Burning Out On Quality

A while back I wrote a post about mitigating burn-out when it comes to consuming anime and manga, advice that had the caveat of me never having actually burned out, which means that I’m either very qualified to talk about it or not qualified at all. Recently though, I was in a situation where I had trouble watching anime, and I feel like I learned a lot from it.

I’ve been watching a lot of science fiction-themed anime, series full of ideas about how the future can/will/should be, not necessarily heady stuff but enough to make a person think a fair amount. However, even though I like everything I’m watching, one day I just suddenly had this strong desire to not continue, like my brain and eyes were telling me that they would refuse to process that information meaningfully if I tried to watch more. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, until I could hear my own thoughts more clearly.

I need to watch something ultra dumb.

And so I did, not knowing how long it would be until I could restore my capacity to watch so much science fiction. In the end, it only took a day away from those shows for me to feel the urge to keep watching, but it taught me a valuable lesson that seems so obvious in hindsight: You can have too much of a good thing.

Often the picture of anime burn-out seems to be that someone who just watched too many bad shows and can no longer handle the bottom-feeding tropes which populate low-tier anime, but I think that a more fundamental aspect of such burn-out is just monotony. Much like eating the same food day in and day out with no variety, even the most delicious of meals can lose their flavor, especially if you’re not naturally predisposed to liking them. Also like food, the level of variation needed to keep things interesting varies from person to person. With anime, I find there are shows that I can become quite fond of with little effort, shows that I can watch just about any time, but for other shows, I find I need to put a bit of myself into the show. As a result, sometimes I find myself unwilling to watch another episode because I can sense that my mind is “exhausted” and will not give me an accurate impression, and just pushing and hoping to power through that mental blockade can end up doing more harm than good.

And so, I have much gratitude for ultra dumb shows. Sometimes they’re just what I need.

10 thoughts on “Burning Out On Quality

  1. Hm. So what’s something dumb enough to be suitable for “unwinding” the brain, but good/respectable enough that I won’t be too embarrassed to watch it? Could you achieve a similar effect with just a healthy genre mixture? Say, Madoka Magica + 08th MS Team + Kimagure Orange Road + Excel Saga?


    • Obviously this is a personal question, but I would say you can’t (or at least I can’t). The problem is that good anime is good because they demand something from the viewer, whether it be interpreting various character interactions, following plots, or catching visual puns or references. They’re all taxing to the mind in some way or even the same ways, even if their actual genres are different.


  2. Ben-to is the go-to dish for this season.

    I think there’s a strong argument for avid anime fans to watch a wide variety of anime, as much as they can handle. The burn-out prevention/resolution aspect of it is just a side effect. The main benefit is that it gives context to the things you watch. It can help deepen the appreciation and understanding of things you like (and things you don’t like).


  3. I had a similar experience to this semi-recently when I watched the movie Downfall. I could recognize that it’s a good movie, but at the same time, I had watched SO many war movies in such a short span of time that I could not get into it at all. So I can definitely feel you here — it’s why when I watch older anime, I try to jump to something completely different when I finish a series. (Most recently I went from Banner of the Stars to Hunter x Hunter lol.)


  4. There’s a reason I had a phase watching all of the CSI’s of the world… zero commitment, zero thinking, on-in-the-background kinda shows have their uses : )


  5. Thats what exactly happened to me a couple of years ago when I got back into anime. I had marathoned a bunch of shows from MAL’s top 20 and by the time I finished watching them all, I could recognize the quality of many of the shows but I couldn’t say I really liked them which seemed wrong. Nowadays, I tend to watch the good and the bad shows each season through the end just so I can differentiate what makes good shows great and bad shows terrible. It also helps me to reevaluate expectations when bad shows become good and vice-versa.


  6. Don’t know about burnout, but I do know I can only take so may “serious” or emotionally-heavy anime shows in a row before I find myself craving a light comedy or slapstick or a high school romance or romantic comedy.

    I also take a breather sometimes to watch other forms of animation or the usual live-action pop culture fare…though this month is actually a heavy anime month for me…getting to watch all of DTB2 on the big screen at Alamo Drafthouse is awesome, getting caught up with Spice & Wolf Season 2, and the new Fairy Tale premiere next week. There’s the new Sentai release ICE, too, but I saw the first 10-15 minutes and, meh, it was ok, but not enough to draw me out and come watch it in person in the theater for a few hours, not when FUNimation has a screening the very next night that I will be attending.

    Friend of mine tipped me off to a website called myanimelist.net (?) that helps you keep track of your shows in progress. Though Netflix already does a decent job of this already, the online list is a good idea, especially to help me keep track of where I am on certain boxed sets I’m not finished with yet.


  7. I dunno. Sci-fi anime? To me they are all ultra-dumb. (probably because among manga/anime creators there is not a single one who understands and loves science – beyond newspaper “science” section).

    May be only Eva made me think a little – how it could be fixed into a really good piece.

    Anyone knows sci-fi anime at the level of Greg Egan or Vernor Vinge?

    Ah, remembered a cute one – “Rocket Girls”. Not that it’s sci-fi, really…


  8. Pingback: Day 29: Infinite Magica | Numbers and space

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.