I admit that PA Works (Progressive Animation Works) is one of my favorite studios besides Kyoto Animation not because of the high production values, but rather the types of shows they come out. The studio is more known for its original productions, some that I actually enjoyed.
After watching Glasslip, I was deeply disappointed and wondered to my self, why did it fail? It’s odd considering that they played it safe with a premise that they can’t possibly mess it up. Ultimately, we are proven wrong.
Compared to other studios, I think PA Works produces shows with varying levels of story quality despite having great production values. It seems that their shows tend to start rather weak and then progressively become better over time. Shows like Hanasaku Iroha and Nagi no Asukara comes into mind. Sure, there are some weak moments that kind of annoyed me such as Minko getting into a fight with Ohana over Tohoru and Hikari acting like a total jerk. Despite that, the endings tend to meet my expectations, especially the latter with the characters finally resolving their feelings, which in turn allow the sea-god to see how foolish he was by taking away the memories of the maiden he loved.
While I have mixed feelings about Okada Mari’s tendencies to emasculate male characters, I think she is a good writer that can make a good melodramatic story. The same can be said about Tari Tari, which is the 2nd best show from the studio in my opinion, which she did not work on. While it is not as ambitious compared to other works from PA Works, I really enjoyed the characters (especially Wakana and Sawa) and the cheerful feeling despite the school closing down at the end of the show.
Besides these shows and a few others, the rest of their shows can be considered middle-of-the-road or a complete failures. For instance, I find Red Data Girl and Angel Beats enjoyable, but flawed at the same time. Although they are not bad shows since they have interesting premises, I have a feeling that something is missing in the story that makes it somewhat incomplete. Of course, there are shows like Another and Cannan, which are considered by the blogosphere and critics as forgettable or bad. From the looks of it, it seems to me that PA Works is putting a lot of effort to make a masterpiece that would gain popularity, but their efforts always fell short. With Glasslip, they tried to play it safe like they did with Tari Tari by having a balanced cast and a premise focusing on glass making. Somehow, they messed that up really badly and I will explain the three aspects they messed up.
Little to No Character Development
When I watched the first episode, I felt that the story dropped the viewer into the story with a group of characters and called it quits. While the characters in Touko’s group receives some basic character development, it doesn’t go anywhere after a few episodes besides Touko and Kakeru. The lack of character development is bad because the viewers would not be able to connect with these characters and therefore, it will seem like they never existed. For instance, why should we care about Hiro having romantic feelings for Sacchi if they spend most of their screen time in her room? The same applies to Yuki and Yanagi slapping Kakeru. While the scene is somewhat dramatic, the emotional impact was superficial because Yuki and Yanagi never received enough development for me to care.
Considering that this is a character driven story, they should have spent more time developing the characters like they did with their previous works so that the viewers can connect with the characters. By throwing out character development or limiting it to two characters, it severely limits the impact of the drama while making the story feel like it’s not going anywhere. At this rate, they may as well make Touko and Kakeru the main characters and forget the rest of the group.
Fragments of the Future and Vagueness
From the start, Touko and Kakeru found out that they could see fragments of the future by looking at a piece of glass. While it’s an interesting idea, I felt that whoever wrote the story really messed up what this ability supposed to be by making it so vague. At first, Kakeru said that the fragments were about the future. Then, in the finale, Touko’s mom says it’s something else and she still doesn’t have an idea what it is. It seems to me that the writers want to make it vague so that the viewers can figure it out for themselves. Even so, why should the viewers care about it if Touko’s mom does not even know what it is? By having her say that, they basically made the whole show completely pointless.
Sense of No Progression
If the vagueness over the whole visions thing wasn’t enough, the production team thought it was a good idea to jumble in various subplots at the same time. Since there is no real character development, it’s expected that this kind of story telling would be dead on arrival. I understand that they probably done this to show that the group that Touko made is drifting apart. Unfortunately, it was badly executed for reasons mentioned earlier. They should have taken the same approach like they did with their previous works by giving each character the spotlight instead of going through the idea of subplots. At least with that type of story telling, the show would be halfway decent.
It’s very surprising and saddening that PA Works messed up big time with Glasslip by trying to experiment with several ideas in order to make the show feel ambitious and interesting. After watching the last episode, I felt that it was by far the worst show they made thus far. Perhaps they need to go back to their roots and do the same what made True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari popular. I think Kyoto Animation realized that already and went back to adapting source material from Kadokawa with Amagi Brilliant Park after focusing on in-house productions for a year. From the looks of it, first episode is showing some promise. PA Works needs to do the same by doing things that made some of their shows successful instead of experimenting and messing up badly. Hopefully, they will learn their lesson with Shirobako, but I’m not holding my breath.
With that, what are your thoughts on PA Works? Do you think that they will recover from this failure and eventually produce a popular and well-received show? Feel free to share your favorite shows from them.