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Anime in P.A Works



It has been a few weeks ever since the devastating news about the arson attack at Kyoto Animation. Kyoto Animation is one of my favourite anime studios, and all I can do now along with other fans is to give as much love and support to the studio as they bounce back from the emotional turmoil in lieu of the reparations. As we continue to provide our support for KyoAni, this has also allowed me to further appreciate the hard works and efforts from people in other animation studios. Always appreciate before it's too late. With that, I will talk and share about some of my favourite anime from my most favourite animation studio, P.A Works. 

P.A Works, short for Progressive Animation, is an animation studio based in Nanto, Toyama, Japan. It was founded in November 2000, but have only begun to produce their first anime series (True Tears) in 2008. If I were to describe P.A Works myself, I would say that they are the masters of the slice-of-life genre, masters of original work, as well as masters of 26-episodes-animes. These can be shown in some of my favourite animes that I will talk about in a bit. I will be dividing them into 4 parts: Their early works, the visuals, the theme of friendship and finally, horror. Note: This post might contain minor spoilers. 


Early Works



True Tears


True Tears is the first full length anime series produced by P.A Works. For their first production, it has been wildly successful, starting out safe by appealing to the masses with the high school drama and romance genre. My favourite memory is humming the opening theme of True Tears, which gives me a nostalgic feeling of watching it for the first time. From the poster alone, we see three girls, and first-time viewers might just think: ah, it's a love triangle among them with our main protagonist. That, is in fact true. If I'm being honest, the love triangle does get melodramatic at times, but that's what makes this debut anime special in a mainstream genre: its realism. There's so much longing, so many stabs of jealousy, moments where they're not being fully honest with themselves, and a sometimes a little selfishness. In spite of that, the characters are presented in a way where they aren't the kinds who immediately belong in a 'trope'. There are no overly-the-top characters, and they are more 'human' in a way where we relate to their emotions and struggles. 






This allows us to understand each of the girls (Noe, Hiromi, Aiko) better, and in a way we find separate reasons why the respective girls should be with the male protagonist. After all, this anime was based loosely on a visual novel of the same name--though the anime remains particularly original on its own. Overall, True Tears is a pretty solid debut anime for P.A Works, allowing viewers to kind of settle into the other works that they produce. 


Canaan


Canaan is the succeeding title after True Tears. Released a year later (2009), Canaan is a huge drift from the normal high school setting. We are now introduced to our main female protagonist, Canaan, who is a badass weapon-wielding mercenary operating in Shanghai. 



As such, this makes her a cool and tough character but we are then introduced to Oosawa Maria, a cheerful photographer who is actually an old friend of Canaan's, after she was saved by her in an operation in the Middle East. It's always nice to see the contrasting personalities whenever they interact, and moments where Canaan actually smiles and lets loose a little in front of her dear friend is something extraordinary to witness. 




Canaan is sort of an underrated gem among other works, but I can vouch for its balance between entertainment as well as the exciting fast-paced fight sequences in between. 



Angel Beats 


Angel Beats is probably one of the most popular series that P.A Works has produced. We come back to a high-school setting, as seen in the poster. However, here is the twist: it's a high-school in the afterlife. Actually, to be more precise, it is set in a place where people are still not ready to move on to the next life yet after having passed away. The premise here is pretty much original and interesting enough, and that appeals to me as well as I begun to watch the anime series. Boy, what I didn't expect though was the tight clutching of my chest as I held in tears from watching some episodes. I won't spoil much, but keep this in mind: 


In this case, being obliterated means to move on, and when you've made such close friends in this place, moving on can be very bittersweet, and this is how the anime creates characters that tugs at your heartstrings. The anime also introduces us to a band (Girls Dead Monster) formed within the school, and Iwasawa, the vocalist and guitarist's arc in the anime is one of my favourites--albeit, the tears. 

On a side note, they sang a song titled "Alchemy" in one of the episodes, and the same song has been covered by Poppin'Party in the Bang! Dream franchise. 

Sadness aside, the light-hearted and comedic moments are truly one of the most memorable takeaways from Angel Beats. 


I weep everytime Shiina speaks a little, because she herself, is a lovable dork. 

Oh, and before Shokugeki no Soma made Mapo Tofu popular, Angel Beats actually gave an emphasis to that food dish as well. 

To add it on, Kanade (pictured above) is probably one of the earliest kuudere anime characters as well. 

Overall, Angel Beats was a feels trip from start to end, and there's so much I love about this anime--the setting itself, the various backstories we are exposed to, as well as the music in between. There are lessons learnt, and characters to empathise with, making it a rather enjoyable anime from P.A Works. 



Visuals 

While P.A Works' visuals have been pretty wonderful and consistent so far, there are three animes where their art really 'POP' and it makes me feel like I'm immersed in that setting as well. 


Nagi no Asu Kara: A Lull in the Sea 


From the title, you could somewhat get a sense of the setting where this anime will take place in--that's right, it takes place underneath the sea, where humans can survive with Ena, a special skin that allows them to live and breathe underwater. No The Little Mermaid jokes, please. That aside, it's a rather unique choice of setting and the visuals depicting that certainly doesn't disappoint. 





Truly makes me feel like I'm underwater as well...

Visuals aside, Nagi-Asu's storyline reminds me of True Tears, with the idea of romance, drama and childhood friends among high school students. At times, it does get a little bit too melodramatic--the same thing that I felt with True Tears, but what makes up for it is the constant magic in its visuals and setting that moves the anime forward, as well as add semblance to the plot development.

Irodoku: The World in Colours 


Irodoku: The World in Colours is one of the newer works from P.A Works. Released in Fall 2018, it is an anime revolving around a colourblind girl named Hitomi, who is from a family of witches. Instantly, we can tell there's going to be slice-of-life, mixed with some magic in this anime. However, the most important thing is that the aspect of Hitomi's colourblindness will probably allow us to root for her to be able to see colours again and when we do, the visuals surely are a sight to behold. 









I'm sure Hitomi isn't disappointed by all the sights she has seen too after her grandmother has granted her with a type of magic that transports her back to 60 years in the past. Besides that, I love how having her sense of colours back is also parallel to her progression in opening herself up to people and making friends. 

Another extra detail I noticed in the art style here is their further emphasis to lighting and depth, as compared to other animes within P.A Works where their visuals were slightly flatter. The soft shadows really remind me of the lighting used in KyoAni's works. 







Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family) 


Now Uchoten Kazoku is an interesting pick. Unlike the other 2 animes mentioned, the visuals are presented in a way where they are rather unique, and true to that anime and only that anime itself. I guess that's where the "eccentric" in the title comes from. The visuals are eccentric and while it may take a bit of time getting used to, I really appreciate how unique it is.

The attention to every small detail... The weird textures on the ground... The rugged wallpaper. Somehow it all fits in together in an eccentric way. 




There's something about the clean lines shaping the buildings in this shot which makes it charming.

In a way, Uchouten Kazoku's visuals are also reminiscent of the visuals in the anime Tatami Galaxy, which isn't from P.A Works. 


They both have similar eccentric storylines that sometimes need a while to process, and I guess the art style is important in delivering what the plot has to present. Uchouten Kazoku has 2 seasons, so if you're up for interesting visuals and bizarre scenarios, this is the watch for you.

Friendship 

With slice-of-life being the majority of the genre in P.A Works' titles, it's not uncommon to see the theme of friendships being shown. Some of my favourites include the animes I will be talking about below. 



Tari Tari


Tari Tari follows the typical "let's form a music club" route, but what appealed to me about that show was how they really focused on each character, giving them rather human backstories that make you feel for them. 

Each character has their own weaknesses too, such as Wien's off-pitch singing in a music club, but everyone is supportive nevertheless rather than making fun of him. 


Besides the student themselves, I also liked that the supporting characters like the choir club teacher is more than she lets on. At first, we see her as a strict and harsh teacher, especially towards our main character Konatsu but eventually we get to learn that music is something she cherishes a lot because of a former friend--and that former friend was actually the parent of someone who is currently in the new music club that Konatsu aims to form. 




Sakai Wakana's mother, who was the friend of the teacher. 


 A flashback scene in the opening theme showing the teacher and Wakana's mother being close together. 

Tari Tari is a wholesome and relaxing slice-of-life show about friendship and overcoming all odds together, and it is one of my favourite animes from P.A Works till this day. 





Oh, and they have cute cut screens too. (The characters start to pile up when they join the club.) 


Now, this part of friendships revolve around a working environment, and I think that's probably the best way to show the bond--through work! 


Hanasaku Iroha


"The Bathhouse anime", that's what I always say whenever I recommend my friends to watch Hanasaku Iroha. You wouldn't expect a normal teenager like our main protagonist (Ohana Matsumae) to be working in a bathhouse, but here she is, after her mother has sent her away to an inn in the countryside, which her seemingly cold grandmother runs. At the same time, she has to attend school as well, so it might seem that Ohana might need to take a while to settle in to this new life. 

It doesn't seem that she might be starting out on the right terms with someone as well...



I'm not going to lie, I actually chuckled when I saw that scene but that's the importance of it: the eventual developing of friendships between these two. And besides the the two of them, Ohana finds her ohana (get it, ohana means family...) within the other members of the bathhouse and from here, she really starts to grow as an independent individual. 


Hanasaku Iroha also has their token ojou-sama, the granddaughter of the rival bathhouse. However, what I like about her character is that despite the fact that she's a rather carefree individual, she values friendships a lot, and this is displayed in her genuine interactions with Ohana and the rest of the gang. 


While friendship is the main theme explored in the anime, there is also a minor hint of romance between Ohana and a childhood friend back in the city and if I'm being honest, I actually really root for the both of them, and I wished they would just confess already. Too pure... Very pure. 


But most of all, what I also loved to see was the relationship between Ohana and her grandmother. There's nothing more fulfilling than having your once-stern grandmother warm up to you, and in return, you find yourself being more at ease around her. That is how Ohana and her grandmother managed to strengthen their bond over the course of the show.


All in all, Hanasaku Iroha was a really great watch, with 26 episodes and a movie to tide us through the entire series. A lot of lessons were learnt as well in terms of growing up as an individual, as well as cherishing the familial and platonic bonds with people in your life.

Shirobako


Ah yes, another popular anime series from P.A Works. The most common way to describe Shirobako is the "anime about making anime" and it is certainly true. As someone who comes from the film industry, I can vouch for the excruciating process that goes behind the scenes of creating something, whether or not is it 2D or 3D. However, work aside, I do enjoy the idea of how a strong friendship can bring everyone together in the same place, even after high school. 

The anime starts out with 5 best friends, completing a production they worked together in high school, and they have a rather adorable catchphrase that they use together:

Don don donuts, let's go nuts~

Afterward, we see our main protagonist: now-adult Miyamori running around the production company as a production assistant. This is the one thing that is already realistic about the show: you start out as production assistant, and although it isn't much yet, you are the backbone of the production and I loved the amount of importance there is with Miyamori's presence. We also see her fellow friend Ema in the same company as a key animator. Misa is working in a CG company at the start, while Midori, also known as Diesel is a hopeful writer. That leaves Shizuka, who is hoping to kickstart her career as a seiyuu. There's a lot for these girls to achieve together, and their payoff is definitely worth it at the end of the anime. 





And of course, they seal their future plans and goals with the same ole catchphrase:

There's a lot of relatable things in this anime going forward in the industry as well, such as the lack of time to complete an agenda, and I appreciated how they addressed it. It's small details like this that really makes the anime about making an anime highly realistic.

Oh, and most of you would know the Ema dance. Yes, this anime is where the Ema dance comes from.


Sakura Quest


Sakura Quest follows a 5-women cast as well, but this time, the job lies in a rural area called Manoyama. Our main protagonist Yoshino Koharu is a fresh college graduate, and just like another other graduate, she is struggling to find a job to make ends meet. Little does she know, she gets a job offer as a 'Queen' in Manoyama and while it certainly is an intriguing job, it is then revealed that she is actually mistaken for a celebrity. Nevertheless, she serves her purpose as a 'Queen' in a different way: to revitalise and promote the barren town. 


Of course, just like any other protagonist who is forced to do something out of their comfort zone, they would get quite defensive and be stubborn about it, but in the later episodes we learn that even with such a misunderstanding, there really is a reason why Koharu should be here as well because it seems that she had a connection with Manoyama years before.

Koharu was actually the 100,000th guest  of Manoyama back when she was child.

Of course, Koharu would need a team and this is where her friends start coming in. It's a 26 episode anime, so there's plenty of room for character development and backstories for each of the characters. Some viewers might argue that the show might get a little too slow-paced, but that's the beauty of it because it shows the slow, but progressing state of the popularity of Manoyama. 


The ending themes for both the first and second part of the anime are really relaxing as well, and occasionally I find myself listening to them.

ED 1:

 

ED 2: 

Horror

Another P.A Work title that is largely popular is Another. It is one of the few animes that P.A Work has with the horror genre in it, and it certainly excels for such a niche genre. 

Another


There's a lot of thrill and mystery surrounding the dark atmosphere of the high school, and that's when we know that there is a terrible history behind it. Rather than actual jumpscares that the horror genre typically associates itself with, it is the ambiguity that leaves viewers like me anticipating for more, and that's how P.A Works excel with Another. This is further highlighted by the character designs and gruesome moments in the show.





And not forgetting the umbrella scene. Everyone knows the umbrella scene. 


While P.A Works are commonly known for their more light-hearted series, Another is a great anime series that shows their potential with the horror genre without sticking to conventional means. 


Sirius the Jaeger 


Sirius the Jaeger is a fairly new series from P.A Works, and it's another series that lies more towards the mystery and gore genre with the use of vampires this time. While I have only given it a 3-episode watch so far for this series, it has been pretty interesting so far and I really love the olden setting as it adds more personality to the theme they are focusing on. There has already been a few bloodshed here and there, but I can tell this series is going to be pretty impressive. 



Honourable Mentions 

Kuromukuro 


Kurumukuro is an anime series from P.A Works that I have just completed recently, even though it was aired sometime back in 2016. The reason is because I'm not that into the mecha genre, but eventually I gave it a try because mecha is probably a new thing that P.A Works have incorporated too, so it's sort of like an exchange--They try out a new genre, I try to give it a chance as well. In the end, I actually love it a lot, and it's probably one of my top few favourites from P.A Works. 

The premise follows a samurai (Oma) from a few centuries ago, who enters the current modern time period. It's actually a rather serious backstory, but I loved how they played it off lightly with comedic moments where Oma is learning to adapt in the modern world. The touch of P.A Works' slice-of-life is obvious there, and that's when I knew I would start warming up to this show.

 Oma using Yukina's favourite towel as a loincloth. 


 Crocs...?


Oma's reaction to eating curry for the first time.


Muetta, another fellow person from the past also gets lost in the age of modern times.

Another running gag in the show is how the main character (Yukina) and Muetta look closely alike, which is why Oma would even mistake Yukina for Muette (who he assumed was his princess he was trying to protect before entering the modern world). 


Moving back to the mecha, I actually found myself impressed by how 'alive' the mechas were, rather than stoic machines. The details were also rather refined, making the battle sequences engaging. 






Kuromukuro is a 26-episode anime series, and the length is just right for all the action and plot to keep going, while also including many other elements like slice-of-life events, comedy as well as drama. 



Uma Musume Pretty Derby



Lastly, I would love to highlight Uma Musume Pretty Derby. It is based on a mobile game about horse girls' racing. Normally, mobile game adaptations of anime are either a hit or a miss, but in this case, they lie more towards the successful side. The whole idea of horse girls already intrigues viewers, drawing them in. With that, they make it even more compelling with the goal that our main protagonist, Special Week, has to achieve. 

You have seen girls in shojou anime running with bread in their mouth, now see horse girls with carrots in their mouth. 

Besides that, Special Week is joined by a team, one of whom consists of Silence Suzuka, a beautiful and shy horse girl, but  an extremely fast runner. 


Their overwhelming love towards each other in their friendship is heartwarming to see, and they both help each other grow as individuals, which makes me want to root for the both of them all the time. 

The supporting characters aren't neglected as well, as they have pretty hilarious banter with each other. 





Goldship's series of unfortunate EYE-vents... 

Another interesting thing about Uma Musume Pretty Derby is how all the horse girls' in the anime are named after actual horses in horse racing competitions in real life, and that has fascinated me a lot. Some of what the real-life horses went through are reflected upon some of the horse girls' in the anime, and this extra detail is very interesting.
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There are of course, other anime by P.A Works, but those that I have mentioned here in categories are some of my favourites, and I hope that you'll like them (of if you have already watched it, I hope you've liked it as much as I did). What is your favourite animation studio? 

Written by kimizomi

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