Makoto Fukuda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
The overhaul of TV networks' programming schedules this month has seen the introduction or return of a number of anime shows. One is Fuji TV's noitaminA showcase, which since its debut in April 2005 has steadily developed a loyal following.
The unusual title represents a desire to overturn the standard approach to TV anime--noitaminA is "Animation" in reverse.
"Before noitaminA, all Fuji TV anime shown in late-night timeslots were just brought in and put on air," said executive producer Koji Yamamoto. The format presents standalone anime within the curated context of the noitaminA brand.
"But our staff actively participate in creating the content, and they have a real desire to work with the artists and create anime together. That's the ultimate goal this time.
"I've always liked anime. When I was a student, the late-night shows on Fuji TV were eccentric and fun. I've admired those kinds of programs for a long time," Yamamoto said.
When he first joined the noitaminA team, the team would select for broadcast were often adaptations of popular manga, such as Hachimitsu to Kuroba (Honey and Clover) and Nodame Kantabire (Nodame Cantabile).
This approach changed drastically after Fuji TV aired Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East) from April to June 2009. Directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the noted director of Kokaku Kidotai: Stand Alone Complex, Higashi no Eden was noitaminA's first stand-alone anime not adapted from an existing work. It spawned two films, and its narrative focus on social issues provoked strong reactions among the viewing public.
In April last year, noitaminA expanded from 30 minutes to an hourlong, two-feature showcase. The program has produced original anime such as Anohi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (We still don't know the name of the flower we saw that day), aired from April to June this year, which took an intimate look at a group of high school students.
"There've been a few times when we've been faced with losing the show. Every time, we submitted piles and piles of documents to win the management over," Yamamoto said.
"We've been able to be successful by persisting, and by building up relationships of trust with production companies, sponsors and others who are directly involved in creating anime.
"As a result, we're able to launch high-risk original pieces that aren't necessarily guaranteed to be big hits."
The concept has been spreading--this year, a number of original anime programs have had successful launches on other TV stations, such as Maho Shojo MadokaMagica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and Tiger & Bunny.
"The TV anime industry has started to change," Yamamoto said, adding that he sees the trend as kind of an endorsement of his own work.
On Thursday, noitaminA presented the first episodes of two new series, Un-go and Guilty Crown.
Un-go is based on a novel by Ango Sakaguchi (1906-1955), Meiji Kaika Ango Torimonocho (Ango's detective stories from the early Meiji period). The bold adaptation comes from director Seiji Mizushima and writer Sho Aikawa, who previously teamed up to create Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Fullmetal Alchemist).
Guilty Crown is an original story created especially for noitaminA. Set in the near future, it features a high school student with a mysterious talent who gets caught up with a group of resistance fighters. It is directed by Tetsuro Araki, who was also behind the anime version of Death Note.
"It's hard to get content that is relevant to social issues like politics and the economy unless we create it from scratch," Yamamoto said. "Now, artists who have something to say want to work with us."
With Fuji TV airing the program via 14 regional affiliate broadcasters, the noitaminA brand is continuing its steady rise.
"We just want to produce world-class anime," Yamamoto said.
I'm interested in Un-Go. Any other suggestion? :P