Watching television like cinema

How we’re watching anime when we’re watching anime.

So the point made is that when you watch television in your own language, you can get away with not paying a hundred percent attention to it. A lot of television is watched while you’re doing something else after all, like the way we used to listen to the radio. Maybe you’re doing the dishes, or eating, or faffing about on the internet, but the assumption is that you’re not giving your full attention to whatever is playing on the screen. This as opposed to watching a movie in the cinema, where you’re forced to pay your full attention to the movie. But with anime, if you’re not fluent in Japanese, if you cannot rely on hearing the dialogue to tell you when you have to pay attention again, you tend to watch a show in the same way as if you were watching a movie in the cinema. If only because you need to see the subtitles to know what’s happening.

And because, like most television, an anime series is created with the understanding that it will be watched by people who are not giving it their full attention, so there will be redundancies built into each episode. Exposition, recaps, repeats of important information from earlier in the episode, etc. Which is fine for the original Japanese audience, but if you’re a non-Japanese, non-fluent viewer who relies on subtitles for your understanding, this redundancy stands out because you are paying attention all of the time. Especially if you’re binging a show that was originally meant to be watched weekly. You’re watching something in a way that it wasn’t meant to be watched and because you cannot look away, its redundancies are even more evident.

This is something I very much noticed in my own anime watching, where I can sometimes get annoyed by the seemingly unnecessary exposition and recaps because I am paying such close attention to it. Especially with a more ambitious series, I sometimes don’t actually want to watch as much as I want to have watched it, because I cannot look away for fear of missing something yet there are long stretches where nothing interesting seems to happen. At those times I’d rather watch something simpler, a kids show like Precure or Aikatsu which I can watch while doing something else, as they have a set formula that guides when and when not to pay attention. This is occassionally frustrating, but at least I was used to reading subtitles already.

In conclusion then, it pays to take into account for which audience and medium a series is made, whether it was intended to be watched week by week, or binged like a Netflix series. Whether or not it was intended to be paid close attention to or rather had built-in redundancies for an audience not expected to pay full attention to it. It’s still fair to criticise a series for over exposition or a reliance on recaps or repeats, but if you don’t take into account these things, you cannot understand why a series does what it does.

Cosmos vs Civilisation

Kenneth Clark is a testament to the fact that having an Oxbridge education makes you perfectly suited to spouting bullshit with confidence standing in front of pretty pictures, as funded by BBC largesse.

Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation is held up as a ground breaking documentary series, both in presentation and content. And it is indeed impressive, even almost fifty years on, with gorgeously filmed landscapes, buildings and art. But actually watching the first episode was a crashing disappointment. I knew that it was very much an old school approach to history, that this would be European and European history only, Whiggish and with very definite ideas on what civilisation entails. But still.

Clark starts out from the Fall of Rome, which is presented as an unalloyed disaster, causing the flame of civilisation to almost burn out. He then moves on to how it did manage to survive, in England and France, how new challenges arose as the Vikings came raiding and how Charlemange saved civilisation. The various successor states of the western Roman Empire are dismissed as barbarians, the Arab and Muslim civilisations barely mentioned, even the Byzantine Empire is sneered at as not quite the done thing. It’s such a narrow minded, boring view of history it set me against watching any of the rest of it.

What a difference Carl Sagan’s Cosmos makes. Sagan’s deeply humanist approach to science and astronomy sees him traveling the world to explain the history of his discpline, from ancient Greek scientists in Egypt, to meeting Japanese fishermen who refuse to eat crabs with carapaces resembling samurai to tell about natural selection, to visiting the monuments the Anasazi left behind as proof of their astronomical measures. There’s a joy and kindness in his narration that makes me want to keep watching.

This is actually my first time watching Cosmos: if it was broadcasted on Dutch television when it was originally released, I was too young for it. Yet Cosmos was very important to me growing up, as the accompanying book was translated into Dutch and available at my local library and I must’ve read it half a dozen times as a kid. It was reading this that helped make me an atheist, as in it I found a much more logical and appealing explanation for the world around me than some all powerful god having created it all from scratch.

Clark’s view of history is dour and joyless, unappealing in the extreme by comparison. Glad it was Sagan that got his hooks in my brain back then.

“Oh!” said his wife. “It’s like the War”

Owen Stephens recalls how in 2000/01 he ran a roleplaying session for Wizard of the Coast’s then new Star Wars D20 game when an elderly gentleman with actual commando experience showed up at his table. (Via).

Also a nice example of how backwards most of the warfare in the Star Wars universe is, that WWII commando tactics can completely rip apart the opposition…