A Random Assortment #0001: Production

[Here’s a few mini columns combined into one for A Random Assortment.]

One of the things I’ve been able to do since I’m not currently working on a new show for the “Does It Hold Up?” feature, is finally diving through my backlog. A lot of these shows I’ll go over in the next episode of the Seasonal Anime Checkup podcast, but today, I wanted to talk about one show I just finished. A show that I thought had a great story, a new take on typical tropes, and great characterizations. That show, is from earlier this year, Akatsuki no Yona.

Akatsuki no Yona was fantastic in the way it took the fantasy anime genre and made it something that could be filled with zero gross fan service and a strong female lead. However, the ending left a lot to be desired for a show that has yet to be confirmed if there will ever be a second season. None of my problems with the show come from the source material, which is from the manga of the same name, but with how production of the television series went. The show is horribly paced, making the viewer think that there will be more episodes than there actually is. This is a real risky maneuver because there is never a guarantee that your show will be picked up for another season. I talked about this problem in a column about anime adaptations of manga.

The first season of Akatsuki no Yona makes a lot of assumptions about the viewer that it should never. The show believes that you know that this is based off a manga, know that this is an ongoing story in that manga, and are aware that this might be the only glimpse of this story animated you will see. Anime is a rather niche market, even though it’s more accepted in Japan. Take a second and think of anime like professional wrestling. Pro wrestling is a niche market that has fans that are into the sports aspect of it and also the entertainment and drama side. Wrestling is still something that struggles with mainstream appeal (mostly due to backwards ways of approaching entertainment, but that’s another story for another time) and is looked down upon by people who don’t watch it. The one thing wrestling is supposed to get right is to assume that this could be your first time watching. In order to gain new fans, you can’t automatically make the assumption that everyone that is tuning in knows every character and storyline, so it’s the shows job to reintroduce those if necessary.

Akatsuki no Yona.  Credit to Pierrot

Akatsuki no Yona. Credit to Pierrot

The way the production side for this television adaptation of Akatsuki no Yona decided to present the story was that you were essentially getting the first act of a long winded story. This can be good, if you are already committed and know you will be continuing the story at a later time. Considering that we are about five months removed from the first season finale with no sign of a second season, the ending they chose seems like a foolish one rather than a clever one. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong in the future, but as of writing this, that is the way this ending is to me. The final episode feels like it was rushed, considering previously, when Yona would find one of the dragons, there would be a couple episode arc showing who they are, their abilities, and why they’ll end up helping out Yona. For this episode, they just quickly find the final dragon and that’s that. Where’s the backstory? Where is the reason for me as a viewer to care about this character?

This is why you can’t build a business model for a television show on the assumption that everyone has read or will end up reading the manga. There could be people going into this show as their first ever anime, having no knowledge that there is a manga, or will never go on to read the manga. Sure, this might make more money for whichever business has the rights for the manga, but in the long run, it may not be the best idea. Of course, maybe there was supposed to be more of this show and something happened internally which caused production to be rushed to completion. It’s really a shame that these problems cropped up in the season, because I think the story itself is fantastic. Like I said earlier, this season seems like a great first act for the overall story, but now seeing how this first season winded up, I’ll be very cautious if a second season does end up happening because there is no guarantee that these production issues will be addressed or changed.

Something else that I’ve seen pop up again recently is when a show looks to have had its animation budget cut. The most recent example of this would be from the fifth episode of Dragon Ball Super. This isn’t the first time that Toei Animation has come under fire from English speaking anime fans, as they were put through the wringer when some episodes of Sailor Moon Crystal looked rough. This whole controversy is just something that has become more prevalent in an age where we can analyze a show frame-by-frame immediately upon release. There’s also the fact that English speaking fans can sometimes jump the gun on things such as this and cause an uproar over something that will be fixed later on. It’s not like America has people making money off of this behavior or anything.

One example of the supposed "bad animation" in  Dragon Ball Super . Credit to Toei.

One example of the supposed "bad animation" in Dragon Ball Super. Credit to Toei.

The biggest takeaway from this is that people are clearly overreacting. This has happened for ages in anime, and happened a lot when Dragon Ball Z first ran. Sure, parts of these shows look real bad, and that’s been the case in certain A-1 Pictures shows that I’ve watched as well. You have to remember though that the versions of these shows that most people will remember are the ones that are eventually released on Blu Ray/DVD months after they air on television. There, you will see the best versions of the show and won’t have to worry about animation errors. There’s also the fact that getting an episode on the air is not an easy feat. Some of these studios are tackling numerous shows at a time so the animators might have to cut corners in order for an episode to make its air date. Throwing accusations around just because you don’t understand how the industry works is just ridiculous and foolish. Just remember, these animators might be under an immense amount of stress due to a high work load and low pay, so they probably don’t need to hear your negative remarks, especially if you’re an English speaker, they probably don’t care.

If you have any questions, comments, or a take on anything above, you can e-mail at jared@seasonalanimecheckup.com