Welcome geeks, otaku, and strangers alike, to this month’s anime collaboration article!
Have you watched a lot of anime (or just, you know, consumed a lot of media in general) and thought, “Man, it would be awesome if there were a series that had the action of this series combined with the humor of this series“? Because that’s what we’re talking about today!
Read on for our idealizations of the “perfect anime.” Then, add your own brainchildren to the comments section below.
What would a perfect anime look like to me? Well, that’s honestly hard to imagine, much less explain. My favorite anime include a pretty diverse selection to begin with: Tokyo Ghoul, a 17+ psychological horror; Haikyuu!!, a light-hearted sports show; ToraDora!, a romantic comedy; and Uta no Prince-Sama, a music show based on a dating-sim. And these are just four of my favorites.
Where is the crossover amongst these diverse shows that I love? I guess it comes down to certain key characteristics. One key part is having a main character that is, if not relatable, at least realistic and identifiable to a degree. Tokyo Ghoul became one of my favorite shows because Kaneki became one of my favorite characters. He’s the type of fictional character most viewers develop an unwitting emotional attachment to, forming a sort of camaraderie.
Another important aspect is having a blend of genres included. As noting a few of my favorites has made clear, I don’t have a set taste for one or two anime genres. I like stories across the board. I think this is because I really appreciate having different elements key to each genre. I like the cute love stories present in romances, I enjoy laughing at comedies, I get pumped up cheering for fictional sports teams, I get jumpy watching horror, and I can enjoy the songs in music anime. When anime includes some elements from other genres and incorporates every aspect smoothly, I find it keeps things interesting.
Finally, length is something else that I consider key when choosing my anime favorites. I like 24-episode shows; 12 feels too short, and going over 24 tends to stretch the plot too thin, in my opinion.
With that all said, josei is a genre that has grown on me since I was introduced to Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope). Almost like a more grown-up slice-of-life, carrying elements of comedy and more realistic romance (not all sunshine and bubbles), the genre’s ability to portray the progression and lessons of life hits home for me. So, perhaps my “perfect anime” would be a 24-episode josei with a relatable female lead, incorporating comedic elements, a strong soundtrack, and possibly some romance. The story would focus on pointing out the beauty of everyday life we miss in our own rush, or perhaps focus on overcoming tough lessons we learn through the trials. Also: a nice blend of crying, and crying from laughter. If some Haikyuu!!-style sportsmanship could somehow be thrown in there, all the better!
I don’t have a totally in-depth script in mind for my ideal anime, but one thing I would like to see is a more “realistic” magical girl series. By “more realistic,” I mean a magical girl series where the girls face real dangers in each of their battles, as opposed to the generally minor injuries and easy victories that tend to be common of the genre. Sailor Moon is a good example of a stereotypical magical girl series. Yes, there are a few instances in the series where the girls die (although they are magically resurrected afterwards), but in general they never find themselves seriously injured as a result of their battles, and victory usually comes easily. Think of how much screen time the combat scenes actually receive.
In my ideal anime, the girls would face real dangers. They would be injured in battle. They would be, at times, incapacitated. Someone would inevitably die and need to be replaced. Oh, and their powers would need to be used responsibly, because they could prove dangerous to the areas and people around them. If you’ve been following Re:Creators this season, you can get a sense of this idea from the second episode. (No spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet.)
Now for some clarification: I’m not talking about something like Madoka Magica. That is more along the lines of “dark.” Although death in the “line of duty” is possible, at the same time Madoka is obviously intended to be psychologically disturbing. While my ideal magical girl anime would inevitably have some dark themes and elements (you can’t deal with subjects like serious injury and death without some level of darkness), the purpose would be for realism, not psychological-thriller aspects.
Beyond this basic skeleton of an idea, I don’t have too many other qualifiers. Such a series could be set in a modern environment, as many magical girl series are, or it could mix things up and be staged in a fantasy setting. The handling of more specific details would differ based on the setting. In fact, I (unintentionally) had the idea for a story that would contain these elements, although the concept was meant as a joke. Whether or not I’ll actually write said series is to be seen, but the conceptualization of it helped me realize what my “perfect anime” would look like.
Cooper D. Barham
What makes my perfect anime? This is a challenging question to answer because I, as with most people, enjoy a large variety of styles, tones, and genres, both in and outside of anime. So, going forward, please understand everything I say is only an option for what could be my perfect anime, using several elements of what I already enjoy. If you don’t know many Japanese names, then this will be educational for us both, because I’m gonna be throwing some of those around, too.
I suppose we should take this question piece by piece. What components make an anime? It’s an entertainment medium utilizing two of our primary senses, so based on that alone there are going to be several moving parts. I suppose it’d be best to tackle the easier of these two senses first: hearing.
Typically, we engage in three different levels of auditory feedback when consuming anime: musical score, sound design/engineering, and voice acting. The musical score will be the easiest for me to answer, so let’s tackle that bad boy.
Anybody ever heard the name Hiroyuki Sawano? I’d like to formally give you permission to stop reading this article and go acquaint yourself with the musical scores of this industry grand-master if you haven’t already. He has a hand in, well, pretty much half of all relevant anime and video game franchises to crop up in the last decade. With works such as Attack on Titan, Blue Exorcist, Re:Creators, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Kill la Kill, Seven Deadly Sins, and Sengoku Basara under his belt, he’s got quite the history already. You know what all of those series have in common? They’re almost universally recognized to have stand-out musical scores. The best part is Sawano is only a ripe 36-years-old at the time of writing this article, so he has a ton of room to grow. I’d most definitely want this juggernaut at the helm of my perfect anime, casting it all in his world-turning strokes of masterful music.
Sound design and engineering is, admittedly, one of my least understood aspects of any development process. However, I remember Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan having some pretty killer sound effects and organization, so whoever was working for Studio Gainax at that time, I offer them as tribute to my devious concoction of anime-building demigods.
Now for the real beast. Voice acting.
Okay, so we have a problem here. I know a lot of voice actors, both English and Japanese. However, I know more English ones, so even though it’ll be like locking some of my favorite people in prison, I must make such a sacrifice if we’re to ever reach the end of this process. I want so many. I want Steve Blum, Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Matthew Mercer (at this point our anime has already run out of budget, by the way), Christopher Sabat, Vic Micnogna, Neil Gaiman (this is an American author who also reads audiobooks, in case anybody is confused why he is in the list), Dameon Clark, Dante Basco, and Liam O’Brien, to name a few. If you don’t recognize any of those names, allow me to introduce you to my friend, Google. But, seriously, between them, there’s a bottomless number of recognizable video game and anime characters, all of whom are brilliantly executed by each respective actor and actress.
Our anime is bankrupt and we haven’t even gotten to any of the animation, yet. Or the writing. Or directing.
I suppose at this point it’d be a good idea to conceive of a basic premise for the anime. While I can think of a million different things I’d want to watch, and many more which exist in the imaginations of others, there is one concept which would appeal to me tremendously at this moment in my life. It’s something I’ve never seen done before. In my prose-writing adventures I tried to tackle a story of similar stature and it didn’t turn out well. I chalk that up to my still-developing skills more than the idea itself.
That is to say, I would want my anime to be inspired by the modern eSports scene–something in the vein of Super Smash Bros. or League of Legends. Sports and video games are already individually popular story realms in anime, so it makes sense to merge them together. Plus, if you’re familiar with following any sport at all, you know a narrative naturally forms over time without any extra help. It’s a story, as they say, which writes itself, with underdogs, champions, enemies, comebacks, team dynamics (in some games), strategy, meta, various environmental backdrops, seasonal changes, statistics, training, and mentors. ALL OF THAT IS BUILT INTO THE STORY. At that point all you’d need to do is make those characters and the game interesting and–bam!–you’ve struck gold.
(I’d also like to publicly call dibs on reviewing a series like this for Geeks Under Grace if it ever comes into existence. Because that’s the kind of cheater I am. You all heard it here, first. And I’m not talking about that new Chinese series The King’s Avatar, because that’s not the tone of story I’m looking for.)
Now, with our supermegaawesome anime concept cemented, we can get back to the grind. Let’s get to character design.
…Actually, let’s not, because I can’t think of anybody. Shigenori Soejima’s work in the Persona games is pretty sick, but not really the aesthetic we’d be aiming for in a relatively realistic setting. Naruto’s author, Masashi Kishimoto, really excels at character design, too, but suffers from the same problem. If they were to work on this type of anime, they’d have to dial back their wild creative designs a bit. We’ll return to this section later.
Time for the key animators.
Have you ever seen a rockslide? Neither have I, because I’m a suburban whelp from Omaha, Nebraska. But I imagine the awe I’d feel watching a rockslide is comparable to how I feel every time I see something animated by Yutaka Nakamura.
“Cooper,” I hear you saying, “You need to stop throwing all these Japanese names at me. I only know Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Toriyama!”
Even if you aren’t familiar with Nakamura’s name, odds are you’ve witnessed at least one spectacle born from the mind of this “Grandmaster of Battle.” Ever seen a fight which just made you go “wow”? There’s a high probability it was done by Nakamura, or somebody greatly inspired by him.
Nakamura would only come in during the scenes where player-controlled characters fought in their own world, creating a dichotomy between the virtual and the real. However, he’s not a one-man army, so I’d also like him to work with such impressive figures as Yoshimichi Kameda, Arifumi Amai, Ryouma Ebata, Nozomu Abe, Nishihata Ayumi, and about a bajillion other people of infinitely impressive skill.
(To those who know and appreciate all these names, consider this a virtual high-five from across time and space.)
When I tried to conceive of who would be the writer of my perfect anime, I hit a snag. I know plenty of mangaka (manga creators), but no scriptwriters. Pragmatically, I understand that the mangaka’s original writings are translated through the lens of the scriptwriter (and storyboard team) when the time comes for a manga to transform into anime, but somehow in my head it always still feels like every word is the mangaka’s responsibility.
At first I decided the writer(s) of Cowboy Bebop and related franchises would be best, as they understand how to write directly into the anime format (I’d considered Studio Trigger, but… I don’t want my series to be that crazy). Plus, I really like Bebop and Samurai Champloo, so it seemed like a knockout choice. But something about their style didn’t really fit, so I kept brainstorming. I realized my perfect story would have a heavy emotional undertone beneath everything, even if it wouldn’t exclusively be a drama. So, naturally, my mind immediately jumped to Naoshi Arakawa (author of Your Lie in April), or maybe the mind which conceived Wolf Children, but those ran into the same problem as the first choice. Excellent writers, but not the style I want. Lastly, I realized my story would heavily orbit around tournaments, so it’d be wise to go with the best of the best on setting those up (and no, it’s not Yoshihiro Togashi of Hunter x Hunter and Yu Yu Hakusho fame, but he’s equally commendable), which is probably Hajime No Ippo‘s George Morikawa.
Still, this was not enough. Guys, I literally almost withdrew my hand from this article altogether, because I could not think of who I would want to write my perfect anime. But then, in the middle of lunchtime at work, it hit me. There was really only one person, one superhuman whose writing encapsulated everything I wanted and more–a man who, for years, I’ve been convinced is more than just a man, responsible for some of the best stories written on this side of history. The ultimate of ultimates, a hero of manga and anime alike!
…Right? I mean—guys, it-it’s Ohba… Fine, fine. Put your crickets away and let me explain.
Tsugumi Ohba, a.k.a. the pen name for one-half of the duo responsible for such game-changing series as Bakuman and… what’s that other one? Oh, yeah, Death Note. Have you ever watched either of these series (or one of the lesser-knowns, like his current serial, Platinum End)? He’s an absolute genius, especially when it comes to character rivalries, which there’d be plenty of in an eSports anime. He has the ability to write all of the above-mentioned story elements, because he did them all in Bakuman.
Oh, oh, oh! You know what I just realized? This also fixes our character design issue from before, because the other half of aforementioned knock-out team is Takeshi Obata, who is an absolute artistic beast, having illustrated for over a dozen manga and video games. Plus, having him work alongside Ohba… You know what? The other names on this list should be paying me to let them work with this duo.
And, finally, the director.
NO. NO, WAIT.
*Screams and goes home.*
Well, that’s it. Thanks for checking in, guys. We hope you enjoyed this month’s piece. Make sure you stop by next month when we broaden our horizons a little and talk about which series we think would be The Apostle Paul’s Favorite Anime.
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