When anyone mentions the name “Mari Okada”, chances are that the first thing that pops up in our mind is going to be melodrama or Anohana, and, to a lesser extent, shows like Nagi no Asukara. Moreover, any muttering of the name Okada probably brings a lot of excruciating sighing, thirteen year olds screeching and some asshole saying that the 2006 version of Fate/Stay Night isn’t actually shit (I wouldn’t even argue with you if you said the 2015 is shit too)
But one thing we can all (sort of) agree on, is that Mari Okada is everywhere. Now more than ever, and you couldn’t avoid her even if you tried, for better or worse.
Today we look at her portofolio and history, and ask ourselves what the extent of her capabilities are, or if she uses any of her capabilities, in the first place.
Mari Okada’s story starts out in 1998, when she was 22 year old and deadset on writing for game scenarios – but ended up being given a job opportunity to work with Sunrise, instead. Indeed, apart from mecha legends and iconic shows of the early 2000’s, Sunrise has also seen the start of Okada’s career with the show DT Eightron (of which the main character totally does not look like the product of a one night stand between Shinji Ikari and every member of CLAMP) where she was given the chance to pitch her own ideas for the series, and ended up writing six episodes for the show.
From here on forward she writes for a number of relatively lowkey shows, most of them with Sunrise, and establishes an important bond with a number of people that, to this day, are people who she still frequently works with – Junji Nishimura, director of Dog Days amongst others, clearly the most notable.
Junji Nishimura has worked with Okada more often than not, starting their bond with the first show on this article that you might know, Kyou Kara Maoh, which started airing in 2004, at the same time that Okada was working on another popular title in her records – Rozen Maiden, and briefly afterwards, Basilik, Fate/Stay Night and Aria in a two year span, not counting the lesser known shows.
So it goes without saying that she’s a damn good hard-worker.
Moreover, going back to her relationship with Junji Nishimura, she quickly joined the production team of the anime Simoun, and then collaborating with him on True Tears, where they had a brief argument concerning the ending of the series. Nowadays, Nishimura still animates for most of her shows, their latest collaboration being Glasslip, which we all probably hated but were also somewhat okay with it because it looked pretty.
Still, even for a writer with so many shows on her repertoire, her busiest period to date was definitely around the time her breakout hit struck the anime world in 2011 – AnoHana, also her first ever solo creation that would start a chain of opportunities for the writer.
“If I died right now, this period would be the hardest I ever worked,” Okada says in an interview for NoitaminA.“I can’t forget the time I had to ride my bike to a meeting at 4am in the middle of winter – riding to work, I sang to myself ‘I can’t take this! I can’t take it!’ but when I got to the office, my co-workers unshaven but determined faces inspired me to go on.”
2011 and 2012 mean the birth of not only AnoHana, but Fractale, Wandering Son and Black Rock Shooter too. Okada was surprised that the latter would only be eight episodes long, and wondered how she could pull it off, all the while Fractale and Wandering Son were only decided to be NoitaminA in the middle of their respective planning stage.
With that said, Okada finished all of these shows like a seasoned professional, riding bikes at four a.m and all, and right now she’s working just as hard on the WIXOSS franchise, and this seasons Mayoiga as well as last seasons collaboration with TRIGGER, Kiznaiver.
Her last notable collaboration was with the Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo adaptation in 2012, whose original writer was a highschool friend of hers.
So with all the background check said and done, I conclude that Mari Okada is definitely not a dumb woman, and taking in consideration all the work she has done and the little security there is in any kind of planning in this industry, most of her universally considered failures are more like a product of Okada not having the instruments or the chances to create something she truly wants to create. That said, she has definitely gotten a lot more freedom ever since AnoHana, and looking at all her individual, original shows, she definitely has a style going for her, but does she also have something to say?
What really is the extent of her writing capabilities, and is she just as capable in writing, let’s say, a full length novel which I think every good anime writer should be able to do? I wrote this article to find out, asking myself whether she can do more than what she has shown over the years, or whether she simply sticks to what works without much risks.
I’ve concluded that it’s the first. In numerous interviews she has explained that her drama borders on melodramatic because she feels like this generation lacks the voice of expressing their feelings freely – this clearly visible in the ending scene of both Anohana and True Tears, the latter, as I have already mentioned, causing trouble between her and Nishimura because while he wanted a more tranquil ending, Okada insisted on making it grandiose.
We all know Mari Okada for her drama. And if we like it or not is not the thing that matters right now. The point is that she has a goal in her writing and that goal is, more or less, visible. Do we agree with the methods she chooses to get to the point? Maybe or maybe not.
Personally, I appreciate vision in writing. Whether it’s the vision to say something or the vision of doing things a certain way and not accepting anything less than that kind of a lá Miyazaki. Regardless, I’m not a fan of Mari Okada’s work, but I definitely respect her, even if she might be overexposed.
AnoHana, to me, was a show that was just too extra for it to feel real, and love hexagons get really boring after a while. If she wrote a book, I would read it just to see if she would change anything, if I could see what kind of instructions they gave her when it comes to her originals, I’d love to peek in the peephole.
With that said, she’s a player in the game who has worked her way to the top, regardless of our preference, we should respect that – What do you guys think?