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Anime Decline... Japanese Industry in Big Trouble!

Postby GeorgeC » August 20th, 2010, 12:26 pm

http://www.toonzone.net/news/articles/34793/la-times-on-the-shrinking-japanese-animation-industry

Original article here => http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-japan-anime-20100819,0,7946983.story


Outsourcing, ridiculously low pay, and bone-crushing schedules...

Sound familiar?

It's no wonder the quality of the product is getting worse and most animators don't last five years in Japan... The land of the $10 hamburger and $20 movie tickets!

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Postby eddievalient » August 20th, 2010, 7:13 pm

Don't panic. Just like there will always be some sort of animation in the US, there will always be some sort of animation in Japan, even if there starts to be less of it. It's too much a part of their culture to go away entirely, so relax. It'll be okay.
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Re: Anime Decline... Japanese Industry in Big Trouble!

Postby GeorgeC » August 20th, 2010, 9:59 pm

I'm not panicking.

I'm older than you and have seen this happen before in the US.

There's basically no TV animation produced in the US anymore... It's all done overseas. TV production in the US disappeared for the most part in the 1970s and was in its last gasps in the mid-1980s. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe might have been the last series produced mostly in the States. Character designs and boarding as well as backgrounds get done in the US but the rest (80% or more of the production) is outsourced.

The quality of anime has already declined and it will get worse before it gets better.

Studio Ghibli will continue to produce its features the way it has as long as it remains profitable for them. Ghibli's different from other studios in that it's set up for feature production for the indefinite future. It's a permanent company. Whether it does furloughs and layoffs like Disney and DreamWorks have I don't know, but it's not typical for Japan at any rate. A lot of companies get formed temporarily to produce a film in Japan and disband after production is finished; that's generally the way it works for most independently-produced films around the world. It's too expensive to keep companies together between feature film production that may or may not happen. Very, very hard to get financing unless you're Disney or DW and can raise capital quickly. Only a few companies can survive box office bombs...

TV production companies come and go and survive primarily on licensing and tie-in merchandise. There's just no money actually being made from DVD and Blu ray sales anymore. It's toys, videogames, and other collectible and disposable hardware that keep companies afloat.

The economy in Japan is at least, if not much more, cut-throat than the US. The time for the Japanese government to do something about outsourcing was really about 15-20 years when their animation industry was in better shape than it is now. Production strategy has been ingrained in Japan since at least the original Astro Boy and it would be very difficult if not impossible now to get the financiers in Japan to change the money-management strategies.

It's unfair, yes, but I'd say government interference might actually make the outsourcing problem worse than it is already...

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Re: Anime Decline... Japanese Industry in Big Trouble!

Postby Whitney » October 13th, 2010, 7:32 pm

But what can we do? There's only so much we can demand from these companies. It is true that they want to please the fans, but their main purpose is to make a buck.

I know that a lot of American cartoons from the 60s and 70s were outsourced, i.e. Hanna Barbara, and many people look back fondly on those cartoons. Japanese and American anime fans may have the same feelings in the future.

It stinks for the present and aspiring animators in Japan, but sometimes even outsourced anime is better than none.

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Re: Anime Decline... Japanese Industry in Big Trouble!

Postby GeorgeC » October 13th, 2010, 11:02 pm

The problem is that despite intense demand for animation the typical worker in the anime industry gets screwed salary-wise.

It's really, really bad but the culture has been so ingrained after 50 years that it's hard to see it changing any time soon.

There are some fairly wealthy individuals in anime but they are mainly executives, a few producers, and some high-ranking directors like Miyazaki who happen to be officers in their production companies. The rank-and-file by most accounts are impoverished...

Again, this is despite high demand for the product which should be leading to better salaries and working conditions. It just hasn't happened because of the culture (Japanese don't strike or raise a fuss like Westerners about work in companies for the most part; they have different views on labor and management relations and the functions of unions) and the way anime has been run for 50-odd years.

**********

As for anime sales, they're impacted as much by Net piracy -- so very, very easy to compress, upload and download anything you want -- as well as the highly derivative nature of anime today. Too much of today's product is thighly homogenized.

The 1980s and early 1990s were a Golden Age of anime as it were when there were many ground-breaking shows, great direct-to-video product, and a fairly good amount of decent theatrical features.

Nowadays, it's very hard to find many standout TV series and theatrical anime is by-and-large best avoided unless the director is Miyazaki or (the late) Satoshi Kon. Direct-to-video is basically a dead medium and has been replaced by the "half-season" 13-episode TV series.

That all said, it's still a picker's market in the US. There has never been as much available as there is now and that's a huge part of the problem... even though I'd say it's sad to say that a lot of classics are now out-of-print on DVD and it's hard to predict to when if ever they will be re-licensed and re-released in the US. There are certain shows and movies which IMHO are highly overpriced in the used-and-discontinued market as well as DVD releases which are brand-new and still shrinkwrapped that still haven't managed to be sold after nearly a decade!

Good news is that some of these discontinued shows have been picked by other companies and are getting re-released. Project A-ko (the first, best movie in that series) has been licensed by DiscoTek and it worth getting if you don't have it already, and even the original 1979 Gundam series is seeing a rebirth in the US. It just got that the US is finally getting a (mostly) uncut, dual-language release of the series on DVD. Yes, it will have the full Japanese audio track plus subtitles this time around! No word yet if the episode cut from the previous English-only release has been reinstated or not... Frankly, it wouldn't be a deal-breaker for me. I always felt that series could have been trimmed by 1/3 and the main story still would have been told with decent characterization...

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Postby eddievalient » October 14th, 2010, 10:10 am

First Gundam is being rereleased? Awesome! I always wanted to see the original series but $200+ to buy ten individual volumes was out of my price range. Here's hoping the rerelease is more reasonably priced (i.e. no more than their other Gundam boxsets).
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Re: Anime Decline... Japanese Industry in Big Trouble!

Postby Whitney » October 15th, 2010, 8:46 pm

Then is it probable to say that there will be a decline in anime sometime in the future in the future? Anime is relatively still a new subculture, but will the novelty wear off?

I see anime as the reason why there has been a high release of animated feature films in the past few years. If anime goes away, will the desire to see more American animation too? Or has been so ingrained into our society that the effects will last?

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Postby Gligarman » October 26th, 2010, 2:39 am

My suggestion is to support the shows you like in any way you can. I myself am an aspiring animator. It pains me to see anime in decline when it has inspired me so much. Admittedly I don't buy anime nearly as much as I use to mainly for financial reasons but also because there truly is a lack of quality. Everything seems to be about fan service. It seems like you really have to dig for the classics like the original Gundam or gems like Eden of the East.

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Postby eddievalient » October 26th, 2010, 6:50 am

And it doesn't help matters when some shows don't get a complete release. I really got into Hikaru no GO and was disappointed when the last third or so of the series didn't make it to dvd here. They say they don't want people to download stuff, but sometimes they leave you no choice!
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Postby GeorgeC » November 7th, 2010, 10:55 pm

The Complete Metropolis (restored version) is being released on November 23rd, 2010 on DVD and Blu ray.

The restored edition of the film has already screened several times at film festivals and art theaters beginning February 2010 in Germany... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolis_(film)#Restorations_and_re-releases

Until recently, the most complete version of the film was believed to be based on footage from the American edit of 1927... However, 16mm dupes from a master copy were discovered in Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina over the past 10 years. The Argentinian copy, believed to be an unreturned distributor copy, was found in a film museum several years ago. All but 8 minutes of the recovered footage was able to be restored to the most complete version of the film since its German premiere in 1927. The newly restored version runs approximately 145 min versus the original German cut of 153 min.

I as of today have seen a good chunk of the restored Metropolis on TCM which broadcast the restored Metropolis between 8 PM and 10:40 PM EST. With the restored footage, the film generally makes more sense. It's easy to see the differences between the 35mm and 16mm footage. The 35mm footage is pristine and looks like it was shot recently for the most part. The 16mm footage displays some damage with a bluish hue, varying degrees of bluriness among scenes, and vertical "scratch lines" but is otherwise acceptable for a restoration of a landmark film once thought to be lost for all time in its original form.

Metropolis has inspired many later films in spite of muddled philosophical undertones and naivety. Universal's Frankenstein (1931), Blade Runner, and Sky Captain (and the World of Tomorrow) owe quite a bit to the design of Metropolis. Superman's base of operations was named after the movie and various incarnations of his homebase have borne influences from the film as well. The character of C-3PO in the Star Wars films originally bore a look similiar to the Machine-Man/alter-Maria in Metropolis as well. The 2001 anime feature, Metropolis, also carried on some of the themes and subplots of the 1927 silent film along with characters lightly patterned after principals in the iconic movie.

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Postby James » November 11th, 2010, 8:01 am

Three from me. Maybe not the worst of all time but the worsts of the recent past:

- Happy Feet: Hardly any redeeming qualities and one of the worst offenders for not showing the true film in the trailer. Unlike my usual way of doing things where I go to see a film without anyone first, for this one I took both my kids and my mother. If they had not been with me I quite literally would have walked out of the theatre for the first time in my life! And before you start assuming this had something to do with the message -- nope. I'm talking about leaving before it even got to that point in the film! The message section just made it epically bad!

- Happily N'ever After: My very first review for AV! Not as bad as Happy feet only in that maybe the kids in the audience MIGHT have enjoyed it.

And just to create some controversy:

- Spirited Away: I'd heard so many good things about Hayao Miyazaki over the years but never got around to seeing any of his films. Spirited Away showed up at an art house theatre in town and I headed down with a friend to whom I assured this was going to be great. I apologized to him afterwards. You can talk about the difference between cultures all you want. But the film was silly and made no sense. To anyone trying to defend it I point to a scene near the end where the main character has to choose which of the pigs is her parents. She replies "none of them". Everyone cheers. C'mon!

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Postby Ben » November 11th, 2010, 3:15 pm

But it's Japanese, James! Those films never make any sense! :)

As for some Worsts, Space Chimps literally numbed my brain recently, and I didn't really think that much of Igor, either. They both had pop culture coming out of the top of their heads and were all the poorer for it. Even Fly Me To The Moon, which was otherwise sweet though bland, ruined it all with a pointless Buzz Aldrin cameo at the end what he basically poohed all over what we had just seen. Which made the film useless.


As for an animated film that nobody saw because they thought it was going to be bad, I invite you to check out Everyone's Hero (I know James has also seen it), which got a terrible release but proved to be a very nice little movie with some actually very well done sequences.

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Postby GeorgeC » November 11th, 2010, 4:58 pm

Spirited Away is far from being the worst Miyazaki film. To my way of thinking, Princess Monoke is still far worse!

The problem with judging Japanese films "because they're confusing" is that Westerners are generally not well-versed in Asian philosphy, ancient artwork, religion, and mythology. When Asian animated features delve deeply into those areas, it can be very confusing to non-Asians. There was one anime distributor in the US that was noted for producing the most extensive liner notes for the anime it licensed precisely because of those issues. That company no longer licenses new anime and generally distributes samurai films and the older anime licenses it still has. Remember, most production companies in Japan are NOT concerned with licensing their works for the international market! They don't generally tailor stories and characters for foreign markets unlike many American producers.

Anime features generally do have weak scripts but that's nothing new for animation. Great animation writers are about as rare as great writers for live-action. It may seem like the percentages are the same but remember that there have never been as many animated features over the course of 10 years as there has been live-action features in a three-month period!

As for worst films ever, this is always hard because of evolving standards and the fact that many people have "guilty pleasures" -- films that deep down they know are bad but still like.

It's perhaps easier to point out who's a BAD director AND storyteller. For those categories, I'd nominate both Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth. Their work is so uneven it's not funny. I don't own a single film of Bakshi's and I've been aware of him most of my adult life. His stuff just isn't something I care to be reminded of. While I do appreciate moments in both The Secret of Nimh and Anastasia, Bluth's work suffers from the worst Disney-isms and he just wasn't able to elevate and restore animation to "Walt's glory days." That ironically didn't happen until well after Bluth left and new management saw the $$$$$ in theatrical animation. Bluth is without a doubt an excellent animator, though...

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Re:

Postby EricJ » November 12th, 2010, 12:34 pm

James wrote:And just to create some controversy:


(There's "controversy", and there's "stupidity"--It's often hard to tell the difference between the two, as they both involve voluntarily being loud.) :P

Spirited Away: I'd heard so many good things about Hayao Miyazaki over the years but never got around to seeing any of his films. Spirited Away showed up at an art house theatre in town and I headed down with a friend to whom I assured this was going to be great. I apologized to him afterwards. You can talk about the difference between cultures all you want. But the film was silly and made no sense. To anyone trying to defend it I point to a scene near the end where the main character has to choose which of the pigs is her parents. She replies "none of them". Everyone cheers. C'mon!


Just to get the ground rules down, are you saying you actually didn't understand that, or that you thought it was just too kiddy-corny?

As George rants, it's better to have started Miyazaki viewing with Spirited Away than with Mononoke or Howl's. (You could also have started with Ponyo, with the stated caveat that it's a preschool film.)
But before doing our Olympic bathwater toss for the medal, you might try Kiki's Delivery Service, which before SA was traditionally The One You Were Supposed to Start With (as Totoro might also be too preschool for first-timers)--The plot and "spunky first-job" heroine are almost identical to Spirited, but in a more real-world context, and trust me, the plot won't damage your fragile lil' mind.

And as for Ben's trademark Curmudgeonly Comment that anime never makes sense, either he's kidding you, or he's only seen the theatrical features. :wink:

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Postby James » November 12th, 2010, 2:08 pm

Here's the quick version since I'm limited on time: imagine that scene as the big finish for a film from Disney and tell me it doesn't get panned as ridiculous.