Girls und Panzer was arguably the best anime of 2012. It was an anime-original that was well-written, respected the topic, and devoted a lot of effort to obscure details instead of fanservice.* Unfortunately, it was beset by production problems that forced it to issue two “recap” episodes. True to form, director Mizushima dot-numbered them and extended the run time of the series, instead of trying to pass them off as real episodes. For the second recap, Episode 11.5, they actually had to stick in a three-month hiatus, which drove the ending from December of 2012 to March of 2013 (and incidentally made it impossible for it to gain the recognition it deserved, because it missed the deadlines for 2012 awards, and people couldn’t decide if they should list it as a 2012 or 2013 production). What was bad for the anime was good for the fans, because the director’s decision to honor quality over schedule ended up delivering an outstanding product.
Part of the production problems may have been due to the failings of the studio. Studio Actas is evidently a small operation (they don’t even have a Wikipedia page), that had never before been lead on any big project. Their ANN Encyclopedia entry shows them acting mostly as an outsourcing studio, doing “In-Between Animation”, and “Production Assistance” and the like, admittedly on a long list of projects. Another part may have been a personal failing on the part of one individual. This was hinted at by some of the online discussion.
Skip ahead a year, and director Mizushima Tsutomu is working on a new anime original at a different studio: Shirobako, at P.A. Works. P.A. Works appears to be a much stronger studio than Actas. They are credited with such hits as Angel Beats!, Hanasaku Iroha, Another, and Eccentric Family. Their contribution to Shirobako was “2nd Key Animation, 3DCGI, Animation Production, In-Between Animation, Key Animation (ep 1-5, 7-8, 17, 19, 21-24), Production”. What links the two anime is that Shirobako is about the process of producing an anime, and the trials and tribulations involved, and GaruPan is a good example of what happens when production goes wrong. Evidently, two of the things that can seriously damage a production schedule are failure of the Production Assistants to do their job, and failure of the out-sourcing studios to deliver on time.
In Shirobako, the problems start out in Episode 1, when the obnoxious, loud-mouthed, Production Assistant Takanashi Tarō** admits that key frames for an upcoming episode are not finished yet, and that he has no idea when they will be.
One can just imagine Mizushima rubbing his hands with glee at the thought that everyone in the industry will know just who “Taro” is, and how badly he screwed up. And the white-sidewalls half-Mohawk haircut is just a courtesy extra.
In the second cour of Shirobako, Mizushima takes on non-performing outsource studios, when the appropriately named Studio Taitanic (a stand-in for Actas?) fails to come through.
Their work is shoddy, they are late on the schedule, and their episode director suddenly quit. Fortunately, Musashino Animation is able to place a key worker on location with them. All is well with Shirobako, not so much with Garupan.
Shirobako has been praised as an accurate, if rose-tinted, look at the anime industry. One reason for the accuracy is that the director had just lived through a gauntlet of industry pitfalls.***
*Two examples from episode 2: the school Headmaster’s car, which gets crushed by a tank, is a million-dollar Ferrari F-40. This is obvious to all Ferrari aficionados, but goes unremarked in the anime. Similarly, if you read Erwin Rommel’s book The Rommel Papers, his rapid advance across France at the start of WWII was almost halted because a Panzer IV got stuck on a bridge. In the girl’s first exercise, their Panzer IV gets stuck on a bridge. Nobody mentions Rommel.
** Tarō-san is a code phrase that restaurant workers use to reference cockroaches when the customers are listening
***Gauntlet of pitfalls. Yes, I know. Sad, innit?