“We are seriously concerned that the industry will not survive if things go on like this.”
Name: Yuko Matsui
Education: Tokyo Animator College
Employer: Midscale animation production agency
Job: In-between Animator (drawings on transparent sheets used between key scenes to help create the illusion of motion)
Experience: Two years
Salary: ¥80,000 a month
Work Time: 10 hours a day
Housing: Lives with her parents
Some of her peers who say they have to endure frequent all-nighters with few days off.
“There were seven others I knew who graduated with me at the same time, but three of them have already given up and quit,” she said.
“The global fan base for Japanese ‘anime’ is increasing, but with the old business model crumbling it isn’t translating into profits,” said Yasuo Yamaguchi, executive director of the Association of Japanese Animations.
“The financial crisis is forcing sponsors to cut down on television advertisement fees, and this in turn is shrinking the budgets for animations, pressuring everyone involved in the production,” Yamaguchi said.
“The demographics of anime fans began shifting seven to eight years ago. Those who grew up watching cartoons became older, and began craving more ‘otaku’ (geek) and adult content,” Noda said, noting such animation is mainly produced for DVD sales, with the late-night shows — usually consisting of only 13 episodes — used as bait to draw viewers into buying the full DVD set that comes with increased content and special features.
This lack of mainstream acceptability in anime content, combined with expensive title licenses and the exploding popularity of video-sharing sites, has helped erode the industry’s distribution market in the West.
The study revealed that a single cel on average earns animators a meager ¥186.9. Considering how a grunt worker has to fill in 500 in-between cels per month for a television animation series, this means a monthly wage of ¥94,000 at best — for an average of 250 hours of work — until an artist gets to handle key frames or storyboards.
With an estimated 90 percent of in-betweens being outsourced overseas — a result of the industry trying to squeeze out more content than it can from domestic hands — there are also concerns that opportunities to nurture future generations of quality animators are being lost.
The Japan Fair Trade Commission on Jan. 23 released a report on the state of the animation industry, listing several major concerns.
Lack of copyrights attributed to production agencies: copyrights are divvied up among sponsors, a system widely criticized for robbing the actual creators of any secondary-use benefits, not to mention motivation.
Popular practice of commissioning and recommissioning production work to smaller agencies that often leads to shady transactions.
In 2006, Kawachi’s union, joined by the Federation of Cinema and Theatrical Workers Union in Japan, presented the culture ministry with a proposal on restructuring the animation industry, outlining main issues and suggesting solutions. Kawachi said they received no response from the government.
Yamaguchi of AJA, who also lectures on animation literacy at Nihon University’s law school, predicts that in the end, quality, not quantity, will come to be emphasized.
“When we look at viewer ratings of animated television programs, we notice that the top slot is always dominated by ‘Sazae-san,’ the only program that is still produced using the traditional hand-drawn method,” he said, adding that this trend could also be seen in last year’s ¥15 billion-grossing hit “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea,” a hand-drawn movie produced by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli.
“I think we need to think, philosophically, about what our users really want.”
Read full article in Japan Times
It sounds like the government ignored the proposal…
Clearly, Yamaguchi makes some far fetched conclusions. Nature of the animation itself is only one of the factors contributing to the success of a series. Accessibility of the story to the masses is much more important than the animation itself. Also, I wonder how much the Ponyo would earn if it was not made by Miyazaki.
His last statement is especially funny. One of the common failures in design is that some people think “philosophically” what is best for their users and what they really want. Obviously, this way of thinking may lead to disasters. If you really want to know what people want, ask them. Also you have to keep in mind that, sometimes, people don’t know what they want. Malcolm Gladwell presented a fun TED talk on this topic.
- Future of Anime is Dim
- Anime Expo 2008 Industry Roundtable: Fansubs – The Death of Anime?
- Otakon 2008 Fansubs and Industry Panel