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Animators Split on Proposed National Media Arts Center (Updated)

posted on by Egan Loo
Labor group supports "anime hall of fame," but some animators criticize it

The debate over Japan's National Media Arts Center — a proposed government institution that has been nicknamed the "anime hall of fame" and derided as the "national manga café" — has divided not only legislators, but also the animators. The Japan Animation Creators Association (JAniCA) supported the 11.7-billion-yen (about US$120 million) plan in a position paper submitted to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on June 23. (Despite the English connotations of its name, the ruling LDP is a conservative faction in Japan.) JAniCA considers the plan as a way to train and expand the animation workforce. 33-year-old JAniCA board member Daisuke Okeda said that young animators will train at the center's in-house studio, which would serve a second purpose by putting the actual animation process on display for tourists.

However, some individual animators have voiced opposition to the proposal. 30-year-old Gonzo producer Junichi Takagi (Red Garden, Transformers: Cybertron) noted that the number of approved productions and their allocated budgets have shrunk since last year. Whereas the studios used to receive 1.8 million yen (US$19,000) for a 30-minute television episode, now they must make do with only 1.3 million yen (US$14,000). Takagi suggested that if there is money to build the center, he woud rather it be used to reorganize the Japanese anime industry. Nobuyuki Tsugata, a 40-year-old associate professor at Kyoto Seika University, added that small and medium-sized production facilities need assistance.

A 24-year-old male animator said that he has no disposable income and he could not marry even if he had a girlfriend. One year after entering the industry, he earns an average monthly salary of 70,000 yen (US$700). Ironically, JAniCA's own survey of animators' salaries supports this anecdote of low wages, although animation director and translator Cindy H. Yamauchi (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Sōten Kōro, Black Lagoon) disagrees with the survey's conclusions.

64-year-old famed character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (Mobile Suit Gundam, Venus Wars) described the proposed center as "totally useless. Anime has the vitality of a weed. I want it to be left alone. And with government support, I worry about potential restrictions being placed on freedom of expression."

Manga and game creators are similarly split over the proposal. Manga creator Kei Ishizaka (I'm Home) criticized the planned center for vainly trying to attract visitors by "using government funds to hang up original manga drawings in picture frames." Manga creator Machiko Satonaka (Lady Ann) responded to this and other criticisms by saying that the center is "urgently needed to preserve and restore our valuable original manga drawings from continuing degradation." 51-year-old game creator Tsunekazu Ishihara (Pokémon) came out in support of the center as well, and noted that the proposed 11.7-billion-yen budget is roughly the cost of just one theme park attraction.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun, AltJapan

Update: The Japanese government's Agency for Cultural Affairs has announced the members of its preparatory committee to establish the tentatively named National Media Arts Center. They include the following:

Media Arts in General

Yasuki Hamano, Tokyo University professor in graduate studies
Kazuo Hayashi, Pia Research Institute President
Tomoe Moriyama, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo Curator

Film, Video

Kōhei Andō, Waseda University professor


Taku Furukawa, artistic anime creator
Sachiko Kamimura, character designer (City Hunter, The Heroic Legend of Arslan)
Yūji Nunokawa, The Association of Japanese Animations Board Chairperson


Chiho Saitō, manga creator (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Anastasia Club)
Machiko Satonaka, manga creator (Lady Ann)

Media Arts

Hide Nakaya, NHK commentator
Nobumichii Tosa, Maywa Denki artist

Computer Games

Tsunekazu Ishihara, Pokémon President
Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Q Entertainment Representative Director

Source: Mainichi Shimbun

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