February 18, 2007

Are episodic series really so bad?

Filed under: Jigoku Shoujo, Misc — Ren @ 1:00 pm

I see a lot of people ragging on series like Jigoku Shoujo because of their episodic nature. I don’t think this is really fair. Don’t get me wrong, I love epic series with rich, continuous storylines as much as the next person. But I also enjoy the occasional episodic series as well.

If the characters are likeable and interesting enough, it’s fun just to watch them do their thing. Then, when something big happens, you feel like you’ve already been through a lot with them and it makes the event even more powerful. An example of this that comes to mind at the moment is Kekkaishi 11. At this point I’d definitely label Kekkaishi as episodic. I’d be pleased if at some point they developed a continuous plot, but I’m also okay if it stays episodic as episode 11’s confrontation absolutely blew me away.

If you still don’t agree with me, think about your childhood. What do you remember about the friends you had when you were growing up? I remember going to the pond, sitting in the long grass and listening to the crickets chirp as we wiled away lazy summer afternoons. I remember how content we were just to be together even if we didn’t speak for hours. Years later, when crisis hit, I was all the more devastated because I felt like something had come along and violated that very peace that encompassed my memories.

I don’t always need big action or flashy effects to be happy. The interactions between the characters are just as likely to give me goosebumps as any grand battle; those small things that you’d probably miss if you weren’t paying close attention. I can still remember the first time Mulder took Scully’s hand and gave it a little squeeze in The X-Files. Nowadays, holding hands isn’t a significant event, but in that moment, for those two, it was huge, and it said more than any passion-filled dialogue could even hope to express.

So that’s why I don’t mind episodic series. Ah, maybe I’m just easy to please…

8 Responses to “Are episodic series really so bad?”

  1. psgels Says:

    I don’t know about others, but quite like episodic series. Series like Jigoku Shoujo, Mushishi or xxxHolic all have their own charm. Because they’re episodic, they can include some nice twists that linear anime just can’t do.

  2. Mike Says:

    I think it depends a lot on how strong the characters are. If the characters are well-defined and developed, they’ll be interesting to watch regardless of the plot, whether it’s just one episode or 26. That’s what makes the good sitcom-like shows (the first season of School Rumble, for instance), so consistently enjoyable.

    I do think that serial shows can do things that episodic shows can’t do, though, and the main reason why American TV has been so much better lately is that the TV writers here have finally figured that out. We’re living in something of a golden age as a result for character development and drama on TV.

  3. dsong Says:

    Many, if not most, of the truly mainstream works tend to be episodic in nature. Just in Japan, the most popular anime series - Sazae-san, Crayon Shin-Chan, Chibi Maruko Chan, and Doraemon, are all episodic. And a similar theme runs in prime-time US television; Simpsons was an episodic show; so were iconic shows like I Love Lucy and All in the Family.

    I don’t think an episodic approach necessarily limits a show’s potential to be great. Quite the contrary, in fact - if you go by past history.

  4. KT Kore Says:

    I used to have a problem with episodic series just because I preferred series with gradual plot progression, and I always wanted that as opposed to episodic series. Then I started watching Detective Conan and fell in love with it. I could watch all 400+ episodes of it and never get tired of it. So now I don’t have a single problem with episodic series. City Hunter and Detective Conan are two of my favorite series.

  5. Slash Says:

    Kekkaishi hooks me in with something. I can’t put my finer on it. I also hope it will develop a continuous plot.

  6. Anime Gift Store Says:

    I love episodic series. I develop relationships with the characters, spend time thinking about the future plots, etc. It’s really great.

  7. Washi Says:

    I’ve had this same debate with quite a few people over the years, but ultimately I can’t understand why people are so determinedly dismissive of episodic anime. I mean, I have heard someone say that Cowboy Bebop had a terrible plot “because most of the episodes didn’t progress the story”. That kind of thinking is shallow. In episodic television, each episode represents its own story, which is inherently neither better or worse than a story that spans over more episodes, and each of these standalone stories have a place in the broader show under the wing of some kind of thematic or stylistic continuity. I’ve also heard a lot of invalid criticism aimed at Gits SAC. It’s just not right to assume a plot is no good because it plays out in the confines of a single episode - the average Gits SAC episode probably had more meaning and sophistication to it than the vast majority of those shounen behemoths with hundreds of episodes; if a series can be a platform for strong storytelling in episodic format, then that can be just as good as or even better than a series that essentially has one story to tell and drags its feet along the way with filler and unnecessary convolution.

  8. Peony Says:

    Interesting to know.

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