Let’s Make a List: Explaining my Lack of Excitement Over Sequels to my Favorite Anime

Please Teacher is a show memorable to me for sublime use of natural scenery and subtle characterization overcoming a really dumb plot. It’s also one of my all-time 50 favorite anime. So this show ostensibly has a sequel or some other big franchise project (if I were a betting man, I’d put most of my funds on “anime movie version”) on the way for its tenth anniversary. This is notwithstanding Ano Natsu de Matteru, the spiritual successor it got last January.

Am I excited about this news? Well, slightly. See, I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with my favorite anime getting sequels, and I’d really have to know more than what fictional universe it’s taking place in before I get excited.

Note: Since my tastes are somewhat idiosyncratic, and I’ll be talking mostly about shows I’ve seen and loved, feel free to disagree.

First, let’s look at the 11 in my top 50 which do have non-spinoff, non-movie sequels of some form or another, ranked from equal levels of enjoyment to total failure. I exclude some shows either because they have a spinoff tangentially related to the first series’ story (Please Teacher, ef-a tale of memories), or they are a portion of an existing franchise (Clannad: Tomoyo Chapter, Castle of Cagliostro), or they’ve had movie adaptations made with a smattering of new clips (Madoka Magica, Tiger and Bunny).

Maintained Quality Tier:

Honey and Clover [changed director to Nagai Tatsuyuki]

-Probably the best sequel to one of my top 50 I’ve seen, it wraps up the series very nicely and kept the characters I had come to love acting like themselves all the way to the end.

Kino’s Journey [same director]

-I count Kino’s Journey here because it had at least 3 specials (Free Lance, For You, Life Goes On) come out post-tv show, all of which were at the level of one average episode of the show.

Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji [same director]

-Hakairoku-hen was quintessentially Kaiji, although it lacked the frenzied genius of part 1.

Animation Runner Kuromi [same director]

-Still funny and energetic, and had some clever jokes on lazy animation.

Less Consistent but Still Enjoyable Tier:

Nodame Cantabile [changed director to Chiaki Kon]

-Paris-hen kicked out most most of the main cast, and dialed up the petty couple drama considerably.

Ah! My Goddess! (TV) [same director]

-Shiawase no Iro still had that whimsical, light-hearted atmosphere that made the first season work, but spent too much time on serious goddesses vs. demons plotlines.

Amagami SS [changed director to Kobayashi Tomoki]

-Plus was not consistently great and clearly struggled to find content for some of the arcs that the main series settled conclusively, but certain individual arcs were quite good.

Didn’t Understand What Made the First Series Good Tier:

Mahou Tsukai Tai [same director]

-The TV series has a stupidly melodramatic villain and doesn’t make any kind of effort to recreate the zany comedy that made the OVA so great.

Hajime no Ippo [changed director to Jun Shishido]

-New Challenger’s Sound Direction and OST blew chunks, ruining a number of theoretically amazing emotional moments.

To Heart [changed director to Motonaga Keitarou]

-Remember My Memories didn’t read the script of the first season, and eschewed the established ending of the first season to have a bunch of harem moments. To boot, the main plotline was an overdramtic rehashing of something the first show had already dealt with.

White Album Tier:

White Album [changed director to Taizo Yoshida]

-The first season of White Album is a realistic 90s drama about a couple who have trouble making contact with each other because of conflicting schedules and lack of cellular phones/answering machines. The second season was a highlight real of the guy sleeping with every female in the main cast.

The short version of the above is that I find sequels to be generally worse, sometimes catastrophically so. The reason why that I postulate is that the creative process going into making them is considerably different from the one that goes into making a new anime (be it original or adapted from source material). For a new anime, the studio making it has to answer the question; “Can we make this good enough that people will want to buy it?” For a sequel, the studio making it has to answer this question; “Was the fanbase for part 1 big enough?” The show’s quality has generally become a moot point in favor of DVD/Blu-ray sales at the point when a sequel actually gets made. You’ll notice I highlighted whether the director changed from the first to he second series. That’s generally a dead giveaway that the makers don’t care too much about keeping what made the original good; it’s very hard for even good directors (such as Motonaga Keitarou, the man behind Katanagatari and Jormungand) to replicate another director’s creative vision while keeping up with 12+ episodes of continuity. But if they know they can sell it anyway and they can pay another director less, why not?

So I guess what I’m saying is this: that the reason why I only get slightly excited over sequels in general is that they’re really not any kind of sure thing. There’s not one consistent reason why; some of them just aren’t needed, some of them rely on staffs unfamiliar with the material, and a few absolutely soil a previously enjoyable franchise. If the same director is coming back to do the show, that’s something. It means it’s not purely a cash grab by a studio looking for more money, but also a considered attempt to reproduce what made season 1 as good as it was.

Also, on a more meta level, a good staff and studio working on a sequel is a good staff and studio not adapting Tenna Toori no Kaidanji, or Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, or Natsu no Zenjitsu, or Ace of the Diamond, or [insert your favorite manga here], or even some totally original project. While it makes commercial sense to milk properties that sell, and I don’t wish Studio Gonzo’s eventual fate on anyone, this is one of the most direct examples of profits being made at the expense of creativity.

That said, I’m a hypocrite who’s still totally on board for a theoretical Please series sequel with the right cast and crew. Provided it focused on the actual main cast of the series , of course. Make it happen Bandai.*

*They won’t.

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