You can skip to the bold letters if you want the TL;DR version.
If I remember correctly:
So there was this con and I was there. There was a panel at the con, and I was in the panel room, as I sat on the right side of the room, towards the front. That panel featured two or three guests from Japan who worked on some anime that was being promoted at the time, and it was a fairly big show. One of them was the writer for the show. And this all took place some years back, maybe before 2009, I honestly can’t recall.
If you have ever been to one of those things, things being guest of honor panels, you would expect most of the panel to be Q&A, as was this one. People queued up at the mics towards the front, and I can’t remember if it had 2 mics or 1; it may have had 2. The one panel moderator took questions from both sides like a round-robin load-balancer, in that case.
I wish I had a name for this writer-guest, it would have made writing it up so much easier. The grey matter isn’t cooperating, and I can narrow it down some, but the internet lists don’t have the right name. I can’t remember much else, besides that there was some tricky detail to that show in the writing and someone did ask how that person came up with the idea.
As for a different name, what I am trying to say has to do with how some people criticize about Mari Okada. I’m fine with free-market exchange of thoughts and critical thinking about Okada and Lupin the Third. I just want to shed some light in terms of how it could possibly went down so we attribute praise and blame accordingly, or at least, in a less-wrong fashion when we could. Let’s first recognize unless we are privy to how it exactly went down every time, we can’t really say, and we are not really in position to know for sure unless we have the facts. So the next best thing fan could do is either:
- shut up, or
- find out how the typical industry practices are and extrapolate and guess.
I like #1 a lot but I guess we have no choice here, right?
At that fuzzily-remembered panel, the writer-panelist explained his role in the overall project. He was the “head” writer. He had to work with the core creative folks–director, guys who storyboard, whatever, I can’t remember if it was a novel adaptation or what–and come up with the overall plan. And then he worked with some writers who banged out the detail scripts for each episode, by assigning portions of the story to them. He also wrote some of the scripts himself. I think for that particular project he wrote almost the entire thing himself, but he mentioned that he has written for other shows where he was one of the hired hands who just did specific episodes as according to specification. I also believe he had some supervisory tasks after the episode scripts were done, just to go over and make changes for continuity and other reasons.
“Series composition” is often the title credited for this role. There are also other lead writing type titles (series concept, scenario, etc) but you get the idea.
I have another name: Tatsuo Sato. This guy is probably best known for being the director (and the guy responsible) of the Nadesico TV show and movie. I recall hearing about Nadesico’s writers from Sato himself (at a con, of course), who basically said they had a lot of talented writers who just wrote great things that he took wholesale and left them as is. I think the episode previews betrayed it as much. In this capacity I think Sato acts (like most of the time for directors) as the guy who coordinates the scripts. He applied them as he saw fit. Compared to his ongoing Mouretsu Pirates, the approach is somewhat more conservative as you see Sato penning more episodes himself.
Basically my point here is that what the writer’s input in any given anime project varies greatly, and going by one name or one title isn’t going to be very helpful. When Hideyuki Kurata showed up in vintage form in Kannagi episode 7, you know he’s the guy writing it. But could you tell he was the “series composition” credit for Kaminomi or Dragon Crisis? Actually his ardent fans probably can, but not most of us. You can kind of tell it in OreImo but that’s a stretch (I still believe Kurata is the X-factor that turned a trash anime to a chart-topper). Most of the time he is just playing it safe, adopting the source material, but sometimes Kurata shines, because he is given the latitude to do so. Besame mucho, for example.
If we want to look at Okada, and why you like or dislike her, it seems a lot more sensible to deeply nitpick the original works she wrote over the adaptations, like (1) Fractale (which I imagine she just took cues from Hiroki Azuma and Yutaka Yamamoto) or (2) Hanasaku Iroha (which seems almost like her brainchild) or even (3) AnoHana (which seems more Tatsuyuki Nagai than anything), except that is still a questionable gauge as I parenthetically expressed. When it comes to Okada’s Fujiko, I’m thinking case #3 applies–it’s way more Sayo Yamamoto than anyone else; perhaps even more than Monkey Punch. In contrast, I think Okada hammed it up in her adaptation of Hourou Musuko, who is credited to write and lead the script effort, if you want a real point of criticism. I enjoyed the show, but I imagine that tickled the manga fans.
With more BRS, AKB0048 and Aquarion EVOL under our collective belts, care we re-evaluate our initial assumptions? I thought BRS was pretty much spot-on in terms of the writing being a work of interpreting the lyrics by Okada, except people kept confusing it with the original OAV and ignore the obvious connection to BRS’s song lyrics. And it was something if you don’t “get” you won’t enjoy (in that sense very much like Book of Bantorra and Simoun, both shows Okada worked on). I don’t really know what to think about AKB0048, as not enough content is yet available to decide on the writing. Aquarion EVOL is awfully like Hanasaku Iroha’s pretentious tension, with her signature ups and downs, if you take a look at it from a structural perspective (and she’s “series composition” on both, naturally). In fact I’d guess that the two feel as different as they are on the screenplay level because Okada wrote all of Hanasaku Iroha, and only a third of EVOL.
[Times like this I’m actually very happy that the average anime script give voice actors sufficient room to play their roles in drastically different manners, even if in terms of the chemistry, the same writer tend to deploy the same tricks across different works. Or else Andy W. Hole would turn into a balut.]
If I want to nitpick on Okada’s writing, I would totally attack the way she creates dramatic tension in the script. Just saying. And at any lower level/higher resolution of detail in terms of nitpicking I will have to go bust out episodic credit lists, and I don’t really have any motivation to do so (ie., I think Simoun episodes 15-16 are freaking awesome). If you want to venture out on your own, that’ll be an educational experience I’m sure. For example you can look at how Book of Bantorra is divided up, and report back what the end result of collating the first four episodes did.
Maybe people should start criticizing someone easier to identify by his flourishes, like Yousuke Kuroda. You know, just for practice.
PS. I recall some writeup at ANN that explained screen writing for anime in detail and in a more exacting manner rather than my usual meandering style. Anyone got a link to it? I don’t remember/cannot find it anymore.