Let’s Listen To Anime Creators For Once – Netflix Is No Savior

Let’s Listen To Anime Creators For Once – Netflix Is No Savior

Much has been speculated about the effect of new mainstream platforms storming this industry, with Netflix in particular being sold as a potential game-changer for anime productions. And yet, despite some obvious changes when it comes to content restrictions, the people who make anime have unequivocally explained that they appreciate no improvement in their poor situation. Let’s try to pay attention to them for once.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve actually been listening to creators, but since as a community we’re prone to ignore their input and instead get lost in the corporate-fueled hype, I feel like it’s worth lending this platform to the people who actually make anime. Admittedly I understand why anime fans are so eager to embrace entities like Netflix as a, ugh, savior; we’ve seen the arrival of huge companies willing to drop a ton of money on anime, operating platforms that in theory don’t suffer from the same restrictions that hurt so many productions. As it turns out though, and as much as some outlets love to talk about disruption of a heavily flawed industry, we’ve had hands on creators complain that they were appreciating no change ever since the beginning.

The first major sign was a hashtag that went viral among industry members where they detailed how much they were earning from Netflix anime projects. Most damning condemnations are long gone as people unfortunately have to balance their rightful anger with the desire to keep their jobs, but data like these terribly average – thus damn bad – rates for animation tasks still remain. The complaints came from artists ranging from colorists to 3D artists, but since the creators themselves didn’t dare to raise their voice too much and the internet’s first past-time is playing devil’s advocate, the anime fandom decided to look the other way while celebrating our new streaming overlords.

It again became a major point of contention after a big social media storm regarding the news that the anime industry made more money than ever, which led to understandably upset artists noting that they sure hadn’t seen increasing wages. But now it’s been challenged again, in such a direct way that I felt like it had to be shared among English-speaking fans to finally clear up a misunderstanding that should have never been in place. If you follow our work, chances are that you’ve heard about Katsunori Shibatafantastic animator, and one of the last brilliant directorial minds discovered at studio Brains Base, acknowledged by the likes of Kunihiko Ikuhara and Masaaki Yuasa. The latter is particularly relevant here, since Shibata recently acted as storyboarder and episode director on a couple of episodes of DEVILMAN crybaby, managing to stand out among quite the stacked line-up of creators.

When asked if there was any difference between Netflix anime and standard TV series, as fans were curious if the recent partnership between the company and studios BONES & Production I.G was a game-changer, Shibata bluntly denied an improvement. He noted that working with them meant there’s no restrictions regarding the depiction of sex and violence, but at the end of the day the schedule was hellish, and that fundamental improvements regarding the treatment of the creative team are still down to the production committees – which Netflix can’t be bothered to change at all. He reiterated that he’s seen no change in remuneration and that even if those titles were to perform well, there would still be no incentives for the people who made them, as the system in place is still the same; barely any studio keeps a significant number of staff as well-remunerated full-time employees, and freelancing at poor rates is still the norm, so the actual hands-on crews will never see an improvement without structural reform. And again, that is something that Netflix doesn’t even attempt to do, no matter what PR words you hear.

Shibata’s been quickly joined by artists from other fields involved in animation production, such as CG artists, who backed up his impressions and shared their personal experiences. Keep in mind that DEVILMAN crybaby was finished with a larger lead time than pretty much any anime, that Science Saru is a much healthier space than most studios, and that this project is more of a “Netflix anime” than almost everything else in their lineup. Despite so many factor being in its favor the creators are still lamenting their conditions, while the fandom gets lost in dreams about how good the changes could be. Will we listen this time?

If this post comes off as a bit aggressive, don’t get me wrong, it’s because it is. It’s perfectly fine to see the arrival of Netflix, Amazon, and the likes to anime as something with lots of potential. They’re platforms that don’t inherently suffer from some nasty issues that plague TV anime, and that can afford to properly fund anime if they want. Even Shibata, while bluntly declaring these problems, acknowledged that it’s nice to have an outlet where certain kinds of content aren’t an issue. You can obviously celebrate that, but let’s not conflate issues: right now, Netflix productions suffer from the exact same problems as the industry as a whole. They’ve done nothing to challenge the questionable state of the production committee system, the remuneration for anime creators hasn’t improved one little bit, and despite theoretically having as much time as they want with no seasonal system in place, schedules are still hellish. We’ve been told that there wasn’t enough concrete proof either way, that they simply needed more time for the changes to become noticeable, but at this point it seems obvious that Netflix’s mere presence isn’t going to “save anime.” Let’s just try and listen to the actual creators for once. Maybe in the future, initiatives like their new partnership with studios will lead to actual change and a healthier production model. But as things are, we’ve yet to see even the beginning of a positive trend at the ground level, which is the most important in this situation.


Support us on Patreon to help us reach our new goal to sustain the animation archive at Sakugabooru, Sakuga Video on Youtube, as well as this Sakuga Blog. Thanks to everyone who’s helped out so far!

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relyat08
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I saw a number of(now deleted) tweets mentioning that schedules on a few things HAD been better, but I guess that isn’t the case across the board, really. That’s a shame. I would like to be optimistic about Netflix, and while they might not be helping staff in any noticeable way(other than maybe better schedules in some situations?), it’s easy to see why the fandom is excited, since, ignoring the fact that this appears to be no better for the artists, it also doesn’t appear to be worse for them, and most of the things people who aren’t deeply invested… Read more »

seanny
Guest
seanny

It’s a perpetual mystery to me why the anime industry’s practices don’t evolve despite the increasing demand for anime, cuz normally a scarcity of in-demand labor would shift power toward labor, putting studios in a position of demanding better budgets/schedules/deals, and freelancers in a position of demanding better pay from studios. I remember a Netflix exec. remarking that all studios were “full booked” for the next three years, so assuming that’s true, the demand is there. Why market logic doesn’t do its thing suggests that there’s something else going on, or that maybe we’re too impatient expecting these gains already… Read more »

osama
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osama

it’s not about anime, but you may find it helpful
(i hope sakuga blog people don’t mind if i posted link here)
https://www.nippon.com/en/currents/d00342/

seanny
Guest
seanny

Thanks. That’s an interesting article that echoes some of the ills I’ve read about the anime industry (like underinvestment in training). I often forget that decades of deflation in Japan has cemented a business mindset afraid of investment, wage hikes, and other responses that would otherwise be rational in a labor shortage.

HosannaExcelsis
Guest
HosannaExcelsis

I feel like most of the “Netflix will save anime” opinions I’ve seen aren’t really concerned with animators’ working conditions so much as wanting more of the type of anime they like to be paid. So they fantasize about Netflix liberating anime studios from being forced to pander to Japanese otaku and commissioning them to bring back older action-ish properties (I’ve seen so many people begging Netflix to make a new Berserk anime that’s better than the last one). For that kind of person, Netflix allowing anime productions to get away with more sex and violence is probably enough. That… Read more »

Nanashi
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Nanashi

Netflix wants the product to be largely ready before the series launches on the platform. This gives them the opportunity to actually dub the series in multiple languages in time for the launch.

Chinese companies investing into anime are likely also pushing for similar conditions in order to be able to have a Chinese dub ready at the same time as the Japanese one.

Wyatt
Guest
Wyatt

All you’re missing is the mic drop at the end.

Anon
Guest
Anon

Sounds like you’re barking up the wrong tree. Netflix isn’t responsible for the fact that animators in Japan aren’t making enough money. As long as you don’t see Netflix as an anime savior (which it isn’t, although it could be argued Netflix is great advertising for anime in the western cultures) your blog post is pointless. This has been an issue for years and just because Netflix didn’t fix it doesn’t make it their fault.

Zamas
Guest
Zamas

I read the article and no one said netflix is at fault for anime’s problems. This isnt only a problem about animators not earning enough either. Maybe the pointless thing is a comment by someone who didnt read.

Noblesse
Guest
Noblesse

Netflix isn’t going to be a “savior” for animators, (few entities in the business world act as saviors of anything,) but their foray into anime production does help animators to improve their conditions. Netflix’s presence adds to the financial incentive to produce anime, which creates an economic environment condusive to unionization efforts. With more production dollars at stake for the studios, who rely on a short supply of freelance animators, the animators might just have the necessary leverage to create unions that have real bargaining power.

Jac
Guest
Jac

I stil have some hope there might be improvement.

1) It’s still early days yet. Netflix has just started building relationships with the animation studios; in Japan it takes time for business relationships to build to the point where an outsider company is in a position to make demands regarding the internal management of their partner. “Gaijin company dictating how we run our company/the anime business” doesn’t come across well.

2) By investing funds in and increasing anime production, Netflix is hopefully putting the animators etc in a better position to negotiate better salaries/quality of life.

Masterman
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Masterman

People need to understand Netflix and Amazon can throw around as much money as they like, but they are still starting from the bottom in competing against Cruchyroll/Funimation. They are strangers in the anime industry who will need time to develop relationships with production committee members. They also need to form a stable business model, without one they will sooner or latter decide they are not getting the most out of their investments and will cut back on those investments. And forming that business model takes a long time. So you are being naive and unreasonable if you expect Netflix… Read more »

AniHunter
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AniHunter

You know, If Shibata and the Anime industry is coming out about Netflix not being the savior for anime, it makes me curious as to the state of the other production teams working on non-anime projects for Netflix. Because it feels like many cases (especially American-produced animated series like Voltron) are similarly getting short-shafted, if not during production, then through other means like release.

Also, I should point out that the AMV for Shibata is blocked.

/XX/
Guest
/XX/

Yep, there is no ‘panacea’ after all! Platforms like Netflix would, most probably, just want to keep taking advantage of current production line methods in the Japanese animation industry (as the saying says: if it ‘works’…), as long as it still is legally efficient enough while providing them a product with the certain demographic’s appeal they want, after studying it. Anything else would go against their best commercial interest, so unless statutorily required any perceived transparency is an indirect benefit. Netflix would ideally expect whatever approach has been already proven through the decades, that is going to have a sustainable… Read more »

Mac
Guest
Mac

I’m a bit confused. The reasoning for why Netflix anime doesn’t pay studios any better seems to be because of the Production Committee system still existing for those anime. Is there a particular reason that anime studios couldn’t work directly with Netflix rather than continuing to work with the Production Committee system?

Job Jobber
Guest

Hey I just discovered your blog love it so far keep up the good work, This post was very eye opening to some of Netflix practices.

Mr-Famicom
Guest
Mr-Famicom

First off I’m sorry that I gather some lies from 2Ch over the years but I have since stopped bothering with them, please forgive me for this. Now then, we should let animators be animators, not having them waste their talent, things like Netflix are only making things worse and when it’s better then outsourcing for toyetic shows of which said shows and studio’s names should remain nameless just to fund something that wanted to do for years and doing said outsourcing just to fund their dream project, they’re much better off just using their own profits to do whatever… Read more »

Oliwer Pengy
Guest
Oliwer Pengy

I don’t understand why this “Netflix is a savior” thing even came from or why anyone expect them to be that. Neither do I understand why they should change the production committees . It’s not Netflix job to sort out that they are just trying to run a streaming platform and occasionally fund some original (and sometimes not so original) projects. I think the fandom has put some unreasonable expectations on Netflix based on wishful thinking. To me it sounds like anime studios are better out self publishing , but the risk and money investment in that is probably way… Read more »