Episodic series have this odd relationship with the anime community. There are those that dismiss it them as not having a good enough plot to stretch across multiple episodes or a full season. There are those who gobble up episodic anime. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum of the first point, there are fans that hate on those who dismiss episodic anime as having low intelligence and unable to read into anything. We don’t know where we fall per se, as not all anime are made the same, but generally speaking, the anime community finds episodic anime to be a hot button issue. Love em or hate em, we are going to break down what the deal is with episodic anime aka anime that tend to focus more on a resolution each episode, what the heck the purpose they serve is, and some great shows that you can watch IF you approach episodic anime properly.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines episodic when referring to a story as “episodic stories are divided into several parts, especially when they are broadcast on the television or radio”. Merriam-Webster also notes that this word is not new as the first written example of the word episodic came around in 1717. It defines episodic as “made up of separate especially loosely connected episodes”. That about nails it on the head. So basically, when there is an overall plot, say an evil villain trying to destroy the world, or a planet, a year spent in school, or a traveling individual, but the story is told with minor conflicts or stories that are resolved usually within an episode or two, then the show is episodic. Some big anime that could be considered episodic are shows like say, Msshishi, Jigoku Shoujo, Urusei Yatsura, Sailor Moon, Natsume Yuujinchou, and even classics that many know like Gintama, Cowboy Bebop, and Tenchi Muyo. Nothing wrong with labeling them episodic, but they are technically episodic as there is a bigger backstory, but each episode is not dedicated to that plot. It is instead sprinkled throughout multiple episodes. So then, why are people so bitter sometimes about episodic anime?
Gimme Gimme Gimme My Name is Jimmy
Back before the days of Netflix, (horrifying, I know), Crunchyroll, Funimation, Daisuki(RIP), and even the internet, you had one of two options to get an anime fix. 1. Buy or rent the show and watch it at home. Or 2. Wait until the anime came on TV to watch it. That’s it. With the advent of things like online streaming services and even the internet itself, you had to have patience and wait. Sure, you could watch maybe a few episodes at a time, but you would also have to wait until it came out. Oh well. That being said, streaming, simulcasts, and other things have created this demand within the anime community, and humanity in general really, to do something or get something when we want. If we want to watch it, we want to watch it right now. That is the overall problem though is that, when you marathon a show that was meant to be watched say once a week over twelve or twenty four weeks, then naturally you are going to feel like there is less plot.
Something I often see in forums and on reddit are certain anime fans that have this weird red badge of courage because they do not watch new anime weekly, but wait until the show is over to marathon it in one go. This then leads them to disliking and not fully enjoying certain shows because “they couldn’t get into it” or “it was not that deep”. Well, that is the goal of anime. Anime is meant to be watched weekly. When you hit a show that is meant to be watched weekly in just a few hours, naturally your experience is going to be different. Can you still marathon shows? Of course, you can. Why would we say no? However, one thing to note is that certain anime are harder to enjoy if you absorb all of it at once rather than letting it stew in your brain as it forms memories about the show. If you go at the show and finish it in four hours as opposed to twelve weeks, then naturally, you are less likely to recall events as well as someone who has seen it bit by bit over three, six, nine, twelve or more months! It’s simple logic. People who get mad over this are like people who have a choice between having a slice of cake or eating the cake all in one sitting. They then choose the latter option and find out there is no more cake and are enraged. It's like...What did you expect?
So… What to Do & Watch?
Well the first thing you can do is when you find an episodic anime that you want to watch, you can do one of three things: 1. Marathon it all at once wasting no time in between episodes, 2. Watch an episode or two a day, or 3. Watch it when you are in the mood for more. It might not be right away that you want more, but that is the beauty of anime. Here are a few episodic anime that are great for people who want to try testing out the series.
A great show for this argument is Nichijou. Nichijou follows the story of three high school girls who all have been friends since childhood. Mio, Yuuko, and Mai soon meet three others and their daily life becomes rather ridiculous and hilarious as weird becomes the standard. The three girls and their newfound friends suddenly watch that which should not happen, hilariously unfold in their everyday lives. Overall the plot is about comedic events that happen in everyday life. That’s it. Don’t sit down thinking that the universe is about to be defended from an evil because it is not going to happen.
Gintama is the same kind of setup. The story follows Gintoki, Shinpachi and Kagura as they work their jobs at Yorozuya as jacks-of-all-trades. The backstory is that aliens have invaded earth and rapidly modernized Japan while banning swords thus samurai no longer have a place in society. That’s it. It’s a gag series full of parodies. It has not stopped millions of fans from loving it though. It is a classic.
Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl) is about a little girl who, with the help of her servants, takes out hitmen like contracts on people and then dispatches of them ferrying them to Hell. Each episode generally speaking, she sends someone to Hell. The bigger backstory though is how she got here and what she plans to do with orders that she is given by the Lord of Hell, her boss, when she does not agree with them. That is how this series works. Note: Can be a little too realistic. May want to take a break between episodes.
Mushishi is yet another anime about a wandering medicine man of sorts who deals with supernatural beings and events that affect everyday, normal humans. Each episode or two, he meets someone who eventually will tell him their tale of how they are being mysteriously afflicted. This then leads to him either knowing what to do, or uncovering the spirits that are messing with people. The overall plot is more so about watching the characters develop than a story itself, but nonetheless, this seinen classic is sure to charm you if you go about it correctly!
There are even episodic anime this season. An excellent example is Aho Girl. No real plot. Her antics are just to make you laugh. We hope that this article has shed some light and also spurs you the reader to think about how to deal with and approach episodic anime. There are a lot of others out there that can sometimes get the bad rap, but remember the best things in life are the things worth waiting for. Though, if you are enjoying an episodic anime, there is nothing wrong with watching it back to back if you are into it, but know that your experience is going to be different than if you wait. What episodic anime do you enjoy? Let us know below!