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.