The benefits of keeping up with the newest and most popular anime series week by week can come with some frustrating costs, mainly the excruciating wait between each new episode. Even worse, some of the most anticipated shows can come with unexpected, unbearable broadcast delays (i.e., Madoka). The overall sense of tension of lightning-paced shows can be lost when spaced out on a week to week basis, effectively limiting the viewing experience for an audience.
Marathons, on the other hand, provide that all-in-one instant gratification when all of a show’s content is made available to a viewer, whether that be in the form of a DVD collection, streaming playlist, or even batch torrent. Regardless of whichever way you prefer to obtain your anime, watching an entire series at once can be rewarding if you can overcome its inherent difficulties.
The hardest part about marathoning a series is the ability to find the time to watch the entire thing in the first place. Depending on the number of episodes that a particular show has, one has to take into account just how much time he or she requires to go through the entire series. Due to the nature of season-based syndication in Japan compared to North America (where long-runners come and go as popularity dictates), one can expect the the number of episodes of an anime to occur in multiples of 12 or 13, with greater variance in episode total the more seasons a show is scheduled to run.
This means that one should take into account just how much time is required to watch a series of a certain length. Single-season series such as Madoka Magica will take anywhere from 4 to 5 hours to watch, depending on whether or not the view chooses to skip through the opening and ending credit sequences. A 2-season series like Mawaru Penguindrum or The iDOLM@STER can run as long as 11 hours and as few as 8. There’s a lot less flexibility for longer shows with regards to when it can be fit into someone’s schedule, especially when the viewer has a lifestyle that doesn’t allow such viewings during the week because of school or work.
I personally enjoy starting my marathon right from the start of the day. I’ll wake up early, grab a very quick breakfast, and go through as much as I can before having to stop to eat again. My last 2-season marathon was for Tengen-Toppa Gurren Lagann, which happened on a Saturday at around 9 in the morning and finished at around 7 or 8 in the evening. It was a remarkable experience, especially because it was the first time I had watched the show.
Watching anime for extended periods of time can take a toll both on the body and the mind. Sitting around all day can be pretty easy if one doesn’t notice; there are times where we inadvertedly spend our entire afternoon or evening on the computer playing video games or on twitter/facebook/pixiv/etc., and it’s easy to look back on those occurrences with some semblance of surprise.
Marathoning anime is a decision. Aside from the rare case, one does not simply go on a whim and watch the entirety of Legend of Galactic Heroes. It takes some form of conscious thought, partly due to the minimum amount of planning required to fit all the required episodes into a single session, as stated above. It’s also one thing to plan, but another to actually go through with that plan. Staying in one place for a long time can be rather difficult, especially when you’re restricted to watching the same show for the entire duration.
Depending on the reputed enjoyability of a series, marathoning anime that the viewer is watching for the first time can result in losing interest very quickly. It takes discipline to keep at it when he or she has some vague idea that the show will get better over time. It’s very common for a show to start off slowly, especially for series that are less episodic (Samurai Champloo, Katanagatari) and rely more on an overall series arc (Last Exile, Mawaru Penguindrum).
The worst feeling, however, is when a show takes a turn for the worse at one point past the halfway mark in the series. The person marathoning the show can always walk away, but at this point, he or she has already invested so much time into the marathon and perhaps sacrificed something in his or her schedule to watch in the first place. To simply stop right at the very end would be a personal defeat, and the viewer constantly has to weigh the consequences of watching an unenjoyable anime against missing out on plans with other people.
I had one such experience marathoning Myself;Yourself. I hated that show. I knew I would hate it, but I had acquired the entire series, and it was the only single-season series that I had yet to watch which was available to me. That Sunday morning, I had enough free time in the morning to watch a single-season series, and I had resolved to myself that I would marathon something, anything. I decided on M;Y because I figured that there was some romance element in it, so I could keep myself invested emotionally into the show by shipping characters as hard as I could.
Unfortunately, the show was not enjoyable at all, and my ship lost, and my entire morning turned out to be a waste after slogging through that last episode. I collapsed at the finish line, and melted into a pile of primordial goo in my computer chair. That’s the power of marathoning a show; what would otherwise be a mediocre anime turned out to be an utterly nightmarish experience. By watching the entire anime series in a single viewing, one’s perception and enjoyment (or lack thereof) is amplified to an extreme extent.
The Long Haul
Sometimes, you feel adventurous, or even simply plain stupid, and want to watch an extremely long show. Sometimes you actually do want to watch all of Legend of Galactic Heroes (all 110 episodes, and perhaps the movies as well). Sometimes, you notice that there’s enough time in the day to watch an entire year-long show in a single sitting. Skipping OPs and EDs, a 52-episode series takes roughly 17 hours to watch, which is enough time to wake up, watch the show, and then go back to sleep.
It’s not easy, but it’s doable. It takes a monstrous amount of planning and discipline, because any slight distraction can and will result in lost time, pushing the time of finishing the final episode long past midnight, despite starting at an early time. Meals have to be accounted for, and they have to be instantly prepared or skipped altogether. Neither are particularly healthy choices, but the former is the lesser of the two evils.
The biggest concern about watching a very long show is choosing a show that is close to guaranteed to be an enjoyable watching experience. Most of the time, this would involve either re-watching a show, or watching a show that is highly recommended to the viewer based on pre-existing tastes. Someone who highly enjoys comedy may want to consider Hayate no Gotoku! Someone who wants a really juicy story with lots of adventure will go for Fullmetal Alchemist (I watched the first series this way). Someone who loves sports anime would definitely try out Cross Game. There’s a marathon for everyone, and choosing the right series can affect the success of actually going through with it.
For much longer series such as Galactic Heroes or Kenshin, a “healthy” marathon will require sleep in between sessions. It’s certainly possible to stay up for longer than 24 hours, but it is highly unadvisable to go more than 36 hours without any sleep. Even outside of health concerns, tiredness and fatigue will affect one’s ability to pay attention to anime anyways, so there’s no point in trying to be a hero. Taking a short sleeping break in between marathon blocks is the best solution. Take a nap to allow at least one or two REM/NREM cycles, as to not accumulate sleep debt throughout the rest of the marathon.
My greatest marathon accomplishment was watching 4 seasons of Gintama in 4 days. A 201-episode series, I spent one week a few summers ago watching the entire thing. I would wake up at about 6am, watch Gintama nonstop, then go to bed at midnight, and repeat again for 4 days until the entire thing was finished. Needless to say, it was the both the most “enjoyable” anime experience for me, at the cost of marathon-related burnout. I rated Gintama very highly, but was so burned out on the series that I would resolve to never watch it again. As of right now, a second season is currently airing, but to my dismay, I honestly do not wish to follow it.
It certainly takes quite a bit of effort to go through the type of experience that an anime marathon brings, but the rewards are certainly worth the trouble. It looks like a monumental task from a big-picture standpoint, but by addressing each of the minor component issues, it is a certainly a manageable feat. With the exception of Myself;Yourself, I’ve enjoyed every single series that I’ve marathoned, even if some of them would have been just merely okay had I watched them in small chunks, or as they aired.
A marathon man at heart, I look forward to my next opportunity to watch a long series in a short amount of time. Having recently acquired a large number of Blu-Ray series from Rightstuf during their Christmas sale, I am already taking a few series into consideration. Both seasons of Tsubasa Chronicle look like a good pick, as does Soul Eater. Outside of Blu-Rays, I can see myself attempting to marathon yet another PreCure series, perhaps Heartcatch or Futari wa.
At 1650 words, this post has become quite long itself, so I direct the question towards you, the reader. Feel free to share your marathon experiences in the comment section. I look forward to reading your response(s).