Anime Central 2001 ACen 2001: State of the Industry
by George Phillips, May 11th 2001
John Sirabella (Media Blasters), David Williams and Matt Greenfield (ADV) coupled with Scott Frazier to form the State of the Anime Industry panel. During the panel, they shared experiences regarding the Japanese side of the industry.
Scott Frazier compared modern directors to the legacy of past directors. He said that Miyazaki, Tezuka, and other influential anime directors attempted to use animation as a medium to express what could not be expressed in real life. He said the new generation of directors and animators no longer seek creativity, but instead desire to recreate "what they saw as kids". There's less innovation and amount of quality anime has shrunk significantly.
He also said that cel counts for shows are down. The number of cels used to make a single episode of a TV series can range from 18,000 for the first Cowboy Bebop episodes to as little as 2,400 for the last show Scott himself worked on. Quality of an animated series can generally be determined by the number of cels used during production.
Likewise, production costs influence quality. An average TV episode costs $100,000 to produce, but has dipped as low as $30,000 recently. OVAs and quality TV episodes can cost up to $300,000 per 30 minutes.
OVAs first appeared in 1985, back when the Japanese bubble economy was still expanding. When the Japanese economy contracted after nearly 30 years of constant growth, the OVA market quickly died out. Adult OVAs continue to sell very well because there is no other outlet for such products, but non-adult OVAs are dead, and short of a miracle, appear unlikely to return.
The Japanese anime industry has had a "Cloud of Stupidity" rain over them for the last few years, the panel said. Using Blood as an example, they explained that a 50 minute "movie" simply isn't long enough to be a full movie. It would be very difficult to place into theatres, and it would be difficult justifying paying the significantly higher Japanese ticket prices just to see it. This is one reason why Pokémon movies are coupled with a short film, to provide additional substance to the film.
All in all, they shared concern for the industry, as the Japanese recession is really hitting the anime industry hard. Talented artists can find more work at better wages in the Video Game industry, or in America or pretty much any other market other than anime currently.