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An Interview with Yamamoto Yutaka

The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun published an interesting article (translated) just over a week ago on an interview with Ordet studio founder and director Yamamoto Yutata, who’s behind the original series FRACTALE airing this season. In the interview, he talks about the declining state of the anime industry and how business practices have driven down wages and hampered creativity, which Wall Street Journal also looked into over a year ago. While outsourcing to China and South Korea is nothing new, Yamamoto makes an eye-opening point about how it’s not necessarily for cost reasons, but because they’re short-staffed in Japan due to lack of interest.

Given the dire working conditions and dismal pay of animators, I can’t say I’m surprised when I can easily picture young bright-eyed individuals with visions of a lucrative career in anime get disillusioned once they actually get into the industry. The benefits, even if it’s simply personal gratification in seeing one’s work come to life, can only take most people so far and hardly offset the corporate politics that surely go on. There’s no denying that the anime medium has fallen into the trap of recycling character stereotypes and rehashing similar premises in slightly different settings, which may retain most of its current audience but clearly doesn’t reach out to new ones. Recently, there’s also been a growing trend towards using the “moe” aspect, which Yamamoto admits being guilty of. However, as someone who’s seen a fair share of corporate politics and business practices that don’t encourage creativity, I get the feeling that the problem lies more in the people who get the final say in what goes into an anime, as they’re often afraid of breaking outside of their comfort zone and trying something new.

Yamamoto Yutaka   FRACTALE

Director Yamamoto Yutaka posing with a FRACTALE poster. A Black Rock Shooter one can be seen behind.

For all we know, some of them could just be looking out for themselves by continually putting out what’s worked in the past, rather than risking their careers by trying to help the anime medium grow. While I have no concrete basis on this theory, I’m starting to wonder if Yamamoto’s firing from Kyoto Animation for “performance reasons” in Lucky Star was partly because he wanted to take the series in a new direction, was met with resistance by the production staff, and was deemed “problematic” when he kept pushing for it. Anyone who’s worked in a big company is probably all too familiar with how doing what’s “best” for the end product doesn’t matter to the older so-called “senior” employees, who only see it as a numbers games on how to meet deadlines and maximize revenue, so I can only imagine how much worse it is in the anime industry when it’s doing as poorly as it is. Oreimo’s eighth episode is likely an exaggeration of the inner workings of anime production, but I feel it touches upon some key points such as the restriction of creativity and conformance of new series into the overused, arguably predictable norms of older ones.

Personally, I don’t see any reason why anime has to rely on these idiosyncrasies that have become the basis of the medium. I applaud Yamamoto for striving to provide something new to reach out to new overseas audiences and rejuvenate interest in one-time fans who have given up on anime. It’s a move that at least tries to promote the industry’s growth, instead of simply preventing it from dying any faster. This interview has actually changed my perspective on his statement about putting his job and career on the line for FRACTALE, as I now perceive it as his way of saying he’s going to try something new because most people won’t dare to. If he fails, then he’ll take responsibility for it and admit that his vision didn’t work. All that he asks in return is to not let his freedom of expression be hampered by production staff constantly telling him what he “should do”. At first, it sounded like a preposterous declaration and one intended to help draw attention to his new series, but now I’m really hoping he succeeds so that other senior members of the industry reopen their eyes to the endless possibilities with anime that they’ve lost sight of.

January 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm
72 comments »
  • January 17, 2011 at 2:59 pmKiiragi

    Hopefully Fractale actually does something meaningful by the end of its run. If Yamamoto succeeds, it will mean he’s not scared to fully adapt a story without messing with anything for monetary gain. Problem is, he already screwed with the character design, moe or not. A little hypocritical perhaps. Hopefully he stays true to his word as the series goes on.

  • January 17, 2011 at 3:02 pmRin-kun

    I have high hopes for Fractale myself. I loved the world it’s in and the feeling of someting “new”. He is doing something right, and he does deserve much respect for it. I for one, will be watching Fractale no matter what.

  • January 17, 2011 at 3:06 pmSacredBand

    I have quite a problem with this; he says Fractale will be something new that will challenge the industry, but from what I’ve seen it’s been a rehash of essentially the best of Miyazaki. Heck, he’s talking about moefication, and yet his own characters look nothing like in the promotionals! They’ve been moefied.

    The best industry-challenging anime I’ve ever seen has to have come from those good fellows at Gainax, first with their completely overblown TTGL that is makeing over-the-top awesomeness an industry norm, and with Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, which probably will never be topped in WTF. Fractale will probably turn out nice, but please don’t think it’s gonna be an industry-breaking anime.

    • January 17, 2011 at 3:13 pmDivine

      To be fair, Miyazaki’s works tend to appeal to a wider audience (i.e. not just regular anime fans), so perhaps he took that into consideration.

    • January 17, 2011 at 3:26 pmkyonkun

      Panty and Stocking is out of your comfort zone anime, but the sales for it’s 1st release weren’t overwhelming compared to bouncing bewb bonaza HOTD

      Yamakan can create innovative anime, but will it sell?

      • January 18, 2011 at 12:31 amKandur

        This entire problem is far simplier than the Executive Meddling hindering the chances of originality. There is no serious demand for originality from the fans themselves in japan. We had Trapaze, Kaiba, etc; and these shows were far more original than Yamamoto’s miyazaki panderig experiment. Still, the most popular and most selling shows are those targeting the otaku.

        The only way the industry could expand and recover would be by actively moving out to the rest of the world. I say actively, because right now what they’re doing is a half-assedly allowing distribution, “okay , you can have it, here”. You could say this entire thing must be the karma of the japanese for being so xenophobic. If they overcome it, the thing survives, if they don’t, then at most this bad situation remains.

        With shows like the new Iron Man and the Wolverine one it seems like a hint of intent might be there. All that it depends on now if how they’ll progress from here on.

      • January 18, 2011 at 10:49 amArabesque

        The problems with distribution and attempting to target non-Japanese audience is a whole other problem. KuroKami, despite the attempt to broadcast an anime in both Japan and the US at the same time while being fully dubbed, was royally screwed over when they limited it to a single channel that no watched and the simultaneous DVD/BD release ended up pathetic to say the least.

        Xam’d was the best attempt at trying to market a show with actual production values and an appeal to a western audience, but it ended failing miserably due to the assbackwards marketing planing they had by limiting knowledge of the show as much as possible.

        Ironman and Wolverine seemed like they might have broke the trend, but thus far they look nothing more than a quick cash grab off the characters due to their movies. There was no care or effort placed in the Ironman anime in trying to present the character as being faithful to the Tony Stark of the movie, or even re-imagined one. He was a washed up version of the comics, placed in rather uninteresting situations fighting one dimensional enemies. And then their was the uninspired bad music.

        I can see hints, but what they are telling me is that there is a reliance on the novelty of shows like Herroman or Ironman (STAN LEE MADE THIS) rather than any care in producing quality shows.

      • January 19, 2011 at 6:58 amKandur

        Which is why I said that the direction is good. It just depends on how they’ll do it now.

    • January 17, 2011 at 5:46 pmvladrin

      The presented world seems to be influenced by Miyazaki’s work, but describing the anime as a rehash of Miyazaki-san’s animes, I think, is a little too harsh.

      While Miyazaki-san’s anime is all about the world presented. Fractale takes a little different approach in that concentration is not about the world as much it’s about emotions and character interactions. And the world for Fractale, is just another element that needs to be handled. As such, I’m not disturbed by the fact that the quality of Fractale’s world is evidently worse than Miyazaki-san’s worlds since the world factor is not the selling point for me.

      On a side note, the character interaction between our propagandists very much reminds me of the character interaction in K-ON, I would even dare to say it’s influenced by it. Taking into consideration the fact that Yamamoto-san criticized K-ON, I think that Fractale should be heavier from the plot aspect.

      The only drawback, and I would go as far as calling it as a production mistake, is that Fractale fails to grab watcher’s attention in 5 minutes, though after 15 minute of watching the show becomes rather interesting.

    • January 17, 2011 at 6:16 pmArabesque

      ”best industry-challenging anime” is something no one studio has a monopoly on, but is all across the board. Going from Madhouse’s Paranoia Agent and Kaiba to Bones RahXephon and Ouran t Hal FImls Princess Tutu.

      Gainax themselves didn’t really do anything groundbreaking as much as they took old tropes and recasted them into newer situations. TTGL wasn’t so much revolutionary as much as it was wonderfully writen. Pant & Stockings wasn’t the most shocking thing as much as it was bringing a foreign style and mixing it with anime tropes.

      Much is the same is with Yamakan trying to channel Miyazaki. There is no shame in using other ideas and putting your spin on them, the question is can you bring out something amazing out of them. After all, Miyazaki himself sort of lost his touch these past years with his films getting more and more pointless beyond the beautiful scenery in them. Hopefully he wants to use the genuinely good ideas to make a good show rather than attempt just to use Fractal as an advertisement to diversify the anime demographic.

    • January 20, 2011 at 1:26 amHey

      Panty & Stocking was innovative, but it was shit. Now you have to make something innovative and good, and we’re set.

  • January 17, 2011 at 3:19 pmxcswmboy

    I’ll say that I didn’t like Fractale’s first episode. Erm, that’s all, good luck Yamamoto.

  • January 17, 2011 at 3:22 pmFirechick

    I actually MET him at Otakon 2009 (though the pictures my dad took of him are a bit lackluster). And I think Fractale is very original and refreshing so far. So it’s a start.

  • January 17, 2011 at 3:33 pmkaon

    ^^

  • January 17, 2011 at 3:43 pmRaptorJesus

    As long as there aren’t any K-On-type characters in Fractale or anything of the sort. THAT is what is killing the industry. These anime series that have no real purpose, but claim to be heading in a direction towards ground-breaking…ness. Moe, loli’s, tsundere, all that is stupid. Did you see anything like that in anime of the 90′s? No, because back then, anime was actually GOOD.

    • January 17, 2011 at 4:15 pmUFO

      Get off your high horse please. To start with, the concept of a “GOOD” anime is entirely subjective and vary from different segment of audience. Anime is just entertainment so the most important thing for it is bring enjoyment to the viewers (obviously you dont like moe and all that but hello, there are plenty other people that do). And I havent check on the history of anime to be sure that there is no moe, loli and all that in the 90′s. But if there isnt , you know it could be that no one invent it yet? And while I enjoy a lot of classic anime like banner of the star, outlaw star, slayers, etc. A lot of current shows also is very enjoyable ( and I personally dont like K-On). So try to broaden your taste a little bit about “GOOD” anime.

      • January 17, 2011 at 5:29 pmMr. Rager

        Moe characteristics weeded their way into anime long ago and only recently (6 years or so ago) have become the focus of the majority. Rather than channeling energy towards story and substance (which hopefully Fractale aims to do), emphasis is given more to stock character types.

        Complacent fans endorse ‘quantity over quality’. What they perceive as ‘good’ is generally just scrapings from the bottom of the barrel.

      • January 18, 2011 at 1:55 amfairx

        HIDAMARI SKETCH: Good Moe Anime

    • January 17, 2011 at 6:15 pmRickyMack

      akane tendo was tsundere, shampoo was yandere. in card captor sakura tomoyo was constantly forcing sakura into cosplay and recording her obviously recognizing the moe-ness. EVA is also a 90s anime and clearly has many of the traditional archetypes as well. you claim to be a fan of older anime cause they didn’t have these archetypes, but guess what they’re only archetypes today because they existed in the 90s and earlier.

    • January 18, 2011 at 7:46 pmmegalith

      Oh boy….. Why so /a/?

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:08 pmSirMuffin

    Too bad the picture he’s holding is a LIE! and the girl is actually GINGER! Yes… I am still angry about something as petty hair color.
    Other than that this post has been really interesting and I’m now even more wager to see how Fractale plays out…

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:36 pmGhostalker

    I believe this claim about the anime industry in nothing new, actually it is something that is happening everywhere (not just in the anime industry). It’s good and all that someone who really have passion and love for anime is trying to do a work that he (we) hopes will move the indusry forward perhaps even grow. As an anime fan, I don’t like all the blaming other fans are pointing to the industry, because we ourselves is responsible for the industry that is today, their is nothing to fault them as much as their is nothing to fault us. Its just the way it is.

    As for me, all I can say is I love the industry as it is now, ground-breaking works will happen from time to time but not every time, and I don’t expect to like every anime that will come to air. Anime as compare to other medium of entertainment is richer in terms of content, creativity, genre, etc. it’s just the matter on how the people behind the industry will risk in the face of investment, profit, loss/ gain and fans who eventually have the final say will respond to the changes that is presented to them.

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:38 pmnoobiesnack

    Japanese companies, both Anime and Publishing, have a long history of being very stubborn to adapt. If they can have $1,000,000 now, they will take that quick cash sales from series that don’t see a long shelf life versus the series that will pull $1,000,000 a year and be on the shelves for a long time. This, coupled with the recent world-wide recession and the so called threatening ‘piracy’ and dont forget to throw in the recently passed bill in Tokyo, has caused the problem they are in. I truly feel they have no one to blame but themselves…

    Also, I still facepalm at the fact they still haven’t fully adapted to technology that has been present for well over 15 years now. And we wonder why we cant make money?

    As for all the Moe and rehash of the characters, I wouldn’t mind it if every season there weren’t 5 series similar to it >_> . Some of the series, I end up watching just because of the story or for the quick laugh. Then again, some of the series that get pumped out each season, roughly 1-3 shows each season and around 4-9 series a year, are actually memorable and good. However, that number means that roughly 1/15 series each year is worth the watch which I am not sure if thats a good thing or a bad thing.

    I am not sure where people get the idea that the industry is ‘dying’. Its just going through a phase. Just a little knowledge about economies would show that its just the natural business cycle taking over right now and its being amplified by bad business practices. It will survive the same way the Music industry survived through its rough period. It will only be dying when all we get are Moe Zombies with giant boobs and nothing but panty shots for every anime every season along with loli tsunderes for romance.

    Oh well, I am still interested in where the industry will end up. And not just the Anime, the manga industry should be interesting to watch unfold. I guess theres nothing for me to do though but sit back, facepalm and enjoy reading more random stuff on RandomC or on other sites.

    • January 17, 2011 at 6:17 pmRickyMack

      same type of doom and gloom glenn beck and the tea partiers are clamoring about.

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:42 pmkeiOnDaisuki

    it’s like preferring good ol’ songs over modern emo songs w/c i actually say YES to. but i like moe in k-on! XDD it’s the exception. i’m willing to give up my love for akira,eva, macross.etc.. for it XD

    • January 17, 2011 at 4:45 pmkeiOnDaisuki

      i meant, good ol’ songs > modern songs. XDD but we’re talking about anime..so it’s akin to that..XD

    • January 17, 2011 at 5:32 pmMr. Rager

      You poor soul.

      • January 17, 2011 at 6:46 pmkeiOnDaisuki

        XDDD i just got a different view when it comes to certain things.XD so whatever..i don’t care..XD

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:43 pmGen

    Fractale definitely did have a Miyazaki feel to it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Miyazaki does have a unique style that doesn’t push the normal anime stereotypes (moe characters and whatnot), and like Divine said, its a good thing to take into consideration because Miyazaki’s works generally appeal to a larger audience. I mean you could ask North Americans about Spirited Away and be more likely to hear a response than most anime. Sure its not ground breaking new, but usually ground-breaking new breaks the ground it stands on and falls to its demise. Although not very action packed or emotionally heart-breaking yet, I think Fractale could turn out very nicely.

    • January 17, 2011 at 5:29 pmkeiOnDaisuki

      mah, now i’m reminded how i love spirited away. but for a certain reason,i love howl’s moving castle more. XD that dog…

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:44 pmGhostalker

    in addition to my comment above, as someone who have been watching anime for 2 decades now, I’ve seen how the industry have changed and evolved as to what is it today based on what they present on TV, all I can say about it is I don’t like some of but I came to like most of it, and I certainly welcome every new development the anime industry will present to me.

  • January 17, 2011 at 4:57 pmMatroid

    It is unrealistic to expect every anime to be highly original and creative. But every year there should be one or two that make anime lovers proud. The younger viewers (especially those who are still in grade schools) will look up to us, and use what we are watching and discussing now as a basis to build their own standards. If we want the anime industry to grow, then we as anime lovers need to grow as well so that the younger generation can grow with us.

    As for the economic side of things, there is nothing we can do about corporate culture. Managers always put their job security before the satisfaction of the consumers (not to mention the satisfaction of their expendable employees). If we as consumers continue to spend money on trash, then we will only get more trash in the future. My only advice is to put money where our mouths are. If we like a certain series, then spend money so that the production company can be benefited in some way.

  • January 17, 2011 at 5:10 pmwings_xx

    First off, thanks go to divine for bringing this up. ^^ I knew he was staking his career on Fractale but didn’t know the reasons behind it. I believe that the fault for the state of the industry belongs to both the fans and those with ‘final say’ on an anime project equally. The fans for focusing too much on one thing, and the industry for not letting anime branch out creatively. I really, really hope Fractale does well(both in what it’s trying to accomplish and in sales) and that it helps change people’s minds(if only a little) about letting those who create anime be more creative and unique.

  • January 17, 2011 at 5:38 pmArabesque

    So glad to see random musings making a comeback here ^_^ it’s posts like this that make me wish there was a forum around here.

    Honestly, after reading the reason as to why he was putting his job on the line here, it made him look less than a drama queen. Its no secret that the poor conditions and treatment of animators in the industry is one of if not the major factor in causing the lack of interest in anyone wanting to go down this route.

    That being said, some of his comments do sound very bitter. I do think that he might have gotten fed up with the industry after his feud with KyoAni, but to me it looks like he is simply displeased with the way the entire industry has become (far too focused on getting the next hit than on producing actual quality work) but considering how anime has been treated as being more of half hour advertisement, I can’t really blame him. However at the same time, anime is a product that needs to be sold in order to cover for it’s costs, or at least have more successful cover the costs over the more high end ones.

    About moe, I really can’t say I agree with him on that point. Moe in itself is no different from how mecha and the ultra-violent genres got a major push in the past, and it doesn’t really make a large chunk of shows that get out each year. I really see the business practices are what is really causing the problem here.

    That being said, I do hope Fractal proves to be unique as he is trying to sell it to everyone, as there had been genuinely innovative anime that had came before it that had attempted to experiment with the medium, and I’ll be annoyed if it ends up being just a pretty show that failed to live up to it’s potential.

  • January 17, 2011 at 6:02 pmGrant

    I hope it works, but right now Japan in general seems to be stuck in a stagnating pool of quicksand.

  • January 17, 2011 at 6:42 pmmetalsnakezero

    Most of the industry can get stuck with reusing the same old ideas so that they can play it safe but as we see now things, in some areas, need to change. It is also our job as consumers to support what is good so that they know what we really want instead of clones of other series.

    Star Driver and Modaka Magica are pretty good examples of original series that put a change of direction on the industry and that are shows we need to support. I believe Fractal will do well as long as it keeps going in to the right direction.

  • January 17, 2011 at 7:13 pmDurifto

    No Yutaka was fired from KyoAni for SEXUAL HARASSMENT

    He was taken off Lucky Star because the early episodes he directed were horrible. The fans can all testify to this.

    He is a drama queen ten times over. He has claimed that he will “retire” from the industry if Fractale doesn’t succeed. And he has no problem with taking credit for Suzumiya Haruhi despites only having a minor role in it.

    If this came from anyone else, it might be credible, but not from Yutaka.

    • January 17, 2011 at 8:46 pmDivine

      This is the kind of declarative opinion that just spreads confusion. You’re correct that Yamamoto wasn’t the hands-on director of the first season of Suzumiya Haruhi, but he did serve as Production Director overseeing the entire series. There were a few episodes he directed himself as well, and there’s a misconception that that’s all he did.

      The “drama queen” comment is interesting though, because anyone who tries to push for something in a company that the vast majority don’t find agreeable can easily been seen as that or a “whiner” if they don’t get the way. I’ve personally dealt with management like this and it’s easy for fans to judge as outsiders without knowing both sides of the story. There’s a lot of second-hand information that’s potentially been twisted.

      As for Lucky Star, the first four episodes may not have been agreeable to a lot of people, but it was clear to me he was trying something different. Evidently, he was burned at the stake after some early experimentation, which I find a shame. When he founded Ordet and co-produced Kannagi with A-1 Pictures, it made me wonder what he could’ve done with Lucky Star had Kyoto Animation given him the benefit of the doubt.

      Anyway, I’m not a pro-Yamamoto Yutaka supporter or anything. I just feel some people tend to be too hasty and not objective enough with their statements when they don’t know the details. You have to try putting yourself in the other party’s shoes to see where they’re coming from. For all we know, he was perceived as a young and overly ambitious director in the business, and some people didn’t like that.

      • January 18, 2011 at 10:18 amArabesque

        I don’t want to sound like I’m agreeing with the trollish comment (and I doagree with you that passing judgment on second hand info is not a good idea), but I honestly did see Yamakan acting like a ”drama queen” when I first learned that he was putting his career at stake over the vaguely defined success he was aiming for. That or he was trying to pull a marketing stunt to draw more attention to the anime, which I’d found to be detestable.

        I don’t deny that he was a man who I thought was unfairly treated by KyoAni, and learning how he attempted to win back his job made me empathize with him, even if I hadn’t had a similar experience like Divine had, I still understood the annoyance and aggravation he must have felt. Like you said, he might have been just over going and forceful in his way due to his ambitious nature and desire to make new anime, and that didn’t sit well with the people in charge. Their comment about how he wasn’t ready to be a director could have been because he never got along with the system. Alternatively, he could have been in constant disagreement with everyone who worked there, and he failed to try and compromise with his co-workers.

        I don’t know if he had been let go for a good reason or not, but he was clearly upset about it, as he certainly made that clear. This and with not knowing the actual reason for this feud made it harder to keep my sympathy. How can I when he says that he succeeded in his revenge when he got the rights to the Tonari no 801-chan? Or how his apology looked was made as a snide remark about Endless Eight, and his correction about how he was an ex-member of the SOS Dan was more like an underhanded comment? It was news like these that made me think of him as a really bitter man who only wanted to create anime as a way to get back at KyoAni, to satisfy his personal vendetta.

        Then his letter came along, and I really couldn’t understand at the time how could he stake this much unless it was because he was tired from striking back at KyoAni, or if he was pulling a stunt here. When I read this article, it removed the impression I had of him that he was a drama queen, but I do still think he is being a bit childish and even a bit hypocritical, as he built his own career on the same marketing techniques he now appears to condemn not to mention his last two major works had been successful, and while this might be the first time he tries something different from his usual fare, it is not the mark of a good director to simply declare that if his work wont work then there is no hope for him to continue to create more. Miyazaki himself didn’t just flash out Nausicaa and get his name to have the impact it has today, he went on to create more films before making Princess Mononoke and cementing his reputation.

        This is the reason why I can’t be on Yamakan’s side. ”if this show isn’t a one hit wonder, then I’ll ragequit” is the message I took from his letter, acting like he is a struggling frustrated director trying to reinvent the medium and facing failure after failure, only to pour everything he has into this last project as a last attempt to see if it can work, when he is nothing like that.

  • January 17, 2011 at 7:23 pmstarss

    O . O

    I gon’ watch FRACTALE!

  • January 17, 2011 at 8:17 pmdave

    I disagree with Yutata. In a postmodernist world,thinking in the similitudes between plots as a judging parameter of quality, it’s just too absurd. I was teached at my university that, if we use that type of idea in every single type of art, then everything becomes shit to us. It’s in the original way we use that recylcled idea that quality lays. Just consider Kara no kyoukai, gundam00, denpa teki na kanojo, etc. Even mayoi neko overrun it’s hilarious in a very unique way, and it’s a moe show with fanservice.

    • January 17, 2011 at 8:36 pmdave

      sorry i mean:i WAS taught at my university… i made an idiotic error, XD

  • January 17, 2011 at 9:00 pmexia

    It’s pretty painful to read the harsh reality…

  • January 17, 2011 at 11:26 pmBROOKLYN otaku

    Hmm, good Article D!!!! interesting…, well ..like when Omni left, this is much the same “no disrespect to the current bloggers..u guys rock” but..NOTHING lasts forever…….Except for greed

  • January 18, 2011 at 1:27 amGodKnows

    Fractale kinda sucks so far.I had to pause and resume a few times just to finish it.

    The industry needs an injection of capital and fresh ideas if it wants to get back on its feet.But with Japan still in a period of little to no growth since the 90′s, a new anime boom is not likely to happen anytime soon, if ever.

  • January 18, 2011 at 2:22 amfairx

    IMHO, to create something original and bet / stakes everything, he need to make a movie, to prove the point.

    That’s why I love Tokikake and Summer wars: no mecha no superpower no moe just plain old reasoning. A great reasoning.

    I don’t like miyazaki much, but I love his Porco Rosso and Cagliostro <– less fantasy

    Fractale does not rehash Miyazaki solely IMO. It tries to rehash and many idea that Yamamoto love (I assume) Hope to see more of it.

    I don't really like Kannagi BTW, but Kannagi is not an original idea IIRC.

  • January 18, 2011 at 2:30 amThe Story You Don’t Know

    All I can say is that he has a point. For me, I find older animes like Slam Dunk way way better than most animes now. Why? Most new animes focus on FAN SERVICE. Yeah, animes are meant for enjoyment of the fans but hey, they should know the word LIMIT. As of now, I see more FAN SERVICE, PANTY SHOTS, BREAST SHOTS, and pure perversion more than an anime following the real plot. But of course some animes REAL PLOT are FAN SERVICE shots.

    Now that I look at it, I’ve only watched somewhere around 5~6 new anime series since 2007. Maybe this is the reason.

    • January 18, 2011 at 3:17 amGhostalker

      I have to disagree at you on that, while their are plenty of anime in that catergory, their are plenty of ones not in that category, their are good ones and some not so good. I watched about 30-50 series a year since 2006 (the year we got an internet connection) and 2010 being somewhat an exception having finished at least 60, all of them in good caliber (while some are in the outstanding caliber, and some in the not so good), if its true you have only watched 6 series since 2007 then I don’t think you have enough material to proven your claim or at least you are not that anime fanatic enough to even complain.

  • January 18, 2011 at 2:45 amScott

    I have to agree with pretty much all of the points that he’s bringing up. The movie industry is running parallel in the same direction, only more of a train wreck to look at.

    However, just take a second and look at how many highschool anime shows we have. It’s fucking insane, and stupidly unnecessary. I’m almost at the point where if I see another promising show that yet again has a hook into school life, I’m giving up completely and moving to manga. It’s all about safety for these companies and it’s really getting on my nerves.

  • January 18, 2011 at 3:13 amJunk

    I agree with idea that the anime industry in a crisis, but it’s one that has been going on for more than five years.

    From the mid 90′s to the mid 00′s anime saw an amazing growth in audience and profits and this resulted in an expansion of types of stuff getting made. This era also saw the near mainstreaming of anime in the US: western markets became recognized by the industry as something worth keeping in mind. US licensing of anime, manga, games, and light novels because a pretty big deal, very top heavy really and it has since imploded dramatically. There are fewer than half of the companies involved in american releases of japanese content now than there were 7 or so years ago. Those which remain are no longer shoving nearly a dozen new titles on us every week. We couldn’t have kept up even if the economy didn’t sink.

    The japanese companies no longer have any reason to consider the global market and have since retracted to focus back on the core target markets anime started out with: kids and otaku. Anime in the 80′s and early 90′s was no more diverse, complex, intelligent, thoughtful, or better done than they are today. The one difference is that those series shaped the stereotypes that drove the industry as it expanded. What has changed is less of a reliance on the mecha-related stereotypes developed then to more of a shift toward the moe-girl ones. Why did this happen?

    Well, remember through the 90′s and 00′s, japanese “otaku” came to be recognized as adult men who shunned the real world for fantasy. Specifically shunning real girls for fantasy ones. I said this was “recognized”; it may not actually be true but that is the general understanding.

    Anime with cute, unrealistic girls were very successful during the boomtimes. Real or not, “otaku” happily shoveled money in which ever direction the cutest girls came from. I’m not saying this stuff about okatu is a solid fact with real numbers behind it, I’m saying, it’s easy to see that this is what the anime producers believed. Employed otaku had lots of money to spend on moe; unemployed otaku who were desperate enough would still spend what they had on it. The other target markets were unreliable, the sum of what all potential audience members want is too complex. But almost everybody likes cute girls (to varying extent).

    Nearly ever season still has a few titles that don’t fit in with the rest but probably you don’t like some of them. SHAFT is a great example of a studio that regularly turns out stuff presented/told/or created in new/original/experimental ways even if they do make frequent use of the cute girl types. How many of you hate most of their stuff or can’t get past the different directing styles?

    But you probably do like at least a couple of the typical offerings and the typicals get the best numbers because of common-denominator. Add in the fact that there are people who will always like only the typical offerings. So that is what gets the momentum. Cute girl stereotypes which become shallower and shallower as what producers think we want becomes more exact.

    The situation isn’t that anime series made between the mid 90′s to mid 00′s were *better* than what is made now, it is that there were many more titles and much more diversity. We had mecha, sports, adventure, armageddon, WTF, fantasy, drama, slice of life, .. er.. ect, but now it’s been distilled to mostly harem, romance, and fighting (the latter only because of prominent long-running titles). Oh, and the sex/nudity factor has increased exponentially, all in a rush to get the “OMG I can’t believe they went this far! It’s fucking awesome!” sales.
    We went from wind-blown panty shots to vulva-through-panties to nipples to on-screen thrusting and tit-sucking. Producers aren’t chasing a general audience anymore. It’s all core, baby! Be interesting to see if the new law holds and how it changes things.

    Anyway, the other stuff still gets made, but if you don’t like the few token other titles in the current season, you’re out of luck and in lots of moe. Gripe away.

    The crisis anime is in isn’t that it might not get made anymore, it will. The crisis is one of fear of the audience. We’re fickle, demanding, and we don’t have enough disposable income to drop on everything Japan makes anymore. A profitable company should budget for a risk-taking, untested, or minor-market series every now and then and they do. But they don’t get the end numbers to justify doing it more often and I think they often can’t determine what made it successful. They don’t know how to repeat it.

    Worse, ee can’t even do much to change that. Few of us are in Japan and thus we don’t matter at all. There is no guaranteed US license for anything anymore. Only the specific target markets in Japan matter.

    Maybe if we started buying books and DVDs at the rate we did 6 years ago, the US anime market would comfortably consolidate and publish at a level suitable for our purchasing power, then they would have a better idea of how not to throw money down the fad-hole. It’s like it’s our own fault for being too diverse in what we each like and want. We aren’t an easy to summarize and please group.
    Publishers hate that!
    For comparasion, this same crisis has existed in US commercial music and Hollywood movies for a decade now. Only US TV is doing great since DVD releases have made series profitable beyond re-run returns.

    But ending the anime crisis is really up to two forces in Japan: the perceived (and likely false) otaku market has to shift its buying choices in a prominent and easy to understand way or japanese companies have to be making more profits either from increasing sales of the typical stuff and/or some wildly successful non-typical titles. There are people in the industry who really want to produce different stuff but also need a paycheck.

    Finally, the cute-girl terms may be newish, but the types been around for nearly as long as anime itself has! The emergence of the specific terms is just a symptom of the distilling and limiting of character types being utilized. All well.

    • January 18, 2011 at 3:34 amGhostalker

      I have to agree in the contents of your comment, I wish I have the same skill in conveying what’s inside my mind and flesh it out in words for people to read. All in all your comment mirrors in varying degrees what I have in mind.

    • January 20, 2011 at 11:15 pmBROOKLYN otaku

      well said man! well MO@&#^@*ing said!!!

  • January 18, 2011 at 4:02 amVolks

    I applaud this dude for trying to inject a new spark in the industry , but he chose the wrong timing. This is a time when Japan`s economy is in the state of stagnation , and China has officially surpassed Japan`s economy . To make things worst , the remaining BRIC bloc is also catching up. And , the Japanese government is not really helping at all , focusing only on popularity support , not giving a damn about the economy . So yea , unless the economy picks up , I don`t see how this will affect the industry , since everyone just wants to play safe in times of uncertainty.

  • January 18, 2011 at 5:47 ammika-chan

    Sorry yamamoto, but if Fractale is the best that you can do you will fail hard. First episode suck, and i’m honest in saying this. Good luck anyway. :)

    • January 18, 2011 at 7:05 amMarthatrix

      You didnt like first episode wasnt to your liking and now you know how fractale will turn out? lol
      (Not all animes use the “1st episode = crash/bang/explosions/character developement later/action” formula)

    • January 18, 2011 at 7:06 amMarthatrix

      EDIT
      Because it wasnt to your liking*

  • January 18, 2011 at 12:09 pmmutio

    There’s so much truth in this article it’s almost painful. And that’s not just because it is sad to see industry standards ruining ideas of brave artist, but also seeing this whole mess destroying one of my most favourite hobbys. I remember watching series or OVAs which had a soul and inspired me, like Last Exile, Blue Submarine No.6, Noir or Record of Lodoss War. Now a lot of shows coming out are just, and excuse my bad language here, the same old bullshit just in a new setting. I’m really missing orignal series with unique ideas where the artist just went berserk and created something new, something unique. There still very good shows out there and coming out, but over the years I got the impression, that there are less and less~ The whole world is just about money and nothing else..

  • January 18, 2011 at 12:14 pmfrubam

    Assuming he is not lying, despite whether his intentions and actions are good or not, it takes balls to put your CAREER on the line for any reason, so all the more power to him. Even if this doesn’t revolutionize anime as we know it, as long as it’s an interesting production, I’ll be good with it.

  • January 18, 2011 at 1:08 pmarixx

    Quote: a fair share of corporate politics and business practices that don’t encourage creativity

    Here lies the problem, in their mind if is not broken don’t fix it. Bottomline is no matter how boring or how creative your idea was, if the people who get the final say don’t get some greens in their wallet as a return, they don’t care, you could have an anime about a pink flying pig as long as it prove to be a big seller and earn big profit, the producer don’t give a damn about how is done.

    Is sad but that is the reality of the world nowadays, everything is MONEY, MONEY, AND MORE MONEY, how much money you spend on produce an anime and how much you earn in return is all it matter.

  • January 18, 2011 at 1:10 pmXanathos

    To all the crazy guys in the world who try to be pioneers by creating new and original stuff never seen before… cheers!! =D

  • January 18, 2011 at 2:09 pmXanathos

    And something more… people would say that it’s not so “worthy of enterprise models” but… the fact that we’re trying to choose safe standards to work at production level and kill innovation on the way can sound reasonable, but on the other hand coward.

    Even if he fails, I applaud him for doing something new. If he succeeds, there will be some hope for anime industry. But if it fails, I won’t blame him either. Just hope he can recover from it and learn from it.

    Not appropiate for anime, but still appropiate… but abiding to Dr. Gregory House wise words (Hugh Laurie as Gregory House in House M.D.) “We’ll treat her based in the diagnosis, and follow the progression if the disease… if she gets better, it’s our win, if not… we’ll know something else…”

  • January 18, 2011 at 4:21 pmthe_one092001

    I doubt there’s much I can contribute that hasn’t already been said, but here goes:

    Making an anime is, unsurprisingly, a lot of work relative to the output, and more importantly, involves a lot of drudgery. Unlike live-action shows, all of the visual artwork is done by hand or by computer, including relative basics like backgrounds and extras. An American television show like Glee or Lost can take advantage of preexisting settings and get some people to volunteer as extras, while animation requires that all of those things be done by hand.

    This is the sort of drudgery that causes burnout in the shiny-eyed newcomers. Months, if not years of bad pay doing the same boring work of drawing backgrounds, crowds, and extras unsurprisingly leads to disillusionment. Some simply quit the industry, while others just accept the corporate realities and trudge onward, eventually getting promotions due to simple seniority.

    And these are the sort of people who end up in corporate management, making the decisions about which projects to greenlight. Or worse, it will be someone with no background at all in the anime industry who rose to the top through the financial or advertising department with even less attachment to making a good story.

    Of course, there are always a few “poster children” of any industry, who through sheer name recognition and reputation can get projects greenlighted, mostly because their name also guarantees they will be at least a moderate success. Gainax and Kyoto Animation are on that tier in the anime world, with counterparts like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron holding similar sway in Hollywood.

    This part, unfortunately, is the obvious one. The self-replicating cycle of apathy that pushes those with passion to either quit or stifle it to keep their jobs. How to fix it is the far harder and more subtle issue.

    Ideally, the anime industry would be run like Silicon Valley. Lots of startups, lots of failures, but no shortage of ideas, capital, or talented entrepreneurs. Some companies will hit it big and turn into the next Google, Facebook, or Groupon, while those that fail join a new startup and try again, keeping the existing players on their toes.

    There are some industries where large conglomerates are better, manufacturing and anything that requires large-scale research and development being the most obvious. But the anime industry, like the internet services industry, is not one of those.

  • January 18, 2011 at 7:00 pmk2000k

    As to the global market not being a player at all in what drives the anime industry, a point that I currently agree with, I think the first company that can actually find a way to successfully monetize web based viewing will certainty shift that paradigm, sorry for the corporatesque wording. There has been some attempts at it, such as crunchy roll, but its still very much in its infancy. We are beginning to see it farther along in traditional American media, with services such as Hulu+ and Netflix watch online, though it takes a while for the season to come out, and I don’t think its that far off. It will just take the first company willing to forgo their traditional markups in media and put together a solid platform with products people want to watch.

    • January 18, 2011 at 9:12 pmthe_one092001

      It’ll need something compelling though. Something that gives it an edge over just torrenting an anime series for free.

      For Apple, it was convenience, integration, and breadth that made the iTunes music store take off. Whereas Napster and LimeWire offered music for free, iTunes kept prices low while offering a similar selection with built-in iPod integration that allowed users to take their content anywhere.

      These are the same problems Crunchyroll faces. Right now, there isn’t very much of a compelling advantage to choose it over NyaaTorrents or TokyoTosho aside from legality. It doesn’t have the same breadth of content (it only gets a few series per season), nor the same integration. And in terms of convenience, it’s not much better than just torrenting with a good client.

      iTunes demonstrated that it is possible to steer people back from the world of free music to the world of paid music, but it requires very good execution and coordination. Most importantly, it requires enticing people to pay money for services they had previously received for free, rather than forcing them like the MPAA and RIAA had done previously.

      Basically, in order for Crunchyroll to take off, it has to be able to get all anime in a given season (including OVAs) and find some way to entice people away from HorribleSubs and CrunchySubs who give away their product for free.

      • January 19, 2011 at 3:02 pmDivine

        I agree that if groups like HorribleSubs and CrunchySubs didn’t exist, and all fansub groups respected that there’s an inexpensive, legal alternative and didn’t pick up shows they licensed, then Crunchyroll’s business would be working a lot better than it is. Some fansub groups already do this, but a lot still continue on the mentality that all their anime should be free. I’d be curious to know if legitimate streaming picks up a lot more if it weren’t for these groups.

        At $5/month with 17 simulcasts this season, that’s less than $0.30/show a month if you watched them all, and less than $0.08/episode. Then there are all the completed series that you can watch at your leisure. If people ate out one less time a month (e.g. at McDonald’s) or had two less coffees, that would already recuperate the cost. Personally, I think CR has a reasonable pricing model just like the iTunes store for music, but people still want to circumvent what they’re trying to provide.

      • January 20, 2011 at 12:44 amthe_one092001

        Just taking the other subbers out of the equation wouldn’t put Crunchyroll on top, nor does their existence inherently mean it cannot be successful. Music and media piracy still abounds in the Western world, yet iTunes and Zune still rake in the cash, selling products that could be had for free.

        I would say part of the problem for Crunchyroll is that the average anime fan is more tech-savvy than the average music downloader. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to Google “Airplanes B.o.B.” or “Black-eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling” and click the first Rapidshare, Mediafire, or Megaupload link. In the absence of these, the simplicity of iTunes and its integration became a major plus compared to switching to clunky torrents that may or may not work.

        Thus, ease-of-use is less important to anime fans, who are already used to trudging through the wilds of NyaaTorrents and running torrent clients to get their fix. That’s only half the battle though, since although downloading it may be more complicated than simply hitting the “Play” button on CR, it ends up being easier to organize and archive on a hard drive (if you can afford one) than keeping it stored “in the cloud.”

        The biggest problem I would say Crunchyroll faces is that of ownership. Right now, if a fan torrents an episode, they “own” the file, and can do whatever they want with it. Convert it and stick it on their iPod, leave it on their hard drive, whatever. It’s accessible as long as they have their computer, ready to play at the click of the mouse. No internet connection is required, which is a major boon for on-the-go viewing on an airplane or other mobile environment.

        To be sure, the internet is more pervasive than ever, and most airlines are rolling out onboard WiFi. Crunchyroll’s interface isn’t exactly hard to navigate, either. But the effect is psychological. Studies have shown that people still want to own their content rather than “rent” it.

        The effect is somewhat media dependent. People are used to owning music; buying a CD used to mean you could do whatever you wanted with it. Buying a song on iTunes means the same thing; the file is downloaded and saved on your hard drive for as long as you like. In comparison, Hulu gets away with being a streaming-only site because it provides content people are used to just watching, namely television content. The average American doesn’t think much about owning their episodes of the Daily Show, which go out of date daily (no pun intended), but like owning their music.

        As a result of torrenting, the anime fan base sees anime as the same as music. I wouldn’t say they’re unwilling to pay for it period, but right now, the “free” option gives them the file in perpetuity while the “paid” option gives them what amounts to a rental with restrictions.

  • January 18, 2011 at 11:23 pmd as in tora

    I haven’t really written any serious essay (or long comment, in this situation) on anime since 2006. That’s because I found out that the anime industry just wouldn’t care regardless of how foreign fans like me say about them. And I helped out at Anime Central back then and made friends with anime insiders. I would rather spend time on US foreign policy, immigration, sports, and human rights, among other more debatable and receptive subjects where people drive to CHANGE.

    Since we’re on economics, here’s how I saw it, and I’m curious how this might relate to the : Japan has been in a deep shit since the “bubble,” but it actually extended its IT boom that didn’t fare well in USA in our turn century (those internet busts that hurt our market, remember that?). In another word, even until now, Japan never fully recovered from a looong recession since, oh, 1991, but Japan was a beneficiary of a short period of booming new industry from the end of the last to earlier of this century. That helped, for a while.

    Now, how this relates to anime? Anime is perceived as a marketing device in Japan. Maybe there’s dream, maybe there’s experimentals, but the ultimate goal of creating an anime is for sponsors to send a message to a bigger audience: “You might want this from us.” Anime studios crave money from sponsors, the bigger the better.

    Above, noobiesnack mentioned the phase change of the anime industry, and JUNK talked about the otaku economy. There were nudity and sexual appeals since Doraemon and Gundam. Nothing new here. The moe factors are just more visible now, due to Japan’s otaku *(market) demand. It’s not like otaku asked for those things. Otakus in Japan are quite vocal on plot, anime quality, among other things that they care about. It’s just that the sponsors (and producers) are not ready to change.

    They are going through a phase where the economy is not great, and the general non-otakus, the “20-dai” (working freshmen) are more cynical, less interested at changes as most used to be, after suffering in the last century of recession, when their parents were not ready for it. The short IT boom seemed to generate some hope, but it didn’t last. The anime industry reflected upon those, and perhaps as a result, the comparably lack of experimental anime that were plenty earlier this century.

    The fans are passive, but we can change things in a subtle way, if DIVINE is not interested at asking every fan to write a postcard to all anime studios stating: “Don’t let anime die, try something new.” It’s the demographic, or to be specific, the way Japanese society thinks due an aging population.

    I’m not going to bore you with my economic theory, but I don’t believe the status quo will last any longer. We are seeing what the Tokyo government is doing against anime creativity, it’s a proper reaction of a growing influence. Yutata is a tip of the iceberg.

  • January 19, 2011 at 1:24 amkeiOnDaisuki

    yey. just checkin’ out something. XDD

  • January 19, 2011 at 7:28 am♕Croosboy♕

    hmmmm this is really an interesting article indeed. i really hate to admit that what Yamamoto Yutata is right. anime might die if it keeps repeating and repeating and repeating. Moe is good but as it gets recycled it gets really old. like if your first viewed moe anime is MM it really is funny and good but as you go to other moe anime and go to other moe anime it really gets old. though i didnt see fractale episode as a bad start( guess thats how he makes it).
    Nice Pointing out oreimo episode 8.

  • January 19, 2011 at 4:36 pmleon

    Important Note, They Don’t have the Luxury of trying something New.
    With the state of the Anime industry, one false move and it’s shut up .

    • January 20, 2011 at 11:28 pmd as in tora

      Hi, leon not necessary. Yes, budget constraint and sponsorship dealt the cards, but the studios can still propose multiple production plans, and a few of them will find its sponsors then can hit the market.

      Look at Production IG. They’ve recently done some low-budget works for NHK and those big TV channels (like that sisters thing, lousy plot and cheap anime). If a studio lost money on one project, they can still find works and come around.

  • January 20, 2011 at 9:04 amnoobiesnack

    Interesting side news to this article, it seems the planning committee behind Fractale has decided to put its Simulcast rights with Funimation on indefinite hold and told Funi that they need to control the piracy of Fractale before they will allow them to stream again.

    Makes perfect sense, right? I can’t wait to see how well this works out for them. *turns to nyaatorrents/TTS instead of the Funi stream*