New Spectatorship by Danmu Screening

Written by Qiumeng Wang

Danmu video (as the picture) is a new form born from Japanese “OTAKU culture” and well-developed in both China and Japan. In danmu video, audience can make comments at any time and share their opinion with others. All comments by audiences can be seen on the screen while the video is playing. Those comments displayed on the screen are called “danmu”. Danmu video does not only perform as YouTube, an post-cinematic assemblage, but also changes the relationship and spectatorship in the digital and internet era by putting directors and audience on the same level and enhancing the activeness of audience.


For danmu image, whatever the danmu film or online danmu video, it is consisted of original image and “Danmu”. Unless you switch off the Danmu, the image created by filmmakers and Danmu created by audiences are a unity, which cannot be separated. Thus, creators of image become filmmakers and audiences. Danmu image widen the group of creator, from professional filmmakers to non-professional audiences.

As long as Danmu covers the previous works, the content changes. First, in non-Danmu films, all images are completed before they are released. However, for danmu image, based on the live comments, danmu image is updating and changing all the time. Second, meanings of non-danmu image are all about the completed images, in terms of mise-en-scene, editing, performance and so on. In danmu images, their meanings are not only from the cinematic language, but also from the audiences’ comments. Those live comments on screens are able to influence audience’s interpretation and lead their focus as well.

In some theories, some art films and directors intentionally utilise distancing devices to prevent viewers from passively engaging on the narrational and characterisational level, by contrast, viewer’s actively rethinking will be recalled. In danmu image, the danmu also perform as the device of estrangement, distract viewers’ attention from narrative/plot to other things, whatever the meaningless comments, thankful retrospection, or even complexity of internet media.

Regarding the interrelationship among three processes as a whole:

It forms a circle- audience creates more meaningàchange/affect meaning in worksà audience receive more meanings/lead audiences’ thought -à create more comments-àmore meaning… This constant circle gives dammu life to work on future and provoke audiences’ activeness constantly.

In a sense, through Danmu, the link between receiver and creator goes beyond the work, and they build a more direct connection. The new spectatorship provides audience a new watching experience, in which audience performs as both a receiver and a creator, adding images more meaning. Examining danmu image, we can see it is leading a transition from consuming film content towards consuming watching experience.

Danmu and cinema apparatus are able to co-exist for they provide different watching experience. When audience watch a film at the first time, in which they tend to focus on story more, the traditional model in closure space, in cinema can provide for them quite environment without disturbance. For those who has the need of watching a second time or multi-times, danmu can help them to keep distance from the story. Watching films dispassionately is better for them to interact with others and acquire more messages from the screen. As well, we can even speculate, in the future, danmu may enhance the long tail effect of film for it provide film, the one-time consumer good, the possibility to be watched many times.




Metz, C., 1982. The imaginary signifier: Psychoanalysis and the cinema. Indiana University Press.

Xu, Y., 2016. The postmodern aesthetic of Chinese online comment cultures. Communication and the Public, p.2057047316677839.




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