If there’s one anime that can give us an insight into how the anime industry works, then it has to be none other than Shirobako anime.
Can’t say for sure if there are other anime series out there that dive deeper into the anime industry, though.
The closest thing you can get is Bakuman which gives us a glimpse of how the manga industry works.
The story in Bakuman does touch upon the anime industry a little bit. But if you want an in-depth look at the inner working of the anime industry, then Shirobako has it covered for you.
An anime that gives us a glimpse of the anime industry.
How meta, right?
Shirobako anime in a nutshell
For those who aren’t familiar with Shirobako, the story revolved around Aoi Miyamori and her friends who got their early foray into the anime industry when they decided to create an anime for their school festival.
Ever since that day, they made a promise to each other that all of them will be working in the anime industry someday.
Fast forward to today, all of them did work in the anime industry, with each of them working in a different position.
From there, you’ll get to see how each of them are playing their role in the anime production.
This is what makes Shirobako a fascinating anime to watch. You’ll get to see things from many different perspectives based on the characters’ position.
But of course, you’ll be seeing Aoi’s role a lot more since she’s the production assistant. And she’ll be dealing with many different people in the production chain.
That includes Ema who is working as an animator in the same production company as she is, Musani Production.
The harsh reality of the anime industry
If there’s only one thing I can summarize about the anime industry in general, then it has to be this -it’s a harsh industry.
And it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. You do need to have the drive and passion if you want to be in this industry for the long haul.
I’m sure that many of you may already hear about the living condition of the animators from various resources.
Let’s face it, I can guarantee that this issue has been around for eons already. But it only starts to come to light for the last couple of years or so.
Heck, I won’t be surprised at all that the Shirobako anime has a lot to do with many of the issues being brought to the table.
While some of the issues related to the anime industry are hardly surprising for me. But I do find that some of them can be eye-opening.
Here are some of them.
It’s a havoc behind the scene
If there’s one thing in common between the anime production and the assembly line, then it has to be this.
And that is if there’s a problem in one of the production chains, it’s going to affect everything else going forward.
That was what happened to them when the team was working on the anime adaptation of The Third Girls Aerial Squad.
The whole production came to a grinding halt when the original creator of the series hated the character design.
They can only resume production once they redraw the characters. And the original creator is satisfied with the character design for the anime adaptation.
To be honest, it’s not unusual for the problem to pop up somewhere within the production line.
But a situation like this can be avoided in the first place if there’s clear communication between the production team and the original creator.
And that leads me to my next point.
The publisher tends to keep the original creator in the dark about the progress in the anime production
There’s no doubt that the problems that the production team is having seem to stem from the original creator.
Not approving the character design and also the plot for the final episode.
It looks like Nogame sensei who is the original creator of The Third Aerial Girl seems like a pain in the butt to deal with, don’t you think?
Well, can’t blame him when the one who was calling the shot wasn’t even him. It was his editor who approved everything without his consent.
The kicker? The director only found out that the editor never came to Nogame sensei to ask for his input about the anime adaptation.
The reason why the editor never told him anything about the anime production is that Nogame-sensei is a busy person. So, he shouldn’t concern himself with something trivial. What he should be doing right now is to focus on the manga which is still ongoing during the anime production.
If you see any of the anime adaptation that seems to fall flat on your face, you can safely assume that the original creator was kept in the dark about anything related to the anime production.
I’m not sure why the publisher needs to keep the original creator an arm’s length from the production team.
One of the possible reasons that I can think of is that they don’t want the production to be delayed because the original creator is nitpicking everything.
But keeping the original creator in the dark doesn’t help either. It will only cause a more unexpected delay to the production team.
At the end of the day, it’s the animation studio that will bear the brunt when they fail to deliver the finished episode right on time to the TV station.
It’s a tough competition out there
It can be hard to convince the publishers that you’re capable of producing high-quality anime when you’re only a small studio like Musani Animation.
And on top of that, you’re competing with other studios too, with some of them being bigger and more reputable than you.
If budget isn’t an issue, there’s no doubt that you’ll pick a more reputable studio to do the anime adaptation for you.
You already know what they’re capable of compared to small studios that may not have the best people to create a top-notch anime.
It’s because of this reason that getting a gig means the world for a small studio like Musani Animation.
As much as it pains me to admit it, landing an anime adaptation deal from a publisher isn’t that much different from freelancing.
Whether the studio will get the deal or not will depend solely on the publisher.
With so many demands for anime from streaming websites like Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Netflix, I’m sure that there won’t be much problem for a small studio like Musani Animation to land a deal or two in this day and age.
The only reason that is causing the studio to meet its own demise is when they mismanaged the studio’s finance.
And it’s even worst when the anime they created will go under along with them as well.
The pay is surprising low
Judging from the workload in the anime industry, you may think that people who are working in the anime industry are making a killing.
And it’s even more so when the anime becomes a big hit.
Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all when you take a look at the Shirobako-inspired infographic below.
And guess what? Even the animator who has the most gruesome workload of all is getting paid less than everybody else.
I remember back then that some people claimed that this infographic was a hoax considering that in reality, the seiyuu don’t make as much money as everyone else.
Well, they’re not wrong about that. Any seiyuu regardless of their popularity doesn’t make as much money as everyone else in the industry.
But the thing about seiyuu in general is that they’re making money besides their voice acting gigs.
Unlike the voice actors in the West, some seiyuu aren’t that much different from your typical idols.
They do other entertainment-related things that have nothing to do with anime.
Talk shows, variety shows, music, etc. You name it.
Regardless of what kind of career path that these people chose, it’s clear that you can only make a career out of it because you’re passionate about the industry.
If money and fame are what you’re after, then you’re looking at the wrong place.
The only thing that doesn’t get addressed in Shirobako
While it’s great to see how Shirobako anime depicts the anime industry from the anime production perspective, the anime is leaving out the biggest kahuna of all.
And that is the production budget.
As much as it pains me to admit it, the animation quality and also the cast depends solely on how much the publisher is willing to spend.
This is where you’ll see that the publisher is making a trade-off.
If they want a well-known cast for the anime, they may have to sacrifice the animation quality a little bit and vice versa.
For most publishers, they see anime adaptation as just another form of media that they can use to increase the sales of the original source, nothing else.
What about the anime DVDs and Blu-rays sales, you ask?
Well, that’s a great thing to have. But that’s not their main priority.
The only exception to the rule
The only reason why the publisher will go extra mile for making sure that the anime is top-notch quality-wise and cast-wise is that the original source is already popular way before the anime adaptation.
They’re aware that the anime adaptation not only will increase the sales of the original source tenfold. But it also opens a floodgate of new fans seeing the series for the first time through anime.
Of course, the series will get its line of merchandise and brand collaboration too which is something that only top-tier manga and light novels will get.
Case in point: Kimetsu no Yaiba and Jujutsu Kaisen where they get a brand collaboration with Uniqlo.
Other than that, you’ll only get to see the first season of the anime. And that is as far as you can see.
Sure, some of them do get a second season. But most of them don’t.
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