Ode to Anime Studios – A-1 Pictures/Cloverworks

Well, here goes nothing…

After the 12 Days was over (I finished writing mine on the 23rd), I had no idea what to write on…until I realised I did have a few choices left: NAZ (had only about 6 works, but 2 were upcoming), Gainax (huge reputation and people have done research on its unconventional origins, but it’s scary to tackle as a result), Brain’s Base (not sure if I’ve seen enough from them) and these guys. Of course, these were only the initial ideas I flung around – when the post is due in a few days, you can’t afford to be picky.

Well, at least they have such a huge oeuvre that I can talk about a lot.

A-1 Pictures, a 100% Aniplex company (A-1 Pictures n.d.), was formed by an ex-Sunrise director – specifically Mikihiro Iwata – on the 9th of May 2005 (A-1 Pictures n.d.). They’re based in Suginami like most studios, but the interesting thing is that they’ve listed a 4th studio (based in Koenji, Suginami) on their about page, which refers to the subsidiary Cloverworks (Pineda 2018). Cloverworks can be seen as a different entity from October 1st 2018, although there was a period from April 1st of that year until that date where they were separating from each other but attributed under their different names. This is why I’ve ended up with another situation where I’ll skip a month.

Sidebar: Unlike most anime studios, there isn’t a separate English and Japanese site for A-1 – there are language controls on the page itself, which I thought was a bit of a godsend. On the other hand, that means the rest of the pages are in Japanese with no hints aside from the occasional aesthetic use of English, so…make of that what you will.

With a particularly prolific studio, there’s always going to be something that’s less liked and something that’s more liked. A-1’s particularly polarising, it seems – they have some terrible working conditions and they choose to use quantity over quality, but…also Sword Art Online (then again, Accel World was a Sunrise production and nobody remembers that…).

My favourite is probably Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler), although that’s most likely the fault of encountering the source material and thus gaining an emotional attachment to the series before finishing the anime. Manga > anime in this case, because the anime-original ending doesn’t jive with what comes later anyway. From Cloverworks, there was clearly some effort put into Yakusoku no Neverland but I’ve gotten the furthest with DakaIchi…considering that was a middle-ranking show in its season, trying to list a favourite for it at this stage sounds kind of unfair, to be honest.

So, are there any fans of A-1 Pictures or Cloverworks out there? What’s your favourite work by them?


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