The Importance of the Sequential Nature of Media (6th Day of Anime 2018)

How important is it to have a set chronological order in which to consume media?

I’d obtained a copy of Usagi Drop from my local library and was about to watch it, only to get interrupted by something outside. When I returned and started up the disc, I only realised after 3 episodes and 2 bonus episodes that I’d watched the wrong disc, and I almost lost interest in the show as a result. (It was a good thing I could piece together what was going on, and then go from the beginning with that knowledge.)

That brings me to the question: just how important is it to watch shows in chronological order? (This is, of course, not the be all and end all of this post as I’ve suggested in the opening statement, but this is the most pervasive one in stories in general.) After all, in this day and age, disc players and streaming sites make it easy to skip about from one episode to another, meaning you could start from the final episode of a series and watch backwards if you wanted to. However, manipulating fast-forward and rewind on a TV is an awkward thing in and of itself in the days where clicking and tapping things is the norm…so that’s basically the exception to the rule. (At least, it is to me. Your mileage may vary on that, depending on how much you use your TV and related players for watching stuff.)

My thoughts on this tangling with Usagi Drop are that watching a chronological show, starting on a non-conventional episode and then doubling back proves the integrity and clarity of the story. A study in the conservation of storyline, if you will. This test should work with most shows except for the very fast-paced ones, such as Planet With, which are extremely economical with how much they reveal where. Those shows only cause confusion if they are handled in such a manner.

Of course, the craziest situation when it comes to something like this is an anachronistic series (like Haruhi Suzumiya or Princess Principal). Often these shows throw chronology to the wind for the sake of creating more narrative or thematic coherence…or just a sense of chaos, as it would be in Haruhi and Concrete Revolutio. In the case of the latter and Princess Principal, it’s used to skip to the “juicy parts” and avoid all sorts of infighting.

Alternatively, you have the long-running series, which may end up enforcing this through the need to put out the series in many, many instalments. Sure, things like omnibus volumes help when they’re available (such as Bleach’s case) but for series like Detective Conan, it becomes easier to just remember the bare minimum and then keep chugging along as far as possible, only doubling back when it seems there is a need to do so – which, in my personal case for Detective Conan, means jumping all over the place to complete an understanding of the overarching storyline when it comes to the manga and anime. You also have movies (that is, ones that aren’t recaps), which give exposition to put all viewers on the same page when it comes to their content.

So, over to you – how important is it to watch a show in chronological order? Obviously most shows leave their plot in chronological order, but is there a reason for that aside from “it just makes sense”?

5 thoughts on “The Importance of the Sequential Nature of Media (6th Day of Anime 2018)

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  1. Definitely prefer to stick to the proper order. I hate when I start a new season of something, only to find out (usually through flashbacks) that I missed a canon OVA or something inbetween seasons. That being said, a few episodes is fine… but skipping over an entire season, I’d probably lose interest or enjoy the anime less.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Missing out on an OVA or movie that explains what happens between seasons is frustrating…especially when they don’t get licensed or streamed in any capacity.

      I was specifically talking about watching the episodes in a season out of order, but I can see how you came to the conclusion of skipping an entire season for certain shows. I mean, if you don’t know about certain pivotal developments in certain late-game parts of Detective Conan, you won’t understand a thing…hence the recap section at the start of every one of the movies and most episodes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It depends. Episodic shows like Natsume Yuujinchou, while there is character development and reoccurring characters get introduced as you go, you can just pick an episode and watch for the most part. The story is written really for you to be able to jump in at any point and while you might have a better understanding of the characters if you watch it in order it isn’t a requirement. Ghost Hunt is similar in that you can watch any ‘case’ from the series and it will make sense just fine.
    For stories that are building to a climax however, I’m kind of a stickler for watching them in order.

    Liked by 1 person

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