Posted by: AceRailgun | June 22, 2012

The problem with pacing

So we’ve all heard of this thing called pacing but few of us ever really think about it too much unless it’s bad. Good pacing is something that comes natural to a lot of anime and so when one comes along that is a bit slower then the norm or is a tad to fast we all get up on are high horse and start kicking up a fuss. But really is bad pacing really bad or is it just different?

 

I just finished Honey and Clover. No spoilers ahead. I’d say Honey and Clover suffers from unbalanced pacing as events seem to jump around constantly. Some stories are told in an episode or two but some are drawn out and take four or more episodes to give us the same amount of information. It makes watching it very awkward at times and it even put me off for a time.

 

I’m not saying slow pacing is a bad thing but there are times when you should really just speed up a little bit. Mushi Shi is a good example of mixed pacing that works well. When it needs to be calm and slow it is but when the action starts it can pick up the pace and present information faster.

 

Fast pacing is another problem and this usually occurs with adaptions of bigger manga or games which need to squashed into a 12 or 24 episode story. It can also occur when the story is just too long for it’s allotted amount of time. This happened with Persona 4 The animation, Blue Exorcist and Guilty Crown. It’s not always a bad thing but when you start to skip over key events or extended periods of calm then your pacing gets thrown out the window and the viewer will notice this. In some cases it doesn’t matter too much but when it’s incorrect you’ll be left feeling like something wrong has just happened and in some cases you won’t even realize it was the pacing that made you feel uneasy.

 

In thinking about this I’ve noticed there is some stories that never get mentioned for pacing and that is because the pacing is perfect. The sad thing is that good pacing is rarely recognized and is certainly not a factor someone would use in recommending something new to a potential viewer. You’ve never considered the pacing of Yotsuba, Full Metal Alchemist, Clannad or Spice and Wolf before have you?


Responses

  1. You know after continuously watching anime for a year, I have grown used to recognizing the pacing in anime and have grown more patient when it comes to much slower paced anime series. When I first started, I thought Clannad had unbearably slow pacing because I was so used to fast paced western sequences. I do think that pacing in anime tends to be more calm and in less of a rush(even if it is meant to be fast paced) than that of its western counterpart. But I don’t think that “bad” pacing is necessarily bad. It just happens to be the kind of pacing that turns off that particular viewer and or maybe turns off those who may have been familiar with its related works, if any – (e.g. manga, game, novel . . .)

    • I guess pacing can be a turn off to fans of the original material particularly if it’s excessively long.

      The western audience is just used to a faster pace because most of the visual media we consume is in the form of movies which can only be so long. Anime on the other hand is much longer and thus allows for a slower pace to be taken when it comes to presenting facts. It does take a while to get used to but once you are you’ll be happier for it.

  2. Cely_belly is right–Western media is generally much faster-paced than most anime I’ve seen (the exception of course being really artsy films). Literature traditionally takes its time telling stories as well, though I feel that this is no longer the case (and especially for YA fiction). Our modern internet-era culture has grown impatient when it comes to plot developments, for good or ill.
    Personally I’ve always liked it when a story can effectively handle a character’s subtle, gradual development from page to page (or episode to episode), without having to rush through everything. It’s important to engage the reader, of course–but stories can become tiring if they’re frantically throwing dramatic plot developments at us, hurrying from plot point to plot point and changing characters every moment the plot calls for it. IMO a great example of an anime with an effective “building-up” is Steins;Gate, which engaged me with its characters before diving into the meat of the story.
    In this current season, there are two anime that have me thoroughly engaged: Tsuritama and Fate/Zero. I’m loving both these series, but I feel Tsuritama does have an edge in terms of pacing. The nature of Fate/Zero’s plot makes it difficult to juggle such a large number of character arcs and subplots without having to “jump around” and move things along more quickly at times. On the other hand, Tsuritama has worked with a shorter, simpler plot, allowing the series to delve into each of the main characters and bring all their story arcs full circle at a comfortable pace. (To me, anyways.)

    On a related note, I do like how anime is willing to work with really “slow” series. I’m rather sure there’s a snowball’s chance that something like Aria the Animation would have ever see the light of day, had it been created in America. This pretty much applies to all “healing” anime, and likely a great number of “slice-of-life” anime as well.

  3. Strangely, some of my favourite series have problems with slow pacing, but it never got to me. It’s fast pacing I have trouble with, especially in cases like Persona 4 the Animation, because at least with slow pacing you can usually learn everything you need to..

    • Same. Maybe fast pacing is just good pacing in disguise. There isn’t a whole lot of fast paced anime that I don’t like.

  4. There are actually a lot of anime where pacing isn’t even an issue, like the many episodic, slice-of-life comedies such as K-ON and Hidamari Sketch since such shows don’t have a plot in which to pace. I think pacing is more of an issue the more plot and story-focused an anime is. From what I’ve seen, pacing is most often a problem in, like you mentioned, anime adaptations of manga and games. I think most people complain about pacing when story-focused shows meander away from the plot for a noticeable amount of time. I don’t mind this kind of “filler” or similar episode in a series; they’re sometimes nice breathers in between all the drama. But again, it really depends on the series. One can even talk about pacing within individual episodes, not just whole series. There really is a lot to say about the topic XD

    • I tried not to get in too deep with individual episode pacing and stuck to the series as a whole. Filler is a bad word to use in some cases but to some extent it is always present when the main story is put on hold to explain something else about the characters or environment. I’ve never really had a problem with this but I can see why some find it annoying.

      Slice of life and comedy stories are a whole different ball game when it comes to pacing as pacing doesn’t barely even matter for the most part in telling a love story or a drama.

  5. It depends on the audience I suppose, me for one I prefer faster paced story because its easier for me to keep focus. :P

    • I can agree with that. If something goes too long there is always the risk you will lose your audiences attention. It happens to me every now and then.

  6. It ultimately depends on how the anime executes the story for me, and of cause, the number of episodes. Aria, for example, stays slow, and works perfectly well. There are of cause, ones with extra fast pacing and that actually generates from large-content adaptions, mostly from visual novels or games. That’s why I admire Steins;Gate so much, it’s not easy to adapt so many contents yet concluding it so well at the same time. Had Steins;Gate only with 10+episodes to work around with, then I’m not so sure anymore.

    • Steins;Gate is a great example for this. 12 episodes would not have been enough I can agree with that. But what if it had 30 or 40. Do you think that would have made it better or just slowed everything to a grinding halt? It’s a hard question to ask and even I’m unsure if it would work or not.

      But then again aren’t they releasing a Steins;Gate movie which will probably only 90 minutes long. I doubt that could tell the entire story properly without cutting it apart.

      • I think the movie will probably fall to the same fate as the Unlimited Blade Works movie. Good but not good for beginners who haven’t been introduced to the settings yet.

  7. I guess I have to agree with Kai yet again ^^ Story execution is probably the most important thing for me. Pacing concerned, I wouldn’t really mind it being a bit too fast (Personal preference – too slow would cause “watchlist traffic” in my case)

    • That’s an interesting way to look at it. I haven’t had a backlog for a while so I embrace the slow stuff at the moment. That being said there is limits and I still expect the slow stuff to have a lot of content for the time it takes to watch it.

  8. True, odds are when something is paced well you don’t exactly notice it but when it isn’t it’s kind of jarring, all the great shows tend to get it right and have a nice atmosphere to them as a result. Looking at it that way complaining about pacing could be deemed as a meaningless complaint but I still think it’s of importance. When pacing is bad it strongly influences your view of it, fast or slow makes no matter, but when a show does pretty much nothing and still tries to cram a decisive and conclusive ending in at the last minute, and as such doesn’t have enough time, something’s wrong. A good show tends to build towards its ending each step at a time instead of standing still and sprinting towards the finish line.

    It’s a matter of sitting down and plotting out how much time should be allocated to what and how important things are, determining whether they should be expanded upon or dropped entirely. And while in some cases it seems like a matter of trying to accomplish too much in the time given, when pacing is bad it’s easy to assume that they haven’t done this.

  9. When I enjoy a show so much, for example, Mouretsu Pirates, pacing is either irrelevant or no reason for me to make a fuss. I watch a show to be entertained first and foremost, not to be educated or enlightened. If a show manages to provide any of the latter, fine. It’s a welcome extra but not like I’m rushing to the nearest download button expecting to be shown a unique experience like never before seen in the past 24 1/2 years of my existence. All writers have to do is amuse me and I’ll be content.

    In short, pacing only matters when it’s supposed to, not on every single show. I mean, why the hell should I care about pacing on shows like Regular Show or Adventure Time for example?


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