On Rewatching and Second Chances

I was supposed to post this yesterday to keep up my promise to post regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I have the flu, and a runny nose, and all sorts of yucky respiratory problems that I often get at this time of year so I didn’t feel like posting then.

Anyway, nobody cares about that stuff. As I mentioned in my review of the Paprika novel, I rewatched the 2006 movie by Satoshi Kon just to see if my perception of it (the movie) would’ve changed now that I’ve read the novel. Spoiler: it has.

I watched Paprika with my boyfriend and a couple of other friends on Memorial Day weekend of 2007. I remember the date exactly because that weekend was memorable for being especially shitty. My boyfriend was in graduate school in another state at the time, and was only in town for a few days. I thought he was going to be in New York the entire holiday weekend, but he informed me last minute that he had to fly off to an anime convention in Texas so that only left me feeling especially resentful and bitchy that I wasn’t going to spend as time with him as I had originally thought. I know most of you don’t care to read personal stuff about me on this blog, but I wanted to explain my emotional standpoint when I went in to watch Paprika.

I was already grumpy before entering the theater, and I was already fighting with the boyfriend and really ready to break it off with him. So then, when the movie started, I was just annoyed. I didn’t appreciate Paprika the character, and why she was doing all of these things. The animation was pretty and intricate, but I kept being thrown out of the story because of the meta-narrative. Is this the dream sequence again, or is this reality being invaded by the dream? I admittedly have never watched a Satoshi Kon movie previously, so while I was expecting a visual feast (as I saw from the trailers), I certainly wasn’t ready for this philosophical onslaught. Which would’ve been fine any other time, but not when I was feeling so emotionally bruised already.

Anyway, came out of the movie not liking it. I thought it’s another case of another Japanese director trying so hard and creating beautiful disturbing images merely for the aesthetic value of being able to do so.

Fast-forward to 2013. I’ve read the novel, hated that one too, but decided to give the movie another chance since it’s been six years since I’ve seen it. It’s amazing what a different (and calmer) frame of mind can do to one’s reception of art. This time around, Paprika makes much more sense. The repetition of the dream sequence scenes, which I originally thought was lazy animation, is actually relevant to the overall narrative. The movie diverges slightly from the book, but in a better way — the movie focuses less on corporate politics and the misanthropic treatment of women, but more on Paprika/Atsuko as a character with her own intrinsic motivation and agency. The movie highlights the dream world, with its own internal dream logic, and how even what we perceive as reality sometimes is much closer to surrealism than we’d like to admit. Rewatching Paprika (with a less bitter attitude and 10x less bitchiness) has made me admire Satoshi Kon’s ability to take a preexisting story, give it his own twist, and remake it into a treat for the eyes and the brain. This time around, I gave myself permission to not focus on the story — the plot of Paprika is tricky enough without having read the book — but to immerse myself on the imagery, in the setting, and to really let it wash over me like a real dream.

I generally dislike re-watching or re-reading things because I feel that there’s only so much time that I have in my life, and I can’t waste it going through the same material repeatedly. But rewatching Paprika, even if only to reinforce my dislike for the novel, also had me thinking if movies/series that I disliked years ago would appear different to me now since I have the distance of time and experience between me and the material? Of course, this statement doesn’t apply to series that are objectively bad, like Saint Beast, but maybe the Utena movie wouldn’t be as distasteful to my palate now? I was a fangirl baby when I watched the Utena series and movie, now that I’ve had a few hundred hours of anime watching between then and now, would I have a deeper, more nuanced appreciation of it?

What worries me about this premise is that what if rewatching something that I’ve professed to love will make me dislike it now that I am older, with different tastes? I know Fruits Basket (both anime and manga, alas) didn’t hold up to its hallowed place in my pantheon, so I’m kind of wary to try this with the other titles that I desperately hold so dear lest I end up not liking any anime anymore.

What’s been your experience with rewatching anime? Is a second viewing always an improvement?


9 thoughts on “On Rewatching and Second Chances

  1. I’ve been rewatching some old favourites that I didn’t think would hold up, like Last Exile and Full Metal Panic, only to be pleasantly surprised. On the other hand I also rewatched my old favourite Chobits and that did not hold up at all. My take on this is you will generally know deep down whether something will hold up to your nostalgia. And if you don’t know, you will learn /very/ quickly just watching the first 10 or so minutes.

    On the other hand, I don’t tend to go back to stuff I didn’t like first time around. Maybe I should get back to Paprika myself. Loved all of Kon’s other movies but Paprika didn’t do it for me.

    • Why didn’t you think your old favorites would hold up? I tried watching Last Exile:Fam and couldn’t go too far since all it made me want to do was rewatch the original series.

      • A mixture of reading other people’s thoughts on the anime several years after the fact being stronger in my memory than my own memory of the show. That and perhaps a particularly bad part of the show is something I remember extra strongly. In the case of Last Exile, its really terrible Klaus harem remained in my memory much longer than all the great things it did. Which is a pretty big knock against the show that a negative thing is what lasted in my mind, but going back revealed how great everything else in the show was.

  2. What’s been your experience with rewatching anime?

    There are definitely certain scenes and sequences that I have no problem rewatching time and time again – the end of Wings of Honneamise comes to mind, and a lot of Gunbuster 2. And sometimes, I just forget how much stuff there is in a series that’s packed with a lot of things – so, rewatching and rediscovering is a joy. But that definitely works for some series more so than for others.

  3. I do tend to rewatch a lot of things, and for a variety of reasons.

    I often show anime in my collection to friends as one of my social outlets, and I usually want to have a good idea that given title will work before I start. So that tends to be shows I’ve seen before.

    On other occasions it is purely for relaxation, these are my comfort anime, the ones I go to when I want to switch off and refresh the soul. http://piratesobg.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/what-are-your-comfort-anime-enquiring-minds-well-mine-want-to-know/

    (I’m actually doing something similar with rereading a lot of Mercedes Lackey at the moment, not sure why, it’s just the mood I’m in at the moment).

    Then there’s rewatching for the purpose of reviewing – I have a lot of older titles in my collection that I think need to have more reviews out there, but that won’t happen UNLESS I rewatch them.

    To answer the second question, second watchings are not always an improvement. Kimagure Orange Road, Macross: Do You Remember Love, Key the Metal Idol, and Space Firebird 2772 immediately spring to mind as titles that have not aged well.

    Actually Kimagure Orange Road is an interesting example. I haven’t been back to the TV series but whilst the comedy OAVs aged badly, the movies may have actually strengthened over time.

    Apologies for the length of this. 🙂

    • Don’t apologize! I always appreciate comments and feedback.

      I’m always curious to find out why and how people consume & disseminate anime, so I think it’s pretty cool that you actually show anime to your friends. Are these friends anime fans to begin with? Or are they just unsuspecting muggles you’re planning to bring into the tribe? 😛

      Oh man, Kimagure Orange Road brings back a lot of memories for me too. I’m not an early wave anime fan but I think I started watching that series (along with Hana Yori Dango) on VHS tape fansubs. I didn’t actually finish watching the KOR series because I sorta got tired of the premise, but I think I did watch the movie… I may have to go through my stuff to see if I have it around anywhere (not that I have a working VHS player or whatever).

      I also re-read the comments in your comfort anime post and I find it cute when people name series that are only a couple of seasons old as retro/comfort series. Don’t talk to me until you’ve watched something that’s at least a dozen years old, heh!

      • Usually the friends in question are SF fans of some sort, but only relatively casual anime watchers. This is why I tend to select what I show them fairly carefully. 🙂

        I can certainly understand bouncing off the KOR TV series. A friend in Perth is of the opinion that there’s a good 13 episode series buried somewhere in the 40 TV episodes (and the problem is picking the 13 episodes). There are actually two movies, and both are definitely worth watching.

        I wouldn’t say that age is essential to something being a comfort series – ARIA isn’t that old but is definitely one of mine. It is more a matter of feel and willingness to rewatch on multiple occasions that qualifies.

        That said, I also find recency bias in anime to be amusing. There is occasionally fun to be had with the “Best X” polls that get reported on CrunchyRoll: scroll down until you find the first X older than 2 years…

  4. Ah, rewatching. I find it pretty critical in the understanding of the self (mostly with things that are very important to you), but that might just be because I’ve a very academic mindset. It can have all kinds of different effects, too. There’re things like Dragonball Z and other nostalgic shows, which shift from first time watcher amazement to corny over the topness and memories of early childhood (as well as a crackerjack means of picking up on formative tropes in anime, for good and ill). On the other hand are movies like Akira, where the wow of the visual spectacle is supplanted by an understanding of post-nuclear anxiety and gang culture in Japan, or other forms of future study (see also, Wolf’s Rain). Then there’s long runners like the annual Lupin specials, which I found a lot less stupid once the character had gotten his hooks in me and I could appreciate inter-connected works playing off each other (while still recognizing things like occasionally hideous animation).
    There’s that special brand of rewatch that most fans (that I know anyway) adore. It brings out new meaning when you have to explain or rationalize something you accepted to someone else, and maybe through their eyes you realize something about it you’d never seen before (high art projects like Kon’s, Evangelion, Utena, and Princess Tutu lend especially well to this).
    I’ve sort of lucked out by this stage in the game in that I became very picky early on, with a generally good gut feeling as to what I’ll regret like a bad hangover later on (K, InuYasha, most shonen shows from my childhood). Even then, I think there’s an important distinction in not holding up to critical thought and losing all enjoyment. The former are ones you still want to watch while shaking a head at the glaring flaws the old you overlooked. The latter you never make eye contact with again.
    My, that was lengthy. Anyway, interesting write-up. And now I’m mourning the lost genius of Satoshi Kon all over again.

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