Have you ever been conflicted with an anime, whether you want to drop it or keep it? Of course, the situation occurs with every new anime season and happens more often than we’d like. Sure, the anime is worthwhile – either due to its comedy or interesting characters or a new concept or design… but then there’s a lot of boring elements too, like a lot of downtime or parts that irritate us. Or maybe the reason is that we just can’t keep with shows due to our busy schedules, something that I have as a recurring theme in these 12 Days of Anime posts. So what can we do if we want to watch only the good parts of an anime without all the bad parts?
The idea came to me when a friend and I were having a discussion over one of my favorite anime, The Tatami Galaxy. One of the prominent characteristics of this cherished anime is how quickly the protagonist, Watashi, talks, meaning that anyone who watches this anime will need to have a keen eye to keep up with the lightning-fast subtitled. So my friend and I were joking around with the unusual speed of the subtitles and mentioned that it was like watching any other anime at 4-times the normal speed. The statement stuck with me, and I was curious to try it out, to see if I could watch a whole episode of a normal anime on 4-times speed and keep up with the subtitles, and more importantly the story. However, I didn’t want to test it on an anime I was currently watching and I didn’t want to rewatch an episode since I would already know most of the subtitles and story already. Instead, I decided to try it on an anime I wasn’t watching, Maken-ki! Two since some people had positive reviews of the catgirl episode. And though there wasn’t much in the way of a meaningful plot (except the entire cast being turned into catgirls for comedy and ecchi), I watched the entire episode in about 6 minutes and didn’t experience any difficulties reading the subtitles or taking screenshots. I tried this technique again with a few other episodes and it proved successful each time, turning what I deemed as an unwatchable anime into something entertaining.
When Summer 2013 rolled around, I dropped Majimoji Rurumo after one episode, citing my frustrating with the cliché comedy, poor directing and thin characters. However, I was intrigued by the large cast of characters and was curious if the comedy would improve as we got to know Rurumo. I didn’t decide to pick Rurumo back until after reading positive reviews from some of the latter episodes, but I lacked the time to sit through a handful of episodes and keep my sanity, especially since a number of those negatives still persisted. It was about that time when I remembered watching Maken-ki! Two on 4x and decided to catch up on Rurumo the same way. And again, no problem reading the subtitles, understanding the story and appreciating the humor. The decision proved to be successful, and there were even a handful of episodes where I stopped and watched the whole thing at normal speed. In fact, after watching 12 episodes of Rurumo in the Summer (most of them on 4x), I found it to be more enjoyable than some of the other anime that I legitimately picked up and watched that season. Yes, it feels like I’m cheating when I’m watching most of the series on 4x, but I would never have watched or enjoyed Rurumo otherwise.
For Autumn 2014, I felt conflicted again over a handful of anime. One particular one was Grisaia no Kajitsu which only appealed to me through Michiru’s eccentric and hilarious character. I didn’t feel like there was really any reason to watch the anime besides Michiru, but I did not want to sit through the series to see a character who’s only around maybe 20% of the time. So, like Rurumo, I decided to 4x through the series and only watch the series for the Michiru parts. It hasn’t had the same payoff as Rurumo, especially after the series finished Michiru’s story arc, but I never would’ve watched the anime otherwise, so it a mild victory. I also decided to try this with Girlfriend (Kari) to see how the hell an anime would fit in its cast of 64 girls. Of course, I did not care for the content of this anime which unsurprisingly turned out to be banal, insubstantial and tiresome and that was the main reason why I would not watch this anime at its normal speed. Now, after 4x-ing through most of the series, I understand that the anime takes cohorts of girls for each episode and focuses on them as groups rather than just picking a lucky handful as central characters (though the main 5 act as central characters in their episodes). And really, I’ve actually enjoyed some of the comedy and a couple of the stories in Girl Friend Beta, proving that the decision to 4x through this anime was not a bad choice. In fact, picking up Girlfriend proved to be a better choice than Grisaia at this point.
Of course, the whole point of watching an anime at 4x is not to cheat through the series and watch each episode in 6 minutes instead of 24 minutes. Really, I am only reserving this strategy for anime that I would never watch otherwise. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t go back and watch Rurumo, Grisaia or Girlfriend at normal speed, either in this season or any future season. However, I feel that scanning through each episode at 4-times the normal speed is acceptable, and that if I don’t like the episode or the series, I can stop at any time. Still, it does provide an option for me that I never considered before for all those anime that I never would’ve watched otherwise. I’ve gone back and finished a few anime that I’ve dropped on 4x. It has certainly been helpful in terms of giving me an opportunity to watch specific anime that I have already dropped, and it has proven to be successful in providing entertainment value while speeding through most of the lackluster content. You can think of it as watching the highlights of an anime, like watching the recap of a sporting event instead of sitting through the whole game. Still, I don’t want to develop a habit where I watch more and more anime on 4x, especially if they are anime that I enjoy watching at normal speed. Nevertheless, discovering this technique and using it has been one of the most memorable events of this year as it has allowed me to budget my time and watch subpar anime efficiently.