A bit random, but I always thought that the threads have a stupid name. I don't even know why would I name my threads "Anime You Might Not Have Tried/Heard of" in the first place. Maybe I should rename it next time, like "My Anime Recommendation Can't Be This Cute" or "My Anime Recommendation SNAFU" or something.
Okay, before anything, I should say that this will probably be the longest post out of the whole series, so if you are planning to read the whole thing, you might wanna make sure you have the time for it. Yeah, I'm talking to you, the ones who are on Polygon at work. Is Polygon banned in workplaces yet?
So what the hell is P.A. Works? It's an anime studio, one my favorite too, as well as the one anime studio that no one has heard of (on this site at least). So yeah, that's one of those thread that's dedicated to a certain anime studio, like the second and the third one.
One upon a time, there is a college student named Horikawa Kenji, who went to the University of Toyama and focused on science major. That's until he saw the famous animated movie by Miyazaki Hayao, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which deeply touched him, and he was so touched that he quit college and went all the way to Nagoya to enroll into an animation school for his dream of being an animator. Eventually, he became an animator and worked in the famous Tatsunoko Production and Production I.G. At Tatsunoko and I.G., he met Mashimo Koichi, the director of anime such as Noir, Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja. In 1997, together, they founded a new studio, which we know as Bee Train today.
Of course, all stories have plot twist, this one is no exception. Horikawa made a promise that when his child become an elementary schooler, he will have to move back to Toyama. When he returned home, he found out that there are no place for animation related career in Toyama, so as both a businessperson and an anime producer, he decided to found his own anime studio there named Ecchu Douga Honbo in 2000 by modifying an abandoned hospital due to budget constraint, and was renamed P.A. Works in 2002. As P.A. Works. Since it's foundation, the company assisted a lot of other studios to help produce anime (mainly by Bones, Bee Train and Production I.G.) such as Fullmetal Alchemist and Eureka Seven.
In 2006, they started their first independent project, the in-game animated cutscenes of the Professor Layton series. While the cutscenes are rather well made, they didn't gain the fame they have now until 2008 (let's admit it, you rarely check who make the cutscenes when playing a video game). Back in 2008, it was around the time where KyoAni was on fire, there are pretty much no other companies can rival them (except big names like Ghibili or Disney). However, True Tears, P.A. Works's first independent anime, changed that. True Tears made one hell of a debut for P.A. Works at that time and it was praised by it's story, visual and production value, not to mention the animation quality was top notch even by today's standard. As they continued the following years with anime like Angel Beats! and Hanasaku Iroha, their logo slowly became a staple of well produced anime and pretty much made them on par with KyoAni.
As for the type of anime they usually make, while I can't be sure that is it actually what they favor or just pure coincidence, all of their works so far are either original works by themselves, original projects by someone else outside of the company, or adaptions of novels (not light novels, but novels with formal writings), which does kind of make them a little special in an industry full of manga and light novel adaptions.
So what kind of style they have that make them so magical? I will say it's realism. While most anime focused on surreal topics like fantasy, sci-fi or harem, P.A. Works tends to focus less on making fresh and new innovative theme and setting, and more on perfecting existing formula with heavy emphasis on character developments. But while nothing new and special, the settings they use are actually the most interesting part about them. Every anime they have produced so far are actually based on real specific locations. While this is nothing new, P.A. Works in definitely the one that comes to mind first for doing this. Other than making a more realistic setting, doing so also help to promote tourism of that locations. Many of those places actually held events that are related to the anime after it was aired. Since this is what they are famous for, Nanto City in Toyama Prefecture (which is also where True Tears takes place) actually asked them to make True Tours Nanto, an animated love story shorts with many real locations in Nanto being featured in the story, primarily for promoting the tourism in Nanto.
Tari Tari and Enoshima:
Canaan and Shanghai:
Hanasaku Iroha and Kanazawa:
Kanazawa's collaboration with Hanasaku Iroha for tourism promotion:
Fukuume and Chousenden, a snack that you can only find in Ishikawa Prefecture:
The two snacks in Hanasaku Iroha (can't find what the other one is):
And do you know that Kisuisou actually exist, and it's called Hakuunrou Hotel in real life?
Alright, I'm pretty sure you get the idea, otherwise more pictures will just become tedious. Before we get into the anime though, I would like to show some key people who had worked with P.A. Works before:
Okada Mari (scriptwriter). I think without her contribution, P.A. Works probably won't be as popular as now. She was in last year's Anime Expo too if I remember correctly.
-True Tears (2008)
-Hanasaku Iroha (2011)
-The Pet Girl of Sakurasou (2012)
Kishida Mel (illustrator, character designer,
mystic knight). Yeah, he is a weirdo, but also a great artist. I think I remembered hearing him said that he will stop dressing up in weird costumes, which is a shame...
-Atelier Rorona (character design)
-Atelier Totori (character design)
-Atelier Meruru (character design)
-Heaven's Memo Pad (illustration)
-Hanasaku Iroha (illustration)
-Red Data Girl (illustration, character design)
-So Ra No Wo To (character design)
As for the anime:
Director: Nishimura Junji (SIMOUN, Nura: Rise of Yokai Clan)
Adapted From: Original story by Okada Mari (supposedly an adaption of the visual novel of the same name, but they decided to do their own thing because they were told they can do whatever they want as long as it's called True Tears, so they did whatever they want)
Localized By: Bandai Entertainment
Setting Based On: Toyama Prefecture
Ishii Makoto as Nakagami Shinichiro
Natsuka Kaori as Yuasa Hiromi
Takagaki Ayahi as Isurugi Noe
Iguchi Yuka as Ando Aiko
Yoshino Hiroyuki as Nobuse Miyokichi
Nakagami Shinichiro is a high school student who enjoy drawing and currently working on a picture book. Other than his parents, another high school student Yuasa Hiromi was also living with him since her father died, and had never smile or cry since then. One day, Shinichiro met a weird girl on a tree, Isurugi Noe, who claim that she cannot cry. since this meeting, along with his childhood friend Ando Aiko and classmate Nobuse Miyokich, the relationship between the five start to change.
I was there when the first episode just came out, and I still remembered how I was impressed by how well made it is. Unlike other anime with romantic comedy, it is a rather serious romance with some drama in it. The story is very heavy on character development, and the character development is definitely one of the strongest part of the story. The story itself is quite well written as well. Each dialogue always have some meaning or represent what the characters are thinking well, though sometimes you might have a hard time to catch up with the monologue, since there are quite are lot of them.
Other than the character development itself, it was also further reinforced by it's unique presentation through Shinichiro's picture book. The animation quality is superb, and like I mentioned above, it's still something that can be considered as amazing even by today's standard. It's definitely not for everyone (just like pretty much every anime P.A. Works has made), but if you are up for some romance with a well written character developments, True Tears is a must watch.
-Great character development
-Sometimes a bit hard to catch up
-The ending might upset people who preferred the "other" heroine
-No Sawashiro Miyuki
Director: Ando Masahiro (Hanasaku Iroha, Blast of Tempest)
Adapted From: Sequel to Wii/PS3 game 428: Fusa Sareta Shibuya de by Chunsoft (Danganronpa), and based on the bonus scenario in the game by TYPE-MOON (Fate/Stay Night, Tsukihime)
Localized By: Sentai Filmworks
Setting Based On: Shanghai
Sawashiro Miyuki/Shelly Calane-Black as Canaan
Sakamoto Maaya/Lesley Pederson as Alphard Al Sheya
Nanjo Yoshino/Hilary Haag as Osawa Maria
Hamada Kenji/David Matranga as Minorikawa Minoru
Otsuka Akio/Andrew Love as Siam
In the future, a biological weapon caused a group of people gain a special ability known as "synestheisa". People who have synesthesia will have their five sense mix up. Smell has colors, sound has visual, and it allows them to see something normal people can't see with naked eyes. Two years after 428, journalist Minorikawa Minoru and photographer Osawa Maria were assigned to the city Shanghai to investigate the rumor about a ghost town. Meanwhile in Shanghai, a mercenary with synesthesia goes by the name Canaan was assigned with several missions. Within the city under the threat of bio-weapon and terrorism, as the two good old friend, Maria and Canaan, and Alphard, the leader of the terrorists known as Snake meet again, another danger that deeply connected with Canaan and Alphard's past slowly approaches.
Well, the first impression I have after I finished it is that it's definitely more like something you will see from a Hollywood movie than an anime (except replace the two middle eastern women with two white men, of course). It's just full of references to western action films like Leon: The Professional, Charlie's Angel, Black Hawk Down and even Resident Evil.
Characters and the rivalry between Canaan and Alphard took up the majority of the pie, and I really, really like the characters in the story, especially Alphard. The story itself is also really interesting take on the topic of terrorism. Rather than just another story about good people fighting bad people, it goes deeper into it by showing it through the terrorist's view, as well as how the counter-terrorist's side is actually not too different from the terrorist. However, occasionally, it feels like the story kind of lose it's grip on the premise and makes you want to ask "what does all this have to do with the story?" But then when you finally get to something about the main theme of the story, it suddenly feels like it didn't focus on it enough.
Though I have to say, the story telling is very confusing while it can be told in a more simple way. While I am a fan of subtle storytelling as long as the message behind the story is strong enough, the story in Canaan isn't something crazy philosophical or anything. Personally, I think the storytelling is really overly complicated compare to the story itself. It's like when you are asking someone for direction, and then they just show you a really complicated way to go there while you can just walk straight. The animation is really nice though, action scenes aren't something you see from P.A. Works too often, but they manage to pull it out very well.
Moral of the story, if you are on a vacation in Japan, don't ask anyone from TYPE-MOON for directions.
-Cool concept and setting
-Interesting take on terrorism
-The rivalry between Canaan and Alphard is really great
-Story didn't focus on it's theme enough
Director: Kishi Seiji (Seto no Hanayome, Kamisama Dolls, Persona 4 the Animation)
Adapted From: Original story by Maeda Jun (Air, Clannad, Little Busters!)
Localized By: Sentai Filmworks
Setting Based On: Kanazawa University, Ishikawa Prefecture
Look! It's the afterlife world in real life!
Kamiya Hiroshi/Blake Shepard as Otonashi
Hanazawa Kana/Emily Neves as Angel
Sakurai Harumi/Brittney Karbowsky as Yuri
Kimura Ryouhei/David Matranga as Hinata
Kitamura Eri/Hilary Haag/LiSA as Yui
The story begins with Otonashi, a young man suddenly woke up at night in a mysterious campus with no memories other than his name at all. Next to him is a girl with a sniper rifle, Yuri, the leader of a group known as the SSS, who told him that he is already dead and they are in the afterlife world, and in order to continue to exist in this world, they have to keep fighting against the Angel, the girl pointed by Yuri's sniper rifle. As Otonashi joined the SSS to fight against the Angel, his questions of why are they there, and why do they have to fight against the Angel are slowly being answered.
FUNNIEST. SH*T. EVER.
But yeah, the comedy is crazy and total madness. The setting of the afterlife is a bit out of place at first because it doesn't look like one at all at first (which will be explained near the end), but once you get over that, it's probably one of the funniest anime you have ever seen (after Seto no Hanayome, another anime by the same director though). The fact that it has awesome cast of crazy characters and they are all dead actually made it a lot funnier. Leave it to Angel Beats! to make horrific and brutal death hilarious.
The drama part comes from the character's past before they died, as well as how they decided to deal with them after they die. In contrast to the crazy comedy, many of them are actually pretty touching and tear jerking. The main theme of the story is "life is beautiful", and I think it did a pretty decent job at telling you that. Though the ending is a bit rushed, and the story can definitely use more episodes, not to mention there are quite a few plot holes. Personally, I don't think the flaws bother me that much.
Soundtrack is amazing, and they are always played in the right moment. My favorite track is "Theme of SSS". Opening for episode 4 is still the most creative opening I have ever seen in an anime (or at least the most creative opening transition).
I think it's a show that always have something for everyone. Either you are watching it for the drama or comedy, it will still worth your time.
-But also very touching
-There are always something for you no matter what you are watching it for
-Ending is a bit rushed
-Can use more episodes
Episodes: 26+1 film
Director: Ando Masahiro
Adapted From: Original story by Okada Mari
Localized By: NIS America
Setting Based On: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Itou Kanae as Matsumae Ohana
Omigawa Chiaki as Tsurugi Minko
Toyosaki Aki as Oshimizu Nako
Tomatsu Haruka as Wakura Yuina
Kaji Yuki as Kanemura Koichi
Matsumae Ohana, an ordinary high school girl in Tokyo, is going through some big changes in her life. Her mom ran off with another man in debt, she was sent to an inn in the country side ran by her grandmother, her best friend, Kanemura Koichi confessed his love for her before her departure, she suddenly has to work in the inn for her grandmother, and she found herself having trouble adopting to the new environment and people in the inn. It was harsh and difficult for her, but also a chance for her to grow up and become someone different, someone she wants to be. This is a story about the many colors of a small flower's blossom.
Personally, I though it was quite a charming story. It wasn't anything complex or epic, but it's something you won't usually see in anime, and it's definitely one of the best in it's genre. The story is very character driven and mostly revolved around Ohana and how she grows up as she learns more about herself and the people around her, but as Ohana isn't the only one who's growing up, there are also many developments on other characters such as the rest of the three main characters, who are going through something very similar to Ohana, or maybe even other side characters who work in the inn.
How the story planned out is great too. It's not a story where you can just understand everything by watching a few episodes. There are many setup within the characters, which make you wonder what the hell are wrong with those people, but once you take your time with it, the more you get into it, the more you will understand the characters, and you will realize that everyone has their problems and troubles in their lives just like Ohana. And as the story progress along with all the character developments, you can't help but to be simply impressed by how much everyone has grown up. The best part about it is that the story itself is very realistic, I won't be surprised at all if you lie to me and tell me that it's based on a real story.
I also found Ohana and very likable character that is very easy to relate to. She really resembles many people when they are still in high school (or maybe even now), not knowing anything about the outside, doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, but in the same time, very curious about all the things she wanted to know. And after watching how much she grew up though the whole story, you just can't help but to feel encouraged and inspired. Her voice actress, Itou Kanae is perfect for Ohana's character.
The character designer, Kishida Mel is very good at designing characters that are attractive yet not too flashy, especially the school uniforms he design which are usually sailor style with color pattern with nothing more than blue and white and look very simple and beautiful in the same time, a style that goes along with this anime very well. And his designs in this anime reflect that perfectly. Honestly, I think he is really the perfect choice for the character designs in this anime, you just can't find another guy who's more fitting than him.
-Great and relatable characters
-A masterpiece of it's genre
-Realistic yet engaging story and character developments
-Everything just goes together well
-Probably won't interest you at all if you are not into the genre
-No Sawashiro Miyuki
Director: Mizushima Tsutomu (Squid Girls, Girls und Panzer)
Adapted From: Novel by Ayatsuji Yukito
Localized By: Hanabee(AUS), Sentai Filmworks(NA), MVM Films(UK)
Abe Atsushi/Greg Ayres as Sakakibara Koichi
Takamori Natsumi/Monica Rial as Misaki Mei
Yonezawa Madoka/Jessica Boone as Akazawa Izumi
Maeno Tomoaki/Chris Patton as Teshigawara Naoya
Yamamoto Kazutomi/Clint Bickham as Mochizuki Yuya
Setting Based On: Toyama Prefecture
26 years ago, a student named "Misaki" from class 3-3 of Yomiyama North Middle School died. "Misaki" was a popular student among both classmates and teachers, so everyone in school was shocked and saddened by "Misaki's" death. However, one of the student suddenly pointed at "Misaki's" seat and said "Misaki is right there, Misaki didn't die". Ever since, everyone in class pretended that "Misaki" is still alive, and even prepared a seat for "Misaki" during the graduation photo. However, after the photo was taken, someone who doesn't belonged there was seen. The photo had clearly captured "Misaki's" face on the seat the students had prepared.
26 years later, in the year of 1998, Sakikbara Koichi, a middle school student was transferred from Toyko to Yomiyama North Middle School's class 3-3. There, he met a student named Misaki Mei, and ever since, his classmates in class 3-3 and their relatives starting to die though bizarre accidents mysteriously...
Well, in case you have never heard of it, this is probably one of the most gory and gruesome anime out there, so make sure that you are okay with that before anything. I personally can't stand gore and violence, but in the same time I actually enjoyed it a lot. The best part about the anime is probably the atmosphere. Most of the time you can tell who will die in next 10 seconds whenever strange things start happening or creepy music start playing, yet you just can't help but to feel uneasy like things will happen in every second simply because how great the atmosphere is.
As for the gore and violence, well it is a horror anime, so if you think gore and violence are horrible, I guess we can consider them in the anime a good thing. The gruesome death scenes will make you cringe even harder than when you get a gameover from Tomb Raider.
The mystery is okay. The answer kind of reveal in a deus ex machina-ish way at the end, but I think that's the whole point of the story, it let the audiences play the detective by gathering all the information and hints themselves rather than watching the characters do it for them. The way the "answer" is revealed is a bit too sudden, but the "answer" does make sense once you piece everything together yourself. The ending is kind of bland though. The anime also added some extra character developments to make you feel sympathetic to the characters, as compare to the novel which focused more on the horror and mystery while the character is more of a tool to create the mystery.
Overall, if you want some horror and cringing, you can't find another anime that's better than Another anime. Now would you excuse me, I need to go to my underground shelter to avoid people who want to kill me for making a terrible pun.
-Lots of cringing
-Let the audience to play the detective themselves
-If you can't stand gore and violence, GTFO ASAP before any nightmares
-The mystery can be a little be better
-No Sawashiro Miyuki
Genre: Slice of Life/Drama/Music
Director: Hashimoto Masakazu (Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva)
Adapted From: Original story by Evergreen
Localized By: Sentai Filmworks
Location Based On: Enoshima
Takahagi Ayahi as Sakai Wakana
Seto Asami as Miyamoto Konatsu
Hayami Saori as Okita Sawa
Shimazaki Nobunaga as Tanaka Taichi
Hanae Natsuki as Wein
Miyamoto Konatsu, a high school senior in the choir club, decided to quit the club after her teacher refused to let her sing in the club. After that, she decided to form her own new choir club with four other new club members, Sakai Wakana, a girl who used to be in the music major but given up on music for unknown reason, Okita Sawa, Konatsu's best friend, Tanaka Taichi, the sole member of the badminton club, and Wein, a transfer student from Austria and comes back to Japan for 12 years. Through music, the five teenagers who are too old to be kids, but too young to be adults become closer together and perform the song known as "youth" in their last summer in high school.
The so-called third installment of the "P.A. Works Youth Trilogy" by the fans (the first is True Tears and the second is Hanasaku Iroha), and it does indeed have some similarity to the other two, especially to Hanasaku Iroha despite that it's made by a different director and scriptwriters. I have to say, I really like it, considered the fact that youth is my favorite theme in fictions, and Tari Tari did a great job at portraying youth.
The story centered around the five protagonists' dreams and how they achieved them. It's an old formula, but presented in a very powerful and inspiring way. Watching the five characters trying their best to achieve their dreams really make you feel like cheering them and becoming young again. 13 episodes also leave very little space for fillers and make a great and fitting pacing for the story. The seamless transitions between flashbacks and present time events is a pretty nice touch to the presentation too. As for the voices, since it's an anime about singing, other than voice acting, the voice actors also have to sing, and all five of them are actually really good singers as well.
Tari Tari really gets my recommendation if you want to feel the youth again in your life (or if you are still in your youth). If you have something you want to do, better do it while you are still young. Do something that might seems impossible is better than do nothing and regret!
Also, do you know there is also another anime take place in Enoshima? It's Tsuritama directed by Nakamura Kenji, who also directed C: The Money of Soul and Possiblity Control and this season's Gatchaman Crowds. Maybe we will see his name in my future threads?
-Heartwarming and touching
-The voice actors' singing is really good
-Not enough developments for a few characters sometimes
-No Sawashiro Miyuki
Red Data Girl
Director: Shinohara Toshiya (Lupin III Hono no Kioku ~Tokyo Crisis~, Gunparade Ochestra, Black Butler)
Adapted From: Novel by Ogawa Noriko (Dragon Sword and Wind Child, Hakuchou Iden, Usubeni Tennyo)
Localized By: Funimation Entertainment
Setting Based On: Unknown
Hayami Saori as Suzuhara Izumiko
Uchimiya Koki as Sagara Miyuki
Yonezawa Madoka as Soda Mayura
Ishikawa Kaito as Soda Manatsu
Kimura Ryouhei as Soda Masumi
Suzuhara Izumiko is 15 year old shy girl who seems to posess some form of spiritual power, which made her preferred to live a more ordinary life. As she is graduating from middle school, her guardian Sagara Yukimasa wanted her to go to Hojo High School in Tokyo with his son, Sagara Miyuki, as her bodyguard. While they hated each other at first, Miyuki has no choice but to protect her as they realized that Hojo High School is actually a school full of sorcerers. And through the many events in the school, Izumiko comes to realization about who she really is, and where does her power came from.
I will be honest, it's definitely the weakest anime P.A. Works has made. Of course, I'm not saying that it's bad, but it can definitely be better. One of the biggest problem, I think, it's the pacing and the scenario planning of the story. The story constantly loses it's focus and with a confusing storytelling that makes you keep asking why, and it obviously needs more episodes to give a better explanation about many plot points (heck, they didn't even adapt the last book of the novel).
Other than that, the story was not bad, the setting is unique and interesting, and the last part is definitely the best part and climax of the whole series, which gave a pretty nice conclusion to the story. Overall, it is a pretty enjoyable anime with some pretty good characters, if not a little bit boring and confusing at some point.
-Unique setting and theme
-A nice conclusion
-Definitely need more than 12 episodes
-Storytelling and scenario have room for improvement
-No Sawashiro Miyuki
I guess that's all. I was going to write about Koitabi ~True Tours Nanto~, but I figure it was just an animated short with nothing much to talk about and you can't watch it through regular legal means, so I thought simply mentioning it's name is already enough. You can try to look it up to see if you can watch it somewhere if you like some cheesy romance in Nanto.
There are actually two other anime I didn't mentioned in here, Uchoten Kazoku and Nagi no Asu Kara. Uchoten Kazoku is still currently being aired, and Nagi no Asu Kara is not even out yet, so I can't really comment on them. However, I can show you a trailer of Nagi no Asu Kara, because it looks beautiful, probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen from P.A. Works, especially the realistic yet dreamy backgrounds.
The story is written by Okada Mari, and the character designer is Buriki, the illustrator of Denpa Onna and Haganai. It's coming out this October. The voice actors for the five main characters are Hanae Natsuki, Hanazawa Kana, Ishikawa Kaito, Kayano Ai and Ousaka Ryouta.
Well, and I guess that's it. If everything is going to be according to keikaku, the next thread will probably have alchemists, middle school girls, kindergarten teachers and Gundams.
Try to guess which one is the extra one who doesn't belonged in this picture.
Here are the previous entries if you are interested: