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A deep dive into how animation studios balance manpower and production quality.
BY ANSON CHAN
With the explosion in popularity of anime in recent years and the increase in the use of
streaming services, anime has undoubtedly become an integral part of modern pop culture.
Nowadays, people have a high demand for anime, yet the industry still manages to provide
us with a huge amount of anime of different genres. The amount of anime released every
year has been increasing exponentially, and the number doesn’t seem to be going down
anytime soon. Last year, more than 150 anime were released, with even more coming out
this year. The sheer amount of anime pumped out every year must be amazing for both the
industry and fans.... Or is it?
Producing anime is no easy job, every small detail from the art to the music requires intricate care. The high demand for anime yet low supply of animators has led to many problems during production. Animators are tremendously overworked yet severely underpaid, making the entry barrier to the industry even higher, continuing this endless cycle of overworking for animators. MAPPA is one of the powerhouses of the industry, and the masterful studio behind popular anime such as Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan: The Final Season. However, a tweet by a former employee revealed the hellish working environment in the studio, where animators have to work day and night like factory workers.
The most recent example of the lack of manpower in the anime industry is Wonder Egg Priority, an anime original released in early 2021. Behind the highly acclaimed animation and ambitious take on the magical girl genre is the blood and sweat of the animators. During production, the director of the show had to be hospitalized twice due to exhaustion from overworking. The understaffed studio even had to hire foreign animators through social media to help with the animation as they did not have enough time and manpower.
Despite the increasing amount of anime coming out, not all anime fans are satisfied. In order to meet the demand of their consumers, some studios have rushed production schedules, which can lead to jarring animation, unfaithful adaptations, disjointed storytelling and more. It is as if some studios only produce anime for the sake of producing more content instead of producing quality content. Kadokawa, a Japanese publishing company, announced their plan to produce at least 40 anime every year going forward to promote their light novel titles. As expected, this has led to a significant decrease in quality in some of their adaptations, such as the adaption of the light novel The Detective Is Already Dead. This begs the question of whether anime is a medium to show appreciation for animation and tell stories in a unique way anymore. The demand for both quality and quantity content has really put the anime industry in a taxing dilemma.
The immense demand for quality anime yet lack of manpower has undoubtedly placed a huge burden on the industry. Will the industry be overwhelmed by its own success and collapse under the pressure? Or will they adapt to this new era of anime? Only time will tell.