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Dahlia in Bloom Anime to Redo Scenes Suspected to Be Animated in N. Korea

posted on by Alex Mateo
Following investigation, anime's staff cannot deny possibility N. Korean company worked on series

The official website for the Dahlia in Bloom: Crafting a Fresh Start With Magical Tools anime announced on Friday that the staff will redo scenes that had been suspected to be animated in North Korea.

In reponse to reports by 38 North in April, there was an investigation held for staff involved in the production of the Dahlia in Bloom anime. The investigation found that some work was outsourced from anime production studio Typhoon Graphics to a Japanese production company, which then outsourced the work to a Chinese production company, which again outsourced to another Chinese company. The investigators asked for a list of staff involved in each episode, but one company did not comply. As a result, the anime's staff determined that it could not deny the possiblity that a North Korean production company worked on the series in some capacity. Thus, the staff will redo all suspected scenes with animators in Japan prior to the show's broadcast.

The official X/Twitter account for the anime confirmed that the series is still scheduled to debut in July.


A layout sheet Nick Roy found on the cloud server featuring the name Ekachi Eplika and text in Chinese and Korean
Image via 38 North
The anime's official website and Hokkaido-based anime studio EKACHI EPILKA both released statements in April, following a report posted by the 38 North website on April 22 claiming that North Korean animators worked on Dahlia in Bloom and an unnamed work at EKACHI EPILKA. On April 23, the official X/Twitter account for the Dahlia in Bloom anime posted a statement "regarding what is in a series of reports" about the anime. The statement said that "neither the production committee nor the production studio were aware of the information," and adding that the staff were currently investigating the situation.

On April 24, EKACHI EPILKA posted a statement on its homepage, stating that its layout sheets were used without permission, and the studio has no connection to the drawings and art found on the server. The company said it speculates that there was a leak from a subcontractor company, but EKACHI EPILKA has never placed any orders through a North Korean company and there is no evidence of such orders.

38 North is a Stimson Center-based website that provides analysis about North Korea. According to the report, NK Internet blog reporter Nick Roy discovered a cloud server with a North Korean IP address that was incorrectly configured, allowing anyone without a password to access it. North Korea uses these types of servers because most IT workers inside the country do not have access to the Internet.

Roy observed the files on the server throughout January, and discovered the server hosted files that included instructions for animation work, and the results of that day's animation work. Some files contained instructions in Chinese and translated into Korean, which suggested a third company was responsible for relaying information between the animators and production companies.

38 North noted that while it did not find any concrete evidence on the exact North Korean animation studio involved, it is likely to be April 26 Animation Studio (aka SEK Studio). The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned the studio in 2016 as a North Korean state-owned enterprise. The U.S. government has since sanctioned Chinese companies twice that worked with the studio.

The report stated that Roy found files on the server related to both the Dahlia in Bloom: Crafting a Fresh Start With Magical Tools anime and an unnamed work at EKACHI EPILKA. The files for EKACHI EPILKA featured the name "Neko" (Cat).

38 North was careful to note that there was no evidence to suggest that the companies it identified in the files had any knowledge of working with North Korean animators. The report added, "In fact, as the editing comments on all the files, including those related to US-based animations, were written in Chinese, it is likely that the contracting arrangement was several steps downstream from the major producers."

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the FBI warned in May 2022 that IT workers from North Korea were attempting to obtain employment while posing as non-North Korean nationals. The report even listed "graphic animation" as one of the areas of work in which employees from IT companies were engaged. The employees might use VPNs or other methods to appear as though they reside in another country.

The 38 North report also identified other projects on the server, including the third season of the Amazon Original animated series Invincible and the BBC children's cartoon Octonauts. Skybound Entertainment, the studio handling Invincible, also made a public statement after the report.

Source: Dahlia in Bloom anime's website and X/Twitter account via Hachima Kikо̄

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