You guys are familiar with Supernatural, right? The long running CW series about two brothers roaming America, hunting monsters, getting messed up with angels and demons, and frequently dying for each other? Yeah, that show.
Did you know there was an anime of it? If you didn’t, my apologies for making you aware of it. No, really. I am so, so sorry.
So, the question then becomes, why is there an anime of Supernatural? I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess this has something to do with it.
Yeah. Coincidence, maybe.
Anyway, somewhere along the absurdly long run of Supernatural, somebody in Japan thought it’d make a great anime. Which I don’t disagree with in principle. In execution, however, this did not turn out well.
A 22 episode series released in 2011 from Madhouse, this show basically fails to be even a good knockoff of Supernatural, somehow. Even more surprising is that Madhouse managed to bungle this one. I mean, it’s Supernatural. The scripts are already basically written. How do you screw it up?
Oh, right. By condensing the first two seasons of the tv series into 22 half hour episodes. Cause the script was already written.
Geeze, guys. Try not to be so literal.
Basically, all this show is, is the first two seasons recapped, with some original content expanding on some secondary characters, as well as the Winchester brothers childhood, which the show has already pretty well mined. So, even the original content wasn’t entirely original.
On the slightly more interesting side, the actors who dub the show for Japan voiced the brothers in the anime, which at least made the characters sound familiar to Japanese viewers. On the English side, Jared Padalecki voiced Sam, while Jenson Ackles wasn’t available until the last two episodes. Andrew Farrar does the other twenty, and does do a passable impersonation of Dean.
The fans were totally okay with this, too. Yup. The Supernatural fandom is nothing if not generous, forgiving, and accepting of change. Totally.
By which I mean they shit their collective pants.
It was a mighty sight to behold. Shitty pants as far as the eye could see. Shitty pants farmers knew what a bountiful harvest they had that year, yes sir.
To be fair, I’m a casual fan of Supernatural. I’ve seen most of the series, and enjoy it. I don’t go out of my way to watch it, usually catching up after the most current season is over. They’ve done a lot of good entertainment on that show, and usually have several episodes a season I’d call damn good.
I have not, however, memorized the way Jenson Ackles inflects certain words. I couldn’t really tell much of a difference between Andrew Farrar and Jenson Ackles. Others could. That’s a bit scary to me.
That aside, how well does the show recap the first two seasons?
Eh. Kinda the way you’d expect. With all the grace of a runaway bulldozer hitting a field of puppies.
For the most part, the anime misses the overall narrative of the first two seasons, focusing instead on making Yellow Eyes way more scary looking than he was in the show. That particular character was frightening because of what he could and would do, not how he looked. Moving to just creepy visuals didn’t make him more intimidating, it just made him more anime, which in this case, wasn’t actually a good thing.
And I think everything can be better by being made more anime, so there ya go.
While the Winchesters boys are still basically themselves, much of the nuance of the actors performances wasn’t translated well, especially with Jared Padalacakalaka’s facial expressions.
May have spelled his name wrong. Oh well.
The animation isn’t really the problem, either. It’s Madhouse, so the animation is generally really good. It just often feels unpolished. Like they didn’t manage to get it done. I don’t know if there was a time crunch or not, or if this was just something that was thrown together to serve as a cash in on the popularity of the show, but the whole thing has a bit of a rough feel to it.
Which is kind of surprising, since Masao Maruyama, a co-founder of Madhouse, served as executive producer. Of course, he left Madhouse right after this to found MAPPA, so maybe his heart just wasn’t in it. Who can say, beyond Maruyama himself.
The script work was done by Naoya Takayama, who has only worked on three anime series, with this being one of them. Idol Jihen and Chihayafuru were the other two, though he does have several film credits as a screenwriter. It’s hard to say how much of the direction of the show fell to him, so either he just did as he was asked and cashed a paycheck, or he took the easy route and adapted existing material. I don’t know which, but I will say that he more or less gets the dialogue right, especially between Sam and Dean. So, that’s something, I guess.
Where things get really surprising is with the director. Atsuko Ishizuka was the secondary director for Supernatural, and with her list of credits, you’d think the show would be amazing. I mean, her list of directorial credits include No Game, No Life, Prince of Stride: Alternative, and Tsuki no Waltz. That doesn’t touch on her laundry list of episode director or storyboard credits, either, which range for Kurozuko to Btoom, to Aoi Bungaku and Nana. Lady knows her business, is what I’m saying.
Of course, she only got to direct two actual episodes. Shigeyuki Miya handled the rest. Which is even more surprising, since this is the guy who did Blood Lad, and Onihei, as well as serving as an episode director and storyboardist for shows like… huh… High School of the Dead… and Blade the Anime…
Well… a lot of things are starting to become clear.
Granted, this is also the guy who handled key animation for the OP to Haibane Renmei, so maybe he’s just one of those folks who works best with good direction. Who can say?
Still, High School of the Dead and Blade? Really, man? Did you read the scripts?
Madhouse should have just let Atsuko Ishizuka be in charge of this one. Probably be a really different discussion right now.
Probably my biggest problem with Supernatural as an anime, however, is that Madhouse kinda makes it look like a knockoff of Death Note. That’s a personal quibble, to be sure, but really, Death Note and Supernatural shouldn’t look similar. That’s just not right. Death Note is a dark musing on the easily corruptible nature of humanities best intentions. Supernatural is… Supernatural.
It is what it is. It isn’t Death Note.
Finally, to give an impression of how well this production went over, you can watch all 22 episodes on Youtube for free. Madhouse hasn’t issued a warning or anything, apparently, so it seems they were content to write this one off as a loss and go on fighting Godzilla for the right to wed Tokyo.
Old jokes come back around you guys. Go refresh your memory on where that one came from.
As an anime, Superntaul is a fine example of why sometimes, you can’t just coast on the popularity of the parent product. An original story arc for the anime would have made this a much different series, as would have being faithful to the source material, and respectful of the fans.
For me, Supernatural the anime was 11 hours of my life I’ll never get back.
Coulda been eating tacos that whole time, ya know. The loss is real.