April brings new network shows and new anime series. Anime tends to release seasonally, with many series running under a single unifying director and episodes broken off to episode directors. This is somewhat akin to showrunners and episode directors in the U.S., but the two aren’t completely comparable.
In fact, showrunners are most prevalent in U.S. series. Part of this is due to our history of 20+ episode seasons to fill network TV space. Most countries don’t run narrative shows with this many episodes a season unless you’re specifically talking about soap operas.
It’s a lot easier for a single director to manage an entire series when that season is 3-to-12 episodes. As streaming takes over and U.S. audience interest in higher-quality, limited series has increased, we’re seeing a bit more single-director series – but the showrunner concept has mostly held on here. It’s not unique to us, but showrunners are more of a rule in the U.S., whereas most countries tend to offer a higher ratio of director-driven series.
Showrunners aren’t an advantage or disadvantage. Sometimes they’ll strictly be producers who ensure a series is delivered on-time and on-budget – more a manager and less of a creative force. This is especially true for franchises. However, the showrunner approach can often mean a writer is given the reigns of a series, which is somewhat less common in director-driven industries.
Obviously, a director can be a showrunner as well, and someone can be writer, director, and producer all – so definitions aren’t hard and fast. The reason I’m seeking to make this difference is that often I’ll feature a series here as having a showrunner, or being directed mostly by women. Other times, I’ll list a series simply as being directed by a woman.
This week provides a good example why. The three U.S. series that premiered this week have showrunners. The three anime series are all run by directors. Some of that difference is semantic, but it’s worth noting that the three showrunners for the U.S. shows are all writer-producers. The three directors of Japanese shows are all directors.
This isn’t just a difference between live-action and anime, either. Most live-action series from East Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan, or Taiwan are run by directors as well. Most of their experience has come along a directorial path. Most series from the U.S. are run by showrunners – who tend to come up as writers or producers more often.
If you see series listed with these differences, this is why.
On another note, I want to highlight a pair of new short documentaries on MUBI by Argentine-British filmmaker Jessica Sarah Rinland. “Black Pond” is a 42-minute doc about an English natural history society that cares for bats and provides detailed local scientific information.
Her 67-minute doc “Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another” considers the changing face of conservation through the journey of an elephant’s tusk.
Kung Fu (The CW)
showrunner Christina M. Kim
Nikky runs away from home and joins a Shaolin temple. There she learns kung fu – until it’s attacked by a woman seeking a magical sword. Nikky returns to San Francisco and the family she left, only to discover that they face their own threat.
I caught the pilot and it’s effectively what you expect from a CW superhero origin story, with the exception of course that most of the cast are Asian. That in itself makes it refreshing and worth watching. It’s fun.
I can understand the criticism aimed at it. Many elements introduced in the pilot are cliché, but that’s nothing new for superhero stories or series pilots. A series that actually bothers to include those who are rarely represented feels a lot more interesting to me than most of the action or superhero material out there.
Showrunner Christina M. Kim has been a writer on “Lost”, and a writer and producer on “Blindspot” and “Hawaii Five-0”.
You can watch “Kung Fu” Wednesdays at 8 pm Eastern on CW, with new episodes streaming the day after online at The CW.
showrunner Krista Vernoff
Rebel is a lawyer who takes on corporations both in the courtroom and the sphere of public opinion. The show is based on the real-life work of Erin Brokovich, and counts Brokovich as one of its executive producers.
The cast on this is notable. Katey Sagal seems like the ideal lead for this, while Andy Garcia, Mary McDonnell, and Adam Arkin also feature.
Showrunner Krista Vernoff has been a writer and producer on “Shameless”, “Wonderfalls”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and the original “Charmed”.
You can watch “Rebel” Thursdays at 10 pm Eastern on ABC. They’ve streamed the first episode here.
The Way of the Househusband (Netflix)
directed by Kon Chiaki
A once-infamous Yakuza boss now commits himself to taking care of his family and supporting his wife’s career. The manga was a hit for its juxtaposition of daily domestic tasks against Tatsu’s relentless intensity.
Director Kon Chiaki has helmed adaptations of “Higurashi When They Cry” and the Book of Sunrise arc of “Naruto Shippuden”. She’s also taken over as current director of the “Sailor Moon” series, including this year’s two part theatrical release “Sailor Moon Eternal”.
You can watch “The Way of the Househusband” on Netflix.
Blue Reflection Ray (Funimation)
directed by Yoshida Risako
“Blue Reflection Ray” is a magical girl series based on an RPG. The game followed an injured dancer who’s granted powers to visit another world to defend ours from monsters.
Yoshida Risako has directed an arc of “The Irregular at Magic High School” as well as the movie.
You can watch “Blue Reflection Ray” on Funimation. It will simulcast as new episodes become available every Friday.
directed by Naomi Nakayama
A schoolgirl saves a businessman. Instead of thanking her, he becomes creepy and starts stalking her. Should’ve let the dude faceplant. I have no idea how the anime handles the concept – whether it does so responsibly or as an excuse for a romantic comedy.
Naomi Nakayama has been an episode director on “Hunter x Hunter”, “My Hero Academia”, and “Casshern Sins”, among others.
You can watch “Koikimo” on Crunchyroll. It will simulcast as new episodes become available every Monday.
showrunner Nasim Pedrad
Nasim Pedrad stars as a 14 year-old boy in his first year of high school.
Pedrad is writer, star, and showrunner on the show. The Iranian-American star is best known as a cast member from “Saturday Night Live” and “New Girl”.
You can watch “Chad” on Tuesdays on TBS. They’ve posted the first episode here.
The Last Right (VOD)
directed by Aoife Crehan
A man he meets on a flight leaves Daniel in charge of a coffin. He doesn’t know the person whose corpse he now has to get to a remote Irish island.
This makes the feature debut of writer-director Aoife Crehan.
The Power (Shudder)
directed by Corinna Faith
It’s 1974, in Britain. A nurse works the night shift at a crumbling hospital. When the power is cut across the country, something inside the hospital starts to awake.
Writer-director Corinna Faith has worked primarily in documentaries. This makes her second narrative feature.
You can watch “The Power” on Shudder.
Have You Ever Seen Fireflies? (Netflix)
directed by Andac Haznedaroglu
This Turkish coming-of-age film follows Gulseren as she tries to make sense of her world amidst her country’s political turmoil.
Director Andac Haznedaroglu has directed a number of Turkish series, and shifted over to feature filmmaking in 2016.
You can watch “Have You Ever Seen Fireflies?” on Netflix.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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