And Now We Talk About Studio DEEN

I started off my J.C. Staff post by declaring them a “great” studio. I can’t say that about DEEN. Whereas J.C. Staff has shows that look good even if they suck, DEEN has shows that look like shit even if they’re good. Yet, while I could jump to the conclusion that this makes them a failure as a studio (in cases of adaptions, what good does it do if you don’t supply the most important thing—animation!?), the truth is that DEEN has a lot of good shows, regardless of their failings in animation. The studio even has a number of things going for it that only through watching a lot of their shows would you start to realize are definitive trademarks.

Some of those good points are as follows:

Studio DEEN adaptions NEVER END

Anime adaptions of still-running manga and light novels often end in disappointment when the series runs its course and stops, leaving the story without conclusion. When DEEN adapts something, though, you’ve got a much better chance of seeing it through to the end. Maybe it’s a result of having adapted all those long-ass Takahashi Rumiko manga in the 80s and 90s (Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, and Maison Ikkoku were all their doing), but DEEN will keep bringing back a show as long as the fans keep demanding it. For instance…

Maria-sama ga Miteru – Three TV series, a series-length OVA, and a series of specials for each installment.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni – Two 26-ep shows, an OVA, and they’re *still* releasing more OVAs (one this summer apparently).

Rurouni Kenshin – A funny example, since they did the last (and universally panned) arc of the TV show, but they then did the two OVAs in 2000 and 2002, and now they’ve announced a new Kenshin project on the horizon.

Hell Girl – Three 26-ep TV series.

Kyou Kara Maou! – A 78-ep series, a 39-ep series, and a 5-ep OVA.

Hetalia – Two 50-(mini)ep shows, OVAs, and a movie coming.

I’ll stop listing there, but if you go down their list of works, you’ll see a lot of shows with multiple seasons (even weird ones like Eat-Man). Of course, this sadly isn’t *always* the case (I’m sure fans would love more Umineko, Fruits Basket, and Hatenkou Yuugi). It’s just a matter of money—for instance at one point DEEN had announced a second season of Amatsuki, but it never ended up happening, probably because no one watched Amatsuki (and manga fans didn’t like what they did with it.)

Nevertheless, when I see things like how they’re making a second season of Seitokai no Ichizon two years later, it gives me hope that we’ll see more of stuff like Umineko, no matter how long it might take.

Studio DEEN launched Oshii Mamoru’s career!

That’s right! Today, Oshii Mamoru is one of the best-known and reviewed anime directors of all time, commanding gargantuan budgets and even directing live-action movies. Before he was giving us amazing works like Ghost in the Shell and The Sky Crawlers, though, he was making his directing debut at Studio DEEN.

Urusei Yatsura – Oshii helmed the massive Takahashi adaption from 1981 through 1984, and directed and wrote the second film, Beautiful Dreamer, remembered today as a classic (especially amongst fans of the director).

Angel’s Egg – In 1985, Oshii directed and wrote the single most pretentious arthouse anime of all time, Angel’s Egg; lovechild of himself and legendary Final Fantasy/Vampire Hunter D artist Amano Yoshitaka, with breathtaking background art courtesy of Kobayashi Shichiro and his company. This film may be kinda insufferable, but it’s undeniably gorgeous.

Twilight Q – A strange little original OVA that was supposed to feature different young, great directors on each episode, but ended after just an unmemorable first episode from the guy who directed Ocean Waves and House of Five Leaves, followed by an excellent second episode by Oshii Mamoru. I consider Twilight Q something like a Rosetta Stone to understanding Oshii’s style.

This brings me to my next point…

Studio DEEN seems to understand that they suck

Okay, this is a weird thing to list as a positive, but I think it’s true to some extent. DEEN knows that their shows are late-night shows for otaku and are made to cash in on popular trends (currently light novels). They use this as an opportunity to sort of ham it up and play the fanservice element well.

Anime fans, especially in the west, may not like this. For instance, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka seemed very aware to me that for one, it wasn’t the best-looking show, and two, it wans’t going to cover very much of the source material. And that’s fine—the people watching the show are already familiar with the source material, and it’s not like DEEN had the money or time to make a functioning show. So instead, they focused on bringing out some great comedic moments, hiring excellent vocal talent (this always seems to be where DEEN puts its money), and upping the fanservice (episode 12 was the epitome of this). This makes it a lot more worthwhile to fans than an inferior retelling of a story that they already know.

Not all DEEN adaptions share the quality, but I think it’s recognizable when they do. Seitokai no Ichizon is the perfect example, and I think Marimite has a big element of this as well in its own way.

Alright, enough with the back-handed compliments, let’s look at genuinely good Studio DEEN shows. (Which by the way, make up a bigger portion of my favorites list than J.C. Staff shows!)

1. Simoun

It’s not the best-looking show in town but, damn if the staff and designers didn’t try their very hardest to make it look great, and the attention to detail is certainly there. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the director/animation director commentary and heard just how much went into this show, and I love thinking about all that passion for this excellent original anime.

2. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni + Kai

The first season of Higurashi was pretty ugly, but it cleaned up well for the second season and was always supported by an excellent cast, playing one of my favorite ensembles of characters. Higurashi, like most novel adaptions, gets a lot of crap from fans for leaving a lot out, but it’s a necessity for adaptions, and in this case, I think they did all they could to make it as good as it could be.

3. Rurouni Kenshin Tsuiokuhen

IMO the best samurai movie ever, and definitely deserving of its status as a classic. It could’ve looked a little better—it didn’t really have to. It was gorgeous, the music was amazing, and the director showed a master hand, making me think “wow, it’s really the same guys who did the show? And the studio that did the shitty third arc?” They definitely made up for it here.

4. Read or Die

I included R.O.D. the TV on J.C. Staff’s post even though it was a joint with DEEN because DEEN gets to have full credit for Read or Die the OVA, critically acclaimed for being gorgeously animated, stylish, and brilliant—such a success, and internationally, that it spawned a whole franchise off of just three episodes. Even more than Angel’s Egg, this is one that makes me go… “that was DEEN?!”

5. Maria-sama ga Miteru

Renowned as the mother of modern yuri anime and one of the best-written shows of the past decade, you’ve just gotta love Marimite. DEEN spent all the money on acting, which was the perfect thing for a character-driven drama wherein, true to the roots of anime, beautiful key frames take precedence over animation quality.

6. Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?

I find this show very charming and fun, and it fits into a lot of personal biases. If episode six hadn’t been so horribly ugly when it counted, I’d have said it marked a trend along with Dragon Crisis last season that DEEN was making better-looking shows. I guess they are, but the steps are smaller than they first seemed.

7. Ranma 1/2

It’s funny—thanks to recency bias and the sheer amount of time it took to watch the show, I considered Ranma a favorite at first. Now, I mostly have bad memories of terrible episodes. Yet, I proved that there are at least 60 worthwhile episodes of Ranma and at least 20 really stellar ones. And I mean, it’s a classic.

8. Seitokai no Ichizon

This, to me, is the ultimate example of a show that’s funny from start to finish and yet manages to develop its characters and make them memorable. All while being fairly ugly and taking place in a single room. And it launched some great new vocal talent, too.

9. Umineko no Naku Koro ni

It’s pretty damn lulz-worthy at times, occasionally really hard to watch, and I won’t be rewatching it unless they make another season and properly end it. And don’t get me started on how much it pisses off fans of the game. Nevertheless, I had a whole lot of fun watching Umineko, and it’s nothing if not memorable. I even named my band after the show.

10. Hatenkou Yuugi

As far as being an adaption goes, this may be DEEN’s most infuriating—ten episodes that adapt ten random-ass stories from the ten-volume (at the time) manga, out of order, and totally mixed up. However, I actually kind of like the anime more than the manga. Mostly it’s because of the absolutely brilliant script courtesy of Imagawa Yasuhiro, but the point stands that it’s a fun show.

Some other shows that are awesome but I’ve only seen an ep or two of: Eat-Man (just started this and loving it), Mission-E (and Code-E), Fruits Basket, Hetalia, Kokoro Library

Great shows I’ve got on hold: Amatsuki, Touka Gettan, Shion no Ou

Other shows by them I think are pretty cool: Angel’s Egg, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, Giant Killing, Twilight Q

Shows I haven’t seen but am pretty sure are cool: Bincho-tan, Full Moon wo Sagashite, Kyo Kara Maou!, Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura

31 thoughts on “And Now We Talk About Studio DEEN

  1. I do like shows like Ranma, Higurashi, ROD, Kore wa Zombie, and SeiZon. But I find your logic there – they suck, so they vamp instead of being serious – a little strange. Generally when people know that they suck at their chosen profession, that is a good thing because it spurs them to improve.

    Are you saying their non-seriousness is better than other studios’ seriousness, and that’s why it’s good?

    • No, and I found the perfect sentence only after finishing the post – they’re like a studio that makes B-movies. The fun of a B-movie is that it knows it’s bad, so it uses that chance to be fun and cool, instead of trying to be serious which it can’t pull off with the limited budget it has.

      If a studio is serious and they can pull off being serious, that’s great. But yes, if it comes to something like DEEN vs. lets say Seven Arcs, who tends to be serious even though their shows aren’t very good, then yes, I prefer DEEN’s approach of knowing what they can do and doing that well.

  2. I’ve never let animation get in the way of enjoying a great series. I notice it but it’s far far from my mind when I evaluate my enjoyment. Sure something that looks nice will be noticed more than something that is meh but overall I generally don’t care. I’m weird like that.

    “but DEEN will keep bringing back a show as long as the fans keep demanding it” this is one of the reasons why i like them a lot. they have a boat load of my favourite anime under their belt too :D list coming soon :P

    • Yeah I was really surprised by just how many of their shows are ones I highly enjoy. As you know I care about animation but just because I rate it on high standards doesn’t mean I hold it to them. After all Higurashi is one of my favorite shows, no question about it, and that’s a damn ugly show. But there does come a point where if it’s so ugly that things become hard to look at then I can’t deal with it. Bee Train has crossed this line plenty of times.

  3. SeiZon. God that show. God that show. I went in with such high expectations but came out with a pile of shit on my head. So much potential… Wasted. In-jokes are fine but they HAVE TO BE CLEVER and not spontaneous. And you can’t build a show entirely on in-jokes. That’s just reminding us of much better anime we could be watching instead of this crap. Voice talent is decent but characters are annoying and tiring. One-dimensional too. And not in a good sense; they aren’t quirky and eccentric but generic and predictable. God what a phoned-in show.

    /rant. Forgive me, but I just wanted this off my chest. No offense whatsoever, but this show kinda ruined DEEN for me.

    • I don’t know what you’re on about. SeiZon is way more than just in-jokes (which I think you’re misusing, you mean references). I love the characters and the way the overall plot comes together is fascinating, culminating in a really gratifying finale. I think it’s funny that you went into an ugly DEEN show with high expectations, though lol.

  4. I’m not a huge DEEN fan, but I can’t totally hate a studio that came up with something as brilliant as Simoun. I got the DVD set a while back and need to catch those commentaries some time …

  5. It’s all a matter of taste. I’d gladly give JC Staff before I gave Deen up. JC Staff has the odd good show for adults, but they’re mostly for kids who like to see the shounen over and over. Deen, as you say, consists mainly of good seinen and purile fanservice. The good shows Deen chooses don’t need ace animation – just look at Giant Killing. Whereas often the only thing JC Staff shows have going for them is the production values, which aren’t that phenomenal anyway.

    • I’m not sure what you mean, shounen and seinen don’t really easily apply to anime, and since J.C. Staff adapts a lot of otaku-centric light novels, I wouldn’t say they’re aimed at kids. And they adapted Honey and Clover and Nodame Cantabile (josei) as well as several seinen manga. I think demographics are a seriously poor way of giving perspective on what a studio does.

      • Well, “kids” as in teenagers. As in the demographic for shounen. But if you disagree on the demographics argument, it’s a foregone conclusion that it won’t make a difference what the demographic is :)

        It’s just that when I look at what JC Staff has animated, there’s a very clear trend towards adapting very similar shounen stuff to anime. They might have a few series that differ from these fanservice shows and are classics (which I have enjoyed immensely), but overall I would still prefer Deen’s set list to theirs. Deen has simply adapted more interesting and personally-appealing shows than JC Staff. That’s all.

  6. I should just watch that Kenshin movie. I’ve been meaning to for years, but have put it off because I only completed the first season of the TV series.

    Another Deen samurai treatment that isn’t on your list is Hakuouki. I won’t claim it deserves to be in the top 10, but it actually has a lot of good to it. Unfortunately, Deen series are often uneven, and Hakuouki suffers from this. If you want to catch a couple of GOOD episodes check out episodes 3 and 14.

    • Tsuiokuhen isn’t actually a movie (I realize I called it one) – there *is* a Kenshin movie but it’s not very good. But yeah, you don’t need to know the show at all to watch Tsuiokuhen.

      I usually don’t watch episodes of a show out of order so I’m afraid I probably won’t check out Hakuoki, but thanks for the recommendation!

      • Well, I remember always seeing it listed (as Trust and Betrayal) on ANN, where it had the highest rating of anything at the time. It has since dropped to number 5 anime of all time, but that still is pretty good.

  7. The only thing that I like about DEEN is the fact that they’re good at picking something to be adapted into anime (be it manga or light novel).
    But, they somehow always end up messing with it (Samurai Deeper Kyo and NuraMago are quite good example of it) so I don’t know if I should be happy or not if my favorite manga is going to be adapted into anime by DEEN ;p
    Though I must admit that they did a good job at Higurashi :)

  8. That’s a fun way to discuss an anime studios. When I did my best anime of 2000s and lookat anime studios, DEEN does not fare too well in my ‘efficiency rating’ (how many ‘good’ show produced for every shows the studio made). DEEN came in 18th (from 26) among all studios with at least 10 series produced in the decade (1 good show every 14 produced). The shows I have listed in my top 100 (based on different polls) are Fruits Basket [26], Higurashi no Naku Koro ni [33], Maria-sama ga Miteru [52] and Simoun [78]. I think DEEN got a bad rap because of the sheer quantity of shows it put out (second only to Madhouse in the last decade), most of which probably are not that good anyway. When you produce that many, I guess there are bound to be some good ones every once in a while!

    • Yup, it kinda comes down to that. They make so much, some has to be good, though even the good ones tend to look like balls. Totally opposite of Madhouse who can make 4 shows at once and all of them look fantastic.

  9. It’s still really hard to believe DEEN did the R.O.D. and the Kenshin OVAs as well. There’s a certain fluidity of movement that seems completely at odds with the sometimes stiff posturing in later shows.

    • Well, with ROD especially but with both at least, it’s not like they were the only ones working on it. Bigger productions usually mean more than one studio involved (or up to like 50 for some movies and shit), so DEEN might have been leading the project, but had a lot more help on it than they usually do.

      Partly just my speculation.

  10. Pingback: Top 15 Studio DEEN TV Shows | Oishii Anime

  11. Pingback: I Like GONZO (Just A Bit Less Than Old American Anime Magazines and ADV) | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

  12. why can’t anyone find meiji tokyo renka yumihari no serenade, it came out in 2015, but no one can find it or watch the movie. What’s up with that?!

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