Nippon Anime & Film Culture Association (NAFCA), an organization aimed at improving conditions in the anime industry, was established on April 27 of this year. The news was announced at yesterday’s press conference. Producer Masuo Ueda is currently representing the association.
Nippon Anime & Film Culture Association issued a statement yesterday, in which it highlights the need for a more worker-friendly environment on the production side of things. They state that 100 years have passed since the establishment of the commercial anime industry and that sales have exceeded 3.5 trillion yen. They also highlight the fact that anime has taken over the country by storm and become a cultural phenomenon that enriches both people’s minds and lives but that production sites are not a place where creativity and dreams are nurtured. Work often pushes people to physical and mental limits merely through their desire to work on anime and often animators are pushed into poverty due to low wages and long hours. With this in mind, NAFCA poses three important questions aimed at the sustainability of the current system:
- Will Japanese animation continue to be a place where one must be prepared to live in poverty in order to break into?
- Will it continue to compensate for the depletion of human resources by relying on overseas production systems?
- With global changes in the way people work, and with the government taking a hard look at employment inequality, will this situation be left unchecked until the government takes it into its own hands?
NAFCA finishes by saying that they are not an organization that seeks to only improve the conditions of the workers. They highlight that management and production sides must both understand each other’s situations, be aware of their responsibilities and work together to solve the issue of the current “accumulated stagnation” to achieve a greater goal, while also working with the government on national cultural strategies that will allow everyone to aim even higher.
The representative director, Masuo Ueda is the former managing director of Sunrise, former Aniplex and A-1 Pictures, and former director of AJA (The Association of Japanese Animation), with years of experience in the industry. He talked about improving the working conditions of the animators in the past. The founders of NAFCA include:
- Masaru Kitao (animator, known as Death Note character designer)
- Naomichi Yamato (director, known mainly for episodic credits that include Trigun Stampede)
- Shunsuke Sakuya (voice actor)
- Yuko Kaida (voice actress)
Anime Industry – Bad Working Conditions and Growing Concern
Working conditions in the anime industry have been a common topic of discussion in the past few years. Low wages, long hours, and outsourcing of production overseas, mainly to Korea and China, have become the norm. All this has affected not only the animators but also the quality of the content that is being produced. We are seeing a rise in split-cour anime caused by the studios’ inability to finish the product in a timely manner due to limited resources and time. Delays are often blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic: the most recent outbreak in the spring of this year was in China, further highlighting just how much of the content is actually made outside of Japan. Animators have been speaking up about strict timelines and being overworked to the point of exhaustion (Wonder Egg Priority, an Aniplex show animated by CloverWorks, will stay remembered as one of the biggest production meltdowns of recent years, with staff ending up in the hospital). Unfortunate mishaps are also becoming more common and going viral in anime communities online (including the ones where the animators get recruited online and credited under their Twitter usernames).
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While this is nothing new, the cracks in the industry are becoming more visible. The number of anime being produced yearly is steadily growing: for example, Kadokawa revealed plans to produce 40 anime per year until 2023 in 2021, but they hit this number in the years prior and have surpassed it by now. To try and mitigate these issues, some studios, like MAPPA, have been opening new subsidiaries and recruiting and training more staff for certain projects (keep in mind that the same studio was accused of underpaying animators). The efforts are there, but, it has now become apparent that without a systematic effort not much will change.
Keep up with NAFCA on the official website.