DISCLAIMER: The author does not claim expertise in animation.

On 30 March, the official Twitter account of Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) released information about the plans for Blu-ray/DVD release of the show’s second season, which began airing in April 2017. It revealed that the Blu-ray will be released in two volumes, each containing six episodes, confirming that the second season would consist of 12 episodes.

There was an outrage in response to the information. After waiting for four years, fans have to find out that the second season of this adaptation of Hajime Isayama’s manga only consisted of 12 episodes, unlike the first season which has 26 episodes. According to my observation, the outrage wasn’t coming from Japan, but rather from international audience.

Bonus: Middle Eastern SnK fans showing their disappointment

Theb in the following day, the Twitter account of Attack on Titan posted about an “apology” from the production committee, which was to be published in Japanese newspaper, that many thought to be an apology for the shorter second season. The funny thing is, the “apology” was a part of April Fools joke and also serve as an ad for Attack on Titan. @CanipaEffect explains that the content of the ad was “we deeply apologize for aspiring to make a high-quality product”. The Apology was for the show being so good, you’ll become so obsessed that you’ll forget about your work, studies and family.

Still, the reality is that the second season of Attack on Titan will only have 12 episodes and it may have been planned that way all along. Last season, Gintama aired the “Battle of Rakuyou” arc, which only has 12 episodes even though usually, Gintama aired as a long season.

Thomas Romain, a professional animator who worked on Satelight-produced shows such as Macross Delta, spoke on this issue through his twitter account. He mentioned that creating a 26 episode anime or more nowadays is not an easy task. According to his statement, Japanese animation industry is experiencing a crisis.

Even though the demand for producing anime is very high, especially with international players such as Netflix, Amazon, and even Chinese investors seeking to seeking to take part in the industry, the supply of skilled labour on the other hand, is dwindling. There isn’t a sufficient amount of good animators to meet the increasing demand, which and as such, producing a longer series might cause the quality to suffer.

Poor management and poor wage.

Thomas mentioned that it takes a long time to properly train an animator. Not to mention that more and more animation schools are closing down and people’s interest for this career is declining.

According to JANICA’s research (quoted by ANN), the wage for a Key Animator is US$28,000 (2.8 Million Yen) per year, on average; followed by Shiage animator on US$16,200 (1.95 Million Yen). The last one, 2nd Key Animator – generally called as novice animators – is US$9,392 (1.1 Million Yen). For comparison, the average salary of Tokyo salaryman at the 20-24 years old range is 3 million yen per year.

Thomas said from his twitter that 90% of Japanese animators lives in three wards in Tokyo: Suginami, Nerina and Nakano. And 90% of anime studioa are in Tokyo area too. Meanwhile, according to an account from my friend who is currently studying in Japan, the average living cost in Tokyo is 150,000-160,000 yen per month. With 120,0000 yen per month, it’s difficult for a novice animator to support themselves.

(C) Crunchyroll

The diagram above shows that a part-timer and a college student have more money than a novice animator. There are less and less people interested with this career because the value of their work are not equal to their blood, sweat and tears. This situation might a bit different with Kyoto Animation and Production I.G animators, though.

Kyoto Animation most of the time, adapt their own novel publications and use their own in-house animators. Because they are using their own in-house animators, they set their own workers’ wage so their quality-of-life are pretty much guaranteed. Production I.G, in other hand, hires freelance animators, but they have high value projects from clients so they can pay their animators with quite a sum of money. These two studios are examples of good resource and project management, so their animators can have better quality of life compared to their peers.

What happens if a studio has a poor resource and project management? There are many stories of failed anime because of their poor management. The results are either they cannot deliver a satisfactory quality, or failed in meeting the deadline and resorted to airing recap episode, or the worst of all: stopped in mid-season. The stress of poor management and low wage are the factors why Japanese are not interested in animation industry.

If we look back at Debunking anime production myths, not all problems can be solved with money. Time, skill, experience and hard work of production staff can’t be just valued with money. However, sheer passion is also not enough to make a quality anime. Especially if you want to make younger generation interested in this career choice.


In my opinion, there are two options for the industry to change. First, with the increase in demand, which presumably turned some sizeable returns, some parts of the profits should go to improve the quality of life for young animators quality-of-life. By increasing wage and better training, prospective animators surely will be interested again in this particular field. However, this could be a daunting task since the flawed system has lasted so long that some interests might already feel comfortable with the ways things are.

The second option is to outsource the labour work overseas. Actually, outsourcing Key Animators, 2nd Key Animators and Inbetween to overseas is not unheard of. There have been outsourcing of animation labour to countries such as South Korea, Philippine and China. Cheating Craft and To be a Hero are a couple of examples where the entire production labour, animators, scriptwriter and even the director are not from Japan.

Indonesia may also have the chance to be a source of outsourced animators. Some time ago, I conducted an interview with Sword Art Online‘s Production Team. After the interview session, they asked whether Indonesia has a lot of animators. I did say yes, though I can’t say much about the quality, but indeed, there are some really good ones. US$9,000 per year for a Japanese (especially in Tokyo) may be only a small amount of money, indeed. But, in Indonesia, Rp125 Million per year is definitely a large sum of money.

In the end, the decision to produce an anime series are in stakeholder’s hand. Are they going keep on with this crisis to their downfall? Are they going to realize and try to secure the future? One thing that can be said for sure for the time being is, anime series will keep airing but the hard work behind the scenes would still be (most of the time) underappreciated.

KAORI Newsline | Written and Translated by Naufalbepe

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