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J.C. Staff Is Not A Crap Studio

tsundere

I-It’s not as if I like J.C. Staff or anything. Baka!

I should preface this discussion by saying that studios are largely irrelevant to the storytelling quality of any given anime. That comes down to the director and screenwriter for the most part. So comments like “_____ studio sucks!” come off as misguided at best and outright ignorant at worst.

That’s never going to stop people from saying J.C. Staff is a crap studio, though.

I understand what people mean when they say this. They’re not saying that J.C. Staff is bad at animating things. It really comes down to this: “I don’t like the anime which J.C. Staff makes.”

But – so what? Like any studio, J.C. Staff has its share of hits and misses, and because it’s been around in the business longer, the misses have added up. But I think what people are really getting at when they single out J.C. Staff in particular is that they don’t like the studio’s iconic titles.

Okay, that’s fair and good. You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m entitled to defend J.C. Staff on the basis of those titles and call them the saviour of anime.

dbF5t

Your reaction

This is legit.

J.C. Staff Makes Really Good Anime-ish Anime

Shakugan no Shana, Index, Railgun, Toradora!, Hayate no Gotoku!!, Azumanga Daioh… whether you like these titles or not, you have to admit they “feel” like anime. There’s an aura of timelessness about the typical J.C. Staff show that transcends the anime cliches they embrace. When you want to show someone an anime that exemplifies the medium in all its flaws and glory, chances are you’ll be pointing to a J.C. Staff show.

I think this is worth analysing, because I think among all of J.C. Staff’s most standout hits there’s one factor that stands out the most in terms of the appeal, no matter what the genre: nostalgia.

More specifically, the writers and directors working for this studio exhibit a profound talent at making what should be an escapist experience feel somehow “true”.

This is something that comes across most strongly in J.C. Staff’s romantic shows, but I think it shows in their more plot-driven and otaku-focused shows as well. Shana stands out among light novel adaptations, not simply because it was one of the first in the bunch but because there is genuine soul poured into bringing Shana idiosyncrasies to life. In the early days, at least, there was never any sense that Shana was simply a tsundere for the sake of it; she always had strongly human reasons for acting the way she did.

Zero no Tsukaima managed a bit of this too. The idea of Saito’s characterisation was to make the audience think, “He reacts just like I would in that situation!” and yet, at the same time, you’re also made to envy him for succeeding where others would obviously fail. Saito is basically made out to represent both who the audience is and who the audience wants to be, which is probably why he’s one of the more well-liked harem lead characters out there.

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This pic pretty much sums up his appeal

Basically, J.C. Staff might pander to the audience, but they approach the task with genuine wit and creativity. If for nothing else, give them credit for that.

J.C. Staff Is Good At Portraying Friendship

Kairi (one of the Random Curiosity bloggers) once wrote that “J.C.Staff, better than most studios, has a real understanding of what friendship is” in reference to Little Busters!, and that’s a theme that really shows across all of J.C. Staff’s output. The anime-only additions to Railgun emphasised the friendship themes more strongly than the manga’s story, and for a “cute girl” anime with obvious yuri overtones, it felt surprisingly down-to-earth. Even in the more romance-centric series like Ano Natsu de Matteru, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and Toradora!, the friendship dynamics are central to the story’s themes.

In a typical J.C. Staff series, it seems, friendship is portrayed as equally important to love – we are made who we are by the interactions of all those we hold dear. I agree with this: in concept, this is how friendship works in reality.

At the same time, I would in fact argue that the appeal of how J.C. Staff portrays friendship is in how it’s not realistic!

Take Toradora!, a romance often praised for its portrayal of friendship. In her negative review of the series, Rebecca on Chromatic Aberration Everywhere rightly pointed out that the portrayals were in fact exceedingly idealised and this led to the characters acting in ways that we would certainly not consider “realistic” by any means, especially in the second half. But what makes the less cynical viewer accept that break from reality while at the same time praising the characters for acting like real people? We see humanistic catharsis in a completely romanticised depiction of cartoon characters! How does that work?

I always thought girls don't actually punch each other in the gut like this, but correct me if I'm wrong

I always thought girls don’t actually punch each other in the gut like this, but I could be wrong

The reason is that the friendships in Toradora! and other J.C. Staff shows, including their “maturer” works like Nodame Cantabile and Honey and Clover, reflect the kind of friendship we inwardly long for so strongly that it takes only a slight nudging for us to accept it as true. These are friends who would do anything for each other, even hurt each other. In saying friendship hurts when the characters beat each other up in melodramatic fashion, it really brings up a wistful reaction in the viewer – you want people to care that strongly about you that they would resort to such means to get through to you, but day-to-day friendship is never that intense. You see yourself in it, and at the same time it’s what you want to be. Sounds like what I was saying about J.C. Staff’s otaku-pandering abilities earlier, huh? It’s very much the same thing.

So unlike pure fantasy (the genre) which is sustained almost purely by the author’s vision, this kind of fantasy is something the viewer constructs along with the creator.

I would argue this is very much the point of anime as a medium in general. It’s a very interactive medium, where viewers are encouraged to invent their own interpretations. The fact that J.C. Staff’s most popular shows engage on multiple levels simultaneously is the strongest underlying reason for why I think they feel “anime-ish” in a way that feels iconic rather than simply tired cliche.

I discussed Toradora! a lot in this post because I assumed most readers would have familiarity with that story, but if you were to ask me what series typifies J.C. Staff anime to me, it would be Ano Natsu de Matteru. It’s a very typical wish fulfillment romcom about a herbivore male who meets a hot alien babe (yawn) but because the entire story was filtered through nostalgic lenses, its fantastical elements somehow managed to contribute powerfully to its themes of growing up. A weak story that became something more by the strength of its direction alone.

tldr; J.C. Staff panders to me and I like it

Just as Planned

Just as Planned

I think it’s a controversial opinion among critics, but I’ll stand by it: J.C. Staff is not a crap studio.

Do you agree or disagree?

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Posted on November 5, 2013, in Editorials and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 75 Comments.

  1. You know, I like a whole bunch of shows by J.C. Staff, even if most of them aren’t “great”, they’re solid popcorn fun, including several of the shows you mentioned.

    I don’t think they’re crap, and yeah, they often go for low-hanging LN adaptation stuff.

    But this season they just blew my mind in a bad way – after how amazing and lavish Railgun S had been, I could scarcely believe it that Golden Time, a show with ridiculously shitty production values, had been made by the same people >.>

    • Yeah, the production quality in J.C. Staff shows are generally very solid, but there are a couple that slip up in a really bad way. Golden Time, like you said, and also Little Busters back in Fall last year. It’s made all the more obvious because at the same time, a show with more superior and direction by the same studio is airing.

      Golden Time was definitely made by their B-team.

      • Index also isn’t a stand out show, or Zero no Tsukaima – they are solid, and cartoonish, but nothing “amazing”. I guess to buff Zero no Tsukaima in the end would break character, and of the low-stress fantasy setting they had, but man, comparing Index 1 to Railgun S…

        Golden Time is also bad on the sound department, which really makes me sad, and B-Team? More like half of B-Team. It’s more that they cut a lot of corners than truly terrible style, you can see it in the animation… :(

  2. I actually don’t hate JC Staff, I just wish they did less shows like Railgun and all that – those are blatant Shana copies (although Railgun has more lesbian hijinks). I’ve enjoyed many of their series though, both old and new. Nodame, Honey&Clover, Zero No Tsukaima (that one hasn’t aged very well for me), Hayate, while Toradora and Ano Natsu are what I think are genuinely good shows. Oh yes, they kind of need to fire Chiaki Kon. Many of her series’ strength lie in the source material and nothing else.

    • I disagree that they’re copies but they are definitely the same TYPE of show. Zero no tsukaima’s only issue for me was that the anime had a different ending than the LN (well, the LN doesnt have an ending and never will :( ) so they made a terrible ending.

      • J.C. Staff do less “Shana copies” these days, but like Kou said, it’s debatable whether these are really copies, per se. The classic Tsundere appears to be less popular these days.

        Agreed about Chiaki Kon. She’s overly safe and unimaginative, and her series tend to lack individuality or at least that extra spark.

  3. “The reason is that the friendships in Toradora! and other J.C. Staff shows, including their “maturer” works like Nodame Cantabile and Honey and Clover, reflect the kind of friendship we inwardly long for so strongly that it takes only a slight nudging for us to accept it as true.”

    Yep. This hits the nail perpendicularly on the exact mathematical centre of it’s head. Completely speechless. Got nothing to say, now, except that the effect of this on a lot these shows is that they become as easy to hate as they are to love. That, and that the popular romanicisations of friendship can have a lot of impact on how real-life friendships play out, so the line between ‘realistic frienship’ and ‘idealised friendship’ is not as neat as it’s often made out to be.

    • the line between ‘realistic frienship’ and ‘idealised friendship’ is not as neat as it’s often made out to be.

      An excellent point. There have been times in my life when I’ve acted overly dramatically with my friendships. It doesn’t come often, but I have a feeling it happens to everyone to a degree.

  4. No.

    They make anime-ish anime, but it’s bad anime-ish anime. It’s all the negative traits that we associate with anime that make their way into their work. The childish female characters, the bland harem lead, the Yet Another High School Setting. Not strictly their fault, but the anime they choose to adapt are all these same traits. There’s no genuine soul poured into Shakugan no Shana. There’s cliche’s to be fulfilled. You want good “anime-ish anime” with energy and passion thrown in, go to Sunrise. Or even if you don’t want the robot stuff, A-1 Pictures is better anyway. It’s actually well-animated for a start.

    And hey, forgive me for this, but I find it hard to take friendship seriously in a show that is literally about keeping a sexy mentally disabled girl as a pet (which is mostly about Pet Girl but you can extend that to little busters and possibly some of their shittier LN adaptations like Aria Scarlet Ammo too). That’s not friendship, that’s childish wish-fulfilment for someone who wants to be close to a girl who doesn’t have the mental capacity to reject them.

    I will say that ultimately this is kinda pointless since JC Staff don’t make anime original material (the sole exception in recent years has been Ano Natsu) and don’t tend to have the same staff working on each show. The staff who did Honey and Clover and Nodame Cantabile don’t make anime with JC Staff anymore. JC Staff are just handed a certain type of source material to adapt. That source material being trashy light novel and manga to be cheaply animated. And if you like trashy cheaply animated light novel adaptations than yeah sure I suppose I can see why you would like JC Staff.

    You monsters

    • Ah, we’ll always be fated to disagree, Scamp ;)

      The difference between you and I is that you want everything about an anime to point towards its core message and including these disingenuous elements dilutes what should be its essential elements. When a series revolves itself around “pandering”, though, there’s not a lot good you can say about that. Of course you can’t take the “friendship” themes in a series like Sakurasou seriously. The story’s efforts at saying something about life in fact further the pandering theme.

      That can be hard to swallow, but what I’m saying is that blurring the line between fantasy and reality makes for better pandering than simply straight-up fantasising. That still means the core of the anime is pandering, of course, but the nuance is different. I can say with all honesty that Sakurasou and Little Busters (among others) have moved me because they did a good job building up my fantasies and then blurring that sense of fantasy with their drama. But the whole effect just wouldn’t work if you didn’t accept the fantasy in the first place.

      I’m commenting on how J.C. Staff executes their pandering well, not on how they don’t pander, or that the pandering miraculously becomes highbrow art.

  5. If you look at JC’s good(or for anyone who hates their stuff see successful) anime it’s almost all LN adaptations and they have been doing them for a long time. Their manga or VN stuff usually does suck, or at least it isn’t as good as what they can do with a LN. Look at the increase in LN adaptations across the board in the industry over the last ten years or so and it isn’t hard to see JC has played some part in it. It is hard to say just how much influence JC Staff has really had, but I suspect it’s more sizable than we might think at first glace.

    I think it’s important to realize that despite the way some fans might see JC Staff as a second tier studio, they tend to bring in decent sales with almost everything they do. It’s like the sports team that’s always in second. The guys who are occasionally in first are still going to look up to them because while JC don’t win that often they are always right behind the winner. Look at sales charts for the last ten years and you will see this holds true more often than not.

    From a business perspective I think your probably spot on when you say. “I’m entitled to defend J.C. Staff on the basis of those titles and call them the saviour of anime.” A lot of western anime “critics” seem to hate JC Staff and light novel adaptations in general, but personally I wonder if I would even still be watching anime if not for their contributions to the industry. Meanwhile people are making claims about Kill la Kill saving anime and it’s become painful to watch…

    Honestly, anyone still critiquing JC Staff off personal taste isn’t much of a critic at all, but… I don’t want to pick a fight with the entire anime blogging scene so I’ll just leave it at that for now.

    • As usual for you, very well said. JC Staff and Production IG hold probably 70% of my favorite anime between them. Quite a few JC Staff shows have my favorite endings for anime, ever…out of over 900 that I’ve seen. These include Shana, which I felt ended in such a solid way that even though I WANT more, I’m very happy with the way they resolved everything. Toradora was another one that has my favorite ending of it’s genre. A bit awkard with Taiga switching schools or whatever but it still was a much more “Complete” ending than most romance anime I’ve seen. As for Kill la Kill, Trigger is actually the only studio that I have about a 90% “dislike” rating for. Little Witch is pretty much the only thing they’ve done I DID like and it’s story was really bland and simple.

      Overall, I think every studio contributes pretty well to what anime is, but JC Staff’s anime in particular has gotten me personally, through a lot of tough times in my life via entertainment and often times emotional stories.

      • I actually do like KLK, I just think the people who are hyping it up as the salvation of anime are doing it a disservice.

        I tend to agree with the idea that JC staff put a lot of passion into their work. Passion is subjective at best and we can’t really tell for sure, but the one thing JC does that makes me think Froggykun is correct on this point is they follow through on their successful shows. They finished Shana, they finished ZNS, they ended Sakurasou at what was probably the best point to end it, and they finished out Toradora’s entire run in one go. Some of those choices didn’t seem to make the most sense financially. I honestly won’t be surprised if Sakurasou gets a second season. (though thanks to froggykun’s blog on the LN I don’t really want one anymore…)

        Many light novel adaptations don’t make it to the end and the way JC Staff tends to either make it to the end of the story or reach a good ending point for the story gives me respect for them and they way they adapt anime, LNs anyway… JC should stay far away from manga.

    • Realistically, “personal taste” is largely what we consider to be good and bad, whether that be a gut reaction or a set of guidelines properly reasoned from some axiomatic start point. How exactly does one critique something without personal taste being a large factor? Unless you just blandly list off the components of the show, and who wants to read that?

      The reason people like Yahtzee and Movie Bob are great to watch is because they wear their biases openly and unashamedly. They both hate commercially produced by-the-numbers fiction without artistic drive and are happy to say so. This is a matter of taste, but it’s also a highly defensible position.

      Also, I think you may be taking what people are saying about Kill la Kill a little seriously. I’m sure 95% of the people saying that are joking around.

      • I understand that to some degree most the people calling KLK the savior of anime are joking, I also know that some of them aren’t. Joking or not it hurts the expectations other people have when they come into the show. People expect it to be far more than it is and leave disappointed. That’s why I said I consider it a disservice.

        A critic should attempt to understand what the thing they are critiquing is trying to do and what their expectations for that something should be. I don’t have a problem with someone who wears their bias on their sleeve, but I’ve no respect for their ability as a critic if they can’t give an unbiased impression.

        There is definitely room for talking about things without critiquing them and I certainly have no issue with that. I do wish that people who need basic lessons in critical thinking would stop calling themselves a critic, but I’m definitely going to come off the wrong way if I try to make a point of that here without carefully explaining myself.(I could do so, but that would better be served with a blog post of my own I think.)

        Of note, nothing I say is really aimed at Yahtzee or Movie Bob. It’s also possible to be completely biased and give an unbiased review at the same time, it just takes more critical thinking to understand on the part of the reader. It’s very simple to give an honest critique and following it up with “But I fucking hate it” for example.

        Reviewing something without bias really isn’t that hard, I’m not sure where the myth that it is came from. You just have to focus on what that thing is actually doing, why and what the standards are for that type of thing if they exist. Fiction is almost always largely built on past works which should make this easy… Instead we often get caught up on wanting things to be more original or by being morally offended. Those are the two most common pitfalls I see with anime critics I think.

        Originality is a lie that will destroy any piece of fiction that ventures too far. The standard for originality is quite low with Japanese fiction and that is something that needs to be kept in mind. Morality on the other hand simply has no part in a critique. Or rather the only morality that matters to fiction is the morality it creates for itself. If you insert your own then of course you will be biased.

      • I think I misunderstood you somewhat because I mostly agree with what you just said. Mostly. Just assume anything I don’t respond to here I agree with, or at least don’t differ/care enough about to argue.

        Yes, you should absolutely try and understand where a show is coming from and what it’s trying to do. A not particularly good example: Critiquing a suspense/drama show for not having enough action or something of that sort is clearly flawed. You talk of focusing on the “standards” for what the show is trying to do, but my point is that these standards are necessarily going to be subjective. Yes, there are plenty of more universally accepted ones, like animation and acting quality, but there are plenty of ones that will be fiercely debated too.

        I feel the main failure of a critique is not giving thorough explanation for the opinions given. The characterisation is bad? Why? That way at least it’s clear for anyone reading/watching what the critics inherent tastes/biases are and whether or not it will apply to them.

        Regarding originality, yeah, again, I mostly agree, everything is borrowed etc. etc. etc. However, when you see the exact same character archetypes, settings etc. multiple times every season. I think it’s perfectly fair to say that that just isn’t very interesting. No-one’s asking anime to create something totally original, just to draw on a wider base of inspirations and borrow some different tropes from different places a bit more, which I feel is a totally fair critique, and something that would validly improve the medium.

        I also don’t really see what Japan’s lower emphasis on originality has to do with anything. A cultural bias is still a bias, if you’re trying to give an unbiased critique, that cultural bias shouldn’t be an excuse any more than the critic’s western biases should be incorporated.

        Regarding the morality thing. Oof, I’ve already had this argument with Froggy-kun and I don’t really fancy having it again, so while I definitely have sympathies for making judgements of fiction on moral grounds, I do kind of agree with you, so I’ll just say this. Yes, the morality of a piece doesn’t necessarily affect the quality of writing, but the two are often inherently linked. Having a character act completely evil just doesn’t make them very complex or associable. Having a female character be completely dependent or outright stupid for some wish fulfilment fantasy has some problematic ethical implications from a gender equality standpoint, but it also devalues the character and makes them less interesting and associable (especially for female viewers). Using a rape, or at least attempted rape scene is offensive and distasteful for a lot of viewers, but it’s also sloppy writing and often devalues other elements of a female character for an unhealthy focus on her purity.

      • I definitely disagree with you on morality, but it’s not a new debate to me either so I’m okay with agreeing to disagree ;) I once thought that morality inside fiction couldn’t be separated from real world morality, but I eventually came to the conclusion that I was just being emotional about it. I feel confident I’m right on that, but I’ll drop it.

        Subjective doesn’t have to mean biased. When you critique, if you break something down to it’s most simple parts then you can objectively talk about them even if your opinions are in fact subjective.

        Lets say we are talking about animation quality. If I say that say Golden Time has bad animation because JC Staff suck at stretch and squash animation and give you a specific example of them failing that principle then yes my opinion that it sucks is still subjective, but the rest of that has been broken down into objective pieces. I shouldn’t be expecting stretch and squash animation from JC Staff, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them even try to put that principle into action, but I can still make objective points based around those observations.

        Lets look at a silly example I just made off the top of my head: “This guy punched a wall” is objective. “This guy’s hand went through a wall and the wall exploded in a way that I found unbelievable” is still objective. I just objectified my belief in the process of explaining what happened to the wall. My belief is ambiguous, but I could further describe the way the wall exploded or what why it was unbelievable if I feel a need to be more objective. If I just make the statement “the wall exploded in an unbelievable way” then that would be entirely subjective, but only because I skipped objectifying it.

        At the end of the day breaking something subjective into objective pieces isn’t that hard to do, it’s just more work than, well, not doing it.(and it can also be tiresome to read if overused) Now if I wanted to be completely objective that wouldn’t really be that hard either. I just have to give you examples of what they did and let you form your own conclusion on it. At that point it isn’t subjective at all, for me anyway, your perspective reading my critiques is obviously going to remain subjective no matter what.

        Failing to properly explain the problems with something is often a real problem for critics. Making ambiguous statements about facts is something politicians do, I don’t want to see that from critics as well.(I don’t want to see it from politicians either for that matter) For example, I’ve been seeing a lot of ambiguous complaints aimed at Golden Time lately, I’m not sure exactly what the problems people have with it are, I may or may not agree. I’ve heard lots of ambiguous issues, but no one is laying down specific problems to go with most of those issues. It makes talking about them hard if nothing else. I think we agree on this point even if our semantics are a bit different.

        I’m not talking about cultural bias when I say that Japanese fiction isn’t striving for the level of originality that western media often does, I’m talking about what our expectations should be. It’s not just created for a different culture, it’s created for a different market, one that isn’t too hard to understand if we drop our own notions of what we have learned to expect from western fiction or even from blogging anime. At it’s core, none of this is about bias or learning another bias, it’s about dropping bias in order to learn expectations. One of these has the potential to break into objective pieces in a valuable way and one does not.

      • To be honest, I think our differences are so much more semantic than conceptual at this point (particularly in your second to last paragraph) that there’s not a whole heap of point continuing this. There are two things I’d like to briefly go over anyway.

        Firstly, I would like to point out that I could extremely easily use elementary special relativity to show why your example isn’t objective at all. I don’t really want to pursue this aspect of the argument since I’m not really a fan of the application of relativism to many aspects of life, and thus don’t want to be force to play its defender, but I did want to point that out none the less.

        I’m still strongly disagreeing with you on the Japanese Cultural bias thing. Whatever we want to call it, what you’re suggesting is letting intention colour our expectations or judgement of a piece of fiction. That’s baggage we are taking into a critique that, if we’re trying to drop our biases, shouldn’t be affecting our judgement. It shouldn’t matter what the expectations of the intended audience are, it should matter what the piece is trying to achieve, whether or not it achieves it, and whether the ambitions of the piece are in themselves worthwhile. We oughtn’t let an unoriginal premise negatively colour our expectations if originality is not needed for the aims of the piece, but we also oughtn’t give it a free pass if it detracts from the work. Accordingly, the expectations of the culture surrounding the work simply aren’t relevant to a precise critique.

        Lastly, just saw this recently and it seems extremely relevant. I’m inclined to agree, but you may not. Interesting none the less: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/the-big-picture/8384-Baggage

    • Well, I think JC’s manga adaptions are actually better than the LN adaptions. First they have more budget than LN stuff to keep the sakuga quality at a good level (Joshiraku vs The Pet Girl of Sakurasou; Railgun vs. Index), and I think JC uses their best staff in the manga adaptions because they joins the production committees of those animes. Some of their great works like H&C and Aoi Hana are also adapted from mangas. And ​the quality of Witch Craft Works seems great too, for now.

    • And I see fans of Shakugan no Shana and Pet Girl of Sakurasou complaining about how JC’s adaption were far from satisfied and think these LNs deserve better adaptions. But this kind of complaining are rarely heard from the manga fans.

  6. Oh and on the note of Toradora and realism… I’m tempted to go on a rant about how emotional realism is all we need to anchor ourselves into fiction and not logical or physical realism, especially with a visual medium, but in the case of Toradora… I actually do in fact know two girls who genuinely act like Taiga and Ami in the real world. They are younger sisters of mine so… I’m quite sure of it.

  7. I’d say JC Staff are masters of the mainstream teenager’s anime. And I’m not saying that with any note of smugness or negativity or anything. They know the formula, and pick the right shows that will be popular. They’re far from a crap studio, they know how to make money and cater to their audience.

    That said, they’re hardly a “great” studio. What’s the last original anime they did that you can say anyone will remember in 10 year’s time? What’s the last noteworthy adaptation they made that you can say was an improvement on the source material, rather than just “animating it”?

    I’m not trying to bash on them, they’re just not the same studio that brought us the Noitamina greats, Azumanga, etc. The only proper risk they’ve taken in the last 5 years is Milky Holmes. Even ToraDora’s greatness is mostly due to the source material; almost any studio could animate it and it would end up great in its own right.

    So yeah. Good studio for what they do, but what they do is hardly deserving of an award or something for that. Nor is it really deserving of derision, either.

    • Lots of people like to say that someone else could make Toradora better or that JC Staff was carried by the original source, but what basis is there for that? I don’t see anyone else turning romantic comedy light novels into the hit that Toradora was. As far as memorable iconic titles JC Staff actually has a lot of them. Will they be a big deal in ten years? Is any anime that isn’t a mega length shonen a big deal 10 years later? I probably won’t forget them.

      It’s disingenuous to ignore the fact that JC Staff made Toradora(or any of their other successful LN work) and claim it was only good because of the source. An adaptation is not equal to an original source. One being good or bad won’t guarantee anything for the other. An anime with a staff that doesn’t understand how to do what needs to be done will make a bad anime even if the original source is known to be incredible. Point in case: Little Busters… It took the whole first season for JC Staff to figure that one out and it shows.

      • It’s not disingenuous at all. Being able to find an already-shiny gem isn’t what makes a studio good or bad. Imagin found the equally-well-loved Spice and Wolf and did a good job on it, does that make them a *great* studio? Ditto Brains Base and Natsume Yuujinchou?

        No, the point still stands. You have to look at the quality of their contribution to the overall effort. I’m saying they did a good job on Toradora. But they did basically the same level of work on Aria the Scarlet Ammo while that lasted, and I hardly think Aria is as well regarded. You have to judge them on their contribution, not just whether it’s an iconic end result.

        Pretty much every studio will have “iconic” series, especially ones that are around as long as JC Staff. That’s what they exist to do. I’m pretty sure they’ll be remembered years after they stop pumping out anime because of that, but that doesn’t make them good or bad. Even people who say Deen or Kyoani are bad studios have to acknowledge their iconic series, after all.

        And again, I’m not saying JC Staff’s bad. I just don’t think they’re “great” either, even if I acknowledge that they do a good job finding and bringing stuff like Toradora to us.

    • About Toradora… I don’t think its quality can be entirely attributed to its source material. Tatsuyuki Nagai is just a very, very talented director and I think he just gets the “fake nostalgia” appeal of anime.

      I mean, it’s easy to agree that Golden Time is simply not as well-directed as Toradora and the overall focus is not as sharp, despite the source material being written by Toradora’s author. It’s the same studio, but it’s obviously J.C. Staff’s B-team, and it shows.

      Other that that, I agree with your general points about J.C. Staff, or at least I don’t disagree with them.

      • My intent wasn’t to say that Toradora’s WORSE because JC Staff produced it. I just happen to feel that they didn’t contribute to its success as much as the story did. In other words, I think Toradora didn’t need their team to be as good as it was, but it did bring out the best in their team. I just feel that strongly about the source material, that’s all. Regardless, Nagai did a fine job, and I’m saying this to diminish what we got. Even if I think Ken’ichi Kasai would have been a better fit for Toradora, that’s just as debatable as my overall perspective on this, if not moreso.

      • *and I’m NOT saying this to diminish what we got. (too much bloody typing to get all the grammar right, it seems)

    • It’s not disingenuous because of how that reflects on JC Staff as a whole, it’s disingenuous because of how that reflects on their work on Toradora itself and shows of the same genre. It’s wrong to discredit them for something they did in fact do regardless of their other work period really, but romantic comedies based off light novels are probably JC Staff’s strongest point. Every studio has strengths and weaknesses and this is their high point. It’s wrong to discredit their high point with their low point. I could use that same logic to argue that every anime studio ever sucks, it just doesn’t hold up.

      Personally I think Toradora’s anime would not be what it is without the elements JC Staff brought to the table. I don’t know how you define greatness, but if creating good series that occasionally stand at the top of your genre isn’t it I’m not sure what is.

      You say they did the same level of work on Aria? How are we even measuring that I wonder? No offense, but that sounds like pure conjecture to me. Toradora and Aria are not even the same genre, it’s apples and oranges. It’s like trying to compare World of Warcraft with Call of Duty to decide if Activision publish good games. There is a bit too much silliness in there to get anything meaningful out of it.

      Personally I think JC Staff’s romantic comedies are good. I think they are possibly the best studio when it comes to creating that kind of anime out of a light novel. You might disagree with me on that point, but that should be the point of our debate for deciding if they are deserve the honor of being called a good studio or not I think. That is provided we can agree this is in fact their high point. Good at everything? Maybe not, but a blanket statement like that would have little meaning in the first place.

      • Ah, I see now… I wasn’t arguing that Toradora is WORSE because JC Staff made it instead of someone else. I was just arguing that you have to account for the greatness of the source material (let’s face it, PA Works, A-1, Madhouse, and others could have put one of their competent directors onto Toradora and it would have ended up just as memorably, unless they pulled a Yumekui Merry somehow). Yes, I won’t budge from that position, even if I agree that JC Staff wasn’t a bad choice and that they pulled out all the stops to do a good job on it.

        My comparison with Aria was only to say that, in terms of what the studio does – directing, storyboarding, scripting, animation, production, etc – they hardly treated Aria all that much differently from Toradora, from my perspective (I’m quite possibly wrong, what do I really know other than what my eyes/ears were shown?). Aria just wasn’t a shoe-in like Toradora. Again that’s not to diminish their efforts on Toradora, but rather to point out that JC Staff wasn’t the most important contributor to Toradora’s success in my opinion. I don’t know whether we’ll agree, and we don’t have to… we both think they brought their A-game and respect and appreciate them for it. That’s enough for me.

        Greatness to me isn’t just being pretty consistently good and occasionally being at the top of your game (that’s goodness to me). To me greatness is about pretty consistently pushing your field/art/whatever forward. I just don’t think I can say that about JC Staff. If I did, I’d have to say a lot of studios are great, and then the word wouldn’t mean too much to me anymore. I’m probably just a harsh judge in that regard, so it’s probably not worth quibbling over it.

        As for agreeing on JC Staff being the best at romcoms… who’s to say? I certainly don’t know, comedy’s way too subjective. But if you’re talking about teen romance anime in general, that’s what? 90% of JC Staff’s modern lineup? Of course they’re good at it – it’s their bread and butter. There’s no way I could sanely call them bad at it; if they were they’d be out of business by now because no one would trust them with their source material. I also happen to genuinely think they’re good at it, just no great (by my definition). Anyway, I’m rambling way too much now…

    • We probably do disagree on the quality of their romantic comedies. Personally I think they are an influential force, they make highly popular anime, quality aside. If that’s our category then they fit it. I actually like your standards, I just disagree with where you place JC Staff I guess.

      This is all purely speculation, who knows if anyone could have really done Toradora better or not, but speculation can be fun so I’ll say it anyway.

      Do I think A-1, PA Works or Madhouse could have Toradora into something as good as what JC Staff made? No I don’t. Same goes for most of JC Staff’s romantic comedies.

      A-1 has amazing animation and generally pull out good light novel adaptations, but they tend to have issues with making convincing personal dilemmas which is something Toradora was full of. They did make AnoHana though so out of the 3 you picked they seem more likely to make something good than anyone else. Both shows were composed by Mari Okada in fact so maybe we should be giving her more credit for this than the studio itself?

      PA Works are incredible at drama, but it’s telling that their best comedy is probably Angel Beats. This is subjective to be sure, but I don’t think they have any skill at humor. It’s equally telling that Mari Okada shows are funny when she writes for JC Staff or A-1 and not so funny when she writes for PA Works.

      I think it’s interesting that you mentioned Madhouse, they make more shit than JC in my opinion and I can’t think of any good romantic comedies they have made, not in the last 10 years anyway.

      If anyone could outdo JC Staff at Toradora it would be KyoAni, but personally I think they would be too subtle and slow with it and the emotions wouldn’t come out as strongly. That or they would dramatically rewrite it into something that wouldn’t look like the Toradora we know. This seems like the most likely outcome actually.

      The only other studio I could see topping JC Staff at Toradora might be Shaft, but if Shaft did it… We would remember Toradora for entirely different things. Many of those are probably bad things in most people’s book.

      Sliver Link would also make the list, but they are a smaller name than JC Staff is.

      Other studios like Bones, Brains Base or Sunrise come to mind, but not a one of them would fill me with any confidence.

      • I think it’s just that our comedy tastes are very different, then. Which isn’t a big deal. I mean, I laughed my ass off at Nodame Cantabile, but I rarely even get a chuckle out of JC Staff anime otherwise. Toradora included; most of their attempts at comedy really annoyed me, frankly, because they dialed things up like they did for the drama (which isn’t really necessary, but at least didn’t harm my enjoyment). I won’t fault JC Staff directly for it, because the story isn’t exactly strong on the comedy and does melodramatic a fair bit, but that’s why I don’t really see Toradora as “needing” any particular studio to begin with – practically any modern studio could try it and probably pull it off, except maybe the real newbies and the notoriously obvious ones. Although to be honest, it’s intellectually interesting (if horrifying) to wonder what a Toradora Gainax ending would be like :S

        Really, for this thought experiment I’m less interested in seeing another studio re-create the same Toradora as I am in seeing THEIR vision of it. And I do think many could pull it off in a way that would make a Toradora as memorable and engrossing as JC Staff did, even if I’m happy enough with what we got.

        Brains Base worked on season two of Spice and Wolf and practically nailed it. ’nuff said as far as I’m concerned, but their lineup has demonstrated they can handle everything including looking like a JC Staff anime if the need arises. They could repurpose the same team working on Natsume Yuujinchou for it pretty straightforwardly, I would think.

        As for Madhouse, I don’t think I need to look further than Chihayafuru. There they proved they have a team who can make anything interesting and engrossing, and even toss in subtle romance and comedy, unsubtle competitive drama, and family angst. They’re also good at making anime look unique in some way, which I personally like, but other people seem to hate.

        I don’t think PA Works would make Toradora “better,” but I think they’d certainly make it noteworthy. They’ve been looking for their own “Toradora” for a while now. True Tears came close, but can you imagine Okada directing a story as hyper-emotional as Toradora? I think it might actually help reign in her more egregious habits. It seems tailor made for her style, perhaps dangerously so. Even if I might not personally like it as much as the JC Staff version I think it would still be likely to be more good than bad.

        However, I think Toradora would be a disaster in Shaft’s hands. It doesn’t fit their style at all. It’s not their brand of eclectic “we can screw around with this all we want because it’s already weird” show. It’s far too straightforward for their playful take on things. It would probably either end up entirely unrecognizable at best. Maybe a bizarro-Toradora would be interesting, but I can’t say it would be the best use of Shaft’s creativity.

        I think KyoAni simply doesn’t have the writing staff to adapt something like Toradora. It would look fantastic, but I’d rather they seriously shore up their non-animation skills before they try tackling something like Toradora again. Hyouka shows they might be able to someday, but right now they’re still too obsessed with covering for their shortcomings with more pretty flourishes of animation. Until they’re confident enough to tackle something like Little Busters, I’d rather not see them tackle anything I like again.

        A-1’s more than shown their competence in everything I think is necessary to adapt Toradora, and they’re very versatile. Their downfall is that they’re not particularly good at teen anime, and they tend to feel to me like they’re emulating other studios more than they’re trying to create their own brand. I suspect we’d honestly end up getting something similar to the JC Staff version of Toradora, though I’m probably being unfair.

        I’m too tired to think about the rest, but thanks for indulging me :)

  8. They allowed Kill Me Baby to exist in the anime realm, so I’m reluctant to defend them.

    To their credit, they produce at least one series a year that is worth watching if you’re an avid anime viewer (in the past decade, at least).

    • Kill Me Baby is one of the worst things they have ever done. It was also a manga adaptation though! I am fairly confident that JC Staff’s manga adaptation planing involves getting high and making random choices… Sure looks that way from the outside.

  9. See, in theory I agree with you that a studio is a flawed, or at least tangential method to categorise anime by. The writers and directors should be what really matters. In reality though, while by no means a rule, there are such strong trends in many studio’s works that, realistically, it seems to be perfectly practical to make preconceptions of a show based on studio.

    Regarding JC Staff in particular? I actually don’t think they’re a crap studio, but for none of the reasons you gave. Disregarding Little Busters Refrain, for a moment, I think Toradora was the last show they did I gave a shit about, and even then it was just good. It was fine, pretty enjoyable but a long-shot from classic territory. Couldn’t get into Honey and Clover because of all the Arts wank, though I’ve heard it’s a good show and I’m sure that’s true. I’ve also heard good things about Nodame but haven’t watched it because it doesn’t sound like my sort of thing.

    So why would I defend them? Two reasons: Cat Soup and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Can two shows save a studio? Well, when they’re some of the strangest but most wonderful creations anime has given us, then yeah, I think they can.

    That said, those were more than a decade ago, my hopes for them making anything transcendent again are essentially nil.

  10. I also don’t believe that J.C Staff is a ‘crap’ studio (I personally get sick of the tsundere character archetype really, really quickly – although J.C Staff is hardly the only studio to capitalise on it). I especially like Azumanga and Toradora. but thinking about it, I think they’re probably the only two shows I’d list somewhere among my anime top 20.

    • J.C. Staff make a lot of “good” anime but not all that many “great” ones, I’d say. Come to think of it, not that many shows of theirs would make my absolute favorites either, not even Toradora tbh.

  11. As a side note, Froggy, you’re certainly good at generating discussion, so kudos for that.

  12. Interesting article. I don’t actually pay that much attention to studios (beyond GAINAX who have long deserved a good slapping), but I have enjoyed a number of JC Staff productions (especially Toradora!.

    • I don’t even feel like slapping GAINAX anymore. They’re so down in the slumps these days it would be like slapping an emaciated African kid. I’d just feel bad.

  13. I admit that I reviewed quite a few of their shows and I feel rather indifferent about their shows. Of course, they aren’t the worst studio out there as there is Studio Deen, which is a lot worse in terms of animation quality. I think the problem that stems with JC Staff is that they make a lot of light novel adaptations that contain a tsundere girl (voiced by Kugimiya Rie) and an average high school boy. While I enjoy tsundere characters, I think they need to step out of the box once in a while. Even so, I still enjoy quite a number of their shows (even that crazy two seasons of Milky Homes, which mostly have anime original material) along with some of their other shows (Hayate, Hidan no Aria), although I didn’t finish them all. From what everyone is seeing with the second season of Little Busters, I think they aren’t a bad studio when they put more effort in their adaptations.

    • J.C. Staff doing tsunderes in every second anime was common back in the mid ’00s, but not so much these days, so I wonder what you think about the studio’s current output.

      As for Little Busters… From what I’ve been hearing, the failure with the first season is due to a rushed pre-production schedule, so it’s clear J.C. Staff was working with unusual constraints. They are doing a better job with the second season, though, I agree.

      • JC Staff can make a really great anime, they just can’t make more than one really great anime at a time, I assume they don’t have the resources for it. Though I think they are doing better handling Golden Time and Little Busters at once than they did with Sakurasou and Little Busters.

        Apparently Japanese broadcasters set their rates before the fall season or something like that? That might have something to do with why they try to cram all their quality 24+ episode stuff into the same time slots.

  14. Moral of a story when internet people tell you that a brand’s crappiness is solely due to them seeing the product is lame, is the following: As long as the studio keeps making big bucjs from the shows they make, why would they care what internet people think, especially English speaking ones?

    That’s what I learned from the stuff I watch.

  15. I don’t really take note of studios when I watch anime, but I have to say my favorite is Ufotable right now. Oh, and Kyoto Animation also has some pretty good art that is their trademark. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to tell one studio apart from the other.

  16. Pretty bold stance you got there, but while I’m hardly one to agree, I respect that lol. For one, while there’s that circulating counterpoint that you should not infer a work’s quality by the studio which animated it, I see good intent but I find the claim itself rather dubious. For one, any collection of items may or may not share a pattern, but it’s intrinsic within statistical models that the larger the generalization you’re offering, the less precise statement you can accurately guess. So long as the precision is relevant to the level of generalization (in this case, saying “JC Staff is good/bad”), it is acceptable. Moreover, the more niche that group is (in recent years, think SHAFT, KyoAni, PA Works, and JC Staff compared to AIC, Production IG, Tatsunoko, and Toei), the more I would subscribe to prejudiced beliefs with regards to any of their future works.

    Sure, directors, scriptwriters, animators, the whole slew of staff members also make a difference and arguably more interesting quantification, but if you follow the argument that evaluation by studios is too generic, then you could say the same for any form of grouping (staff members included). I think at least of the past few years, JC Staff has followed the same pattern—or more harshly, “formula”—that could classify them so. Some of them you describe here and I enjoy them too, to an extent, whereas a buttload of other common traits are truly suffering. Personally speaking, I find their greatest hits like Honey and Clover are few and far between all those Golden Times (pun/sarcasm intended). :X

    • You definitely can’t deny that there is a correlation between the quality of a work and its studio, but this has more to do with what they are given to work with rather than the staff’s competency. I’m commenting on the tendency of narrow-minded fans to identify the studio as the sole reason for an anime’s failure when the reality is more complicated than that.

      I would agree, however, that it is fair to make generalisations based on what the studio has put out because this is what I did in the entirety of my post. And if the studio’s most iconic and representative titles are ones that you don’t like, then you’re perfectly entitled to say you don’t like J.C. Staff. Just like I’m entitled to say that I like them :)

  17. One thing that baffles me, is J.C. Staff’s workload division. In one season (if I remembered right, I think it was during the season where Ano Natsu aired), J.C. Staff had like 7 shows (combined with 20 episodes+ shows continued from previous season). Though, now that I briefly looked back, they seem to have soften up a bit, lol.

    • That is one INSANE workload. Wow. I don’t think any studio would try that these days, which shows just how much the business of making anime has changed, I guess.

  18. The problem with J.C. Staff is that they end to be the ones that pick up ongoing LN series, animate them and then give them a filler ending/original anime ending that either sucks or ruins the possibility of a second season by ending the show their way.

    That’s why they get so much hate.

    They have their moments.

    And I’m really annoyed at them for Golden Time because the characters spend half the time drunk in that series but since they’re underage, J.C. Staff can’t show them drinking on TV. Which isn’t their fault, except that instead of doing something to imply the characters already drank, they just have the characters commit their drunk actions completely sober, which is really, really silly lol

  19. I used to have the ideas about stereotypes on anime studios. J. C. Staff animates romantic comedy, Sunrise animate mecha and idols, A-1 pictures put more work on visuals than other aspects, KyoAni anime tends to have some degrees of fanservice (which may not be the sexual kind) etc. However, as I watched more and more anime and having others pointed out on me, studio stereotypes are largely false and tends to form when people watch a small number of anime or listening to unsubstantiated claims. At this point, I have no opinion on J. C. Staff because the only anime I watched is Sakurasou which I have yet to finish it.

    However, no studio is “crap studio”. Any studio would have their own ups and downs and even that differs by the watchers.

    • I think it’s fair to say there are studio trends, but you are certainly right about how every studio has its own ups and downs.

      Another thing: The stereotypes you listed are very commonly bandied around anime blogs… we bloggers have to be the most cynical and judgmental anime fans around, huh?

  20. You know, for kids!

    What’s the difference between not liking a studio and not liking what a studio animates?

    • It’s like saying a publisher sucks because you don’t like the books published under that label. It’s misascribing what their actual role is and saying they’re bad at what they’re not even trying to do.

      • Publishers don’t touch what the writer wrote and they don’t have to do anything other than print it, J.C.Staff has changed plots, endings and fucked things up. Your argument is shit.

  21. JC Staff rarely (maybe never?) join the Production Committee (製作委員会) when making a light-novel-based anime. But they participate in the committees when doing manga-based animes. I think that’s might explain the extremeness of the quality of JC-products.
    Also, there is an interesting saying on 2ch that J.C.Staff are split into “light side”, which is made up by Nagai Tatsuyuki, Kasai Ken`ichi and Ikehata Takashi. And the “dark side” is made up by​ Watanabe Takashi, Nishikiori Hiroshi and Iwasaki Yoshiaki. Sakurabi Katsushi is always switching between the two, and there are also the “gods of JC”, Ikuhara Kunihiko and Takayama Fumihiko.

    【JC光の势力(Law Side)】 长井龙雪カサヰケンイチ 池端隆史 【JC暗の势力(Chaos Side)】渡部高志 锦织博 岩崎良明 桜美かつし 【JC仙人】 几原邦彦 高山文彦

  22. Well, I think JC’s manga adaptions are actually better than the LN adaptions. First they have more budget than LN stuff to keep the sakuga quality at a good level (Joshiraku vs The Pet Girl of Sakurasou; Railgun vs. Index), and I think JC uses their best staff in the manga adaptions because they joins the production committees of those animes. Some of their great works like H&C and Aoi Hana are also adapted from mangas. And ​the quality of Witch Craft Works seems great too, for now.

    • Well, I think JC’s manga adaptions are actually better than the LN adaptions.

      Kill Me Baby would like to have a word with you.

      In all seriousness, I do think you have a point. J.C. Staff is famous these days for their LN adaptations, but that wasn’t always the case and the quality of their LN adaptations can be hit-or-miss. I had always assumed it was a case of LNs simply being a harder medium to adapt into anime than manga is, but anime production is certainly a more complex matter than that.

      I do have to say that out of their recent LN adaptations, Sakurasou and Hentai Ouji were really well done animation-wise. But I’ll concede that Railgun S is their best work on that front. I haven’t watched Witch Craft Works, so I can’t comment on that.

  23. J.C.Staff isn’t a crap studio because their anime sucks, J.C.Staff is a crap studio because none of them know how write a decent ending. I really get into any anime they make and half way through I get bored but whatever, it picks up again towards the end an you get really pumped for this ending and then it sucks. Examples would be any anime they’ve ever made.

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