Date: 2015 July 14 16:27
Posted by Joe
It's not often you get to see behind the scenes of the anime industry and find out what it's really like. This week the Japan Foundation in London hosted a talk called Inside The Industry: Anime.
The event brought together:
Hirokatsu Kihara who worked at Studio Ghibli before becoming a best selling author.
Michihiko Suwa who works as Chief Producer at the Animation Department of Yomiuri TV and credits include Detective Conan (aka Case Closed) anime.
Aya Suzuki a British/Japanese Layout artist, 2D Character/FX animator and occasional animation lecturer. Projects worked on include (but are not limited to) Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises at Studio Ghibli, plus Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children.
Stephen Cavalier acted as chair, bringing his two decades experience in the animation and games industries along with authoring a book on The World History of Animation
The event ran on Monday 13th July 2015. It was free to attend and it was so popular there was waiting list. The audience was a mix of anime/manga fans along with animation students and animation industry professionals.
The Japan Foundation described the session as:
"This event will bring together seminal figures in the anime industry to discuss the practical aspects of their respective positions in the business, and outline the challenges which animators, writers and producers face today. The speakers will take you on a journey through the tough but fascinating world of anime production, right from the very earliest sketches to the finished product in all its animated glory."
Michihiko Suwa was first up. He talked about the promotion of the latest Detective Conan movie. Every 1 in 10 promotional leaflets was printed with differences on them to make them a "forgery". This included a different painting on the cover and subtle details like the villain not wearing a hat and gloves. The cinema audience soon latched onto this and would hunt through the pile leaflets to get the rarer ones. The forgeries became collectable and increased the hype around the movie.
When talking about international anime Suwa mentioned the remake of Kyojin no Hoshi into a Cricket anime series. Suwa explained that the show was repackaged as a Cricket anime and produced in India. He also mentioned that it didn't do very well.
He also talked about why only about 30% of anime is original, as in it didn't start out as manga or another format and then adapted into anime. This is because creating an original story can be more expensive than adapting an established story as you've got to create all the characters and the scenario from scratch. However, with existing titles, you don't have as much freedom with the established characters.
Hirokatsu Kihara talked about working at Studio Ghibli, including how fun the Catbus is. ^_^
Laputa Castle in the Sky had over 70,000 unique drawings (not including key frames) and working on it was very intense.
He was friends with Pikachu's character designer whose brief was to make an pokemon that makes the sound "Pika-chu". She modelled it on her hamster, adding red cheeks.
Kihara also showed a Makoto Shinkai anime advert for Japanese construction firm Taisei. He explained that if the advert was live action it would have been too simple, but the moving drawings added impact.
Aya Suzuki had some unique insights having worked both for the Japanese and UK animation industries. She talked a bit about the moe trend in anime and how it's popular with otaku. They mentioned how the otaku are primary targets for a lot of anime shows as they're the ones who will buy the boxsets and all the associated merchandise.
She mentioned how organised the resources are in the anime industry, but how they're all still very much paper based. For example instead of digitally transferring files to outsourcing companies in South Korea, the paper is frequently air freighted over (pretty much weekly). Even the CG on Attack on Titan was rendered, printed out, then the traditional non-CG artwork added, then digitally scanned and coloured.
The panel went on to talk about Hollywood buying up rights to Japanese creations, as they're worried about the current super hero trend either drying up or running out of ideas. They're concerned about Japanese creators not knowing their rights or how much their ideas are worth. They expressed concern that Hollywood could exploit the Japanese creators who aren't familiar with how the Hollywood financial system works.
They talked about difficult it is to earn a living as an animator in Japan due to the low wages and gruelling schedule. Aya Suzuki said that the people really supporting the anime industry are the parents of the animators, as often they still live at their parents or get financial support.
It was clear that all the panellists (and the audience too) were passionate about anime. It was a very enjoyable evening and the Japan Foundation should be commended for organising it.