Nikkei: Will Foreign Companies Recruiting Japanese Animation Staff Improve Industry Conditions?

posted on by Kim Morrissy

Japanese financial newspaper Nikkei posted an editorial on its online site on Tuesday regarding the possible impact that Chinese and American companies will have on the Japanese animation industry. It explains that more and more Chinese and American companies are attempting to recruit Japanese creators. The article speculates that the foreign investment could improve working conditions in Japan.

The article highlights two companies: the California-based animation studio Tonko House, which started production this spring in a Kanazawa studio for an animated work that will get streamed on a U.S. video service; and Colored Pencil Animation Japan, which is owned by a Chinese company which produces hit animated series such as The King's Avatar.

Tonko House company director Daisuke "Zen" Miyake told Nikkei, "In America, the top-level creators receive a large salary, which makes it something to aspire to. I want the young generation to feel the worth of their work in Japan as well." Tonko House is currently a three-person team, and within a year it plans to increase its staff by an order of magnitude. The pay is higher than industry average, and it will also be easier to take breaks from work.

Colored Pencil Animation Japan is also hiring in Japan. CEO Bunjirō Eguchi said that the number of talented creators in Japan who are working on projects funded by foreign companies like Netflix and Amazon is increasing. He wants to cultivate talent in Japan "so that Japanese creators will be able to support the growing market in China." He plans to increase the number of staff from 10 to 15 in May.

The studio pays specialized training school graduates a 173,000 yen (approximately US$1,600) monthly salary, and also covers housing and travel costs. According to Eguchi, this is "on the high end of average" for the Japanese industry. Nikkei cites a Japan Animation Creators Association (JAniCA) study, which found that 54.7% of animators surveyed in 2017 earn less than 4 million yen (approximately US$37,000) per year.

The article mentions Netflix's announcement at the end of February to partner with six Japanese creators in order to expand the streaming service's original anime lineup. The article describes Netflix as "leading the way" for the change. It concludes by equating foreign investment to the Black Ships that historically prompted Japan to end its isolationist policy in the 19th century, saying that "this may be linked to the improvement of working conditions."

An earlier Nikkei editorial from last month adopted a more cautionary stance regarding foreign investments, warning that unless profits are properly distributed among production studios and staff, the quality of Japanese animation will decline and its reputation for world-class animation will be diminished.

Source: Nikkei (Hideki Shinohara)

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