To marathon or not to marathon? A little fun with numbers.

It started with Stripey’s post about what your top 5 says about you. And in my comment, I realized that of my 5 favorites, 4 came from 2007 (Code Geass, Gurren Lagann, Seto no Hanayome, Higurashi Kai), and the other candidates aired in 2006 (Haruhi season 1, Higurashi season 1). And then I realized all of those were shows that I had marathoned. So it got me thinking. Is there something about watching a show weekly that takes away from my enjoyment of it? Alternately, was I subconsciously boosting the scores and memories of shows I did marathon? I hypothesized watching a show on a weekly basis might take away from the enjoyment and the memories a slight bit, because I got to stew on each episode for a week, whereas when I marathon a show, I tend to be more bigger-picture focused, and not dwell on minor issues.


The numbers get worse, I’m afraid to say. Source

So I thought I’d have a little fun with numbers, but taking a look at my MAL scores. I discounted all the movies, ONAs and OVAs, since almost all of them are one-shot deals, and focused on just the series that aired at least 12 episodes (or in Nodame Cantabile Paris’ case, 11). I counted 86 shows completed or near complete. 37 are shows I marathoned (defined as having started and finished in 2 weeks or less – although over 90% were started and finished within 1 week). 49 were shows I watched on either a weekly basis or over an extended period of time. This group includes shows that I may have watched in "mini-marathon" batches along the way. It also includes Bakemonogatari, Zan Zetsubou Sensei, and FMA Brotherhood, all series I haven’t technically completed, but felt confident enough about my rating to include them in this group.

Some interesting numbers came to light.

The average score of my marathon group was 8.43, while my average score of my weekly group was just 7.04. But to be fair, the marathon group largely consists of many "greats." So the difference in raw scores is to be expected.

So I took a look at the variances vs. the global score instead. My marathon group had a variance of +.16, while my weekly group had a variance of –.92. Interesting, but again not surprising, because the weekly group was much more likely to include shows that I disliked. And lower deviations tend to have heavier weight in my rankings, since even a bad show on MAL typically won’t get a global rating under 7, whereas I’m willing to rate as low as 4 (anything under that I wouldn’t stick around to watch). I wondered if the strong negative outliers would have a big impact on the difference in variances, but when I took out the top 5 positive and negative variances, the marathon group still had an overall variance of .12, while the weekly group had a variation of –.8. Better, but .92 is still a big difference in what amounts to a 7 point scale.

The numbers were interesting, but it still didn’t tell me whether or not I had a ratings bias for shows I marathon vs. shows I follow weekly.

My last ditch effort to try to quantify the bias was to compare the variances of shows that I rated an 8+ between both lists. Once a show reaches 8+ level, I think my rating system becomes a little more consistent. So I figured if there was any sort of bias, it would either show or not show in these cases.

I rated 32 of the 37 shows I marathoned, and 22 of the 49 shows I followed weekly, an 8+. Of the marathon group, I had an average rating of 8.64 and +.3 variance vs. the global score. Meanwhile, of the weekly group, I had an average rating of 8.21, but interestingly, there was a +.07 variance, the first positive variance for this weekly group. On first glance, it still seems like a significant difference though. However, when you take away my 5 favorite shows (of which I have a predictably high rating and variance), the average rating and variance for the marathon group drops down to 8.18 and –.02. Very comparable to the ratings of the weekly group.

These are pretty simple calculations. But in the end, I think the numbers showed that I rate shows pretty consistently, regardless of whether I marathon them or watch them weekly, particularly when a show reaches a very good level (once you account for the favorites bias). It may just be that my memory is skewed to thinking that I enjoy marathoning more, simply because the shows I did marathon were fantastic shows to begin with. However, given a choice between marathoning and following a show weekly, I’d take the marathoning route. Simply because I enjoy experiencing that sense of accomplishment of striking a show off my list. There’s nothing worse than having a long "currently watching" list that seems to never shrink.

So what say you, people of the world? To marathon or not marathon? Do you have a preference? Or am I just foolish to think that anyone but myself (and Lambdadelta I guess) would be interested in pointless numbers. 😉

13 Replies to “To marathon or not to marathon? A little fun with numbers.”

  1. I don’t really have a preference — marathoning is fun for the pure energy of it, but watching week-by-week also offers an interesting experience. For instance, I recently watched Kaiji in about … four days, I guess. (That is my standard for marathoning now that I have a job. :P) Burning through it is a ton of fun, because Kaiji is one of those series that builds an unbelievable amount of momentum as it goes along, but I cannot help but wonder how different the experience would have been watching one episode a week. I am one of those masochists who actually enjoys being on edge for a week or more, waiting for a particularly cruel plot twist to resolve itself. So marathoning loses that, unless you create a set of circumstances that replicates the week-by-week experience as best as possible. Even that isn’t the same unless you watch just the one episode a week though.

    … So yeah.

    1. Heh heh, I don’t think I could handle the same type of masochism as you. I’m an impatient kinda guy, so the week-to-week cliffhangers always kill me :p . FMA Brotherhood for example is driving me crazy.

      Probably the best marathon vs. weekly comparison experience I had was marathoning the first season of Code Geass and watching the second season week to week. I will say the weekly experience definitely sharpens my memory of certain cruel plot twists like you mention. I can think of a handful of crazy plot twist cliffhangers in the second season, while there’s almost none I remember from the first season (although there were probably less to begin with). But the downside is you do lose that momentum and the crescendos from highlights and lowlights along the way.

  2. I can only marathon the fast paced shows and even then I have to get really into them. I think because of this I tend to rate higher shows I marathon as well. I marathon them because I like them but I don’t like them because I marathon them. I like them for other reasons. I’ve been trying to marathon Monster and I can get through about 10-11 episodes before i need to take a break. I have been watching Mushishi since last year and still have 1 or 2 episodes to go because I only watch it when I’m in a certain mood or when I really need to mellow out. I would still probably rank Mushishi in my top 5 even though i haven’t finished it. I would rate Monster up there as well for the 26 or so episodes I’ve seen of it. So I say Marathon what is naturally marathonable. If you force yourself to marathon a show it might lower your opinion if the show is slow paced. I like to alternate episodes of slower paced shows when I “marathon” them. I might watch a couple episodes of Honey and Clover but then switch and watch an episode of Genshiken. I like to cleanse the anime palette sometimes making sure I mix the slow with the fast and the drama with the comedy.

    1. Good point, the pace of a show definitely does have a lot to do with it. I purposely watched Aria slowly to try to get the most out of that “relaxed” type of feeling. It’s also interesting that you mention that forcing yourself to marathon a slower-paced show might lower your opinion, because that’s the exact problem I had with Azumanga Daioh. I tried to marathon that show and failed, partly because I felt the first half of the season was a too slow-paced. My frustration almost led me to drop it, but I took a little break and eventually got hooked. I wonder if I would’ve enjoyed the beginning more if I’d been more patient.

  3. I used to marathon anime a lot back when I began but now I’ve totally changed to weekly watching. Even when it comes to watching something that’s not coming out weekly, I find it hard to watch more than two episodes at a time. For example, I just finished the first season of Ghost in the Shell. No matter how amazing that show got, I could not get myself to watch more than two episodes a day. Like Shinmaru, I guess I’m one of those masochists as well.

    I remember wondering whether marathoning anime meant it was more enjoyable by looking at my MAL list as well. That idea was kinda scrapped when I realised that the very top one, Death Note, I watched on a weekly basis. When it comes to middle of the range anime, you have to watch it in the right way or be in the right mood. However a great anime you will enjoy no matter how you watch it. I think I would’ve enjoyed Eden of the East if I marathoned it just as much as I did watching weekly, even with those painful waits.
    .-= Scamp´s last blog ..Nyan Koi episode 4 =-.

    1. Yeah, I rarely marathon these days. Especially after starting to watch more shows weekly. It’s hard to find the time to do both these days. 😉

      The type of show definitely has an impact too. For me, I struggle with anything that’s heavy or stand-alone episodic.

      Great shows are probably great shows whether you watch them weekly or marathon them. I guess I just had the misfortune of not really starting to watch anime until later 2007, and not really watching on a weekly basis until the latter half of 2008. I can’t help but wonder what I would’ve thought of Haruhi and Higurashi when they first aired. I want to compare them to my experiences watching Haruhi S2 and Umineko weekly, but that seems somewhat unfair, just because they’re weaker shows in comparison.

  4. Marathoning is best. Watch a good episode then another and another and it continually builds up, whereas watching weekly doesn’t.

    1. I will say it’s definitely a good way to start off. For newer fans, I’d recommend marathoning, if only because you have that huge archive of greats.

  5. Personally, I feel like marathoning evens out the quality of a series. This makes uneven/flawed series easier to take, but it also takes away some of the highs of really great series because you are past the best moments in an instant. As there are more flawed shows than awesome shows, and it seems to be easier and more effective to smooth out flaws than really devalue awesome moments, I think the magnitude of the positive effect that marathoning has on flawed shows is greater than that of the negative effect on awesome shows. I wonder how the numbers would change if you added in the marathoned/weekly shows that you dropped, as those tend to be much worse and would really change the numbers.
    .-= Kabitzin´s last blog ..Darker Than BLACK 2: 03 =-.

    1. I think that’s so true. It wasn’t until legal streaming that I started watching shows weekly. I couldn’t finish anything I started last season, because I just forgot to keep up, since I wasn’t really big on anything. Being able to watch a block of shows at a time on dvd does smooth things out a bit. If a show is just mediocre or takes a while to get to what’s going on, I forget about it the next week, then two, three, four weeks go by. With a dvd, I just hit the next button and there’s less chance of breaking the chain.

      About the only downside of doing a marathon with a great show is there isn’t that anticipation of waiting to find out what happens. The great moments still feel great, so I don’t think there’s a huge detriment to enjoying a great show this way.
      .-= super rats´s last blog ..What My Top 5 Anime Says =-.

    2. I agree that you’re more likely to smooth out flaws than devalue awesome moments, but eventually you’d hit a point where too many flaws hurts the smoothing effect, and in fact may make the flaws more grating. Any show that got to the point of being drop-worthy would be an example of that.

      I think it’s interesting that once I took away my top 5, I rated the shows I watched weekly higher, both in overall averages and compared to the global averages (of the 8+ group at least). That doesn’t really prove anything, since the list includes completely different shows and there’s no real control. But it may suggest that the smoothing effect is limited.

      Now to be completely honest, I will admit that I was more likely to initially rate a show I marathoned higher, then come back later and downgrade it a point or two. I didn’t do that with too many shows, and I wish I had some numbers to quantify that, but it’s possible that if you took my original scores, you’d see the smoothing effect more in play.

  6. First, I’d argue that the most important thing in this marathon-vs-not-marathon decision is how it will affect the experience of great shows. Yeah, doing one or the other can improve bad shows or exacerbate their problems, but in the end, we don’t prioritize suckage at the possible cost of the devaluing the top shows. It’s just not worth it.

    So then we ask, what’s the pace that optimizes the enjoyment of those that are “worth it”? We want enough time to reflect on major events, but not feel starved for days. I feel weekly watching is way too slow, so I’ll always go back to rewatch the things I really liked. On the other hand, hard marathons (6 or 7 episodes in a sitting) are too much. A lot of us just don’t have that kind of time, and personally, I feel drained after that kind of thing. Like, no way I can do that on consecutive days, especially on the same anime.

    I find my optimum pace is something like 2-4 episodes a day, depending on the pace of the series itself. For example, I took Planetes at 2 episodes a night, and doubled that pace just at the end of the series. Aria I watched 1 episode a night, and LotGH at 2-3. Yeah, so those two took a couple months to get through, but I feel I maximized the value I got. I think my patience was rewarded.

    1. Marathoning I think is something that needs to naturally mushroom out. You can’t force yourself to marathon a show more than you can force yourself to continue swallowing spoonfuls of medicine. Like you mention, 2-4 episodes is a pretty good rate for me, but depending on the show, I have gone 6-7+ episodes a day (provided I had the time).

      Haruhi is an example of that. I finished that show in about 24-48 hours (granted I had plenty of breaks in between each episode). Towards the end of Death Note, I probably was doing 8-10 episodes a day, and maybe 6-7 episodes a sitting. But that was a rare occurrence where I was just hooked by the story and had to know what came next.

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