If there is any anime studio that has made a name of themselves lately, it surely must be the Toyama-based P.A. Works founded year 2000. With the help of lovely, no, gorgeous, wait, masterful animations and visuals, they manage to charm and captivate the viewers unlike any other as if it were child’s play. In a sense, they are out of this world when it comes to weekly series, playing in their own league only truly rivaled by Kyoto Animation and Production I.G. Who was not stunned over the dazzling Hanasaku Iroha last year, or why not the remarkably detailed and moving backgrounds in True Tears from 2008? Instead of creating artsy and abstract low-budget slideshows, P.A. Works take the word “animation” literally and brings us some of the currently best-looking series, seamlessly blending hand-drawn animation with CGI.
Despite having only made their debut roughly four years ago with True Tears, P.A. Works is a studio to count with, thanks to their experiences of assisting other studios’ with great works such as Eureka Seven and Mushishi. They were even allowed to animate an original story by Jun Maeda, famous from the visual novel studio Key, which eventually brought us Angel Beats!. Another noteworthy mention is the Professor Layton video game franchise, in which they do the animation and later even created a whole animated movie! So, yes, it is needless to say that P.A. Works has a bright future ahead of them, along with high sales numbers I might add.
Picture by snsns-n – Source
But let us face the truth: they have yet to make a high regarded series. All of them are mostly all fun and games, but they are severely lacking in one area. Something that ruins what could be a perfectly crafted piece of anime. The one thing they all have in common is… poor storytelling.
It hurts to say this, but none of P.A. Works’s series (Canaan excluded as I have not watched it) have managed to flow very well, often feeling choppy and having untapped potential. Personally, this was most noticeable in Angel Beats!, which deeply suffered from a personality crisis. Should it be comedy? Drama? Romance? Fights? Playing around with all these resulted in severe mood swings, hurting an otherwise intriguing story. There were basically too many great ideas put in that made it well over. Was it because of the length, with it only being 13 episodes? Or was it for being created by Jun Maeda? We will never know.
A more recent series, Another, was even more of a mess, but not due to mood swings, but due to being a bad story overall. It was a bold move by P.A. Works, unexpectedly deciding to adapt a horror light novel, a genre they had never done before. In the first few episodes, they did a surprisingly good job at maintaining an unsettling mood that implied something weird was going on. There were some irks, such as completely random cuts to dolls which never even played a part in the series, but overall, it was interesting. But after episode three, the ball was dropped and all the tension was gone only to be replaced by a chaos of laughable deaths, dumb characters and more. It was as if P.A. Works did not even try to improve the slightest upon its source material and only rolled with it for fun, while providing pretty visuals as always.
Perhaps it is possible that P.A. Works only have had bad luck in choosing what to adapt? Well, this is the exact reason I became so disappointed over Hanasaku Iroha. It would be a fully original 26-episode series created to celebrate the studio’s 10th year anniversary. That meant that they could pace it however they wanted, structure it in a proper way and make an engrossing story. It should have been perfect!
But reality wanted something different.
Even their first attempt at an original series did not succeed in telling a story. The very first episode promised something magnificent, something that would be P.A. Works’s first time to shine.
It was all a lie.
I cannot even express my frustration over how it became. It was drawn-out, bumpy and more, just as the rest of their repertoire. Does the problem lie within the company? Do they have incompetent staff?
Nevertheless, P.A. Works have at least only produced one truly bad series, which is the aforementioned Another. Every other one has ranged from mediocre to good, all with their own loveable quirks and ideas. Moreover, the fact that they actually decided to do a horror series indicates that they wish to experiment and test out new ideas. I interpret it as a way for them to find out what they are good at by trial and error. And if I do wish it pays off in the end.
As early as this summer we will see if they have improved, with Tari Tari starting in July. With a character design eerily close to the one in Hanasaku Iroha, they will once again try to make a slice of life series revolving around a few girls.
Another big step for P.A. Works could be the upcoming and long-awaited adaptation of the visual novel Little Busters!, once again created by the visual novel studio Key. As of this moment, no studio has been announced for the project. However, we do know that only Kyoto Animation and P.A. Works have worked with Key so far. With Kyoto Animation having their hands full of a bunch of other series, it is very unlikely that they will animate it, unless they for once decide to animate more than one series at a time. This only leaves P.A. Works, a possible choice considering their work with Angel Beats!. If they do animate Little Busters!, I am absolutely sure they will have their true breakthrough.
But as for now, P.A. Works are still waiting to spread their wings. If wishes do come true, it will not be too far away.