Since people enjoyed the quick look at the data last time, let’s once again wrap up a season of anime by tracking how many animators it took to finish every series and how each project tackled its workload.
Once again, important disclaimers before delving into the data:
- While smaller staff lists heavily correlate to stronger and more polished productions as far as TV anime goes, please don’t take it as a law. Every project functions in its own way, and there’s plenty of nuance to these matters. A high number of animation directors is a much worse sign than featuring many key animators, which can simply be due to a high-motion episode or because a famous director has attracted plenty of talented peeps. And even then, some notoriously polished productions have achieved so by having lots of supervisors. Please use this data to better understand anime production, don’t draw conclusions exclusively off it.
- This includes virtually every full series from winter 2017, save for a few with credits so incomplete they were deemed unusable and a couple of series I considered redundant/pointless to cover again. If it’s full length seasonal anime though, chances are that it’s in there.
- The number of key animators is an approximation, this will always be fundamentally incomplete. That’s because rather often, in particular for 2nd KA, staff lists credit companies rather than the actual artists. I’ve attempted to compensate for that, but the full credits aren’t available. Again: the exact numbers aren’t the point!
- As for animation directors, this counts all of them except the chief animation director if it’s one person throughout the show – in which case I considered it a series credit rather than episode staff. Doesn’t make much of a difference, but there you go.
- This time I included subcontracting data. Please read my comments on the outsourcing numbers because those are very easy to misinterpret.
With that out of the way, let’s go. Winter 2017 Animator Count.
— The key animators data is fairly straightforward, so you won’t need much help to parse it. You might have already noticed that amongst the shows requiring the least animators, there’s both extremely polished works and shows that are just painfully static and thus didn’t require all that many artists. A similar issue arises at the bottom of the list, which includes some shows that featured a bunch of movement like Tales and KonoSuba, as well as stiff ones that by no means should be averaging 40 key animators per episode. This is why I warn people not to immediately assume things based off these numbers alone, but rather to try and understand the projects themselves better through them.
— There are no cases as extreme as Yuri On ICE was last season, but don’t take this as a sign that the industry is doing better – there is nothing good about stagnating at the ridiculous levels that have been achieved over the last few years. Anyone acquainted with how anime credits used to be decades ago would weep when looking at this data. The current level of output is highly damaging and flat-out unsustainable.
— I included outsourcing data this time because people often ask how often entire episodes are subcontracted. So there’s the answer: a range of 0 (uncommon) to 6 times within one season…unless we’re talking about Onihei, produced by Maruyama’s new studio that doesn’t really have staff and thus had to outsource the process for every single episode. I made sure to differentiate between the whole process being subcontrated to another company (グロス) and simply relying on other studios to do some key animation, which as you can see is incredibly common. Next time I might add another layer to separate between outsourcing 1st and 2nd key animation/clean-up, since the latter is something even exceptional projects do. Don’t take these numbers without context yadda yadda.
— Time for some very important notes about the shows that had all of its episodes produced in-house. This season actually had more of those than usual, since studios that approach projects like that happened to overlap. You might be surprised by series like Masamune-kun and Scum’s Wish being up there, but the truth is both Silver Link and Lerche want to be able to actually produce their own series. The downside to this is that they don’t really have the manpower to do so, especially when there’s multiple projects, so they end up relying a lot on other companies to animate their projects. They’re capable of maintaining the management within their own studio though, and that alone is impressive nowadays. Tales of Zestiria being up there should be less of a surprise, as ufotable’s autonomy is well-known. The studio is closer to self-sufficiency than pretty much any other major company, this full-inhouse mentality is a studio motto rather than a project thing. That said, Tales was a bit of a rushed endeavor for them so it ended up with very messy staff and outsourced chunks every week. GoHands are also chasing the self-sufficient dream, hence why Hand Shakers was entirely key animated at the studio and by their own staff to boot. Though if you’ve seen the series, I could never give you a better example of that having no correlation to a good production. And then there’s Maidragon and KyoAni, who keep on doing basically everything themselves many steps beyond what I track here. You might as well consider them part of an industry of their own.
— As I said before, the number of animation directors does have a stronger correlation with the quality of the drawings and animation. A show that simply gives up on corrections will inevitably have a lower number of supervisors though, so don’t use this as objective and irrefutable proof of anything either. Always consider context.
— I suppose I should say something about Fuuka, since it stands out so brutally. As of late Diomedea projects have had fairly specific animation direction credits like the layout supervisors that might bloat the number a little bit but…no. There’s nothing even remotely normal about featuring almost 16 animation directors per episode. TV anime is still broken and only seems to get worse.
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