Lately, the subject of my feelings towards A-1 Pictures has been coming up constantly in response to my videos, and has been the subject of a lot of argument and misinterpretation. The upcoming 9th part of the Asterisk War Sucks series is almost entirely about my problems with the studio in general–but it doesn’t really dive into how I came to the conclusions that I did about the studio. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that I hate A-1 shows just because they’re A-1 shows, which is weird and ridiculous–why the hell would I just decide I don’t like a studio? My hatred for A-1 comes as a result of not liking their output, and my feelings towards them have come from the long and winding process of watching them develop over the last eight years or so. As such, I think it’ll help for the sake of argument, and for the sake of people not asking me the same questions over and over again, if I just detail my history with the studio in full.
I first heard about A-1 Pictures in 2008, around the time that the first season of Birdy the Mighty Decode came out. I enjoyed that show well enough and watched it all the way through, though I never got around to season 2 in 2009 (but I still want to, and I’ve seen tons of gifs from its fight scenes). I never got around to Big Windup, tho from what I’ve heard/seen of ep 2, it’s really good; and Kuroshitsuji didn’t seem like my thing.
When I started taking interest in the studio was around the time Kannagi came out. I didn’t actually watch more than 1 ep of it, but there was a lot of hoopla over the fact that it was directed by Yutaka Yamamoto (Yamakan) after he’d been fired from Kyoto Animation after directing the first 4 episodes of Lucky Star. A lot of ado was made over how Kannagi looked like a KyoAni show in it’s designs, at a time when those kind of designs were just coming into prominence and becoming controversial. Somewhere around this time is also when Yamakan founded his studio Ordet, and Ordet and A-1 were often collaborating together, so there was a lot of intrigue around what kind of stuff they’d produce.
I skipped out on Valkyria Chronicles and Fairy Tail, but I actually came to be a *fan* of A-1 Pictures in 2010 when they ran their Power of Anime block. Sora no Woto was my favorite show of the year–one of my favorites of all time–and was a really cool original series. They then put out Occult Academy, which was a show that was totally all over the place but ultimately interesting, and Night Raid 1931, which started strong, got really boring, and ended pretty poorly; and I think Night Raid is probably the most representative of what my problems with this studio would eventually be. 2010 also saw the first A-1 and Ordet collaboration on the movie Welcome to the Space Show, which I really loved.
In-between those shows, they started Working!!, which had intrigued me with its premise and characters, but I felt like the comedic timing was always a bit off, and the jokes got stale very, very quickly. I actually picked up the manga and enjoyed it a lot more than the anime, and was reading it along with its scanslations; and I ended up watching the rest of the anime with my brother and not really liking it. We watched all of season 2 together as well, and I didn’t really like that either. By the way, if you want documentation of my feelings on ALL of these shows at the times that they were airing, I blogged about all of them on this very site. The search bar is your friend; the writing probably sucks, tho.
Where things started going downhill with A-1 for me was on their next collab with Ordet on the Yamakan-directed Fractale. Fractale was yet another show with a very strong start and some really flashy visuals, which very quickly became a roller coaster of quality that took a nose dive by the end into complete shit. At this point, all of the A-1 original series had been inconsistent in this way. Even Sora no Woto, which I loved, was kind of all over the place and a little rough around the edges; but between Occult Academy, Night Raid, and Fractale, it felt like everything the studio did was a huge mess.
Right after that, they put out Anohana, which eventually would become crazy popular, but wasn’t really all that hyped at the time. I’d seen the first episode and loved it, and I was already a fan of Tatsuyuki Nagai and Mari Okada (the duo that did Toradora and is now doing Iron-Blooded Orphans), but I never got around to continuing. A few of my friends who had also been excited at the start told me that it really fell apart and got lame in the end, and from what they described of the plot, it seemed like something I’d really hate, so I decided not to bother finishing it.
Blue Exorcist was a case where I’d been really into the manga, and had read the first three volumes, but I absolutely hated the way that the anime handled it when I watched the first episode. It was totally visually unappealing, and didn’t match the great style of the manga, which I’d really wanted to get an adaptation from BONES. I didn’t really attribute the failure to A-1 in particular, as I still didn’t have a total ire for the studio yet, but in retrospect it’s one more thing that pissed me off.
The Idolmaster was the next A-1 thing that made a big splash, and to me was the thing that was most indicative of the style the studio was going for–putting lots of flashy, very modern-looking animation into shows about cute girls (which until this point, were typically not very well-produced if they weren’t from KyoAni) and marketing the fuck out of them. I watched like seven eps of Idolmaster and it seemed like it was always middling between “okay” and “not very good” so I lost interest. Again, I heard from people who did finish it that it kind of fell apart in the long run.
Space Brothers was one where I only watched 1 ep, and it seemed like it was a bit too slow and a bit too ugly for me to take interest–and like something where the manga was probably better (which fans of it seemed to be saying). My brother watched like 25 eps of it and got tired of it for reasons that sounded like they’d annoy me, so I didn’t bother.
Tsuritama, which I actually never finished, was the last A-1 show that I was pretty into and excited about. I’m generally a big fan of the director and I was really into the feel-good tone of the series. I did think that the visuals were kind of wonky, and not as interesting and experimental as the director’s other work, but it was nonetheless a fun and unique series.
So then we have Sword Art Online. At the time the first 2 eps came out, me and my brother had pretty high expectations for it as an MMO anime that actually had action scenes and drama in it; but after 7 episodes I totally lost interest and stopped watching.
Meanwhile, I hated the first episode of Shin Sekai Yori and dropped it immediately–and since this was around the time that I stopped watching a lot of anime for about a year and a half and focused on other things, I didn’t really hear about the hype for the series until long after it was over. Keep in mind, though, that at this point, I still considered A-1 to be a pretty decent anime studio in general.
I never got around to Magi, Servant X Service, Vividread Operation, or any of their other 2013 output, since I wasn’t watching anime at the time, and I’ve never heard any strong recommendations for them from people whom I generally trust. I wouldn’t see any more A-1 shows while they were airing until Nanana’s Buried Treasure in 2014.
Now, keep in mind that Nanana’s Buried Treasure was coming out right when I was getting back into anime, and started making anime videos on my channel. At the time, I had become aware of a massive amount of hype surrounding Sword Art Online, and people started asking for my opinion of the series constantly. Now, at the time it had been airing, my brother had made it 18 eps into the series and thought it was a complete piece of garbage, and had been complaining about it ever since. Early in 2014, my girlfriend T the time had discovered the series and totally loved it, and when I tried to explain to her why I’d dropped it years earlier, she didn’t really get it. Ergo, a few months later, after we’d broken up and a million people had asked my thoughts on the show, I thought fuck it, I’m gonna watch the damn thing and figure out how to put what I feel into words. I ended up hating it way, way, way more than I expected to, and then made a bunch of videos about iT that got really popular and sort of put me on the map. You’ll notice, though, that even in my SAO videos, I don’t really spend a lot of time talking about the studio behind it–I mostly rag on the original writer. It’s only soon after that I really started growing in ire for A-1.
I tried out Silver Spoon around this time, but I wasn’t really into it–in part cause I don’t care for the subject matter or the ethos of the show, and in part cause it was pretty boring. I’m sure this show is probably not all that bad, but it’s really not my thing.
Nanana’s Buried Treasure was the show that finally made me realize I had a problem with the studio, because once again, it was a show that started out really strong, and I was into it, but then I thought it turned to complete shit by the end. You can see my vlogs chronicling this on Digi Does Anime, and in the last one I think I even state how I’ve realized that every A-1 show seems to start off promising, and turn to shit by the end.
Up next was Aldnoah.Zero, which I was pretty disgusted with by the end of ep 2 and dropped. It was all flash and no substance, with a terrible script and plot holes right out of the gate. When the hype train for that show very quickly became a hate train as it went along, with guys like Demolition D and Anime Addicts ripping it apart, I wasn’t surprised, and I started to feel like A-1 was just a studio that made really flashy, tacky shows without any kind of writing chops to back them up.
I sampled an ep and a half of World Conquest Zvezda Plot and wasn’t into it, though I’ve heard good things and still want to give it another try. I sampled an ep of Galileo Donna and wasn’t into it, and everyone seems to agree it’s a pile of shit, so I didn’t bother.
Your Lie In April was one where my friends and I were sampling opening episodes of shows that season, and I found the first episode infuriatingly trite and boring. I really am not into the whole genre of mopey teen drama, and I felt like the visuals were actually pretty mediocre, but had been covered in tons of flashy colors and filters to make them look appealing. A lot of the reviews I saw for the series later corroborated this, and nothing I heard of the show’s praise sounded like anything I’d enjoy, so I didn’t go back to it.
Around this time is also when I started making a lot of videos about Psycho-Pass, and I was getting tons of people in my comments telling me to watch Shin Sekai Yori because of its similar themes. There seemed to be a ton of positive talk about the series, so I gave it a shot, but I struggled through the first four episodes and absolutely hated every single aspect of it. I hate the visuals, directing, pacing, writing, characters, and setting completely. I asked a friend who kind of liked the show whether it was likely something I’d get into in the long run, and they said no, so I stopped there.
When episode 0 of Saekano came out, it completely pissed me off and I hated it. I hate the particular brand of meta where a show just embodies a bunch of tropes, and then calls attention to them like that’s somehow clever, and I hated all the characters. Later on I was convinced to give the show another shot, so I watched three episodes when I was marathoning romcoms in October 2015. I conceded that the show was not badly made, but that I still hate that brand of comedy and all of the characters besides the boring girl.
By this point, I had a pretty full-blown hatred of A-1, since everything they put out was either immediately infuriating, or disappointing by the end. The studio was pumping out like four shows a season, and not one of them was grabbing my attention. I’d heard that the second season of Oreimo was complete bullshit and everyone hated it, so I didn’t bother watching it. Nanoha Vivid was pretty okay if nothing to write home about, and the manga was ultimately a better time anyways.
I didn’t bother with Cinderella Girls since I don’t like idol shows anyways, and I couldn’t even finish the first episodes of Gunslinger Stratos or Ultimate Otaku Teacher (which no one seems to care about anyways). I watched the first episode of Gate and thought it was total garbage–the visual direction and pacing were appalling, and that’s pretty much the point where I realized that, yeah, my problems are really with the studio as a whole.
So then, finally, it was with the first episode of The Asterisk War–seeing this studio hit rock bottom and produce a flat-line 1/10 series with no redeeming qualities–that I decided it was time for me to be “that guy” and start cutting promos on the studio left and right. I liked the first episode of Perfect Insider well enough and I still want to finish it, but I wasn’t surprised when a lot of people told me it fell apart in the long run. I hated Grimgar and I wasn’t into Boku Machi, and if the latter turns out to suck in the end, don’t fucking dare say that I didn’t warn you.