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Investigation concludes Ashihara’s conditions about adaptation were not properly conveyed to production staff

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NTV revealed on Friday the results of its internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the live-action Sexy Tanaka-san series, after the show’s original manga creator Hinako Ashihara died in an apparent suicide in January.

The report concluded that while Ashihara stated in a blog post shortly before her death that she had originally set a condition that the live-action adaptation must always stay faithful to the manga, due to miscommunication from the very start of negotiations and production, that message was never conveyed to the staff of the adaptation.

Ashihara’s Blog Post and Death in January

On January 26, Ashihara had made a blog post regarding the live-action adaptation of her Sexy Tanaka-san manga. In the blog post, she stated she made it a condition that the live-action adaptation would be faithful to the manga, and said NTV did not uphold that condition. She said many scenes she held dear as the “core” of the manga were cut or not depicted properly, and characterizations were changed, and she was not given a satisfactory reason why. She said she did voice her complaints, and the first seven episodes eventually remained largely faithful to the manga. Ashihara had said that throughout the entire production, she never met with the show’s scriptwriter and she did not talk directly with the director.

She added she ended up writing the scripts for the final two episodes of the series after the original scenario she outlined for the ending was “significantly” changed, but apologized that she had to rush the script as an amateur scriptwriter, and could not refine it further, as she was also working on deadlines for the manga. Ashihara explained that she and her staff had made it a condition from the outset that she could be allowed to write the scripts herself for the final episodes if she was not satisfied with them, adding NTV had agreed to this condition.

She ended the post by thanking all the cast and staff for making the live-action adaptation.

Ashihara later deleted the blog post, after the show’s scriptwriter started receiving backlash online, stating it was not her intention to attack anyone, and she apologized.

Ashihara was then reported missing on January 28, and her body was found on January 29.

On the same day Ashihara’s death was announced, NTV issued a statement, saying that when it proposed the live-action adaptation, it consulted with Ashihara on her opinions through her publisher Shogakukan, and that Ashihara approved on the final script that went into production. NTV‘s statement was later criticized on social media.

Many manga creators took to social media after Ashihara’s death to talk about their own negative experiences in having their works adapted into other media. The situation also gave rise to an overall debate about the moral rights of authors, which includes the “right of preserving the integrity” of the work and is personal to the author, so it cannot be granted to others like copyright can.

NTV then issued an apology in February, apologizing to all involved and expressing condolences to Ashihara’s family. The network added at the time that it was is taking the situation seriously and would conduct its own investigation with an internal team. NTV cooperated with Shogakukan and an outside investigation team, including an outside lawyer.

Investigation Results

According to the investigation, after NTV approached Shogakukan regarding the live-action adaptation in February 2023, NTV staff were of the opinion that the adaptation could have an original ending (since the manga was unfinished), but Shogakukan staff claimed they instead said that it was fine to have an original ending as long as it followed a story that Ashihara proposed so as to not affect the future of the original manga. The investigation thus revealed that there was a discrepancy between the two sides of the production from the beginning.

A source at Shogakukan also revealed during the investigation that they had insisted that it would be difficult to create the live-action adaptation unless the staff hired a scriptwriter who would stay faithful to the original work, but the NTV production team claimed they never heard this.

Regarding Ashihara’s blog post, she said she told NTV, through Shogakukan, that she had three conditions that must be met for the adaptation:

  • The adaptation must be faithful to the manga.
  • Ashihara could work on everything from the plot summary to the dialogue (including for the original ending) so that the future of the manga was not affected.
  • In general, because nothing from that plot summary and dialogue that Ashihara provided to the staff should be changed, Ashihara could, as necessary, write the scripts herself for the parts original to the live-action adaptation.

The investigation revealed that Shogakukan never conveyed these conditions to the NTV staff verbally or in writing during two meetings in March 2023. NTV staff stated they were not aware that Shogakukan had said anything about these conditions, and this information was thus never conveyed to the show’s scriptwriter. This lead to Ashihara having a negative impression toward the scriptwriter and overall distrust of the NTV staff that the production side was unable to dispel as talks and production continued.

The report also noted that the production schedule may have been too rushed, as it allowed for about six months for actual production (the show debuted in October 2023). The report recommended that for future productions, a plan should be finalized about 12-18 months before the start of broadcast. The investigation also recommended having production staff meet directly with original authors.

NTV President’s Comment

NTV president Akira Ishizawa commented that the report showed that NTV must work much harder to resolve these types of issues, including misunderstandings and miscommunication between the production side and the original creator / publisher side. Ishizawa added NTV must also resolve issues regarding production schedule and structure, and the timing of signing contracts. Ishizawa stated NTV will take responsibility for addressing the issues pointed out in the report so that staff on all sides can work on future productions with greater peace of mind.

Sources: Sponichi, Mainichi Shimbun (井上知大)

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NTV Reveals Results of Investigation Into Sexy Tanaka-san Live-Action Series After Hinako Ashihara’s Death – News