We all enjoy watching anime, don’t we?
But how much do we know about the hands who create hundreds of anime each year? Some work day and night, some don’t get the time to eat, and some eventually pass away from overwork.
While the special effects and detailed animation hype you up, and make you defend the studio behind an anime on social media, have you ever cared to look beyond the closed doors and see how the creators get treated?
Well, most of us don’t. That is exactly why I have written this piece which contains the experiences of animators, the good and the bad of the anime industry, the revolution of anime streaming services, and numbers that will surprise you.
So, without wasting any time, let’s begin with a studio that looked promising but eventually gave in to the evils of the overworking culture.
Table of Contents
Science Saru – Masaaki Yuasa’s Ill-Fated Ambitions
The best way to explain the horror of overwork culture is by going through these two interviews. The first one is of the former president of the anime studio Science Saru, Masaaki Yuasa; and the second one is of the studio’s former animator, Joan Chung.
The most interesting things to notice are the events that took place within the period of these two interviews. Masaaki Yuasa was interviewed in 2019, during the pre-pandemic era, while Joan Chung’s interview was taken during the post-pandemic era in 2021.
Let’s take a closer look at how Masaki Yuasa was unable to create a healthy environment that is quite contrary to the anime industry traditions.
Masaaki Yuasa’s Unfulfilled Dreams
Talking about the working conditions in the industry, Masaaki Yuasa admits that overworking is the norm, not only now but for a long time.
Recalling his own experiences from the past, he mentioned that he didn’t tend to overdo it while trying his best for the company. But he also mentioned how it was during tough times.
“At its worst, it was hard and grueling.” - Masaaki Yuasa
The Norm of Overworking Culture
Overworking is part of Japanese work culture, and there are very FEW studios that have impossible work hours, Yuasa says. Little did he know that Science Saru was soon going to become an elite member of that “FEW” club.
On the other hand, he also acknowledges the fact that even if the quality is compromised in terms of writing a story, they try their best to bring out the best. Which is not the best thing to do, he added.
When he was still president of Science Saru, Yuasa mentioned that the studio tries to follow western inspired model, where there are proper rest days, and working all night long isn’t a thing. He mentioned it as a “company rule”
“We rest regularly. Days off really are days off. We don't work into all hours of the night.” - Masaaki Yuasa
Yuasa, at the end of this interview, said that the anime industry has hope and that the overworking culture can and should be reformed. He stated that a better work environment is needed to deliver quality anime worldwide.
“…for the work itself to sell worldwide, we need a better work environment.” - Masaaki Yuasa
But how much was he able to achieve in an industry where following a western-inspired model was similar to sticking out like a sore thumb?
Throughout the whole interview, you can tell how aware Masaaki Yuasa is of the horrid working conditions of the industry, not to mention the obvious flaw in the wage structure for the animators.
But, you can also tell how he HOPES that it changes because it is too daunting of a task to change the tide of this stubborn industry – by oneself – where the corporate gobbles up the profit while the animators overwork to death without proper compensation.
Yuasa’s Departure from Science Saru
2020 was a horrible year for everybody, and the anime industry wasn’t an exception. Just after a year of this interview, Masaaki Yuasa stepped down as the president and representative director of Science Saru to take a break after working non-stop for 7 years.
So, what was the decisive moment?
No matter what anyone says, the pandemic did affect the anime industry the worst, just like any other industry. Because when a man on a mission steps down just a year after sharing his ambitions of breaking the norms of the industry, there can be quite a few conclusions to that action.
Absence of Strong Unions
One thing is quite clear, if more voices like Yuasa become vocal about these noteworthy problems, it may take a decade or so to see those changes, but in time, the wheels will eventually start moving.
But the problem is unionization isn’t common in Japan, and most animators don’t want to risk their jobs by doing so, and it’s understandable. And that is why most of the corporate heads are taking advantage of and neglecting creator hands without resistance.
Here are some popular works of Masaaki Yuasa:
- Ping Pong the Animation (Director, Script, Storyboard)
- The Tatami Galaxy (Director, Script, Storyboard)
- Inu-Oh (Director)
- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (Director, Series Composition)
We discussed Masaaki Yuasa’s ambitions and how he wasn’t able to achieve them.
Now, let’s take a closer look at Science Saru’s conditions through the eyes of the studio’s former animator.
Joan Chung Narrating Saru’s Horrors
Masaaki Yuasa’s stepping down wasn’t the only episode of Science Saru, there’s another episode that closes the Science Saru saga perfectly in the most imperfect way. That episode focuses on how the studio became one of those “FEW” studios Yuasa mentioned as having an overworking culture.
A year later, in July 2021, Joan Chung, a former Science Saru animator, shared her side of the story. She shed light on “proper rest and no overworking hours of the studio.”
Joan Chung worked for Science Saru for one and a half years. (December 2019 – June 2021)
She worked when Yuasa was there (pre-pandemic), also saw Yuasa leave the company, and worked post-Yuasa era in Science Saru.
So, in short, she was part of the whole saga.
Science Saru – Overworking Culture’s Newest Victim
“Prior to COVID, the studio culture was vibrant and communicative” - this statement by Joan Chung shows that Yuasa’s words were true regarding the work culture in the studio.
But, where did it all go wrong?
Primarily it is due to COVID.
Not being able to go outside of the home and being locked down in your homes meant a rise in mental health problems. And the cherry on top was the new work that got added to the due work, which meant more work, and less time.
Projects which should have been finished in 2020 were pushed back to the late 2020s or early 2021, which meant the amount of work was more than a humble group of 40 to 50 people could handle, even with the help of freelancers.
And studios like Science Saru have a style, a trademark they don’t want to mess with, which meant the in-house animators never got any time to breathe when the floodgates were opened out of the blue.
In the same year, Yuasa stepped down as the president. In 2021, Science Saru took on more projects, even though it was tough enough with their hands full.
And it ended up being a disaster. As Joan Chung mentioned,
“I have some horror stories from this studio, which are thankfully fewer than some of SARU's competitors. But – and this is a big one for me – a studio should not have its twenty-something girls crying in the bathroom, doing all-nighters.”
First of all, how horrifying is the state of the industry when she mentioned that the situation is not that bad compared to SARU’s competitors.
Secondly, although the CEO and the supervisors rescinded compassionately, it didn’t change anything.
The overworking culture found another group of victims in Studio Science Saru.
Unfortunate Departure of Talents
This resulted in Joan Chung herself and quite a few renowned and skilled animators leaving the studio for the sake of their future; mainly for their mental health and consideration for their families.
So, what did we learn through all of this? As Yuasa mentioned at the very beginning, the Japanese work culture is infectious, and it did gobble up a studio that tried to challenge it.
All this within a span of 2 years.
During the interview, Chung mentioned that while the entry salary for an animator in America was $50,000 and Canada has a similar entry salary or maybe better in some cases. Meanwhile, the entry salary in Japan was $20,000 or less, and just a bit more than a year later, in 2022, it hasn’t changed much.
Compared to the poor standards, Science Saru isn’t so bad. But, that doesn’t mean it is enough to sustain a proper life, all the more important if you don’t already have a place in Tokyo, be it your family or friends. Because the cost of living in Tokyo isn’t sustainable with the salary that’s stuck in the past.
Here are some popular works of Joan Chung:
- Heike Monogatari (Key Animation)
- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (Digital Animation)
- Star Wars: Visions (Key Animation)
Kadokawa: The Circle of Profits
Just reading the first few interactions of the interview between the CEO of Anime News Network and Kadokawa shows that it is never about the real thing, which is the well-being of the animators and the improvement of the work culture in the industry, it’s all about business, the profits.
When asked if they are on schedule to achieve the goal of producing 40 anime a year, The CEO, Chief, and Planning Manager answered in unison that they were on schedule to produce 40 anime a year, despite so many production delays.
“We had to delay about ten of the titles we had scheduled for last year to this year; much of that was a result of shutdowns affecting work in China, as well as some studios having to stop work due to the virus.”
In a world where the voices of the corporations overshadow the voices of the creators, where only the voices of consumers are preferred, it’s not shocking to see a giant company like Kadokawa mass produce anime overlooking a good work environment to increase the year-end profits.
More Work for Better Compensation
When asked about the overwhelming number of anime produced each year and the underpaid workers, the CEO of the Anime Business Division simply said,
“This is an acute, complicated issue. I think the entire anime industry realizes that we need to do more to provide better conditions and compensation.”
Need I say, how blatant the statement is?
In this era where anime reaches every corner of the world, online streaming services are licensing them, and merchandise is selling like hotcakes, not to mention the sales of source material like manga and light novels are skyrocketing after an anime adaptation. Do they still need MORE to provide better conditions and compensation?
“Within those studios, we're undertaking efforts to improve conditions and create an environment where animation is a career that provides people with a good living.”
“While a lot of these changes are going to take time, our industry is losing staff to the video game industry, and we could potentially face staff shortages if changes aren't made.”
In these statements about the overwhelming number of anime productions, there is only one sentence that talks about the working environment, but the statement that follows clearly shows how empty those words actually are.
For your information, this isn’t anything new, and the video game industry has been paying better than the anime industry for quite a while. The low compensation could have been understandable if the animators got profits from the work they have done, but that’s non-existent in the anime industry.
Non-Existence of Profit Sharing
If you think that animators get paid from the sales profit, they don’t. One might understand that the profit needs to be distributed among the producers, but not paying a cent of the profits to the actual workers who made that anime is hypocrisy.
The OTT platform earns from their subscriptions, the publishers like Kadokawa get their respective titles (manga, LN) to sell more by making anime. Then there are figurines, and DVDs, which have their fair share of consumers. And among so many profits, even the tiniest of profit sharing would be considered humane.
Corporate’s Excuse & Flow of Money
Regarding the discussion surrounding the dissatisfaction of the animator salaries, Kikuchi, the CEO of the Anime Business Division, simply misdirected by pointing at giants like Disney and Marvel as having better reach and a vast audience than the anime industry.
“If we're able to expand that global market effectively, we believe it would be easier to compensate all of our staff properly.”
But, how does that matter when people can see the industry grow by billions one year after the other, yet the growth rate of the salary is stuck in the past?
To give you a better perspective, the recent scandal of the Kadokawa Chairman getting arrested for bribery for Olympic sponsorship shows why they cannot compensate properly.
And it isn’t just a small amount. It’s 70 million yen (US$480,000) worth of bribery.
This is one of those cases that shows where the money actually flows and how much they can spare to bribe for a sponsorship.
Keeping that aside, let’s dive deeper into the interview.
Falling in love with an anime and then getting to know that there’s no second season is a common occurrence in the world of anime. You might think, doesn’t a good anime deserve a second season?
Yes, they do, but several factors go into the decision to produce a second or even a third season of an anime.
Reasons Why Your Favorite Anime Doesn’t Have a Sequel
“The earliest we'd consider an adaptation is when the original work already has a single volume released and a second volume is about to be published.” - Kudo, Chief of the Anime Business Division
While you are reading the introductory chapters of a manga, the anime adaptation has already been decided. And factors like the quality of the story matters, but with the worldwide growth of anime, word of mouth on social media platforms is taken into consideration by Kadokawa.
On Kadokawa’s recent expansion into the development of anime studios, Kikuchi explains that with in-house production, it will be easier to make anime at their own pace.
For example, you must have experienced delays in a second season or a third quite often. That’s because the studios which animate the first season already have plans for more than a couple of years sorted out. But this time, without ignoring the problem, they found a solution because it directly affects their profit numbers. They have ventured into the system of in-house production.
In-house Productions – Pros & Cons
When a project becomes an in-house production, publishers like Kadokawa have more control over those anime projects. While it sounds good but in the long term, it acts as a catalyst to an already messed up overwork culture.
Once again, when asked about the problems surrounding the underpaid contract workers, Kikuchi dodges the bullet this time too, and shifts the focus to the globalization of anime.
“As we touched upon before, being able to centralize income globally would help here…… if we want to support more staff and improve their lives.”
When asked about the obvious, Kikuchi comes close to the answer but being a dodgeball prodigy, he dodges it once again.
Opening Studios outside Tokyo the solution to The Wage Issues?
While CEO Kikuchi mentioned a potential staff shortage, he shares Kadokawa’s plan to open new studios in locations where the cost of living is better compared to Tokyo.
They are not increasing the wage; they are opening studios at a place where the cost of living makes it feel better. Although it is good for the animators in those particular areas, it’s definitely not the answer to the problem regarding underpaid animators in the anime industry.
At the end of the day, they are trying to mass produce animators from cities with a lower cost of living with the same wage and make more anime to increase their profits.
For Kadokawa, it isn’t The Circle of Life, it is The Circle of Profits.
It’s good that they are thinking about the fans, but making years’ worth of work within months is scary and glorifies the overwork culture in the worst ways possible.
Opening studios at a lower cost of living in cities might not be bad, but it doesn’t mean that they can get away with the same wage with inflation getting higher every day. The anime revenue is at its peak and is not gonna go down anytime soon, yet these corporate heads refuse to pay properly.
While this topic of animator’s wage is like falling into a Rabbit hole, a couple of these topics highlight where the main problem lies.
If the quality of work increases, even making 80 to 100 anime a year would be sufficient. This will not only increase the quality of work but will also help the corporates compensate the hands at work properly.
Using the resources well is the thing the industry needs to be fair and correct about.
While we are on the topic of an animator’s wage, let’s take a look at a myth regarding Osamu Tezuka being the one responsible for such a poor wage structure in the anime industry.
The Truth About Tezuka’s Curse
If you have been trying to know more about the anime industry, you must have come across Osamu Tezuka, the legend. He is known as “The Father of Manga” and in the west as “The Walt Disney of Japan.”
It’s often heard that it was his anime production system and pay rates that have followed and resulted in such a tradition in the anime industry.
How true is the statement?
In an interview, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, a former Mushi Pro animator, said that Tezuka being the cause of the poor wage structure in the industry is not entirely true. The animators were paid on a salary basis, and they used to get overtime pay as well.
Some popular works of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko:
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin (Director, Storyboard, Character Design, Original Creator)
- Space Battleship Yamato S1 & S2 (Storyboard)
- Mobile Suit Gundam (Animation Director, Chief Animation Director, Character Design)
- Giant Gorg (Director, Character Design, Animation Director, Original Creator)
During another interview, Ryosuke Takahashi, a former Mushi Pro animator said that, as they were salaried, the majority of them took advantage of Tezuka and worked for other companies like Toei under their desks.
Some popular works of Ryosuke Takahashi:
- Armored Trooper Votoms (Director, Original Creator)
- Kodomo no Omocha (Assistant Episode Director, Series Composition)
- Astro Boy (Script, Storyboard)
- Red Riding Hood Chacha (Assistant Episode Director, Script)
At a certain time, when Toei paid 8000 yen, Tezuka offered to pay 21,000 yen for the same job to an animator. It was when money was leaking way too much, that Tezuka pulled back the wholeheartedness, and that’s where the “Tezuka’s Curse” term was coined and is still used to this day.
While many animators are aware of the problems, not many speak up, but some want to see a change in the stagnant practices of the anime industry.
Animators Getting Vocal About The Industry
Lately, quite a few animators have been vocal about the obvious problems in the anime industry. Among these are industry veterans like Terumi Nishii and Shingo Yamashita.
Terumi Nishii in Detail
It all started with a tweet that warned the fans who are thinking of joining an overworked anime industry.
“No matter how much you like anime, it is not advisable to come to Japan and participate in anime work. Because the animation industry is usually overworked.” - Terumi Nishii
In this interview, Terumi Nishii answers several questions regarding the anime industry.
Training of amateur animators
Most animators in Japan go through a training period before actually participating in important and intense productions.
Why is it important?
Because training is a crucial factor and the absence of which is the reason behind the current production failures in the anime industry.
“I was in sort of a training program in an anime studio called Cockpit. I could do the thing I loved and get some money for it. It wasn’t enough to live on — I was only getting paid 2800 yen a month (about US$25.00) during the testing period — but I was only doing tracing of other people’s drawing.”
The freelancers outside of Japan, mostly amateur animators participating in the production, do not go through the training, which results in mishaps during the production. Their works need to be corrected heavily and sometimes even redrawn completely.
And, there isn’t any option. With the overwhelming numbers, the production assistant has to find every possible hand available irrespective of their knowledge and experience in the anime industry.
While not all of them lack the ability, the majority of the freelancers from social media (most often from Twitter) are recruited due to the ease of negotiations. However, the unfamiliarity with the production pipeline due to the absence of training affects production in the long run.
And this is just a part of the huge problem the anime industry is facing right now, and you already know about the horror stories about production failures, which get delayed for weeks, months, and sometimes even indefinitely.
The Rise in Production Dilemma
In this interview, Terumi Nishii mentioned that while she was working on Mushishi TV anime in 2014, the production derailed so badly that it took a whole season off to catch up.
Soon, in 2015-2016, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure faced a similar situation. The production issues got more common throughout the industry. Efficiency and quality of work began to fade away since then. There are very few who could pull that off.
“The industry was getting into a situation where no one could even make storyboards correctly and the big studios could no longer find outside vendors who could do the work. That wasn’t an issue before.”
When asked about the reasons behind this problem. She pointed out the following,
- The number of anime produced has increased over the years.
- The producers want more quantity with uncompromised quality.
- With increased quantity, outsourcing increased as well. Outsourcing was there but not the outrageous amount it is these days.
- The time was halved, so more hands were provided to do that.
- Adding people helps, but in the long run, it gets more and more complicated for production assistants to supervise this many hands.
- And when a 12-episode season keeps getting extended without notice, there’s where the nightmare begins.
Dread of Overwork
In 2019, two of Terumi Nishii’s seniors passed away due to overwork, while many suffered from aneurysms and heart attacks. All because of the glorified overworking culture, which every corporate head is aware of but decides to ignore nonchalantly, except when they have to give interviews.
They pretend to care about that.
Many animators were asked to take a break by their doctors because, yes, the overwork culture is deadly in the Japanese anime industry.
When asked if the anime industry is looking for any solution, she said,
“The studios actually only have a few employees and are outsourcing and using contractors for everything, so it’s a problem that can’t be fixed by just one company alone. Everybody has to do it together.”
She mentioned that due to the low pay scale of the entry animators, about 80% of them leave the industry within a matter of 3 years, and this low retention rate ends up in the industry losing more workforce.
“The problem is we don’t have those kinds of highly skilled people because there isn’t a good training process and industry doesn’t pay the good artists enough. If then people who could produce high quality animation were being paid correctly then you would see more people stick around.”
She mentioned that young people, mostly fans who are eager to work on anime, need to understand that there are no unions or protection for the workers in the anime industry.
The interview ended with,
“I actually want foreigners to enter this industry to help to change it for the better. So I really do welcome them to enter this industry.”
These are some of Terumi Nishii’s well-known works:
- Death Note (Animation Director)
- JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable (Character Design, Chief Animation Director)
- One Piece Film: Strong World & One Piece Film: Z (Key Animation)
- Jujutsu Kaisen & Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Movie (Chief Animation Director)
Shingo Yamashita’s Wisdom
During an interview, Shingo Yamashita shared his thoughts on the state of the anime industry, about non-profit organizations, and about China taking the lead in the field of animation.
When asked about the greatest necessity of the anime industry, Yamashita said that everyone needs rest. No one is aware of what they’re doing anymore, he added.
But, how he completed the sentence summarizes the evident problem in a few words. He said that to take a break and think about their work, and they need money first.
This shows that even way before the anime boom, the problems regarding inefficient wage structure have been going on, and not many tried to change it.
Following this, he was asked about the Animator Dormitory Project, on which he said that though it has very little influence on the industry, it is an essential one.
On Studio Trigger’s Patreon account, he said that it would be better to be a patron to individual creators rather than a company.
Back in 2018, Yamashita clearly mentioned that China was winning in terms of animation and Japan is losing. And standing in 2022, it has become more prominent, with many animators choosing to work on donghua (Chinese anime).
These are some of Shingo Yamashita’s well-renowned works:
- Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (Key Animation, In-Between Animation)
- Naruto: Shippuuden & Naruto: Shippuden the Movie 2 – Bonds (Key Animation)
- The Tatami Galaxy (Key Animation)
- Ride Your Wave (Key Animation)
Numbers Don’t Lie: Anime Industry Statistics
Mass production of anime, the demand for quantity over quality is not only wrecking the working conditions for the animators but the stagnant wage structure is affecting their life outside of animation.
However, until now, we have been hearing these problems either from the animators or the production company employers themselves. That is why we need something more credible to understand what’s happening in the anime industry.
And to show that, I have compiled these numbers that include a decade’s worth of data consisting of the growth of anime from 2013 to 2022. I have only used the data of TV Series and ONA and didn’t include movies because the type of production is quite different compared to an average TV series or ONA.
Note: Only episodes with a minimum of 10 mins duration have been considered, as they are the most watched by the audience worldwide. The numbers are taken from MyAnimeList.
From 2013 to 2022, a total of 1543 TV Series and 248 ONA were produced, that is a total of 27000 episodes of anime.
And listed below are the breakdowns and numbers that will tell you how the insane number of anime produced isn’t something that happened within a couple of years, along with the reason why making more anime isn’t the way to properly compensate the animators.
To further give you clarity, I divided the decade (2013 – 2022) into five years each to see how they compared, keeping in mind the pandemic hit in 2020, and the next thing we knew was sitting in our homes for nearly 2 years.
|Year||No. of TV Series||No. of ONA||No. of Episodes|
|2013 – 2017||737||74||13622|
|2018 – 2022||806||174||13378|
Breaking Down the Decade – TV Series (2013 – 2022)
The total number of TV series produced from 2013 to 2017 is 737, which stands for 47.76% of anime produced in the past decade, while the number of TV series produced from 2018 to 2022 is 806, which stands for 52.24%
Despite a couple of years lost in the pandemic, the total number of TV series produced in the second half of the decade has increased by 9.36%, from 737 to 806.
The chart shows the year with the highest percentage of anime produced in descending order.
|Year||No. of TV Series||% of TV Series (2013-2022)|
The belief that the anime boom following the pandemic increased the rise in the production of TV series is not entirely true.
While the average number of TV series productions has been touching the 170 mark for the past couple of years, it is to be noted that in the last decade, the year 2018 led the way in terms of TV series, while 2017 & 2014 have touched the 160 mark, showing that mass production isn’t something new.
Another thing to keep in mind is while these TV series are being released, many others are under production and are set to release in a year or two. Because that’s the minimum time it takes for a whole show to come on screen from nothing to something.
There’s a reason why each studio has its plans set for at least 2 to 3 years in advance. For some, the plan is set for the next 5 years.
Breaking Down the Decade – ONA (2013 – 2022)
Meanwhile, the total number of ONA produced from 2013 to 2017 is 74 which accounts for 29.84% of ONA produced in the decade, compared to a total of 174 ONA produced from 2018 to 2022, which accounts for 70.16% of ONA produced in the same decade.
The total number of ONA produced in the second half of the decade increased by a whopping 135.14%, from 74 to 174.
And, understandably so, when the whole world was on their couch binge-watching shows, popular online streaming services like Crunchyroll and Netflix saw unprecedented growth in demand and viewership for anime.
Following that, Netflix has produced so many original anime that the term ONA got mistaken for Original Netflix Animation, instead of Original Net Animation.
|Year||No. of ONA||% of ONA (2013-2022)|
Unlike TV Series, you can see how online streaming services like Netflix and Crunchyroll impacted the numbers of ONA productions for the past five years, with the year 2022 leading from the front with 44 ONAs. The revolution of streaming platforms is quite evident from these numbers.
Breaking Down the Decade – Episodes (2013 – 2022)
The total number of episodes produced from 2013 to 2017 is 13622, which accounts for 50.45% of episodes produced in the past decade.
While the total number of episodes produced from 2018 to 2022 is 13378, which accounts for 49.55% of episodes produced during the same period.
Also, this is the only instance you could see the numbers drop. The total number of episodes produced in the second half of the decade decreased by 1.79% from 13622 to 13378.
|Year||No. of Episodes||% of Episodes (2013-2022)|
The higher the number of series, the higher the episode count.
That statement is not accurate. Here’s an example.
The year 2022 might rank third in terms of TV series productions and first in ONA productions, but in terms of the number of episodes, it is third from the bottom.
The year 2018 has more than forty TV series with more than 20 episodes on average. Compared to that, in 2022, there are only twenty TV series with more than 20 episodes.
The average series has been getting shorter day by day, 10-11 episode series are becoming a norm.
All Types Of Anime Genres: A Complete Master Guide For Anime FansFans Also Read
Efforts To Change The Anime Industry
Now that we have seen the numbers, and talked about the experiences of several animators, let’s discuss the efforts that are taking place to change these norms in the anime industry.
Presence of JAniCA
During an interview, Yasuhiro Irie talked about JAniCA (Japanese Animation Creators Association), which was created to protect animators’ right to get treated fairly so they can have a properly functioning working environment.
The three main things the organization focuses on are:
- Proper working conditions
- Better medical insurance coverage and social security
- Availability of proper training programs for the new animators
He also said that it is not only for the animators, it is for everyone who works in the anime industry.
Here are a few of Yasuhiro Irie’s famous works:
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Director)
- Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Storyboard)
- Mobile Fighter G Gundam (Key Animation)
- Healer Girl (Director)
Animator Dormitory Project
It is one of the most noticeable projects in recent times, which has been slowly but steadily moving toward its goal.
The Animator’s Dormitory Project is a non-profit organization that houses animators who have been in the industry for less than three years. They are provided a room with gas, electricity, air conditioning, and wifi under 30,000 yen ($224) per month.
That is not all; the residents also get to take lessons from experienced animators so that they can improve their quality of work during their stay in that dorm.
Besides that, the Animator Dormitory has expanded in several locations to give budding animators a place to grow without thinking much about their survival.
Animator’s Dormitory Projects’ goal is to return the profits from anime sales directly to the animators, which the industry has failed to do.
Recently, they created a music video titled “Back to You” through crowd-funding, where they paid their animators 2 – 4 times more than an average animator in the industry, which is a step in the right direction.
And, they aren’t stopping there, they have already planned to make another music video titled “Blue Runway” with voice actress Aya Hirano who is known for roles like Haruhi Suzumiya (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), Misa Amane (Death Note), Migi (Parasyte: The Maxim), and many others.
They have also started another fundraising campaign to support more budding animators in 2023.
There are different links for each campaign, so it will be better for you to follow them on Twitter, where they share every link, including the updates on their productions.
Please do support them if you can monetarily, if not, you can always support them by spreading the word as much as you can on social media platforms.
Studio Bulldog is an animation production team run by Takahiro Shikama, and Motoko Shikama, two veterans of the industry. With the hope of creating animation in a less stressful environment, they have established Studio Bulldog.
On Studio Bulldog’s Youtube channel, you can find helpful animation tutorials. And on Twitter, they are always sharing tips and useful information for those who are willing to learn the process of making anime.
I would encourage you to visit their Twitter profiles, where you can also find their Patreon and website links beside the useful content.
The following are some of the popular works of Motoko Shikama:
- Terror in Resonance (Key Animation)
- World Trigger (Key Animation)
- Fire Force (2nd Key Animation)
- Ascendance of a Bookworm (Episode Director, Storyboard, Key Animation)
And, these are a few of the many popular works of Takahiro Shikama:
- Fire Force (Key Animation, 2nd Key Animation)
- Samurai Champloo (In-Between Animation)
- Sword Art Online (Action Animation Director, Storyboard, Episode Director)
- Erased (Storyboard, Episode Director, Key Animation)
If we want to see change, we need to be part of the change. We can’t just sit around and wait for someone to take that step.
Let’s start by educating ourselves about these organizations. The next thing we can do is share their work and interact with them for better reach. And if you want to help them monetarily, there’s nothing better than that.
Anime Streaming Services – Blessing or Curse?
The presence of anime streaming services has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. During that time, there used to be many different anime OTT services, but a certain company (it’s Sony) decided to become a monopoly.
Although the consumers get a huge library through monthly or yearly subscriptions, the profits from these hardly reach the pocket of the animators. Not only that, becoming a monopoly means they can abuse power if they want to and double or triple the cost of the subscription.
Sony might feel like a good friend now, but you might not feel the same later on if they decide to change things up.
Good And Bad of Sony’s Monopoly
Sony owning every major anime streaming service and branding it under Crunchyroll meant the anime studios would find it hard to negotiate because of the monopoly it has created. Besides Netflix and HIDIVE, there isn’t any competitor left after the Crunchyroll and Funimation merger.
Crunchyroll has gotten to a position where there’s no competitor, while you might think it’s good to have only one subscription, for the actual workers, like voice actors and animators, it means the negotiation power has been snatched away. They can be toyed with and replaced in an instant.
And with organizations having a team working specifically in Japan, the studios find themselves in a compromising position during negotiations, which ends up affecting the animators as well.
Seiji Mizushima Reveals The Truth About Anime Industry
In a recent interview, Seiji Mizushima shared his thoughts on the current state of the industry, the effect of Netflix and other projects funded by streaming services, and the harsh reality of freelance animators in Japan.
His thoughts on the above-mentioned topics perfectly summarize this case study.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
Have you ever felt an anime not delivering to its maximum potential just because you saw the staff list to be star-studded? There’s a reason behind it, let the veteran director tell you.
Reminiscing about his journey as a director, Seiji Mizushima said that there’s a popular belief that if an anime has a handful of great names in the staff list, the anime is going to be amazing. But, that’s not how it works.
“There are cases where they invite well-known staff, but when the series actually begins airing, they still don’t have the kinks ironed out and finishes around episode 3. I find that is the most wasteful. So, in that sense, think we should raise more capable producers who can build up a team.” - Seiji Mizushima
On the lack of manpower, he said that there is no need to make that many shows.
"I’ve been saying this forever, and I think to just make half as many shows is enough. Why is there a need to make so many?" - Seiji Mizushima
Netflix & other OTT funded projects: What does it mean for the Anime Industry?
When asked about his thoughts on how online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon impacted the anime industry, Seiji Mizushima said that while such OTT platforms offer a good budget, the actual staff never get the benefit.
“Nowadays lots of companies that stream overseas like Netflix will give us a good budget, but that doesn’t trickle down to the lower staff who are actually working on the creation of the shows.” - Seiji Mizushima
He mentions that even if more money comes in through new sponsors and investors, the actual staff don’t see that change in their pay.
The following words also remind me of what Joan Chung said about Netflix-funded projects.
“If negotiations between Netflix and its partnered Japanese studios occur through Netflix Japan, this branch will already be familiar with ongoing rates. Therefore, they may be resistant to negotiations.” - Joan Chung
What she said following this is quite similar to Seiji Mizushima’s words. She said that anime studios need to communicate with each other to prioritize projects with respectable funds.
At the end of the day, it’s about standing together to negotiate for the betterment of the actual staff as well as the anime industry as a whole.
Relinquishing The Rights
The veteran director mentioned that while the companies want to hold rights to a show, they will reap all the rewards by doing the most Japanese way of doing things. The companies make sure to waive the right of the creators – creating those characters – in advance.
And, the most vulnerable ones to this practice are the independent creators.
“That was one of the reasons why I joined a management company. If you’re part of a company then it’s about holding the rights jointly between companies, but if you’re working independently it might even say in the contract to forfeit rights to the show, which doesn’t sit right with me.” - Seiji Mizushima
Here are some of the famous works of Seiji Mizushima:
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (Director)
- Fullmetal Alchemist (Director)
- Shaman King (Director, Storyboard)
- Un-Go (Director, Storyboard)
To round things off, averagebeing.com reached out to animators currently working in the anime industry. These professionals have worked for studios like Shaft, Toei Animation, CloverWorks, Studio LEO, Yokohama Animation Lab, Ra Craft, Pierrot, and MAPPA.
And they have also worked on anime like Luminous Witches, Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story: Magia Record, Bocchi the Rock!, Muv-Luv Alternative, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, One Piece, Chainsaw Man.
When asked about their thoughts on working in the anime industry, they said that there is a lack of communication between freelance animators and in-house animators.
Other things which they mentioned are their dissatisfaction with their pay and work. Working on multiple projects at once means that they aren’t getting time to draw at their full potential resulting in dissatisfaction with their work.
Lastly, when asked whether they would recommend others to work in the anime industry, they said the same thing you have heard from most animators out there.
If an individual has a clear understanding of the work culture and production process of the anime industry and knows the reality as it is, then they should go ahead and join the industry.
Final Thoughts On The Anime Industry
Instead of giving you my thoughts, I want you to be the judge. I have tried my best to show you the reality of the anime industry; while it might be only a grain of sand on a beach, I hope this article gives you the clarity you were looking for.
But, here are a few things I hope you will consider:
- To support non-profit organizations and independent creators. Do your proper research before doing so.
- To not support a company or any individual blindly. To huge corporations, be it anime or any other form of media, everything is a matter of profit or less to them, and you are just a subject of interest.
- There’s nothing better than spreading the word for non-profit organizations and independent creators on social media. So, when you are posting anime clips or screenshots, do interact with the above-mentioned posts as well.
With that said, I present to you the truth about the anime industry. I hope you have enjoyed the article and found valuable information. If you have any feedback regarding this article, feel free to reach out to us on averagebeing’s Instagram handle.