Why Some Fans Watch Anime At Double Speed

Illustration: Sam Woolley/Gizmodo

Some have called it a myth. Others say it's an elaborate trolling campaign. And the handful of mega-otakus who claim to actually engage in it don't quite understand what all the fuss is about; yet, every now and then, you'll see it crop up again and again on anime forums all across the internet, drawing paragraphs of rage, bile, and outright confusion. All this for a practice that affects no one but the person who decides to do it: watching anime at anything other than the default speed.

Many of these discussions occur on diary sites like My Anime List (MAL), which allow users to document the anime they consume as they watch episode-by-episode, rating each series and adding up the total amount of hours they have seen.

Naturally, users that devote a significant amount of their life to the once-obscure medium that produced crossover hits like postmodern sci-fi pioneer Ghost in the Shell and jazzy genre melting pot Cowboy Bebop garner a certain amount of respect on the site, within reason. Users stick to their "diary" with varying degrees of seriousness: there are several profiles that document thousands of hours of content watched, including hundreds of hours of shock-grade hentai listed and rated, a step that one of my otaku friends described as "excessive."

"There's a general sense that the more shows a person has seen, the more valuable their opinion on anime," says MAL user Kezone. "Personally, if a person has seen so many shows it seems to be their entire life, my respect lessens, but I don't get that sense from the broader community."

While the idea of documenting your media habits for the world to see might seem odd to some, it's hardly specific to anime. Several of my more movie-going acquaintances started using similar film-tracking sites like Mubi and Letterboxd as early as 2012 -- I dimly recall one telling me he was trying to prevent "watching ten minutes of a martial arts movie before figuring out I had already seen it."

Though I can't say I ever quite had that problem, these friends inspired me to dabble with Letterboxd. At first, adding in the dozens of films I could remember seeing over the years gave me a rush, the sort of muted thrill a stamp collector might get after filling a page of their book. Over time, though, my interest in the site began to wane -- after scanning my friends' profiles one too many times, I felt the thwarted enthusiasm of a voracious reader walking into a library and realising the impossibility of reading even a handful of shelves, let alone the entire collection.

When I used Letterboxd, I could sometimes feel the pressure to watch a popular or acclaimed film simply to follow the crowd and build up my credibility rather than following my own aesthetic instincts. And though many of the anime fans I contacted for this story dismissed this as backward logic -- your diary should follow your consumption, rather than dictating it -- there were several who described this same sensation.

"I've finished shows that I've hated just so I could put them on a list," says KousakaK. "It's probably not really good for me, though."

Others compared the experience to "levelling up" in an RPG. "Like loading bars or experience bars in games, the bars in MAL give me a certain satisfaction when completing a show," says Clanky72. "Without that, I would be watching anime in a slower pace."

Some users describe the process of cataloging and rating anime as a sort of friendly competition, usually between friends or schoolmates. MAL and related sites also issue fun challenges and achievements to incentivise a completionist mentality. For most users, sites like MAL are a harmless diversion, a tool to facilitate their existing hobbies -- for a stalwart few, however, it creates a culture of consumption.

Considering the somewhat-addictive quality of the platform, the perceived value of expertise, and the wholesale conflation of your identity with your media consumption in many quarters, it isn't exactly shocking that certain otakus choose to bump their speed up by ten or twenty per cent to get an edge. What does surprise me, though, is the sheer amount of enmity that the practice garners from their fellow fans.

Though there were a fair share of more even-keeled responses, the backlash was swift and immediate, with several respondents accusing me of being a "speed-troll" myself. "I thought it was just a meme," says CorruptedSanity. "I think it's stupid, and if anyone actually does it, they're just padding their 'completed' list," says Older_Than_Dirt.

As for the speedwatchers themselves, they all do it for very different reasons. Several interviewees said that they try to stick to a "no-drop policy" -- essentially, once they start a show, they stick it out 'til the bitter end, even if they absolutely hate it.

If the experience gets torturous enough -- such as with the mediocre Yu-Gi-Oh rip-off Duel Masters -- it's easy to see how these die-hards might be tempted to up the speed on their video player to just get it over with. "I've only use double-speed twice, and it was with Naruto filler seasons and Mister Keaton," says Michael. "At the time, I had a stricter no-drop policy. After that, I decided to let go of the no-drop policy, and I've never used double-speed again."

For most, though, the speedwatching comes from a place of rigour -- of stoic adherence to strict personal rules. Some try to frantically vacuum-up each and every anime that comes out each season -- others simply try to commit to each show, as to give them a fair chance.

"I generally speed up all seasonals," says pgmhecateii. "It's not really something one should be proud of." "I do have some 'rules' I've made to always finish an anime and not drop any," says Rafael de Jongh, a committed adherent to 1.2x or 1.3x speed.

"I want to have the full experience, and only then you should be allowed to provide your total opinion about it...the speed boost does give it that slight pacing improvement some anime series really do require."

While it's easy to be caught up in the wave of popular consumption -- especially when your media preferences continue to be shunned in some corners -- even the hardcore speedwatchers agree: anime might be life, but it can't be your only life.

"I prioritise personal and business life above anime consumption, so I'm not really going to watch more for the sake of having more watched," says De Jongh. Even still, he will soon reach his 4000th series watched, and he plans to note it on his profile.

"I don't really see it as a competition," he says. "I just like to watch anime."


Comments

    I maintain a large bullet list of all the games I finish, date finished, time played (or sometimes, time tolerated), platform, etc. Started doing it a few years ago when I realised I'd played so many games I was starting to forget the early ones (I could remember them when seeing the game, but I couldn't summon their names if I tried to list them off). I frantically dug through my trophy/gamerscore/steam history to reconstruct what I could, falling back to any saved games I could still find. In the worst cases it helped that back then I was in the habit of posting to Facebook/Twitter when I finished something. By the end of it I was able to reconstruct my gaming history of the last 10 years to probably 95% accuracy, and now I maintain it as I go.

    Seemed like a really sad prospect that I was enjoying such quantities of, what is essentially, art that I'd be unable to recommend some of it simply because it fell off my radar.

      I found the easiest way to remember what games I've played, especially in Steam, is to save the desktop icon for the game in a folder somewhere before I uninstall it. Doesn't work as well for consoles, obviously, but for PC gaming I've found it works well.

        With Steam categories you could also make a 'Completed' tab and move those finished games underneath it. I've got a 'For Lan' tab that I've put most of my good co-op games under.

    I've watched plenty of anime at 2X speed, even up to 4X. It tends to be modern anime, with scenes drawn out by long pauses, still characters and garbage dialogue. Subtitles allow me to take in the whole conversation without it taking half an episode. Then I can slow it down for faster/action scenes.

    I try and give a show I'm interested in a chance for several episodes before pulling the pin. Pacing can vary drastically from episode to episode.

    I'm a user of MyAnimeList, and even though I don't update it religiously, it check it out every half year or so and fill in whatever I've been watching. For me, it shows the standard trend of me being more jaded as time goes by, as my average ratings of shows are dropping lower and lower. I compare the ratings I give to the user given ratings and can clearly see my personal bias and that helps me find anime more similar to my tastes.

    It is all about respect for your own time. If you watch it at 2x or 3x normal speed with captions on your essentially absorbing the same amount of information 2x or 3x faster. That is how I watch youtube tutorials or anime. Which in turn allows for you to cram in more information in less time.

      if it's just about the information, why not just read the wiki? Then you'll know exactly what happens over the whole anime in about 5 minutes.

      Maybe not applicable to anime or most anime but sometimes those long drawn out scenes in film media are to create tone and set a theme as a highend example Bladerunner 2049 and heaps of still shots and tight shots with nothing happening or moving.

        Yeah that, or in some cases it is filler garbage. Only my opinion and it is just what I do, I am certainly not saying for everyone to do it just that with tight time constraints, it suites me so much better to watch an anime or tutorial in half the time rather then watching it in real time.

          Log Horizon season 2 was utter trash an is a prime example of anime throwing filler in for no reason.

    Speeding up media is such a weird concept. There's so much good stuff out there (be it games, anime, live action, books, comics, music, theatre etc), why would you spend your time watching something that you don't respect enough to watch as intended? If something isn't grabbing my full attention, I stop. Sometimes I stop until my mood shifts and I become interested again, something I stop for good. Why people keep going out of obligation (outside of people who are getting paid for their time)?

    As for diaries, I love my Letterboxd account, but have no interest in going back and tracking anything I watched before I started tracking them. I mainly like being able to see my viewing habits over a year. Having a "to watch" list is also handy so I'm not spending more time looking for good movies than actually watching good movies.

    With some anime, with the long, poignant stares and frequent flash backs, I can see why someone would watch em at double speed.

    I use Myanimelist for anime, Trakt.tv for tv shows, and a word document for video games because there is no equivalent site that I've found yet. It's really useful in many ways, especially anime, a friend wants recommendations? Just send them a link to your list and sort by rating. I don't get time to watch much these days, but still I would never speed it up. I don't get it, maybe for absurdly long shonen or trash anime you don't care about (why are you watching then?) it could work, but any decent anime that relies on dramatic tension, comedic timing and fluid action is going to be screwed up. Like somebody else said, if you just want the information, read the wiki.

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