The problem with Japanese animation is that it's too darn popular.
Or in the least, that's one perspective that animators and producers are taking to the local industry's ongoing financial crunch. Having turned a major corner over the past five years in terms of global accessibility, Japanese animation is the most resonant echo of a medium defined by remarkable storytelling, identifiable characters and the reflection of a cultural integrity of some sort. The animation industry of Japan in particular, a widely recognized sibling to the country's intensely competitive comics market, is encountering a few challenges of its own; challenges and concerns whose existence can no longer be ignored.
Those in the trenches of the Japanese animation industry--which occupies 62% of the world market, according to China Daily--have become apprehensive over money matters. The quality of employment for animators has not improved in several years, and for many reasons; while the expanding work load for the overwhelmingly predominant array of small animation studios has become burdensome, forcing producers and financiers to look toward external markets for grunt work. Interconnected in more ways than one, the decline of animators available, the lack of substantial working conditions and the dramatically increased favoritism for outsourcing are each baiting those who care for the anime industry to finally get into action.
"Unless something is done, Japanese anime will be ruined," Koichi Murata, the President of animation production group Oh Production, stated recently.
Although much of the issues regarding high expectations and low pay for animators and animation artists in Japan may sound like old news to those with their ears to the wire, the challenges faced in this market are yet gaining no assistance from the industry bodies that matter. Roughly 2,000 graduates move into animation each year, according to the Association of Japanese Animators, emerging from approximately 200 vocational schools and colleges where animation courses are taught.
With constant on-the-job training and relentless television schedules that call for twelve-hour workdays, for every day of the week, these new graduates and others of the Japan cartoon market are finding themselves vastly outpaced by the demands of wealthy broadcast and satellite television stations (who in turn, contract studios for a fraction of the animated property's estimated worth). For all of the popularity and creative success that anime has achieved over the past fifteen years, growing into a domestic industry some 2.5 times during that time-span, there simply aren't enough hands on board to keep the ship steadily afloat.
Human resources, a blanket issue in other Asian regions, such as China, seems ubiquitous; but nevertheless remains inelegantly specific to Japan in that the animation industry, overflowing with brilliant story concepts, is becoming more and more resolved to developing only the framework for a television animation, allowing Business Process Outsourcing to fill in the gaps. Whereas the market in South Korea has an abundance of talent with nowhere to go and the India market with far too much inexperience (a great many of which, according to sources, are college dropouts or have emigrated from other areas of tech study); the business of anime's lack of a stable working environment is leading to a "hollowing out" of the trade.