Help industry continue to produce world-class work

Japanese animation has a history dating back more than 100 years and is highly regarded internationally. A record must be preserved of the vast number of works created, to disseminate information about Japanese anime domestically and internationally, and to promote the creation of new works.

An animation database is now available online, comprising the release dates, story summaries and other data about 15,000 animation works produced in Japan. It is one of the largest databases of Japanese animation in the world.

The Association of Japanese Animations, which consists of animation production companies and other organizations, created the database to commemorate the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the birth of domestic commercial animation. It was completed in August.

Animation once tended to be viewed as something for children but is now enjoyed by all generations. Works that have been made into movies often top the box office rankings.

The database includes works of animation that have not earned much attention, and will provide an opportunity to discover hidden masterpieces. By coming into contact with works of different historical backgrounds and production methods, creators may be inspired and gain new ideas.

There is a growing movement to preserve works of animation and make them available online. The National Film Archive of Japan has released 64 prewar works, including “Corporal Norakuro.”

The Kobe Planet Film Archive is in the process of digitizing nearly 300 works with significant historical value. This can be said to illustrate the recognition of animation as artistic culture.

Japanese animation such as Hayao Miyazaki’s “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” (“Spirited Away”) and Makoto Shinkai’s “Kimi no Na wa” (“your name.”) are very popular overseas and have become mainstays of Japanese cultural exports.

Overseas sales of the Japanese animation industry, including related goods and games, exceeded domestic sales for the first time in 2020. This stems from an increase in overseas viewing through online video distribution services, leading to higher recognition of anime.

Despite this prosperity, there has been no progress in improving the work conditions and developing human resources at production sites. According to a survey by an industry group, the average income of young animators is lower than in other industries. The industry is also said to lag behind in responding to the digitization of production methods.

In recent years, Chinese animation production technology has improved, and it is now possible to produce works that are comparable to those in Japan. It is said they sometimes use Japanese companies as subcontractors.

Even if there are excellent creators, nothing will be gained if the foundation of the front line of production is weak. A system should be established in which profits from hit productions are returned to the front line. People and organizations concerned should make the utmost effort to devise ways to maintain the foundation for the production of works that captivate the world.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2022)