This is a dull title. I hope the post turns out better. The gif is a music producer, I couldn’t find an anime producer.
I’m not sure when this will publish. Around the end of May, I was having a conversation with Dewbond about Netflix’s The Way of the Househusband. We both enjoyed the series but he really did not like the visuals and thought they were a mistake on the part of Netflix.
Personally, I didn’t mind the visuals so I was probably inclined to find reasons to justify the creative decisions but this led to a wider conversation. You see, my stance was that for one the visuals weren’t that bad and were very unusual and exposing Netflix audiences (which may not be as familiar with anime) to a variety of animation techniques is actually a good thing. Also that the show was (as far as I know) primarily intended for the Japanese market where the visuals were well received. And that finally that as this particular animation style was the choice of the Mangaka and Netflix might have been either contractually obligated to follow those wishes or simply wanted to keep the original creator happy.
For all those reasons, my stance was that although the animation style may not have been for everybody, it was not a mistake. And that there may even be value in favouring Japanese audiences and tastes and honouring a Magaka’s vision for their art while exposing international audiences to different styles of anime.
Now Dewbond took a slightly different view. Although I do believe he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with creating anime for Japanese audiences or in following what a creator wants for their work, his main point was that “audiences eat with their eyes” and that Netflix created an unappetizing product in Way of the Househusband, which regardless of the reasons behind the production choices, is ultimately negative and a mistake.
Even though Netflix is not the studio behind the anime and did not have direct oversight over the animators, as producers I do think they could have exerted some serious influence and maybe guided the production a little differently. But should they have? How much should a producer be expected to impact a project for the sake of marketability?
In my opinion, there are a few ways to look at it. If we think of anime as a business, I believe Dewbond is right on every level. Changing the animation style to something safer and more likely to appeal to American audiences will certainly boost the popularity of the series. Moreover, just because Japanese audiences liked the current style, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have liked another one. So creating an anime that is more geared towards American tastes would have opened up a much wider audience. There is a reason why media tends towards the lowest common denominator, it works!
And this isn’t a cynical or bad way to look at it. I think media sometimes brainwashes us into thinking that doing something for profit or popularity is bad but I don’t think it’s .quite that simple. The producer’s role is to make the anime popular. They invest in a project and try to market it as best they can in order to get their investment back with a profit.
And everyone involved in the project is going to benefit the bigger a success it is. The studio will get more money or at least advertising which will help them negotiate better on their next project. The Magaka will get wider recognition and the industry, in general, will have another win. I honestly think these are all good things. Sure Netflix may have alienated the author a bit in the process but in a famously resource-starved industry like anime, I doubt it would have stopped others from working with them in the future. Besides, if the show is a huge success, maybe the author would have changed his mind.
The only counterargument I could possibly find is that The Way of the Househusband’s unusual animation was a pretty big talking point that might have generated some interest in the show that wouldn’t have been there with a more standard animation style. And ultimately, even if it may not have been the best publicity, if it drove eyeballs to the series then it’s a plus. But I doubt that one positive outweighs the rest so I have to agree with Dewbond when looking at it from this standpoint.
You could also view anime as art. But that’s really messy so I’m not sure how to even begin. The simple answer is, the story belongs to the author so if the Mangaka wanted it that way then that’s how it should be period. But that’s a little shallow and it denies all the other artistic contributions to the anime. There are illustrators, animators, character designers and directors that worked on the project and all of them are artists with visions of their own. If someone can create breathtaking animated sequences with a perfect eye for framing and pacing of the action, do they never get to shine unless they can also write popular fiction?
Editors exist precisely because artists often need help shaping and curving their creative vision. Arguably, this is also a producer’s job up to a certain point. Anime is a collaborative process. And since I don’t know the intent of everyone involved, I really can’t say if the animation choices were smart or a mistake. I guess we’ll call this one a draw.
This is my last chance to defend my stance. You would think I would be better at it since I’m writing the post but I’ll let you in on a spoiler, I’m not sure the last viewpoint works in my favour either.
So the last way I can look at the issue is to look at anime as a consumer product. This does bring back some of the arguments for anime as a business but I think there is a bit of nuance to it. If the anime is something to be consumed and enjoyed by a specific audience, rather than something to be sold to the widest possible audience, then the variables change a bit.
The producer’s job is no longer to make the most marketable show possible but to make a show that cannot be easily replaced. Something that will mean a lot to the right audience member because it’s not a generic product easily interchangeable with many others. I might have an argument here. The animation style was kind of out there by today’s standards. It’s a style that everyone involved in the project liked and that the local audiences enjoyed. So I do think The Way of the Househusband did accomplish that goal.
But the fact remains that the audience enjoyment, suiting people’s eye palettes, wasn’t universal. A portion of the international audience would have preferred a slightly less unique product. And at the end of the day, I think every audience memeber will have their own take on how this plays out.
I tend to enjoy variety and originality. From my personal point of view, I think that alienating part of the audience in order to give the primary audience a product they can’t easily find elsewhere and make the Mangaka happy to boot, is a good tradeoff. After all, there are tons of traditionally animated shows out there for the part of the audience that is looking for that specifically.
But you can just as easily say that alienating part of the audience is never a good thing and a producer, such as Netflix, should work harder to find the proper balance to please all of the audience. Also, the if you don’t like it watch something else argument is weak and silly. The very fact that there is any type of discussion around the faults of the production of The Way of the Househusband, is proof in and of itself that the production went wrong somewhere.
And there you have it. Man, providing balanced posts sure gets you back to step one. At the end of the day, I stand by my stance. Regardless of success, I do think taking chances with production is not a bad thing especially when it’s at the Mangaka’s wishes. And even if it turns out to be a huge flop (which Househusband wasn’t) at least they tried something earnestly. To me, it’s sort of the essence of creation and this willingness to potentially fail is something that I think makes the anime industry special. Despite everything, after all is said and done, I still don’t think it was a mistake.
But I also see why somebody would disagree. In fact, if I were to take my own bias out of the equation and try to look at the question as objectively as possible… I hate to admit it but Dewbond may be right. It was up to the producer to produce an anime that people wanted to see. (Netflix doesn’t release their numbers so I don’t actually know how many people did see Househusband but did see and wanted to see can be different). There are a lot of important reasons to create anime that will appeal to the largest audience possible and ultimately, if people don’t continue watching anime, eventually they’ll stop making it. And so, if pretty smoothly animated shows are what people will watch, that should be what a producer strives to make.
Do you guys have any views on this? Should producers be more active in the creative decisions and really guide an anime to popularity? Should they be completely hands-off and let the studios and creators work out production details? Should there be a mix of both? How important is it to make sure that audiences find a show appealing in visuals and content? Which audiences should be prioritized?