After a June 7 episode of NHK’s Close Up Gendai+, famous anime director Shinji Takamatsu took to Twitter to add his thoughts to the story. Takamatsu’s directorial resume includes Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, School Rumble, and Gintama, so his words have a significant heft to them. The episode in question further exposed the bleak state of the anime industry like animator’s poor working conditions and financial issues. And Takamatsu believes these point toward a perilous future—multiple anime studios could undergo bankruptcy in the next 10 years.
Takamatsu immediately disputed a couple ideas the story put forth. For instance, he does not believe AI and CGI will help the industry. That strategy could put low paying animators out of a job. He also dismissed the claim directors earn part of the profit. Takamatsu says he’s never received director’s royalties but did speculate more famous directors could negotiate that into their contracts.
Because labor costs and production costs are one-in-the-same, the individual take home is small. For instance, if ¥10 million ($90,000) is split among 200 people, the average take home per episode is ¥50,000 ($445) per person. That is a truly disgusting number considering most animators work 11+ hour days. A graphic from the NHK episode illuminates the huge disparity between market size and what production studios make.
The red line indicates how the anime industry market size; the yellow line represents what production studios make. So even though production studios are responsible for near everything in an anime, they’re only taking home 10% of what the industry makes.
Takamatsu believes the failings of the anime industry are at the heart of its money-making model. When it comes to production costs, Takamatsu says anime costs much more in comparison to other TV programs. A typical season costs anywhere from ¥150-¥200 million ($1.37-$1.82 million) to produce. Most studios hope to make most of that money back through disc sales, which are steadily falling.
Truthfully, Takamatsu is shining a brighter light on what we already know. The industry underpays its animators. There aren’t enough quality animators to go around. Anime DVD and Blu-Ray sales are bottoming out. All we can hope is that time will prove Takamatsu wrong. But if the industry doesn’t change, I have a scary feeling he’ll be right.