Why Do New Episodes Sometimes Get Delayed?

by Justin Sevakis,

Ashley asked:

This might be too broad of a question to ask, but what's up with production delays in anime? You usually hear about studios working on an anime at least a few months prior to release, but if that's the case, why do you hear about production delays and people working down to the wire so frequently? I'd would've thought there would be some kind of system in place to prevent that kind of stuff (or am I just grossly underestimating the amount of work that goes into making a show?)

I am pretty sure you are grossly underestimating the amount of work that goes into making a show. That said, delays and last-minute delivery are something that's endemic to the anime business, and has been for decades. But now that everything's simulcast to the US, it's far more noticeable what a huge problem it can be.

Work, especially creative work, has a way of expanding to fit the amount of time given. And since anime creators are both notoriously understaffed and underfunded, and tend to be perfectionists, it's pretty common practice for them to REALLY drag their feet on delivering the final product until the last minute. I've heard lots of complaints about animators not managing their time well (coming in around noon, being flaky and distracted until the last minute, then pulling a marathon of all-nighters right before deadline), and I'm quite sure they're all true.

Over the course of a TV series, all these little delays add up, and after a long run of episodes things get so far behind that the final delivery schedule starts to slip. Master files for simulcasts don't get sent in time for translation and timing (or sometimes they get sent an early version that isn't finalized, or doesn't contain full animation). If all hope is gone, and it looks like there's no possible way a master tape will get to the TV studio in time, the show producer will grab an editor and slam together a recap episode.

Recap episodes can cause more problems than they solve, since it basically cuts out an entire episode of story from the planned series run, causing subsequent episodes to need drastic rewrites and possibly re-editing, so it's considered a nuclear option. (If the series is nearing its end, it's not an option at all.) It's a bad thing for everyone: fans hate it, sales go down, and it's an embarrassing mark of failure for a production staff. But sometimes it's simply the only way a series can keep its timeslot when all else has failed.

Long story short, pretty much every anime production is chaotic to an extent, and the really bad ones are essentially a non-stop panic attack for all involved. I highly recommend you watch the now-classic Shirobako series (or track down a copy of the less-known but still classic Animation Runner Kuromi OAVs) to see just how crazy things get in the anime business.

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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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