It seems SHAFT will be takin’ it easy

The more astute of you may have noticed that in the preview for the upcoming summer 2010 anime season, any sort of production by studio SHAFT is mysteriously absent. I can’t tell you why exactly, as my main source for inside information on the company has gone silent–probably at the hands of SHAFT special agents–but I do have my suspicions.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the quality of some SHAFT works has been lacking lately. I’m not even talking about things like story or direction. I’m simply talking about animation quality, at least for now. I’ll touch on direction at the end.

SHAFT is known for shoestring productions–it’s their modus operandi–but I’m under the impression that the issue now is simply a lack of man power. Take a look at SHAFT works from around 2007, 2008 and maybe 2009. Those first couple of episodes of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei are pretty animated. Like, things actually move around a lot; for a SHAFT show, anyway. Similarly, in Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou sensei, there’s three fully animated episodes that look really great. On the sunnier side of things, Hidamari Sketch x365 had some uncharacteristically active episodes as well. There was also that killer opening for one of those Negima OVAs.

And there was something in that boring ef cartoon.

But yeah, while recent offerings have tried to make ends meet, it’s no secret that Dance in the Vampire Bund needs some cosmetic help, Bakemonogatari still isn’t done a year later, and that SHAFT was commissioned to do an opening for a TV show, and only has this to show for it so far. Given what I know, I can only really attribute this to the aforementioned lack of man power. SHAFT has lost two of their main partner studios, and from what I hear they’ve been losing some personnel. I’m not sure about that last one, but they are always hiring.

So, they’re taking a break. Rather, they’re not making any shows right now so they can work on completely re-animating Vampire Bund (Blu-Ray vol 2 has some sweet CG fish, and apparently subsequent volumes will be completely re-worked, according to Tamaki Nozomu.) and finishing off Bakemonogatari. Hopefully they can pick up some more staff in that time, too.

And honestly? I think SHAFT does need a break. I feel that a lot of their earlier works with Shinbo were all distinct and independent of each other, while still sharing the same directorial quirks. However, I feel that lately they’ve fallen into a pattern. Yes, there are tons of Shinbo hallmarks in these newer works, and I still find them entertaining. However, upon popping in an episode of Cossette, one can see how different a true Shinbo work is from one where a director under him is simply trying his best to imitate.