Thursday, June 04, 2015

Introduction(Part 2 of 3): Moving on up ...

It took 4 years after moving to Japan, but finally (after getting better at the language, re-working my portfolio again and again, and making the right connections) I was able to crack into the anime industry. (The Japantoday interview I posted in part 1 goes into that a little further) My first job was as a “douga-man” (clean-up artist/in-between animator) at a studio called “Nakamura-pro” (Where I worked on random sequences from a bunch of series including Pokemon, Gundam Build Fighters, and Tokyo Ravens) … I think I`ve said all I have to say (for now anyway) about that job in the Buzzfeed interview so I`ll just leave it at that. 
 Then, after 8 months I began working at Studio Pierrot. (where I got to work on in-between animation and secondary key-frame animation for Tokyo Ghoul, Naruto Shippuden, and a few other series) Pierrot is a great studio. I worked on amazing projects, and got to attend extremely fun completion parties where I got to meet all the creators of these series. 
 That being said, the conditions even at the “good studios” here are such that you could never have a family, or live in a decent apartment, or save up *any* money at all for that matter. (As an in-between animator anyway.) So when I got the chance to do a few interviews, I decided not to pull any punches and just “tell it like it is.” I got a lot of support ... but I also got some slack from some people inside (and outside) the industry telling me basically that “if I don`t like it I should just quit” or “Maybe I should become a keyframe animator first. I`m only working the lowest level job right now, so obviously the pay would be low!”
I don`t want to regurgitate the complaints I`ve already given in the interviews (and in fact, things have gotten a bit better for me recently anyway, as you`ll read in part 3) but I do feel the need to respond to both of those critiques:

“If I don`t like it, just quit!” --- Absolutely not.  Furthermore, I`ll state my opinions whenever I want to, wherever  I want to, and in whatever tone I want to. End of story. I`m not some “YOLO” shouting nutcase teen who`s trying get himself (or his career) killed … however, life is short, and tomorrow`s not guaranteed to anyone. So if I get a chance to speak out about things that are important to me, I will always take that chance without hesitation. And I don`t think “simply quitting” when you don`t like your conditions is a good philosophy to have in life. You should continue to work hard to overcome whatever problems you have, while simultaneously speaking out against them.

“Of course In-between animators have it bad. Work hard and become a Keyframe animator first!” --- The fact of the matter is that in-between animators are not simply “soon to be Keyframe animators... so things`ll get better once they move up.” I`ve met many animators who have been working as Douga-man ( in-between animators) for many years and their conditions never get any better. Never any raises or additional time off. Nothing.  I was genuinely interested in hearing how they felt about the conditions they work under and their lack of social lives, so I asked them directly, and the universal response was basically this: “Yea. But that`s just how it is. Life is work. You wake up, and work, and then go to sleep. If you want to work on anime, there`s nothing much you can do about it … that`s just reality. If I ever want to get married, or have a family, then I`ll just have to quit. It`s as simple as that.” 
 After seeing (and living in) those conditions for over a year and a half … I felt “telling the cold hard truth that most westerners probably don`t know” about this industry would be infinitely more beneficial than simply answering “Yes, working in anime is great. It`s hard work … but hooray, I get to work on fun series.”
I still love these series, and am incredibly proud and honored to be a part of of them. But ask yourselves honestly anime fans ... are you OK with the fact that (something like) 70% of the people who drew your anime episode are *unable* to have families (or even weekends off) simply because they are passionate about "drawing your anime" as their profession? I personally am disgusted by that fact, so... whether or not there are consequences, I have no regrets about speaking out. (continued in Part 3 ...which I`ll write tomorrow morning, so please save your hate-mail until after you`re read that one.)

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