Hello everyone and welcome to another exciting edition of Definitive Anime Review. I hope you didn’t miss me too much. I was busy working with the British Library, exposing an international book laundering crime syndicate that employed resurrected historical figures with superhuman powers. I’m a bit miffed by that because I didn’t get paid for my journalism work. Seriously, these librarians are jokers.

Just need to warn you, you need to keep reading this article or you’ll be sleeping with the fishes. I don’t make the rules, she does.

Anyway, Full Frontal’s many operatives have been busy themselves too interviewing famous anime staff and enlightening the public about the anime industry! I finally got called up the other day by Fufuro-chan with an assignment that apparently “only that martian cat guy can do.” Upon asking her for more details, a great deal of dread descended on me.

I was being asked to be a football journalist.

I thought I was an anime journalist, this had to be some mistake. Though Fufuro-chan was insistent, I was the only one qualified to do this and none of my mostly French compatriots could handle it. You see, it’s because Ligue 1 is known as a “farmer’s league” and is nothing compared to the prestige of the Premier League. Go figure.

It has been rumoured that Kylian Mbappe was looking to leave Paris Saint Germain to transfer to J.C.Staff. Though this might be delayed to the 2024-25 season.

I’m an anime fan, what’s football?

Now some second-rate anime journalist would consult the fraudulent knowledge of an AI chatbot to find out about these things but I, buildknuckle, have existing knowledge! I know football all too well as I live in a country that claims to be where football must come home, yet repeatedly fails to do so.

Level 5 really is a despicable organisation.

Football, also known as soccer in some countries is a game where you must get a round spherical object, usually made out of leather known as a “ball” into the opposing team’s “goal” primarily using one’s feet. Its simplicity and beauty has led it to become the biggest sport in the world. There are other sports that claim to call themselves “football” but they are not the biggest sport in the world, even if the Americans pride themselves on parading around their really nice bowl every year.

He might be good at football but he’d make a messi if he was an animator.

Anime, while growing in popularity in the last five to ten years, still has a long way to go before it reaches the insane power that football has over countries around the world. In Brazil, football is quite literally a religion and in many other countries that is absolutely the case as well.

Right, let’s pass over to Gary Lineker in the studio.

The anime industry has had a rich and storied history with sport over the years. In the earliest reaches of the 1960s was the Artist League, a baseball tournament encompassing all the biggest and brightest souls including that bloke who created a manga about sad boxing, the bloke who wrote about baseball a lot and while not confirmed, even even that one bloke who people think is the God of Anime. Despite this Artist League going on for at least 20 years, not one fast food mascot was chucked in the river. Good thing too, the last thing the anime and manga industries needed was a curse.

Tetsuya Chiba celebrating winning the 23rd Artists League. Who knew he was a good baseball player!

What about football though? You know the thing that we’re all here for? Well the anime industry has had their mitts all over that too. Even before the foundation of the J League 30 years ago, there have been anime about football, which could be as simple as playing football with your mates, or at a club at school all the way up to summoning ancient deities. I have yet to attend an anime football match but if I did, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it out of the stadium alive. Thankfully actual J League matches aren’t quite as mad, which has led to anime staff, voice talents and even non-physical video streaming service collaborators to attend matches.

Even everyone’s favourite anime dad, Junichi Sato, is a big football fan! Here he is at Sanfrecce Hiroshima collabing with Tamayura

The question you’re all asking though is probably about those evil people at The Sakuga Cartel. Are they football fans? Well unsurprisingly, yes they are. In case you’re wondering, they’re Barcelona fans, though that’s not particularly surprising considering their heavily fortified (and well animated) headquarters is in Catalonia.

Is it Half-Time already?

Yeah, time for a bit of a break from all the action of the first half. Unfortunately, Fufuro-chan didn’t manage to invite legends like Alan Shearer or Ian Wright to help me out in this paragraph so I’m a bit short staffed. Honestly, she’s able to secure interviews with anime industry legends but as soon as it comes to me having to write about football she’s saying it’s “too difficult”.

 Well, now we have to get to the actual real reason why I’m writing this article, so let’s return to the action in the second half of this article.

Enough talking about football, it’s time to talk about anime.

It’s alright, we’re winning tsu-nil.

So let’s get down to business everyone, it’s time to talk about anime for real. One anime that is currently dominating discussion this year is Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2, the second in a series that always has to play second fiddle to a certain Isao Takahata classic. It is on everyone’s lips, whether you’re a fan, one of the staff, or one of the fans who ended up becoming staff because they drunkenly accepted a 2nd KA request from a desperate PA.

A panda on his way to his job compositing at Studio MAPPA. He gets fed bamboo flavoured energy drinks in order to meet his deadlines.

Though Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is not actually the real name of this show. After discussions with my many contacts, I was able to deduce that the true name of the show is just JTK. Nobody actually knows what the letters stand for, no matter how many people I asked. So I had to go digging myself.

Now as you all know, the anime studio producing this series is MAPPA, which so far is the only studio that has decided to recruit me while I was out doing my weekly shopping at Lidl. I just went there to get my Lebkuchen for the festive season but I came out with more than I bargained for.

Long time fans of my work will know that Lidl and Aldi are my favourite anime studios and their lebkuchen are amazing!

Somehow I was able to get exclusive access to some of JTK’s production materials at MAPPA and lo and behold, I was able to decipher that the meaning of JTK is Jujutsu The Khedgehog. I was able to get hold of the settei and there it was in plain sight. Though I dunno about you lot, the character seemed a bit…derivative? Might just be me.

Another settei file in that folder had a character called Sun Gouku. 

Also before we keep going with JTK, let’s talk about the true villain of this piece. MAPPA CEO Manabu Otsuka, who wouldn’t be out of place being CEO of Juventus with the amount of dodgy dealings and the ability to say the worst things at the worst possible time. Let’s quickly run through things that he thinks are absolutely acceptable opinions to have.

buildknuckle presents: Why CEO of MAPPA, Manabu Otsuka, is a bit of a dickhead.

Point 1: He thinks AI is the future~.

“MAPPA AI is something that I am very passionate about. But I wish people loved me too.”

Manabu Otsuka on several occasions thinks that AI is the future of anime and that our lives will be improved if the subservient robots took over animation duties and he didn’t need to pay them. Otsuka and his goons are currently researching how AI can be utilised in future productions and while he doesn’t think it’s at the level where it can be leveraged, he certainly hopes so.

Now he’s not alone in thinking this in the anime industry, heck I’ve had to deal with a much smaller entity in the past who has been public with his views of AI and anime but it doesn’t give much comfort that this scoundrel has put his weight behind technology that many are fearful will eject them from an industry that was supposed to reward creativity. In Otsuka’s eyes however, the creativity of the anime industry lies in what ghoulish comment he can have published that horrifies more people.

Point 2: He wants to be a speedrunner.

“I feel that I embody the spirit of a legendary artist. I think his name was Matt Turk.”

Manabu Otsuka has very lofty goals for the anime studio he runs and unsurprisingly, he’s not very patient when it comes to achieving those goals. He probably got jealous that San Marino held the UEFA record for the fastest goal scored in a World Cup qualifier for 22 years, scoring a goal against England in 8.3 seconds in 1993 (that goal costing England qualification). Well, he certainly won’t be transforming MAPPA into a studio rivalling Kyoto Animation and Ufotable that quickly but that doesn’t mean he won’t try.

Instead of actually copying the practices that made a studio like KyoAni operate in such a way that staff can finish production of an anime half a year before airing seemingly without a second thought, Otsuka believes that the way forward is produce as many anime as possible to get the “experience” of being a studio like KyoAni. Otsuka believes that the anime industry can be overcome by grinding their starter on helpless Bidoof on Route 201 to Level 100. Except instead of a Piplup, it’s the staff working on all the things he wants to gain “experience” on.. Unlike Piplup, the people working on his productions do actually feel the effects of being overworked meeting unreasonable deadlines.

Point 3: I dunno, just read literally anything the guy says in an interview.

“I’m actually very honest about my opinions but some people have resorted to name calling about me. I wish they would accept me for who I am.” 

If you find a single interview with him in it, he is guaranteed to say something that will make you wonder why anyone would bother working for him. 

With that, this concludes the segment in which I talk about Manabu Otsuka in great detail. Doesn’t mean I won’t mention him later. I just wanted to give him a special segment all to himself.

Anyway, the anime JTK is at the time of writing, still airing, with no khedgehogs in sight from what I can tell. However, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got problems. Surface level at least, you’ll probably not even notice that the show is being held up on shaky foundations but like with many anime these days, you just have to look a bit behind the curtain to see that things are very, very wrong with what’s going on.    

Who’s your starting XI?

But before we talk about JTK’s production, I want you to use a bit of that imagination of yours. Yeah you, the one reading the article. I want you to imagine the most silly way to announce what staff you want to be on an anime. Or if you’re one of those people that have decided to live in Manabu Otsuka’s shed, the most silly way to leak the staff of an episode of anime.

 Keep thinking. Though if you take too long, I might have to contact the Video Assistant Referee.

Let’s face it, VAR is going to disallow your guess because it was offside.

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if your favourite anime staff were on a football team? Perhaps you’re a really big fan of Argentinian football as well as anime? Well wonder no more because according to one leaker, it seems that they’re now playing for Boca Juniors? I imagine that their manager got a bit desperate after their loss in the final of this year’s Copa Libertadores against Fluminense but this might be going a bit too far.

I was surprised to find out that this fantasy football team didn’t include Kaoru Mitoma or Takehiro Tomiyasu to be honest.

Have anime fans gone so far that they’re prepared to equate anime staff to the equivalent of playing Ultimate Team? Or if you’re an old, decaying soul, Top Trumps? It was the inevitable conclusion of a byproduct of The Sakuga Cartel’s malice. While they may bombard us with letters in their scribes, they also bombard people with numbers. You know it’s evil because the French have been doing this for about 50 years now.

“Forget a starting eleven, there’s ninety key animators on this episode.”

This new generation of sakuga fan obsesses over names and numbers to help them come to terms that their favourite anime where some guy beats another guy up, is better than their friend’s favourite anime where some guy beats another guy up. What happened to just being around Millwall fans? Or if you’re American, a customer in a Waffle House? 

All they do is look up the stats of an animator and decide whether they are capable of joining their fantasy football team for this anime season. But where is the passion, where is the heart in their criticisms? Like how do these people judge an animator’s draughtsmanship? Or whether they follow the vision of the director? Or if they use seven different types of shading in their layouts, annoying the dougamen to impress their Twitter followers? How do these new sakuga fans know if this animator is the sort of person that draws everything on the ones because they’re secretly a Disney animator from 1936? Well that might improve their rating a bit. I think what could be tricky for these baby sakugabutas is deciding whether these animators play Left Back or Centre Back. Hard to work that out when all you know of these people is how good they make things move. 

The heavens have opened.

This title does seem a bit over dramatic but it’s just what we say when there’s a bit of a leak coming from the clouds (happens a lot here you know). You know what else has had a bit of a leak, Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2. JTK’s leaks happened in a way that would be all too predictable if you have been in the know about how the anime industry has now been operating in the last few years or so. We need to talk about gaigen.

I’m a big fan of Wavetable by Patricia Taxxon.

Gaigen is a term that was coined in mid-2021 to refer to the influx of foreign animators that were joining anime productions, the exact meaning of the phrase is Gaijin (foreigner) Generation (generation). I’ll have to make sure that the Oxford English Dictionary adds it at some point. Of course by 2021, foreign staff had already been involved with anime. What with the many international co-productions of the 1970s and 80s as well as folks like Peter Chung, Thomas Romain, Bahi JD and Arsene Wenger who after his stint at Nagoya Grampus Eight would go on to manage at Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger was a Series Director at Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1995 and 1996 before moving to Arsenal later that year.

The Gaigen has been ongoing for several years now with many of the participants of the generation working on high profile productions that are desperately in need of people power. One of the anime industry’s issues right now is that they simply don’t have enough people to push the growing amount of titles demanded by the CEOs that want loadsamoney. You’ve probably seen it loudly proclaimed by big companies like Kadokawa wanting 4,000 anime a year, a completely manageable number of shows. With that many shows needing to be made, production assistants at many anime studios are having to get desperate, appearing in a puff of smoke in front of people on their way to work or school, asking whether they’d like to do 15 cuts of 2nd KA for a show for forty magic beans. 

Also I did say school in that last paragraph, you weren’t imagining things. Some of these animators are actually children under the age of 18, and they’re working on anime. I’ve said in the past that some of the animators you see in the credits could be your next door neighbour, well it could also be your next door neighbour’s toddler too. Let’s also say that these toddlers aren’t very good at keeping secrets either.

This member of the Gaigen has just finished watching Birdy The Mighty: Decode. They also can’t cook pizza because they’re a baby.

JTK has been the unfortunate victim of some very silly shenanigans regarding leaks and it was inevitable that some of the younger gaigen would be at the centre of this. One notable incident revolved around having scenes of the show with timecodes shared in DMs with some untrustworthy people, leading to a whole lot of mess afterwards. Much strong language was said due to the incident and a few young animators hopefully learnt to get some better friends to talk to. Though it does raise another question, doesn’t the industry actually use non-disclosure agreements (NDA) with staff? Well, sort of.

Some studios will have stricter NDAs that staff need to sign and information regarding shows will be controlled. Other studios will have the NDA equivalent of a contract written on wet toilet paper, it’d be likely that whoever it was given to flushed it down the bog and then shared their layouts with JujutsuLeaker84 on TikTok.

If anyone can get a copy of this upcoming anime undimmed, I’ll pay you a fiver.

This is not a problem that will get fixed, nor will it likely get any better. With a greater influx of people making poor decisions in their social lives becoming animators, it’s likely that we’ll have a soon to air episode of JTK posted in full on 99anime.silly by the end of Monday morning.   

Fergie Time.

Have you ever wished that you had more time to do something? Maybe your boss has put a deadline on you that you have to pull an all nighter for to complete on time. Or if you’re 2-1 down three minutes into injury time and you desperately want to get that win. Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest football managers of all time, is actually some sort of Time Lord or wizard and was able to clinch out a victory from the jaws of defeat. During his many years at the helm of the red side of Manchester, this phenomenon would happen many many times at Old Trafford. This power would become a legend, the legend known as Fergie Time.

Manabu Otsuka wishes he was him so badly.

I bet the folks working on JTK wish they had Fergie Time too. Unfortunately Otsuka Time doesn’t exist, the folks working on JTK haven’t even been getting any injury time.

Having peak journalism under my belt has meant that I have been able to find out what has been going on with JTK behind the scenes and I can announce that it is just as bad as you have been expecting it to be. You have episodes that have aired, that while on the surface looks like an incredible work of art but in the background it’s as if a funeral is taking place, a funeral for the episode it could have been.

For many years, people were blaming the budgies for their favourite anime looking like a dog’s dinner. Completely unaware that the main motivating factor behind this was the looming Spectre of Time over many weary staff munching on karaage and sipping on Monster Energy drink. If you give more time, you can work a greater miracle and it’s this issue that lies at the heart of the crisis behind the production of JTK.

“Wait, you want me to do emergency sakkan?”

Manabu Otsuka doesn’t want to delay episodes. A delay to this production is a fate worse than the negative publicity caused by the aggrieved members of the production talking about how they’ll never work on a Moppers production again. Otsuka’s pride as the CEO of the company is on the line here, and he’ll do whatever it takes in order for the show to go on.

Though it’s probably because he doesn’t have Time Lord powers like Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie Time is just too OP imo.

They Think It’s All Over.

You’d be expecting me to say “it is now” to echo the words of the great Kenneth Wolstenholme commentating as Geoff Hurst scored the 4th and final goal against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final. Once JTK finishes, are the issues that plagued its production going to be an isolated case?

It’s not over, it wasn’t over before JTK aired. It’s not going to be over after JTK finishes. It’s not even just a problem at MAPPA either, the issues affecting it are all across the industry. The issue of time and certain nasty people not allowing for more of it has been a problem for decades. There are countless examples of this happening. The hope however lies in the fallout from the staff who just seem to have had enough. The ones that are publicly saying that they just wanted to work with a cool guy, not MAPPA.

Could it be that the lax nature of NDAs be the breaking point that just causes a bunch of animators to just walk away? In an ideal world, it would. So far it hasn’t seemed to materialise, plus I don’t think the very young and kinda immature folks that are part of the gaigen are willing to drop everything for a bit of solidarity instead of saying they worked on a single frame of Episode 44. 

Now if they worked on a frame of anime that looked like this, I’d be impressed.

So what about in 2024? Surely other studios have seen the mess that has been publicly aired and are thinking twice about making the same mistakes? Surely Otsuka will realise the error of his ways? Well, this whole mess has apparently led to him going into panic stations. He’s feeling the heat of a relegation battle and is conceding goals against his staff supposedly offering more pay and time off once JTK ends. Could this mean that even Otsuka could be defeated from his ivory tower?

Well that’s a no as well. I can guarantee that at least one production next year will have the same issues that JTK has had. Leopards don’t change their spots and Otsuka has said enough about his thoughts and ambitions to know that this is just a smokescreen to get the heat off him. As long as he gets his sacks of cash, giving a few more yen would be nothing more than a publicity stunt, especially if future productions go through the same fate as JTK. Maybe these production disasters won’t be shared nearly as widely, maybe it won’t have some 15 year old leak entire episodes they happened to be working on, but it will happen. You don’t have to be a master journalist like myself to work that one out either!

“I’ll crater a thousand productions before I let this company die, and I’ll silence anyone who gets in my way!” – Manabu Otsuka (Final Form)

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