The Long Haul: Marathoning Anime

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.

Schedule

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.

Discipline

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.

Iron Manime

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).

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24 thoughts on “The Long Haul: Marathoning Anime”

  1. Undisciplined as I am, I’ve never really been one for all-day marathons, so I’ve never watched any full length TV anime series in one sitting – probably the biggest anime marathon session I had was to watch Revolutionary Girl Utena (excluding the movie) from beginning to end, which I did in three big sittings in under 72 hours. I’ve also had a few intense marathon sessions watching anime for review, but somehow that “doesn’t count” as it always seems like a different experience, and it often isn’t something explicitly by choice.

    I think the interesting question (for me at least) is how watching a show in such a condensed amount of time affects your perception of it beyond simply becoming “burned out” on it – my final verdict on Utena was “What’s all the fuss about? That was nothing special”, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether my view of the series was affected by watching it in this way rather than smaller, more measured chunks (a question answered by my reaction to Mawaru Penguindrum, incidentally). Are some shows better digested in huge blocks while others suit weekly viewing more readily?

    No doubt I’ll have some similar marathons in my future at some point – Soul Eater is one that tempts me too, but I usually end up finding myself plumping for watching (or re-watching) shorter series when push comes to shove most of the time.

    1. I’ve also had a few intense marathon sessions watching anime for review, but somehow that “doesn’t count” as it always seems like a different experience, and it often isn’t something explicitly by choice.

      Oh, I can imagine. Forcing yourself into a marathon situation is pretty tough, and usually worsens the impression than it would otherwise.

      Are some shows better digested in huge blocks while others suit weekly viewing more readily?

      From my experience, weekly viewing is relatively more difficult for currently airing shows that are continuous on a single story arc (as opposed to episodic week-by-week shows). Recent examples include Steins;Gate, Penguindrum and the like. The wait is sometimes pretty bothersome for those with limited patience. Those are the types of series that would definitely benefit from a marathon. I recently marathoned a large chunk of Last Exile last week because I had fell behind. After every episode, I was somewhat grateful that I would be watching the following episode immediately. Now that I’m fully caught-up, I’m once again a bit anxious about having to wait for the new installment to come in.

  2. First, you’re a nut.

    I used to do mass marathons in December (example line-up), but have found starting things on a whim works better with my schedule and sometimes these endeavors turn into marathons. Lately it has been re-watches, like Proposal Daisakusen, though it’s rare. Instead, I prefer to watch things in batches at a moderate pace. This is because many series are not worth watching in marathon, Heartcatch for instance, which I’m just through two cours, loses it’s sparkle after about 6-8 episodes.

    Rest between these “exercises” helps us though. It’s like working out a muscle in which we require recovery between sets, routines, and schedules. But some shows are not very strenuous and just work when watched in one go (Baccano!).

    For me, it’s not so much about the marathon anymore as it is about finding an optimal viewing pace. ^ ^

    1. First, you’re a nut.

      Reasonable claim.

      Instead, I prefer to watch things in batches at a moderate pace. This is because many series are not worth watching in marathon, Heartcatch for instance, which I’m just through two cours, loses it’s sparkle after about 6-8 episodes.

      Yeah, there’s a point where marathons become laboursome, and the whole experience emphasizes the marathon itself rather the series. Gintama was one such example, though the mileage varies for everyone. I can see something as awesome as Heartcatch be worth savouring, at least with regards to rewatching.

      Rest between these “exercises” helps us though. It’s like working out a muscle in which we require recovery between sets, routines, and schedules. But some shows are not very strenuous and just work when watched in one go (Baccano!).

      Single-season shows are the perfect marathon length for most people, since it only requires a couple hours anyway. Funny you should mention Baccano, because I also marathoned that one in one instance, and the entire first half of Durarara in another. I can imagine that it’s easier to appreciate the similarities between both shows when they’re both watched at the same pace, whether it is week-by-week or all-at-once.

  3. “My greatest marathon accomplishment was watching 4 seasons of Gintama in 4 days.”

    You.are.crazy.
    I think my best feat so far is finishing FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood within a week (most likely 5 days), and that was already beaten by my friend (who watch less anime than I do) in 3 days = =.
    Even my LoGH marathon spanned a week or 2.

    But I think there are both pros and cons for both marathoning and watching each episode as it airs, it really depens on the anime itself. I think it is harder for someone to marathon through a series when it is rather episodic, since there is little incentive to continue, and might start to feel repetitive if it is something like monster/magical girl of the week (I’m looking at my “marathon” of the first 5 episode of Smile Precure). For something packed like LoGH, ya, since the plot is closely tied together, it very easy since I always want to know what happens next (that is until my body is forcing me to stop watching it)…

    But then again…your Gintama kinda proved my idea to be incorrect.

    As for another cons of marathoning rather than watching it as it airs: it is harder to discuss with other people that are watching it also. And in the case of Madoka, you don’t get to read all the speculation that happens between each week. =P

    1. If it means anything, I did the original FMA in a single day.

      I disagree about the lack of incentive to continue watching through epsiodic series. If the show is good enough overall, you’ll end up saying “just one more episode” each time, regardless of whether or not the series is episodic or contains a single story arc. If the show isn’t good enough, then yeah, I agree that there won’t be any real reason to keep watching, but the same can be said for the other type as well. It depends mainly on your interest in watching the show altogether.

      Gintama was, well…different. Gintama is kind of a thing that will never happen again.

      I normally don’t like discussing speculation, unless it’s some remarkably winded but ridiculously fantastic conspiracy theory. In those cases, it’s more like creative discussion, talking about filling in the gaps, rather than trying to think too hard into it. It then becomes one giant competition to see who’s smarter than the other within a fandom, and I don’t like participating in those, since I end up losing anyway ;_;

  4. I was never the type of person who could just sit and watch that much of one show at once. The only times I could are when friends were visiting. It’s still impressive that there are people who can do marathons like this.

    1. Hrmm, I can imagine that it’d definitely be easier to marathon when it’s done with more people. At Anime North, there’s always an all-night Azumanga Daioh marathon that runs every year. I’ve always been interested in doing that, but I’d definitely be too tired to participate in the rest of the convention as a result of it.

  5. Just chiming in to say I don’t marathon anime either. I might spend a day watching anime though, alternating between different shows, but I like the wait. Even for stuff that I already have on dvd or hard drive, I watch maybe 1-2 episodes at a time and then leave it for a few days before returning

    1. Man, there’s quite a few people commenting that they don’t marathon. I definitely know quite a few people who are capable; my guess is they are the ones who spend more time watching anime than reading or writing about it.

  6. I tend to marathon lots of stuff. Usually around the end of the season where I go back and pick up well-received shows that I missed, or that one time I watched all of Heartcatch in a day because Precure. Or if I ever want to rewatch anything. It suits me more, because I tend to be impatient.

    Generally speaking I’m happy to marathon ~16 episodes comfortably in a day (about 5-6 hours?) without breaking a sweat, but that is because I spend probably too much time at the computer every day. For longer marathons (24, or more), I’d suggest taking regular (but very brief) breaks every few episodes, make sure you at least have snacks or something.

    1. I’m glad you chimed in Twillik, because as it appears, most of the comments on this post are from people who don’t normally marathon shows.

      I’m quite interested in your marathon of Heartcatch, because that seems to be a promising one. I’m considering Futari wa pretty soon. Perhaps this weekend.

      I do agree that a season’s worth of anime, anywhere from 12-14, is very manageable, and if I had a backlog of single-season shows, I’d watch them no problem. Breaks are pretty good for shows that are longer, but don’t require the entire day. 2-season shows are perfect in that regard. 4-season shows are great for spreading over 4 days, but in this case, even making them a weekly marathon in a month is also worth trying, instead of clumping them in consecutive days.

  7. I’m useless at marathoning anime. Even a couple of episodes of some shows can feel like eternity for me. I’m watching Dennou Coil with my Anime Society and the two episodes we watched yesterday felt like an eternity (not because it’s a bad anime, I hasten to add). I remember after my summer exams last year I had bucketloads of time so I ended up watching a lot of stuff then – MAL tells me on June 8th I watched all of Madoka and all of Eden of the East. That was a good day.

    1. Madoka is a pretty damn good show to marathon. Looking back now, I probably wouldn’t have minded saving up for a single run. It’s definitely a different experience than watching week to week, especially given all that time to let things like episode 3 sink in.

  8. Wow! That’s pretty impressive ~ I don’t think I could even imagine getting through an entire 52 episode anime all in one go. My record, sadly, isn’t that impressive…yet =) I think the closest I ever got was watching Angel Beats or Eden of the East; and looking back I wonder why I *didn’t* just push through that last episode or two to finish. I just might have to give it a try though, you’ve inspired me! So the next free weekend I come across, watch out!

    1. Yay! It’s always great to try new things! I would definitely start off small and work my way up. Start with watching two separate 13-ish episode shows, then work your way into a full 24-26’er.

  9. If I have a chance to marathon something, that’s generally how I do it. The problem I have with it is that I end out wanting more once it’s done. A good example would be marathoning Toradora last weekend. The first time I saw TTGL was through a marathon, same as you. To me it feels like that’s the best way to watch that show the first time.

    Although I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t do more sporadic viewings instead of marathons, if for no other reason than to spread out the enjoyment of the show more, and to not spend so much time just sitting in front of a computer/TV. But normally by the time I’m having this thought I’m about 7 episodes in and figure I”ll just keep going. 😛

    I’m also curious about what you ended out disliking about M;Y so much. I mean, it was far from the best I’ve ever seen, but I still found it to be enjoyable enough. Except for Aoi, she just annoyed the hell out of me.

    1. It was pretty much Aoi, lol. That, and the dramatic tone that the series took the entire time didn’t jive well with me at all. Toradora hit it really well with the drama. M;Y’s plot revolved around some rather absurd circumstances that I was unable to connect with.

      That said, I feel like TTGL is one of the few shows that are remarkably divine when watched as a marathon. Just so much awesome packed into a single sitting just makes everything else in life feel less worthwhile, haha.

      Sporadic viewings is great, but sometimes it’s all too natural that they become mini-marathons as well. It’s kind of like what Pikestaff describes with strategy games; just one more turn, just one more turn, just one more turn.

  10. This gave me an idea – invite a friend over, get up at 6, and try to marathon a 4-cour show together. Should be loads of fun, though I fear that by the time an opportunity presents itself to actually do it, I’ll have forgotten. Hope it works out.

    I’m not a stranger to long shows, being a mecha and LotGH fan and having been introduced to anime through shonen, but I’ve never marathoned anything beyond 3-cour, and even 2-cour marathons are rare for me, so the notion of a 4-cour marathon is..wow. Watching Gintama in its entirety in 4 days is even more wow, though surely you meant 4 years of the show, and not 4 season, being that a season is 13 episodes?

    1. Yes, I do mean 4 years, but apparently, wikipedia designates each year as a season, where each season was 4-cour, which makes sense for a long-runner like Gintama.

      As I’ve said in response to someone else’s comment, marathons are a lot of fun when with other people. I support your plans to do one. Eureka 7 seems like a fun prospect, even if it is a rewatch for one or both of you. With the upcoming new series, it’d be a nice refresher before jumping in to the new stuff. I did that with Last Exile, and it’s made Fam quite fun to watch, even though they already provided a recap episode of the prior series. Watching the whole thing is better anways.

  11. You know what I’ve noticed? When I marathon a series, I tend to remember a whole lot less of it. I think it may be information overload for me. For instance, I also marathoned Myself; Yourself. I think I thought it was mediocre, but to tell you the truth, I just don’t remember. Even shows I liked, like “Skip Beat” and “Kimi ni Todoke,” have largely drifted from my memory. I think that perhaps when I marathon, my mind isn’t given enough time to firmly cement these shows, because a day or two later I’ve moved onto another anime (or back to one that I’m watching week to week). Little time to reflect = little remembered, with anime as with anything.

    Also, I could just have a terrible memory. 😛

    1. Quite possibly that. It’s much easier to forget shows that are episodic in nature because there’s so much going on at once. But if you’re watching something with one long storyline like Last Exile, there’s still a lot going on, but it’s more coherent and focused.

      I think the lack of reflection time can apply to watching a lot of anime in general. I’ve had a few 3-4 hour anime sessions involving watching a number of different shows, and I noticed a similar after-effect as well.

  12. Bloody hell, Krizzy…

    I don’t marathon anime much anymore. I do remember doing so pretty regularly during the first year I descovered anime, though; I was still studying, so I’d often stay up all night during school holidays (i.e. no need to get up early the next day) and watch an entire single cour show, or tackle longer series across two or more consecutive nights. It was all rather glorious, if (as Charles mentions) a bit hazy now, in my memory…

    Nowadays, I guess I’m more likely to ‘marathon’ 5-sh eps of something in one go at most (again, probably late into the night, as opposed to spending all day doing so, unless I’m ill at home all day, or I have no no other plans and the weather outside is crap etc.). However, if I’m going to invest that much time into doing marathons, then it probably won’t be on stuff I haven’t already tested out or hasn’t been highly and widely recommended to me.

    1. Yeah, for some reason, I had more time to marathon when I was in University. Reading week/Spring Break tends to afford students time to watch anime in that sort of context, hehe.

      I understand how it’s difficult to find a whole day to watch anime when one has a full-time job, so weekends are the best opportunities. However, other more important commitments usually take precedence over a hobby when the weekend comes, so it’s hard to find the right time, as well as be mentally ready to take on the challenge.

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