Anime: What if there were too many? – melty

Every year, fans have more and more anime to discover. But is this really a good thing?

In a few years, anime production has increased enormously compared to what the 90s offered us. And we can see that Japanese animation is gaining not only in popularity, but also in recognition, recently ahead of Hollywood’s most interesting investment. For their part, fans keep asking for more adaptations of their favorite manga. And although the demand is increasing year on year, this means that the industry must also increase its production capacity.

Regularly, the Japanese animation studios are singled out for the sustained pace imposed on the teams, but also for possible mistreatment. This was particularly the case in 2021 for the studio MAPPAfamous for Jujutsu Kaisen and more recently chain saw man, which had been criticized for working conditions and wages deemed too low. Several questions then arise. How does the increase in demand affect the animation industry as a whole? Is there too much anime?

The beginnings of the Japanese animation industry

The first anime was released in 1917. Entitled The Dull Sword, it is produced by Jun’ichi Kouichi and lasts a total of four minutes. But it was not until the 1960s, following the success of the hugely popular Astro Boy, that animation will really start to be considered as an industry. Since then, production has steadily increased. As of 2013, there are over 200 existing anime and it is estimated that by 2030 there should be at least 500.

Astro Boy is the first anime that kickstarted the industry.

The fall 2022 season alone has more than 30 new titles, not counting the returns of already existing series like My Hero Academianor the series already in progress like One Piece or Boruto. And we see that this is the seasonal average offered in recent years, although it is expected that the supply will double by the next decade. However, despite an ever-increasing demand, the anime industry is experiencing exponential growth and does not seem ready to stop.

What can be the perverse effects of always offering more anime?

Often, when demand exceeds supply, it is the workers in the industry concerned who pay the price. Bad working conditions, low wages, overtime galore, in short, many inconveniences when you have to respond to a large and constantly increasing demand. This observation is not specific to the animation industry, it is a global observation. However, it is still important to remember that Japan is one of the countries with the highest suicide rate in the world.

Employees increasingly under pressure…

In 2014, a young 28-year-old animator, full-time employee for three years of the studio A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online, Your Lie in April) committed suicide. His death was considered by the Japanese government as a work accident. An investigation was therefore carried out and it revealed that the young man had worked more than 600 hours in the month before his death. In 2013, a 31-year-old journalist, Miwa Sado, was found dead in her bed following a heart attack. Already at the time, the Japanese authorities had come to the conclusion that she had died of exhaustion, having had only two days off the month preceding her death and having worked 159 overtime hours over the same period. All industries are therefore affected by the problem.

…And still low wages

In Japan, it is estimated that the average salary for an animator is 200 ¥ (i.e. 1€40) per drawing. Nevertheless, some works require time, especially because of the complexity of creation or design and a single drawing can therefore take up to an hour. This therefore implies that the average hourly rate for many animators is ¥200. In Japan, the average work schedule is 40 hours per week. By crossing these two pieces of information, we therefore arrive at an average monthly salary of ¥160,000 (i.e. €1,12411). For comparison, the gross monthly French minimum wage is €164548.

Gambling School

In Japan, the salary of animators is quite low.

Many animators can therefore find themselves with an insufficient salary to meet all their needs and therefore choose to stay with their parents or, for some, in a guest house, for example. In addition, some studios no longer hesitate to call on independent animators, a strategy that brings them several advantages. Indeed, by appealing to independents, studios do not have to abide by Japan’s national labor code. They can also not only save on prices by lowering them as much as possible, but also on their payroll. However, Japanese animation studios are not the only ones to do so. Several companies have also been singled out for this kind of operation, particularly in the media world.

However, the situation is even worse for female facilitators. In effect, a recent study showed that they were paid significantly less than their male counterparts. A situation that pushes many animators to take several jobs to survive. With ever-increasing schedules and constraints, many animators have been hospitalized due to overwork and accumulated exhaustion.

What if the solution was to offer shorter anime?

If we compare the current anime with the older ones, we realize that the productions seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Titles like BLEACH Where naruto are known to have lasted for years, thus exceeding 100 episodes quite easily. These days, it’s no longer uncommon to have anime that only last one season, or one season split into two courses, with each course being around 11-13 episodes. Most of old anime which are still in existence have generally become true franchises, as is the case with One Piece, Detective Conan or dragonballfor example.

One Piece

Some anime licenses, which have become real franchises, are quite old.

Mainly because the technologies have evolved, so has the art style, which has become much more detailed and precise than in the past. Today, we realize that animation studios no longer seek to content themselves with simply reproducing a story, they seek to impress the public, to seduce. And so they no longer hesitate to go into the smallest details to really satisfy the viewers. This is for example the case with the series Blue Lockwhich is a real gem on the animation side.

However, these developments will not necessarily make things better for professionals in the sector. Indeed, if a series requires more effort and resources, but the studios do not wish to review their copy on the management and business model side, we could quickly find ourselves in a complicated situation. Currently, some animators do not hesitate to advise against the profession.