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Veteran Producer Masao Maruyama Warns of Anime's Creative Decline

posted on by Kim Morrissy
"The only reason China hasn't quite caught up with Japan yet is because of a bunch of restrictions imposed on free expression there."

Image via prtimes.jp
Veteran anime producer Masao Maruyama had some pessimistic comments about the anime industry in an interview with AFP last week. The 81-year-old warned that Japan's animation will lose out to China because of commercialism stifling creativity.

"In Japan, people are no longer trained in animation. The only reason China hasn't quite caught up with Japan yet is because of a bunch of restrictions imposed on free expression there," he commented. "If more freedom is unleashed, Japan will be overtaken in no time."

He warned that the industry is more concerned with churning out endless iterations of crowd-pleasing genres than training the next generation of animation talent, which is damaging in the long run.

In the interview, Maruyama also commented on his relationship with Osamu Tezuka, the God of Manga. Maruyama is producing the animated series of Naoki Urasawa's Pluto manga, which will stream on Netflix this year. The Pluto manga is Urasawa and producer Takashi Nagasaki's seinen drama re-imagining of the world depicted in Osamu Tezuka's manga Astro Boy.

Maruyama described himself as "the most authentic inheritor of Tezuka's DNA," highlighting his lack of concern for budgets and his "selfish" workaholic outlook. Maruyama also remarked that, like Tezuka, "I flip-flop all the time, saying something totally different from what I said a day before." Nevertheless, he commented that challenging oneself with new projects often means that contradicting one's past self. He said that he intends to remain active in the anime industry for as long as his mind and body permits.

On the other hand, Maruyama joked that he has no special skills for himself, and that all he does is "cook and clean toilets." He described himself as someone who does not steer the directors, but simply follows them and their talent. He is also a "masochist," as evidenced by how the names of his three studios—Madhouse, MAPPA and M2—all start with the letter "M."

"The more challenging, painful and excruciating the project is, the more motivated I become."

Maruyama was involved in the establishment of MADHOUSE in 1972. Since then, he has nurtured talents such as Tetsuro Araki, Atsuko Ishizuka and the late Satoshi Kon. Among the anime he has produced are Unico, Ninja Scroll, Cardcaptor Sakura, Monster, Death Note, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Paprika, Redline, and Supernatural the Animation. Maruyama left MADHOUSE in 2011 to form MAPPA, and then stepped down as CEO in April 2016 and founded his new Studio M2 in the same year.

Source: AFP (Tomohiro Osaki)

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