Why Do Anime Change Studios Between Seasons?

by Justin Sevakis,

Jun asks:

I noticed that sometimes a show with multiple seasons have different studios working on them. For instance, the first season of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is produced by studio Brains Base while the second season was handled by studio feel. Why does this happen sometimes?

This happens quite a bit: a show takes a break, and when it comes back, it's being animated by an entirely different studio (and might look a little different too). Fans have all sorts of theories when this happens, and these theories usually involve some dramatic behind-the-scenes fighting or intrigue between anime studios.

In the vast majority of cases, the anime studio being used doesn't own any rights to the show, or have any claim of exclusivity -- they're working as a contractor. They don't have much ability to call the shots when it comes to major decisions. They can only take the work that's offered to them, and bid on new jobs competitively.

Usually, the actual reasons are far more mundane than any of the usual fan theories. Typically it boils down to scheduling: there are a LOT of shows being made every season. Each anime studio can only take so much of a workload at any given time. So, if a production committee is a little bit late in pulling the trigger on a second series, they can discover that the studio of their choice is already booked for the season they've decided on. In other cases, they're looking to save money and went with a cheaper studio.

There can be other reasons too. Sometimes a show is very director-driven, and that director prefers to move to a different studio, or has started a studio of their own. In a case like that, the production committee will move the show to accommodate the director's new digs. Or, perhaps the production of the previous season was a dysfunctional mess behind the scenes, and the production committee wants to take their business elsewhere.

There might be some behind-the-scenes competitive sniping between anime studios, but all that stuff is kept behind closed doors, hinted at in gossip and hearsay. But it's important to remember that unless the show is being created or planned by the anime production studio itself, then the studio is just a vendor. And how vendors work in anime is not much different from vendors in any other line of work, whether it's producing anime or cutting the lawn.

The negotiations between anime studios and production committees happen so far away from the public that we will never really know why a show lands at a given studio. Those discussions are usually kept very confidential, especially when there's a chance someone could be embarrassed by it. Japanese companies tend to be very disciplined about that sort of thing.

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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