How Do You Get Over Anime Burnout?

by Justin Sevakis,

Michael asks:

For about three years, I watched a lot more anime than I ever had before. It was pretty much the only media I was consuming and it wouldn't be uncommon for me to be watching eight to ten shows at the same time. Well, as it happens when you overdo it, I got burned out. It came to the point where I just got so sick of anime that I stopped watching it entirely. Recently though, I have been coming back into the fold and have started watching things again, and am also realizing that I have a huge back log of shows that I want to check out that I either never started or never finished during my four year burnout period. My question for you is, do you have any advice for how I can do this? I want to watch the stuff on my massive list, but I don't want to overdose and fall back into that slump where I want nothing to do with anime.

Ah yes, burnout. It happens to all of us at some point or another. Having been an anime fan for 24 years now (oh my god I can't believe I just typed that) I've endured more cycles of burnout than I care to count. Everyone has their own means of dealing with it (and I encourage other readers to share their secrets in the forum), but here's what I've learned over the years.

In my case, I get burned out for two reasons: the first reason is that I'm forcing myself to watch too much anime that I don't enjoy. The thing is, the older we get and the more anime we watch, the more discerning we get. The vast, vast, vast majority of anime is only a slight variation on fairly well-worn themes, and those themes become less and less enthralling the more times we see them. There is SO MUCH ANIME being released, simulcast, and made available in English these days, and nobody knows how any of it is going to turn out. The vast majority of it is going to be completely forgettable pablum at best.

I think the first step to combatting that is to stop trying to keep up with current shows. Your time is valuable, your sanity is finite, and frankly, the odds of you being able to successfully predict which shows will end up being worthwhile aren't very good. Wait a season or two, listen and find out which shows people are still talking about months after they stopped airing. THOSE are the ones that, generally, are worth your time. Just doing that will prevent a good 90% of the unsatisfying viewing experiences that cause burnout. You might not be able to participate in as much online chatter about those shows when they come out, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, when we're (hopefully) old and on our death beds, absolutely none of us are going to sigh deeply and wish we had argued more about currently-airing anime with people on the internet.

The second reason I get burned out is that I end up watching so much anime that it all blurs together in my head, which makes me forget why I enjoyed any of it in the first place. Once you've reached this point, you simply have to take a break for a while, which it sounds like you have. But I've found that taking a break alone isn't enough. Part of the rehabilitation process is going back and revisiting a handful -- JUST a handful -- of your old favorite, formative shows. The ones that made you an anime fan, the ones that give you the sense memory of that magical moment when you said, "wow, what IS this stuff?? I have to see more of it!" As that original "wow" moment recedes further and further into the dusty past, I find it's incredibly important to go back and revisit what stuck a chord in you, and why that is.

That doesn't mean you'll still love those old shows as much as you once did. Heck, one of my old favorites, Dominion Tank Police, has aged rather questionably, and now that I'm in my mid-30s it's much clearer to me that its intended audience was basically 12-year-olds. But other times you'll find that the stuff you loved really does stand the test of time, and coming back to those shows is both refreshing and essential to rekindling your enthusiasm for the medium.

It's far easier for someone who doesn't work in the anime business to avoid burnout, because you are never in the position of HAVING to watch a show you don't enjoy. With that in mind, stop doing it. If a show isn't making you happy, you can and should stop watching it, no matter how many people tell you "it gets better once you get past episode 9!" or whatever. Anime is entertainment, it's supposed to be entertaining. Once it stops entertaining you, bail out IMMEDIATELY, or the resentment will start to build up. There is no fan activity anywhere that is worth wasting your life watching crap you don't enjoy.

I think too often we get caught up on being a fan, needing to know about as many shows as possible, and filing out our to-watch checklists than living in the moment and enjoying what we're doing. We don't owe anybody, we don't NEED to watch anything, and there's no need to prove we're "real fans" to anyone. Watch anime for fun. That's all it's there for, that's all it's intended for. Unless you are getting paid for it, there is absolutely no other reason to watch ANYTHING. Period.

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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for nearly 20 years. He's the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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