Studio Ghibli veteran Shigeo Akahori highlights some solutions to the many problems plaguing the anime industry — most notably the great divide between management and field animators .
Akahori highlighted this divide in an interview with Gamebiz, where he added that in his 40 years as an animator, he had never even seen an overall budget allocation for anime. He said newer animators are apathetic, weaker at negotiating and lack the strong personalities of the previous generation. Superiors need to negotiate with subordinates and allow employees to reap the rewards of copyrights and licenses. On the creative front, he added that in the early days of television animation, talented creators “could freely use their ingenuity, create many masterpieces, and witness this, even more talented people have entered the anime industry.” Nowadays, however, “it is important that the manga be faithful to the original work, so there is a need for people who are more like craftsmen than creators.” To solve the problems this caused, Akahori called for the creation of shorter animated films and the government promoted media outlets to connect fans behind the scenes of anime production.
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While the push for shorter animations is certainly controversial, Akahori says running them alongside the standard 12-episode 30-minute seasons would be effective. This will “attract amateurs and animators who have ideas but don’t have a place to apply them.” While Akahori’s proposal hopes to meet the needs of the anime industry by producing works of higher quality, others suggest increasing quantity through ‘softcore anime’. This will do so through cheaper production. Akahori then addressed the importance of shorter anime by praising filmmaker Makoto Shinkai (Your Name, Weathering with You, Suzume) as essential to fixing the problems in anime. Shinkai frequently used animated short films before establishing himself as a global leader in feature films. Akahori says this will provide an important starting point, allowing masters of their craft to emerge.
Recently, many leading figures in the anime industry have given their views on what the anime industry needs. Aniplex CEO and Demon Slayer producer Atsuhiro Iwakami recently shared similar views with Akahori about talented creators. In his extended commentary, he added that the way things were created in Japan largely depended on a single genius. In many ways, Japanese animation production is typified by stories about a special force of nature, such as Hayao Miyazaki, Hideaki Anno or Yoshiyuki Tomino. Iwakami said the industry needs to take into account the question of foreign models, where production is more “rational and organized” but often fails in Japan.
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Akahori worked on Studio Ghibli’s The Cat Returns and was the lead animator on The Secret World of Arrietty and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. His call for government intervention in the anime industry was recently supported by a Japanese economic think tank. Many of their demands overlapped, while Akahori suggested that the government could also support media production, such as shows like 100 Kame. While international fans may not know the name of the show, Attack on Titan fans recently caught a glimpse of the show in a viral video of Mikasa’s voice actor bursting into tears after the 10-year anime series ended end.