When the anime year of 2014 began, I made a comment that I sure hope Sword Art Online II would be my top anime for the year, with Mushishi’s second season being #2. I added a wink at the end of said comment, and partially the reason was that I knew it’d annoy the rest of the Aniblogosphere/Anitwitter crowd, but there was more than a bit of truth to it. 2013 had been an amazing strong year for anime, and had Sword Art Online’s first season ended during 2013, it’d have still made it to the top 3 of my personal list.
It’s not that Sword Art Online II was bad or disappointing in its own right, it had actual character development, it had quite a few moments where you could see a strong control of the medium by the director. I agreed with most of the decisions made by the adaptation, such as when they cut out most explanations that speak to the nerd within us all, but just take up time (a lesson Mahouka could’ve used). But while everything was fine on paper, it just didn’t click with me as strongly as the first season did.
Part of it is certainly connected to yesterday’s post, about “outgrowing shounen” shows. But it’s more about the reasons explored there, that I watched it weekly. I liked the first season’s first half much more than the second, and part of it was due to the content, but how much of it was due to marathoning the first half and watching the second weekly? I knew what was coming in this season, having read the light novels, but knowing what comes ahead only enhances the experience, as one can see when one rewatches a favourite film or scene.
I watched myself watch the show, asking myself whether I liked it, whether I would’ve liked it more or less had I gone into it not knowing how every line will turn out. I watched it and asked myself, “How do you reconcile the way you can poke fun of shows such as Mahouka or Fate/Stay Night while still liking Sword Art Online? If you’ll get defensive, why shouldn’t people be getting defensive over your criticism of shows they like?” – The answer here is that I try not to get defensive, and I choose whether to read or not, and people are entitled for their opinions. I also think Sword Art Online is still a far better show than Mahouka, which was quite bad.
Regardless, the end result is that as much as or even more than I’ve watched Sword Art Online’s second season, I watched myself watching it. Media is often touted as something that can help us understand ourselves and the world beter, but that’s through what it does, and while you actually consume it. What I’ve done certainly taught me more about myself, but it acted as something that distanced me from the source material. Perhaps in several years I’d marathon the season again, and I’ll be curious what I’d think of it then. Said curiosity could once more lead to me watching myself watching the show, instead of simply watching the show.
You can read my notes for Sword Art Online’s 2nd season’s episodes here. I’ll get notes up for almost every episode by the time the month is over.
So, dear readers, any show where the way you’ve watched it was notable? Alternately, anything about yourselves you’ve learned by watching anime this year?