The fast-paced, highly competitive world of anime production for television, a field in which Japan has long been a leading force, is unveiled in this first-rate entertainment by author Mizuki Tsujimura.
Anime series are typically broadcast in 30-minute episodes in Japan, with 12 episodes over the course of three months completing a full story. Nearly 50 different anime may be broadcast during any given three-month season, but typically only the top three series manage to show a profit. Those engaged in the production of these many series vie fiercely with one another to dominate the ratings. Exactly such a battle unfolds in this story, with the principal focus on three women: producer Kayako Arishina, 35; director Hitomi Saitō, 26; and animator Kazuna Namisawa, 26.
The main contest is between two new series set to launch in April?one featuring a young heroine with powers of magic, the other centering on some boys who operate robots. The first is being directed by Chiharu Ōji, 32, who took the field by storm with an avant-garde work nine years ago when employed by industry giant Tōkei Animation Inc., making a name for himself as a prodigy. His sophomore effort has been much anticipated ever since, and this is his first major project since striking out on his own. Kayako Arishina of a mid-level production company has signed on to produce. The competing series is being directed by Hitomi Saitō, considered one of Tōkei’s most promising new talents, and produced by Tōkei leading light Yukishiro, 35, who has an established track record for turning out hits. Animator Kazuna Namisawa, whose skill and sensibilities both directors consider top notch, works as subcontractor for the two competing series, producing the key drawings that form the basis for full animation.
Ōji and Arishina on the one hand, and Saitō and Yukishiro on the other, work all-out under tight deadlines, encountering and overcoming one crisis after another as they charge full speed ahead: Ōji goes missing; interpersonal friction arises with the female voice talent; a drawing special-ordered for a magazine cover to hype the series isn’t ready on time; Saitō collapses from illness; and so on.
The relationship between director and producer in the world of animation parallels that between novelist and editor in the publishing world, with tensions between artistic creativity and commercial considerations creating stress points in much the same way. Tsujimura’s great fondness for anime and deep interest in the creative process have produced a first-rate entertainment, which placed third in the Booksellers Award balloting for 2015.