Production I.G.: From the highs of Chevalier to the lows of xxxHOLiC

I’ve looked at past and present subsidiaries Bee Train and Xebec, but what has Production I.G. themselves brought to the anime scene? The number of series they have brought us may be relatively limited, but from the technological future of Ghost in the Shell to the historical fantasy of Otogi Zoshi and Chevalier, both content and quality vary across the board.

HITS

Le Chevalier d’Eon
Given how much it’s been covered on this blog, it should come as no surprise that I love Chevalier. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone, it needs more arcs and I’m still trying to make sense of the ending, but despite these issues, Chevalier manages to offer a well presented storyline in an appealing historical setting. Whether you enjoy it for what it is, or simply appreciate the fact that it offers a fascinating glimpse into a world of history and magic, Chevalier is one series that everyone should give a chance.

Memorable moments: d’Eon’s first transformation into Lia, Robespierre’s confrontation with Dashwood, Durand in episode nineteen.

Windy Tales

I have recently discovered the greatness of Windy Tales, and although I’ll write a proper review once I’ve seen the ending, for now this paragraph will have to suffice. One of the overlooked greats of the slice-of-life world, Windy Tales tells the tale of those who can control the wind, and how this potent yet unseen force of nature shapes our lives in all sorts of ways. It’s arguably superior to even Someday’s Dreamers, and the presence of hundreds of flying cats is just the icing on the cake.

Memorable moments: The ball of flying cats.

xxxHOLiC movie
Back in the days when our hopes for the xxxHOLiC anime were high, this movie only seemed to prove that we had much to look forward to. Disregarding the manga in order to present an original story, this hour long tale seemed to capture the style of the series, with its elegant style, dark morality plays and invincible Yuuko. Who knew that it would all go so wrong for the anime?

Memorable moments: The house of collectors.

Seirei no Moribito

It is arguably too early to definitively label this as a hit, but despite a lack of clarity as to the overall storyline (at least for anyone who hasn’t read up on the original novels), Seirei no Moribito is holding its own so far. Thanks to its beautifully crafted backdrops, it is almost impossible not to be drawn into the series, and fortunately it is able to back up its sumptuous visuals with a solid, likeable cast and superior action scenes.

Memorable moments: the action scene in episode three.

NEUTRALS

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Although I expect to get disagreements and flames for this, SAC just isn’t a hit for me. I will admit that there are stretches when I enjoyed it (particularly the more character driven segments in Second Gig), and I’m a big fan of both the music and the idea of having my own tachikoma, but the reason I decided not to class it as a hit is because the series is just too pretentious for its own good. All too often, it will drop into ponderous exposition designed to make it seem clever rather than pointlessly long-winded; call me intellectually challenged if you will, but I prefer something clearer and more concise to endless philosophising over the concepts of self and individuality.

Ghost in the Shell movies
What I’ve said about SAC can in some way go for these movies too, although they also have their own issues to discuss. Although it is at times unclear just what exactly is going on, their relatively brief length and solid presentation make them more watchable than anticipated, and although it should perhaps be only a secondary concern, I’m so utterly impressed by the animation in Innocence that I don’t care that not all of it made sense on first viewing.

Otogi Zoshi
In many ways, Otogi Zoshi is like two series that just happen to have been aired as one, for although its two arcs are connected, it would have been arguably better to focus on one or the other than try to put in both. Despite its often generic “search for the magic elemental crystals magatama” theme of the first arc, the setting and characters gradually grew on me, but I would have preferred more in the Heian period than half a series in modern day Tokyo.

Blood: The Last Vampire
It is true that Blood leaves a lot to be desired in terms of back story and development, but within the constraints afforded by a single movie, it isn’t too bad. Interesting but not particularly outstanding or memorable, Blood will serve your entertainment needs once or twice, but then it can be thrust to the back of the shelf.

MISSES

xxxHOLiC

Despite being one of my most anticipated series of Spring 2006, xxxHOLiC ultimately turned out to be one of the season’s biggest disappointments. Where the manga’s artwork was distinctive and high contrast, the anime was like washed out paper cut-outs with tiny heads and overlong limbs, and even the stories that had seemed so appealing on the page failed to stand out onscreen. The pacing was changed, becoming languid and repetitive to the point of boredom, whilst the lowest point came from a novel adaptation that proved to be just Yuuko and Watanuki talking for twenty-five minutes. The fact that two near-identical snowball fight episodes are among the series’ better offerings must surely give everyone an indication of just how utterly monotonous xxxHOLiC TV was.

Tsubasa Chronicle movie
It may have only been a half hour movie, but aside from brighter character designs and a setting more attractive than the TV series norm, the studio’s attempt to animate Tsubasa was only slightly better than Bee Train’s filler arcs. An entirely generic story that became largely nonsensical when compressed into such a short time span, it’s hard to see that this movie can have appeal to anyone other than raging Tsubasa fanboys (are there any left) and completists.

Blood+
Admittedly I only watched seven episodes, and apparently it improved later on, but whilst it initially made a promising start, Blood+ soon declined, resulting in an utterly boring episode of angst that ensured that I never wanted to expose myself to another instalment of it again.

Final Thoughts
No studio (not even the revered Bones and Madhouse) is perfect, but Production I.G. makes a good showing, with some excellent series, and a good body of solid ones with which to obscure the failures. And after its recent success with Chevalier and SnM, I will be keeping a close eye on its future endeavours.

4 thoughts on “Production I.G.: From the highs of Chevalier to the lows of xxxHOLiC

  1. I’m of the opinion that GitS is bloody awesome. But Production IG can’t hold a candle to the likes of Bones. And in terms of sheer numbers, GONZO.

  2. “the anime was like washed out paper cut-outs with tiny heads and overlong limbs”

    Actually, in the movie the bodies were even more out of proportion. Having not read the manga, I actually liked xxxHolic, and I really consider among Production I.G.’s best work.

    The thing with Blood+ also is, that it’s got a great middle-part, but the ending was just horrible.

  3. Blood+ does improve as it goes along, however it also goes on to completely fall falt on it’s face and the final season was just an abomination and ruined all goodwill I had toward the series at that point. It’s the worst thing that Production IG has ever produced…

  4. I found both seasons of GitS:SAC to be among my favorites, plus the production qualities are excellent and found it engrossing all the way through. On the other hand, I have a difficult time staying awake through Innocence anytime I attempt to watch it. I agree with you on Le Chevalier and Otogi Zoshi.

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