The other day I posted a review of the film A Whisker Away, a charming film being distributed through Netflix due to the challenges posed by the coronavirus for movie theatres. Doing my research into the film, I noticed that the screenplay was written by Mari Okada, the anime screenplay writer who had also created two of my favorite anime series, AnoHana and Araburu Kisetsu. Delving into her Wikipedia page, I learned that she either created or was involved with many of the best anime to come out in the past 15 years.
Mari Okada was born in Chichibu, Saitama — the city that AnoHana is set in — where she battled bullying and anxiety during school, as well as issues related to growing up without having father around, due to her parent’s divorce. At times refused to go to school, becoming a hikikomori…a theme we’ll see in the stories she tells. After high school, she enrolled in a computer game-related trade school where she learned that there were other otakus like her that she could connect with and befriend. She became interested in writing scenarios for computer games and anime drama CDs.
She started off doing various writing jobs, including writing scenarios for pornography — something I’d like to know more about for, ah, research purposes. She got her break when animator and director Tetsuro Amino asked if she wanted to contribute any ideas to a project he was working on, and realized she had a great talent for creating stories and characters, as well as organizing anime that were based on previous manga or novel works.
Here are some of the amazing anime shows that Mari Okada has helped bring us!
The Top 12 Anime by Mari Okada
AnoHana: The Flower We Saw On That Day
One of the best-written anime in the past decade, if not the current century, it’s the story of a group of friends who are still getting over the death of a member of their group, Menma, five years ago. One day Menma comes back as a ghost, though only main character Jintan can see her. This story was created by Mari Okada as part of a storywriting competition. It’s certainly an anime I hope everyone has watched!
O Maidens in Your Savage Season
Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo was a fun 2019 anime about five girls who become obsessed with sex after reading steamy romantic literature. Each girl goes about finding her sexual identity in a different way — one even realizes she prefers other girls to boys — and the story is adorable. Ms. Okada created this work on her own completely.
Based on a manga by Peach-Pit, Rozen Maiden was a wildly influential anime that spawned many memes on 4chan. Ms. Okada wrote several of the episode screenplays.
Lupin the 3rd: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
One of the most experimental and awesome of the various Lupin the 3rd series, this one focused around Fujiko and what forces shaped her over the course of her life to make her into the woman she is today, even going back to her childhood years. The series is done in a style closer to the original of Monkey Punch, and doesn’t shy away from nudity and sex, just like the original. Mari Okada handled series composition and wrote several of the episodes.
One of my all-time favorite anime series ever, it’s the story of a group of high school friends and their inter-connecting loves, which all surround tsundere Taiga. Ms. Okada was in charge of series composition and wrote about half the episodes (which were based on the original light novels), including the finale.
The Pet Girl of Sakura-Sou
The hits just keep on coming. This is another stellar story of love and chasing after your dreams, which fans love a lot. It was translated into anime form by Ms. Okada, who also wrote about half the episodes.
Another popular anime Mari Okada was in charge of, handling series composition and writing half the episodes.
When I first watched the OVA anime series, based on a character designed by illustrator Huke which inspired a song by Supercell sung by Hatsune Miku, I had trouble wrapping my brain around it. Girls with alternate versions of themselves fighting battles in a dystopian world? Imagine if the mental struggles we all face are because alternate Vocaloid-esque versions of us are doing battle with each other in some other place? Mari Okada created the entire story for the anime.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans was a well-received series that really shook up the Gundam universe by moving the story to Mars and adding all kinds of innovative story elements rather than just remixing the same old ingredients. Ms. Okada handled the overall series structure and wrote about half the episodes.
Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Three girls fill in what’s missing in their lives, whether it’s friendship, delicious food or light yuri-bait for viewers, in this delectable food porn slice-of-life. Do not watch it late at night or you’ll make yourself ridiculously hungry. The entire show was written by Ms. Okada based on the original manga.
Kodomo no Jikan
An anime like no other, and one you shouldn’t discuss with casual friends. It’s the story of a third-grader who has a crush on her elementary school teacher, Daisuke. It’s not just any crush, though: she’s actively seeking a sexual relationship with him, or at least thinks she is. In reality, she’s in an abusive situation at home and is subconsciously seeking an adult who can help her, but she’s going about it the wrong way. Mari was in charge of series composition and wrote all the episodes and OAVs…and is presumably responsible for this legendary scene. Which makes me remember what her first writing jobs involved…
A Whisker Away
Another story of a troubled girl in a difficult family situation, this film features Muge, a girl who receives a mysterious mask that allows her to transform into a cat, allowing her to get close to a boy she likes. And yet, Muge is in a complex situation, dealing with the stress of having a new stepmother and feeling like her mother abandoned her when her parents divorced. It’s like Spirited Away with cats and a bit more human drama, and I really enjoyed it.
Many Other Works by Mari Okada
This incredible anime writer also did series composition and/or screenplay writing for Gosick, Kurohitsuji, AKB0048, CANAAN, Nagi no Asukara, Black Butler, Hourou Musuko, as well as her directorial debut, Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms. She also was involved with Mayoiga: The Lost Village, an innovative anime about a bunch of people who sign up to go start a new life in an abandoned village, a show I liked at first then decided I hated a few episodes in. Perhaps I should give the series a second chance.
Anyway, I’m a fan of Mari Okada’s amazing stories, and will certainly keep on seeking out her works!
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