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Yaoyorozu Studio's Producer Proposes Partnership System to Replace Anime Production Committees

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

Yaoyorozu's Yoshitada Fukuhara, who served as producer for the studio's Kemono Friends anime, conducted a presentation titled "A Partnership System Turning Into the Production Committee System" at Josai International University on Monday. The presentation was part of Creative Content Research Association's spring research convention that students and teachers from various Japanese university attended to present research.

Fukuhara's presentation first outlined problems in the anime industry, despite its record 2.0009 trillion yen (about US$18.8 billion) market value in 2016. The Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) published its "Anime Industry Report 2017," which examines industry trends from 2016, in October. The report stated that anime production companies (i.e. anime studios) only earned an estimated 230.1 billion yen (about US$2.17 billion), which was about one tenth of the industry's total market value.

Those figures demonstrate some of the reasons Fukukara said that the anime industry is struggling. The problems Fukuhara listed include:

1. Animators' low wages
2. Structure in which anime studios do not hold rights to their own works
3. Lack of talented producers
4. Downward trends in distribution proceeds in China, which has become the greatest source of current earnings increases
5. Although they should see anime adaptations as having a lot of benefit, publishers generally do not offer flexible contracts related to royalties of original works
6. Handling fee percentages at the time of foreign distribution are fixed from when proceeds were small; this does not correspond to the current state where foreign distribution makes up the majority of income
7. Because the total number of works is increasing overall, the supply of original works of good quality is drying up, and there is insufficient staff participating in production

The production committee system currently dominates, but there have been several styles of anime production systems. For example, until the first half of the 1990s, anime production centered on television stations and sponsors. The production committee system began to prevail in the mid-1990s. Under the system, various companies hold rights with every investment they make. Package makers who sell video releases become central to business, fundraising risks are dispersed, and usage is maximized for every outlet including secondary uses.

Although the home video sales overall dropped by 10% in Japan in 2017, the anime home video market rose 2.6%. Kadokawa anime producer Shō Tanaka noted in January that, while some people say the physical video industry has been collapsing for more than ten years, he thinks home video sales of anime still have chief importance.

In the production committee system, anime studios produce works after receiving requests from production committees, and they only deliver anime as completed works. Therefore, they don't have income from holding rights, and they only need to manage production fees. Some people say the current system removes risk for studios. However, requests for high-quality works often leave studios with little money.

Also, because companies that invest as part of production committees are the ones to become rights holders, quick decisions become impossible. In comparison, in foreign production systems, a company such as Disney may be the sole rights holder, allowing quick decisions to be made.

To confront these problems, Fukuhara suggested a new "partnership system." In this scenario, anime studios are in leadership positions, and foreign distribution companies such as Amazon and Netflix become their partners. The distribution companies would pay distribution fees in proportion to the entire cost of production. Ultimately, the main purpose of distribution license fees is to allow copyrights for a work to remain with anime studios in this system. Studios could then individually sell rights to licensees and expand into businesses for secondary usage.

Fukuhara said that "sooner or later the structure will collapse" if the industry disregards the customs of the past. He also emphasized that his idea for the partnership system is not intended to replace the production committee system, but he wants more choices to be available in the anime industry.

Fukuhara's Yaoyorozu studio is known for producing Kemono Friends. However, he confirmed in December that the studio will not return for the planned second season. Yaoyorozu and TATSUKI, the former director of Kemono Friends, formally unveiled their new television anime Kemurikusa in February.

Sources: Gigazine, Business Insider Japan (Rio Nishiyama) via Yaraon!

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