This series is available in six parts:
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Playing with fewer frames
- Part 3: Staff connections
- Part 4: 2D vs 3D
- Part 5: Planning and management
- Part 6: Staff efforts and conclusion
Anime industry is not much transparent regarding its workings. Even with the presence of the anime series Shirobako, as well as videos, articles, and tweets from anime staffs about behind-the-scenes processes has been helpful, many people still do not understand or care how the production was run. Thus, anime audience were largely left to assume how the industry works without seeing the reality. This article will expose common mistaken assumptions among fans about anime production process, and to better understand the factors that influence the outcome of that process.
Before we begin, there are some key points to understand related to this discussion. First, take a look at the following figure.
The figure above is a simple illustration of the hierarchical structure in anime production process. You can see that animation studio is funded or hired by the production committee (制作委員会/seisaku iinkai).
What is the production committee? The production committee is formed by media companies to reduce risks in anime productions. Media companies such as Aniplex, Kadokawa, Bandai, Sony and other companies who have a production house usually determine what anime to make. But even for the big companies, anime production is stil a high-cost and high-risk investment. Thus, the production committee is formed to minimize expenditures and risks, by dividing the expenses with other interested companies.
The production committee then decides on the budget, the time needed for production, which studio will do it, and various other things related to marketing.
Some may misunderstand that the production committee serves as “sponsors,” because both act as sources of funding for the production of anime. But the two of them have different roles. Sponsors are parties who lend support in funding or other forms of support, but are not involved in the production processes. Meanwhile, production committee are involved in the production process and has authority over them. People from the involved production committee are what we call producers.
However, not every anime rely on production committee to begin a certain project. There are some anime studios which have their own production house, such as Production I. G. or Kyoto Animation, the latter of which has made anime adaptations of light novels published by their own label, KA Esuma Bunko, since 2012.
For the second key point, let’s take some look at history. Japan’s anime industry was initially dominated by Toei Doga—prior to becoming Toei Animation. Perhaps not everyone knows that Toei Doga was heavily influenced by Disney in the 60s to 70s and tried to make animation with the same visuals and feel as Disney’s animated movies. By trying to compete with Disney, Toei aims to spread Japan’s culture worldwide. To that end, Toei adopted the same kind of animation used by Disney—full animation. Full animation is a process where animation is made in the frame rate of 24 fps (frame rate per second); meaning using 24 different pictures for one second of animation.
However, if there was one thing different from Disney, it was that were Japanese animators at that time who were more rebellious, such as Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Aside from the two of them, there was another noted animator who co-worked with Miyazki and Takahata in 1968 in The Adventure of Hols, Prince of The Sun (Taiyou no Ouji Horusu no Daibouken) animated film. This veteran animator who revolutionize Japanese animation was Yasuo Otsuka. Otsuka used a technique known as frame modulation or limited animation, where an animation is made with recycled images for varying amounts, so that the images used in a second can vary from eight, 12 or even 24. Recycling images for three times is called “3s”, two times as “2s” and once as “1s”.
To understand limited animation more clearly, take a look at the following figure.
After getting understanding on these key points, let’s get into the main discussions regarding some false assumptions believed by many people.
Many still assume that the quality of anime industry is heavily influenced by financial factors, which results in comments like these:
“As long as there are funds, the studio can get better staff”
“As long as there are funds, the studio does not need to reduce the number of frames”
“They must’ve used 3DCG to cut costs”
“Animators must’ve worked harder if paid more”
“The animation is good, so it must’ve got a high budget”
While it is true that producing an animated series needs a lot of funds, are those assumptions that money is the deciding factor true, though? We will discuss them one by one in the next parts.
The Indonesian Anime Times | Original text by Yoza Widi with translations by Paksi Pradipta