Back in 2015, I analyzed production issues in regards to Anime. It seems that every year, production issue are becoming more apparent. It’s saddening that a lack of production values can hold a show back regardless of how good or interesting the story and characters are. To me, no adaptation deserves the poor treatment that this show received. This adaptation is Märchen Mädchen.
Personal Thoughts on the Series as of Episode 7
Before I decided to write about the production debacles, I decided to watch the first seven episodes of Märchen Mädchen. I have to admit that the show is very fun to watch and premise is interesting. It involves a normal shy high school girl named Kagimura Hazuki. She doesn’t have any friends despite wanting one. When something doesn’t go right, she escapes into the world of literature by reading books. She eventually meets a cloaked girl. She follows her into a library. The girl Hazuki followed open a door into another world.
Hazuki manages to enter the alternate world using the mysterious book she has. This is where she meets Tsuchimikado Shizuka. She is a Märchen, witches that are bounded to fairytale books called Origins. Her Orgin is Kaguyahime. This is when Hazuki realizes she is one and her Origin is Cinderella, which is viewed by many the most powerful one. With that, she decides to learn how to control her new magic
I have to admit it’s an interesting concept. It can be compared to the likes of Harry Potter and magical girl works. It’s nice to see Hazuki develop from being a shy and cowardly girl to being able to rewrite Cinderella’s story to suit the story she wants and being able to transform. Also, the yuri potential is high with the obvious Hazuki and Shizuka pairing.
Still, I can’t bring myself to watch the eighth episode and beyond given how bad the animation has become. Maybe I will watch them when the Blu-ray version comes out.
Originally, Matsu Tomohiro started working on the concept of Märchen Mädchen in 2014. Before that, his notable works are Mayoi Neko Overrun and Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai, which both received anime adaptations. Of course, the studio that worked on Mayoi Neko Overrun thought it was a good idea to change directors for each episode. As a result, Mayoi Neko Overrun’s anime adaptation has pacing issues. Thankfully to my knowledge, Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai didn’t face any production issues.
Unfortunately, he passed away in May 2016 while working on Märchen Mädchen from liver cancer. As a result, people thought the series won’t come to fruition. Thankfully, with the writing company that Matsu created, StoryWorks continued where he left off from his draft. Currently, they released four volumes in the light novel series. In addition, the series also have a manga adaptation with one volume so far.
The Obvious Production Problems at Hood’s Entertainment
So, you might be wondering what went wrong with the animation? Märchen Mädchen’s production faced numerous issues, even before the production started. Sad as this might be, people are already comparing Märchen Mädchen‘s production to the fictional anime, Jiggly Jiggly Heaven from Shirobako.
Jiggly Jiggly Heaven is a fictional production mentioned by Yamada in the seventh episode of Shirobako. It was the show that supposed to make Kinoshita a legend. However, the production faced scheduling issues, leading to sub-par and melting animation. In the end, they aired three recap episodes for the remaining broadcasting time. Understandably, it caused a lot of backdraft from fans.
So, how Hood’s Entertainment work on Märchen Mädchen compares to the said example. Kevin Cirugeda’s article on Sakuga Blog goes in detail about the production issues. I can spend all day analyzing the findings. Here are the issues that I find glaring and compelling in summarized form from the article:
- Complaints about scheduling issues on social media from staff members.
- Improper or failure to credit artist’s work.
- High turnover of members in the production crew, leading to a lack of talent and manpower to handle the workload.
- Hood’s CEO Nagai rejecting the outsourcing plan in Fall 2017, thus causing production delays.
- A sub contracting proposal failed in January since there was no studio willing to take the offer. As a result, the production team delivered unfinished episodes instead.
- During the production break, the production team wasted time trying to sort out the production situation for the remaining episodes. Hood’s Entertainment originally planned to use the two-week delay to improve the animation quality.
- From the first episode, key frames quality was so poor that it required complete retakes. In some cases, the episode director and supervisors in have to redo everything. As a result, it resulted in more delays.
- Lack of control over the production members after episode 7, leading to issues like improper crediting.
- The lack of Hood’s CEO involvement in resolving the problems with the production.
Analyzing the Product Management Failures of Märchen Mädchen’s Production
From the summary of Kevin’s article, Märchen Mädchen’s production is a project management failure. The high turnover of staff members is a big problem for any production since there is the loss of talent. This lead to a lack of talent needed for the production’s success.
In any project, the project manager needs to make sure he or she have enough talent so the project can succeed. It’s obvious that Hood’s Entertainment had trouble recruiting talent since they pay less compared to other studios. Furthermore, other studios weren’t willing to help them out with the production.
With those who decided to work for on the production face an increase work load due to the lack of talent on the project. As a result, from the talent shortage, the production was doomed to fail. Some the staff members end up hating the project and complaining about the scheduling issues. As a result, the production team kept on falling behind deadlines due to the increased workload.
Second, there was the lack of stakeholder involvement, especially with senior management with the production. A stakeholder is an individual, group or organization who is affected by the decision, activity or outcome of the project. The stakeholder usually includes senior management, which includes the CEO. The lack of Nagi’s involvement with the project as evident with not resolving issues from staff negatively impacted the production. If he made an effort to listen and attempt to resolve the issues the staff members face, the production wouldn’t become chaotic as it did.
Lastly, there is the lack of clear communication and control over the team. As the production went on, there were directors quitting since they can’t handle the work load. As a result, the team became uncontrollable after episode 7. There wasn’t a clear leader of each team to control the situation. This can explain why the two weeks Hood’s Entertainment intended to use towards improving the animation quality went to waste. If there was strong leadership, they wouldn’t be in this situation.
So, what should the industry learn from this production disaster? As mentioned in my recent editorial about the industry, the industry needs to reform itself. Young people who have an interest in animation are less likely to work in Japanese animation. It’s because of high-profile production disasters like these and continued reports of low pay and poor working conditions.
From what happened at Hood’s Entertainment, it’s not just a money and pay issue, it’s also the studio’s treatment of their workers. Animators already work long hours due to a hectic schedule, usually without overtime pay. Moreover, most animators in the industry are freelancers, thus they are paid even less than a normal employee would.
If a studio wants a production to succeed, they need to reform. Maybe workers need to unionize or demand legislation for reform and regulate the industry. This can range from labor reform, requiring studios to pay a livable wage and overtime pay, creating acceptable working condition requirements, etc.
So far, there are some efforts to improve working conditions by the Japanese Government. They plan on creating standardized drawing software to incentive studios to do the drawings digitally to increase efficiently. However, studios are reluctant to do so since they want to make quality animation. Moreover, studios are skeptical about using computer generated graphics. The fear is that it can result in a loss of jobs
Lastly, studios need to pay a competitive or generous wage to attract enough talent. Studios can’t expect to pay meager pay to their staff and expect to receive the best talent. Otherwise, they are already setting up the production for failure.
In the end, what Hood’s Entertainment done to Märchen Mädchen’s anime production is a gross disrespect towards Matsu and StoryWorks. If this franchise received a proper production, I think it would have the potential to become popular and liked by many. It would have been a good tribute to Matsu’s work as well.
Understandably, not only the franchise’s reputation is hurt due to the poor anime production, but also Hood’s Entertainment’s as well. People will know them by the studio who botches up anime productions. As a result, creators will become reluctant to have their adaptation done by them. Eventually, they will most likely go out of business due to lack of customers. That is, unless they change as a whole and learn from their mistakes.
Lastly, between this production debacle and continued reports of poor pay and working conditions, this doesn’t help the Japanese’s Government’s efforts with the Cool Japan campaign. They planned on using this campaign to attract more tourism through the spreading of Japanese Culture. This includes anime, manga, fashion, film, consumer electronics, cuisine, and so on. This is not surprising since Japan is holding the Summer Olympics in 2020. Either way you look at it, the industry needs to reform itself or risk the industry imploding. People already notice the issues with the Japanese animation industry
In short, I hope that the Märchen Mädchen franchise Matsu and StoryWorks tried to build up won’t go to waste because of this production debacle. Hopefully someday, a good studio will give the anime adaptation or a feature film the series deserve.
With that, what are your thoughts on Hood’s Entertainment production failures. What would you do differently if you were responsible for the production? Also, what suggestions should the industry take to reform itself? Feel free to share them in the comments.
Also, there is now a Omake showing how the viewers reacted to the drop in animation quality after the production delays. ¶