Ask John: Is J.C. Staff Bad at Action Anime?
Does J.C. Staff fail when it comes to action anime? I find the studio to be a hit and miss studio. I enjoy their light-hearted slice-of-life/comedy shows like Azumanga Daioh, Potemayo, Hatsukoi Limited, Milky Holmes and more recently Joshiraku, while I have a hard time getting into/enjoying their more action/world building oriented shows like Sky Girls (which was boring compared to Strike Witches) and the Index/Railgun series. La storia della Arcana Famiglia looks to be one of their most unappealing shows in recent years. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy serious action oriented anime, but I feel that [if] they don’t have the talent for it, they shouldn’t attempt it.
A careful examination of studio J.C. Staff’s canon reveals some interesting trends. With productions including Hachimitsu to Clover, Nodame Cantabile, Aoi Hana, Hatsukoi Gentei, Toradora, Otome Yokai Zakuro, and Ano Natsu de Matteru under its belt, the studio has more than adequately proven itself masterful at animating romantic, dramatic anime. Furthermore, titles including Zero no Tsukaima, Potemayo, Okami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi, and Kill Me Baby have demonstrated the studio’s proficiency at animating adventure comedies. However, the studio’s recent record of conventional action anime, including Arcana Famiglia, Hidan no Aria, Toaru Majutsu no Index and Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, Nabari no Ou, and Skygirls is a bit more confusing. Action anime including Otome Yokai Zakuro and the Index/Railgun pair have exhibited frequent moments of outstanding animation quality. Index/Railgun proved tremendously popular. Zakuro was not a big hit but was an outstanding production.
Examination of circumstances suggests not so much that J.C. Staff is poorly prepared to animate action anime but rather that the studio has the misfortune of being commissioned to animate weak action properties. This season’s Arcana Famiglia has been widely panned as poorly written and characterized. But the first episode’s introductory action was deftly animated. Contemporary J.C. Staff action anime including Skygirls, Hidan no Aria, and Nabari no Ou really haven’t been especially engaging or interesting. Some blame can be placed on the screenwriters behind these shows, but greater responsibility ought to be levied onto the original narratives themselves. When J.C. Staff animators seem to have strong source material to work from, they seem capable of producing exceptionally good anime adaptations. When they work from second teir source material – I mean no offense, but honestly, titles including Nabari no Ou, Hidan no Aria, and Skygirls are not as popular or successful as novel series like Index and Shakugan no Shana – the studio seems unable to elevate. While it may not be unfair to blame the animators for not turning bronze into gold, I personally don’t blame J.C. Staff for turning out uninspired adaptations of uninspiring source material. I’ve never been especially enthused by the Index series, but I did enjoy Railgun quite a bit. I don’t believe that it’s a fluke that both series demonstrate excellent visual design and animation quality. The Index/Railgun anime franchise demonstrates that J.C. Staff is very capable of producing strong, praiseworthy action anime when the studio is provided with strong foundational material to adapt.