out. But I don’t mind bandwagoning if other fans really way the series is worth it. 🙂

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