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.

The shoes were an odd choice, I have to admit

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.

eating a frosted cake with a fake mustache is not a good idea!

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.

it’s a metaphor for resources…

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.

maybe I’ll do better next time

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.

for the discerning viewer!

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?

19 thoughts

  1. The corporate part of me definitely wants to say that a producer should try to make an anime as popular as possible. See what is currently liked a lot and go with a style to match tht. In theory you want to capture the largest group possible. Now, everyone does have different tastes so you can’t get 100% and sometimes you intentionally want to target a niche if nobody else is.

    As long as it doesn’t impact the artistic integrity of the product then I say go for it. If it is at the cost of what the original product was about then it’s not for the best. That said, I’ve always considered the director to really be the person with the most power when choosing how the show’s going to turn out with camera angles, pacing and such but I’m not as knowledgeable on the technical side

    1. Big name directors do have a lot of power but from what I know, lesser known ones are very quickly and easily replaced and episode directors have less say than the writers. That could have changed in the last few years though

  2. Yeah, I was disappointed to see Househusband end up as a colored Vomic. I’m glad others enjoyed it and that the author sounds like got what they wanted, but even with Tsuda nailing the role, it’s just not enough difference for me to spend time watching it versus reading it. Okay in short doses like on YouTube for a promotion, but it’s not something I want to see more of in an actual series.

  3. I am reminded of Star Wars. The first trilogy was great. The prequel trilogy was less great. The difference? George Lucas had to wrestle and wrangle the producers every step of the way as he made the first movies, but he had carte blanche with the prequels.

    Then again, there’s also Gilligan’s Island, where the writers and directors had a winning formula, but the producers kept wanting to add in stupid gimmicks, completely ignoring how the show had already succeeded despite their narrow-minded expectations.

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer began as a movie that was fairly low quality, and then Joss Whedon got the means to make it as he wanted to make it, and it was a game-changer… but probably not one he had carte blanche with.

    A number of stories have prospered from the interference of producers, and others have suffered from the same.

    There is a balance to be found here, where the directors are challenged and not given too much freedom, while still being given some freedom and leeway to bring their vision to life.

  4. But the Househusband style isn’t particularly creative. It’s the style shorts have used forever. Now a studio has thrown money at it, and the effect is one of sanitisation. It’s more expensive but still looks cheap, and has none of the charm or individuality. I’ve been thinking about this since your review, and it’s not actually the style I dislike. It’s how they use it.

    What attracted me to Way of the Househusband was the concept. From the manga excerpts I’d seen, I thought it’d be a charming fish-out-of water tale. The show needed a sense of human warmth to succeed. And in the episodes I’ve seen it was there in the content, but not in the style. The style’s geared to highlight the gags. You tell your main voice actor to give us the best impression of an anime yakuza. You really lean into it with the character designs. You make it look a lot like the manga, too. You needn’t put any thought into how the characters move. (One of the things you could do with standard information is to convey a sense of gentleness in the movement, when for exampling ironing clothes. Something that doesn’t stand out, but still clashes with the deliberate designs. The contrast would highlight the humanity of the concept. Here, though, the jerky movements just re-inforce the rugged look. Look: a yakuza is being unmanly. Isn’t that funny? No. Not inherently. The content seems to understand this. The style doesn’t. That’s the impression I had.

    So is the style Househusband uses unusual? *Deep breath*. I’m hardly an expert, but I didn’t think it was. It looked cheap. In fact, it probably looked cheaper than it actually was. Why? Because I associate the style with low-budget shorts. When I started watching weekly anime around 2010, it was the default style for shorts. These shows seemed to have next to no budget. Nothing moved. Backgrounds were re-used, etc. But these shows had their own identity from the ground up. Double J had greyed-out photos for background and brightly coloured characters that clashed with grey. The manga-club president had a retro-manga model that stood out, etc. Gakkatsu had a clear formula for every episode. The entire show was based visually around very thick lines (character and background alike). I didn’t watch Inferno Cop, but it was obviously a love letter to the style. The style looks cheap, because that’s what it is. People do the best with what they have. The makers of Inferno Cop probably had more budget, but they got where the style came from.

    Househusband is the same thing, but with corporate cash. It’s like rich people trying to live with a dollar a day to see “what it’s like” (and then drive to the next town over for a bargain). It looks cheap, it looks sanitised, and any charm there is presumably comes from the source.

    See, the director of Househusband previously made a show called Gokudoll. It’s pretty much the same style, and it’s about cross-dressing/forcefully-operated(?) yakuza idols. They hired her for the job deliberately, I wager. Take the style from there, take the content from the manga, mix it, and you get something that’s rote and passable.

    I believe if people make a work of art said work of art has the best chance of being good if the makers enjoy making it. A production committee can certainly give them requests and restrictions. Working with those can be fun, too. But there’s a point where the bookkeeper’s vision takes over, and people come in to do a job. You get something mildly entertaining that tides you over until the next mildly entertaining thing.

    However, beyond that there’s the point where people try to make what the “audience wants”. And, frankly, I believe nobody knows in advance what the audience wants, not even the audience. But if the makers of show have a joint vision, then there’s some sort of coherence in the result, too (unless they’re all incompetent, but that’s rare). If you enjoy making something, then chances are good that someone else will enjoy watching it. Enough to recuperate costs? Enough to make a profit? Who knows? Maybe marketing doesn’t know how to find the audience?

    See, if you think too much about what the audience wants, you’re chasing a phantom and run risk of losing sight of your own vision. It’s fine if you place restrictions on what you want to make. If you know some element is unpopular you can just not use it. If you’ve still got your vision, you can figure out what you liked about the element and sneake it back in through the back door. But if what the audience wants guides your production, you’re chasing will-o-the-wisps in a marsh – it’s messy and pointless and not likely to end up popular. I hear the light-novel author of Mouretsu Pirates was told “Make the cast cute girls, and I can sell this.” Judging by the anime the change didn’t hurt the product. If you have a clear vision, you can always work with or around popularity demands, and it won’t matter much if your theories about what’s popular were all bunk, since the heart of the show remains in tact either way. If you let those theories guide your process, the show dies if the theories turn out wrong, or if you miss the timing window in which they weren’t wrong, and there’s a good chance it would have been still-born anyway, because you forgot why you wanted to make the show to begin with.

    In any case, it’s all as complex as life anyway, because – well – it’s part of life. Make the show you want to make, or if you think it’s not going to be popular, make another show you want to make that you think is going to be more popular. Or make the unpopular show anyway, and then make a phoned-in one that sells on the strength of franchise alone to recuperate your costs. Or whatever you think will work. Or what you think you can get away with. Or find a way to have fun with what people pay you to do. Or… Or… Or… It’s not like there’s one formula that spells success. Skill helps. Luck helps. Motivation helps. If you, as a member of a production committee, ask things of the people you pay that’s diametrically opposed to what they want to do, or that’s not part of their skill set, then the result spells desaster. And not all people who end up on production committees know much about the production process. The producer’s job is to be the conduit between all involved parties: keep committee demands reasonable, keep your staff motivated. It’s not a job I’d ever, ever, ever want to do, and you have no idea how much I respect people who are actually good at the job.

    Now I wonder: are producers usually part of the studio staff? How often do producers work with rather than for studios? How often do producers own studios? Ther more I think about this, the more I realise how little I know.

    1. Producers and tons of PAs are almost always integrated with the studio staff on projects as far as I know.

      1. Yes, integrated on projects. What I wonder is if they’re actually studio staff, so that if you want to work with a certain producer, you’ll actually automatically get a studio. Or if you work with a studio, you have a limited pool of producers to choose from. If a proucer were to shop around to make show, would he already be part of a studio, or would he have to choose which studio to work with? Those sort of questions. I don’t think there are one-size-fits-all answers here. I’m fairly sure KyoAni and PA Works, for example, have their own production staff and never work with producers from outside the company, though I’m not actually 100 % sure about this. I’m less sure about, say, JC Staff, or A1. I have almost no knowledge about any of this, though. It’s all just conjecture.

        1. I have to say I don’t know about the anime industry. I know that here Producers are usually affiliated with specific studios, either as employees (owners) or contractual employees where they can only work with other studios if their normal one refuses a project hands down. Even indie producers usually have an indi production house which is at most associated with a handful of studios. But I m not sure how much of that applies to anime

  5. I want it to be known that A) I can barely remember the conversation we had and B) I actually really liked this series.

    It just sucks that this was the choice (even if it was the author’s vision) they went with. Is the end of the world? No, because the content of house-husband is so good it papers over the cracks, it’s just a massive bummer, because again, viewers often judge a series based on the animation, or it has to have a REALLY compelling story to take people over that hump.

    1. Oh yeah, I know you liked it. I mention it in my opening paragraph. And from what I see, I remebered everything pretty correctly.Our coonversation started about how you thought Netflix had dropped the ball on this one because the visuals were potentially unappealing to some viewers.And I see you still feel that way

      1. Yeah, it was more a disappointment that, despite having a slam dunk of a story, they decided to do it the way they did. Again, their choice, and I respect it, but it was still a damn bummer.

  6. I kinda disagree with you on this. It might be that my understanding of what a producer does is different from yours, but I don’t think it’s their job to make it popular. From what I’m aware, they’re more or less coordination staff; they gather all the pieces together, hire/fire, gather creatives, make the final calls on things, manage timelines, budget, public relations and in doing so attempt to make the best possible product with the resources they have. Unfortunately, making the best possible product with as many people involved as it takes in anime doesn’t always equal popularity.

    Popularity usually rests on the shoulders of the marketing team in my opinion. I know the production team usually has some say into the marketing (tone of the series in promos, key images/animation) but rarely are they directly involved. Aside from maybe the final approval of marketing materials? I’m not sure how it’s exactly split, but given it’s Netflix in this instance, I have my doubts that the production side and marketing side are on the exact same page. Then again, as long as the marketing team is really good, a sub-par product can become popular.

    I think a lot of that shows in how marketing was done in Japan verses North America for Way of the House Husband especially. Japanese audiences were primed in the initial release details that the story would be closer to ‘an animated comic’ verses a traditional ‘anime’ if that makes sense. It mostly comes down to wording, but it really mattered considered the split between Japanese and North American reception. It helped that the author’s interview where he mentioned the style being his choice, came out close to when the series was released, further boosting a more positive reception. These details seemingly being translated significantly later to North American audiences to my knowledge.

    I’m writing this kinda late at night so I hope this makes relative sense and remains mostly on topic. I think producers are usually less involved with making something popular, and more in making sure it gets made at all. Good marketing combined with good production, usually the best bet, but a bad product marketed well still gets popular, and a good product with bad marketing doesn’t.

    1. I agree that selling the anime is mainly the marketing team’s responsability however they generally dn’t have much say when it comes to creating a product that is easy to sell. You know what I mean.
      I know that for live action movies for example, everyone from the producer, to the director to the actors themselves play a role in the marketing. The actors with interviews and press tours, the director with how the movie is presented, put together and chosing themes that are going to play well in the popular athmosphere and the producer with making sure that the production and advertisement align. In this case I think the point Dewbond was making is that Netflix failed to do that part, alligning the production, with the advertising and the market itself. Producers also are largely responsible for securing funding which tends to heavily depend on how marketable the project is in the eyes of investors. It’s sortof a different level of merketing.
      Although I do agree with the point your making. I guess your stance is that produciton and producers shouldn’t concern themselves with the market aspect.

      1. I totally get where you’re coming from. There’s a lot of products that are easy to sell, and many that are not. It certainly shows when you get a pet-projects where the producers and other creatives are super excited about it, but it’s a marketing team’s worse nightmare.

        You make a really interesting point in terms of live action. Overall, 98% of the time it’s exactly like you say. Everyone is on the same page that the production, product, and ad all align. It’s usually incredibly obvious when someone isn’t on the same page during press releases. Back to Netflix with this particular case, I think you’re right on the money. Someone, be it on the production team or marketing team, failed to connect the product to the advertisement and it caused a snafu. But, like you mentioned originally we have no idea if that worked in favor or against the series overall. Although I’m now incredibly curious about that. I wish Netflix would spill that particular secret!

        I agree, with your summary. Production and producers shouldn’t concern themselves as much with marketing; they have literally everything else to do lol. I think going forward, at least with Netflix, someone on production should be double checking the marketing before it’s released as ads and hype.

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