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Even for anime that target adult audiences (and thus may have higher level thinking/awareness than perhaps younger audiences), whenever there's a significant plot development, the anime characters spend 3-5 minutes explaining how they discovered the true identity of whoever, how they found out where the real whatever is, or, how they executed their plan so flawlessly..

Why do they always do this?

Do anime creators suspect the audience can't piece together simple plot points? (I'm sure this isn't actually the case, but, still..) Are some anime only meant to be watched casually, and thus, the extensive and frequent explanations serve as "recaps" for the past few episodes?

It seems like the creators account for some amount of inattentiveness on the audiences part, given these winded explanations.

From my experience in somewhat actively watching anime over the past 7-8 years (a total of 30-40 anime series), I've noticed this in maybe 90% of all anime I've seen.


At first thought, an anime that heavily demonstrates this is..

Death Note: Although the very nature of the series is investigative, L and Light spend soo much time explaining how they know just a single piece of information, even though the audience just watched it happen over the past few episodes. In moderation this isn't such a big deal, however, when these explanations occur, it's generally to people who are on the "same side" as the speaker (e.g., Light talking to Ryuk), and so, no further plot development comes from it (as apposed to perhaps, Light explaining something directly to L). So, in essence, Light is speaking to the audience through Ryuk.

In contrast, an anime that doesn't do this (if I remember correctly) is..

Mushishi: This could be because most episodes are self-contained, as Genko deals with a different mushi spirit in a different town/village with each episode.

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    some examples ? – Ankit Sharma Jan 5 '18 at 14:15
  • @AnkitSharma I was hoping I wouldn't have to give any, given the prevalence of this, but sure!, give me just a moment and I'll provide a few YouTube URLs in the OP. :) – Charles Jan 5 '18 at 14:16
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    I can't speak to other anime that you may have seen do this sort of thing. But in Death Note, very often those explicit explanations of how a character came to know a particular piece of information are completely non-trivial, and without them even a very astute viewer may not have been able to make the same deduction. It further serves to prove that the information was in fact deduced very concretely rather than guessed or happened upon. Often times it's to let us know that several actions by them had actually been planned explicitly to learn this piece of information rather than by accident. – Shufflepants Jan 5 '18 at 16:38
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    Might have something to do with the quality/standards of story writing. It's not like the main draw for anime is bullet-proof plot construction and execution. – PoloHoleSet Jan 5 '18 at 17:31
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    Animating talking scenes is cheaper than animating action scenes. A 30 minute loop of Freiza powering up spliced with shots where only mouths flap open and shut between frames costs much less than the huge fight shots. – zero298 Jan 6 '18 at 14:33
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This happens more often in series than one-shot movies, and is common in more than just anime. Basically, it's to help the episode stand better on it's own for viewers who are just joining the show, or missed an episode or two earlier, or who have simply forgotten a plot point from an episode two months earlier. This over explaining becomes even more noticeable when watching several episodes back-to-back of a series that was originally aired with days or weeks in between episodes.

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    Agreed. A lot of Network TV crime drama and/or genre shows tend to be blend of Case of the Week & Serialization and so they tend to lack the nuance of prime-time cable series and spell things out. Some examples: Sleepy Hollow, Hawaii Five-0 (re-imaged), The Gifted, Midnight Texas, Elementry. However some shows start off that way and then move more into serialization with more nuance in later seasons. Bad Robot's fromer network shows often did this (Fringe, Alias, Person of Interest, Revolution) – Darth Locke Jan 5 '18 at 15:40
  • I stream nearly everything now so it's easy to forget the series aspect, especially for one where the audience isn't super "invested" (to fanatically catch every episode). E.g. catching up, missing episodes, that sort of issue needs to be considered by the writers when the series is not entirely episodic. Broadcast might have 1 or 2 chances to see each episode. – Robert Jan 5 '18 at 21:04
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    +1 for pointing out it isn't limited to anime. I've seen enough American series doing the same thing in a similar manner, although those tend to prefer flashbacks in a "previously on show X" manner. Keep track and see those can be multiple minutes as well and sometimes repeated for multiple episodes if the story gets longer. – Mast Jan 6 '18 at 10:28
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    +1 As Stan Lee once said, “Every issue is somebody’s first.” Particularly relevant in a time before streaming services, when your first episode was more likely to not be the actual first episode. – RubberDuck Jan 6 '18 at 16:17
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Most anime, including Death Note, are adapted from manga (basically the Japanese equivalent of comic books). This leads to a lot of internal narration and recapping for two reasons:

  1. Manga, like comic books, are a quite limited medium. In a lot of comic books, particularly older ones, you will see characters internally-monologuing or repeating unnecessary information to make it clear what's happening in the panel, and what the characters are thinking. When manga get adapted into anime, these monologues tend to get included because...
  2. Manga are often adapted at a rate of one or two chapters per episode, but if there isn't enough material for a full twenty-minute episode, they're forced to pad it out with filler. This can include stretched-out camera angles, but also egregious flashbacks/recaps and lengthy monologues. My Hero Academia, IIRC, is adapted at a rate of half a manga chapter per episode; take a shot every time Deku flashes back to something you've already seen, and you'll be dead by the end of Series 1.

EDIT: As you noted, not all anime do this. Some adapt more chapters per episode - comedies and slice-of-life shows do this in particular, as they don't have to worry about pacing. Sometimes new material will be inserted to fill in the gaps, including entire arcs full of filler if they've caught up to where the manga is, but said filler might also contain large amounts of monologues a) so it matches the rest of the series and b) to give the manga an easier time catching up.

  • Is it safe to say then that most anime are fairly accurate to the manga they're based off of? -- ".. there usually isn't enough material for a full twenty-minute episode, so they're forced to pad it out with filler. .." -- If you're saying that filler context takes the form of redundancy (going over what's already happened, whether it be visual and/or audio), instead of introducing new content that may not be in the manga, then, this would be true, right? – Charles Jan 5 '18 at 20:40
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    Yes, most are, as far as I'm aware. Paradoxically, a lot of material will often get cut (the last third of Death Note is extremely condensed compared to the manga) but what remains is usually quite faithful to the original. – F1Krazy Jan 6 '18 at 9:33
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tl;dr: Anime is expensive, and often made to make the original material more visible. Repetitive vocal exposition is a handy cost-saving technique.

I want to expand on F1Krazy's answer a bit. As he says, one likely reason is that they need vocal exposition to pad a show's runtime. But then you could wonder "Why is this not done in Western media?" And sure, there have been many western TV shows adapted from other media, and in general they don't seem to use exposition as a crutch as much. I think there are two main differences:

  1. Western producers are more willing to take liberties with the original content either out of creativity or to match some current trend.
  2. They have a larger budget to play with because the expected revenue is higher.

It's really the second point I want to expand on because anime is a bizarre industry if you take a look at the economics. Often, the point of an anime adaptation is to bring light to the original material, whether that's a manga, light novel, web-comic, or something else. In other words, they serve as high-profile marketing material. They sometimes operate at a loss just because the original work becomes significantly more popular as a result. Why? Profit margins.

Manga and light novels often have fairly high profit margins because it only takes one person or a small group to create the work. Anime, on the other hand, is expensive and time-consuming. The profit margins are extremely slim. But, they have very high visibility. So the show itself does not need to succeed. As long as it significantly improves the sales of the original material, the show has done its job.

Since it's easier and cheaper to pad episodes with vocal exposition (less motion = less work, redundant material), it gets used often as a cost-saving measure, among other techniques. If the show itself manages to become popular enough to be profitable, then maybe they'll keep going. But that's difficult. Because of how tight the margins are, even a show that's doing well on its own might get pulled just because it's not doing well enough to be worth the effort.

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Unfortunately, this is just an example of lazy writing. It is much more challenging, and a lot more satisfying for author and reader, to show, rather than tell. It is a lot more fun to leave clues for the reader, or viewer, to find. But this requires a lot of work and practice on the part of the author or scriptwriter. A story that shows you things, instead of simply telling them, is a lot more difficult to do well. It's a rare art these days.

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