I was disappointed after watching the latest episode of Devil Survivor 2. How could they simplify the battle with Alioth down to literally 5 minutes of exposition. In the game, theres a massive battle with the beast that trumps any of the boss battles up until that point. In the show, he just merely falls atop a city and disappears into the hollows of the narrative. I’m not mad at the show. No, I’m angered by the circumstances wherein great source material gets slighted.
Anime is an expensive business. That’s why we see studios lean more towards adaptations rather than original intellectual properties. It’s safer that way. These franchises have established fan bases that they can tap into. If their show fails to attract the mass audience, it’s this fan base that’s a fail safe. They’re the ones that might still buy the Blu-Rays regardless of how terrible or niche the show is. It’s a way of hedging their bets and protecting their studio. I could go on to talk about how this practice is detrimental to the medium as a whole, but that’s a discussion for another time. Instead I want to look at why these adaptations sometimes fail because of the risks associated with producing a series.
For every frame that a studio produces, there needs to be an animator, a director, a writer, a voice actor, a colorist, an editor and an intern that needs to be paid. That’s not including the licensing fees, the benefits and the bills that need to be accounted for as well. When you begin adding all these items up, you can begin to see how costly a show can become. Its because of these expenses that studios need to consider how many episodes of a show they can green light.
Recently the trend has been to produce only a single cour, or eleven to thirteen episodes. It allows a series to be safely nestled into a single season, and lets the studio pursue other attractive projects for the following one. If a show is successful, a second season can be produced at a later time. If it fails, then it can just be lost to the sands of time. Sadly because of this, shows that often end on cliffhangers never get resolved because they weren’t profitable projects (Here’s looking at you Skip Beat!).
But what if the studio is working on something slightly niche. The risk on these shows is substantially higher, even though there is an established fanbase, they might reject the project. Show runners often go into a project like this with the mindset that they only have a single cour to tell their stories, regardless of how massive the source material is. It causes them to cut corners to try and stuff in a great narrative into clothes a bit to small for it. That’s when problems of pacing begin to arise, as script writers begin to cut corners all over the place to make sure the audience at least gets a gist of the story.
Often times because of all the cutting and pasting, important parts of the original materials get lost in translation, such as the action in Devil Survivor 2 or the deep character development in Gantz. At all moments these shows beg for a bit more time, time they won’t get.
It makes me wonder if we as an Anime audience are better off if these sort of adaptation don’t get made. Fans of the original franchise become deeply disappointed, while the uninitiated are left with a soggy experience akin to wet bread. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone. Maybe studios should realize that if they’re not willing to go all in with a particular franchise, rather than scorning those that love it, they could try and create new shows to help create new audiences. I’m not one of those fancy corporate executives in a monkey suit, so what do I know, right? But until my prayers are answered I can just hope the last few episodes of Devil Survivor 2 make up for the nine episodes of mediocrity.