It is rare for Japanese creators to publicly air their grievances with the companies they work with, but Takashi Watanabe, the director of the isekai anime How A Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, took to Twitter to criticize anime studios for prioritizing production over the health of their artists and animators.
Watanabe is an industry veteran who has worked on shows such as Slayers Next, Fullmetal Panic, Oreimo and Sword Art Online, and is currently directing How A Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom at the studio J.C. Staff, which also produced shows such as Revolutionary Girl Utena and the second season of One Punch Man. On Twitter, the director revealed that at least one other anime studio has been shut-down due to a cluster of COVID-19 infections within its offices. "Although there is an implicit gag order, I have heard that at least one company has had a cluster and the studio has been closed," Watanabe revealed, adding, "There might be more (studios,) but no information flows," implying that these studios are trying to keep news of infections within their companies quiet. Watanabe expressed his own fear and frustration, saying "I don't know when I will get in close contact. Dangerous waters... Why doesn't the anime industry stop working?"
暗黙の箝口令があるがワシは少なくとも一社でクラスターが発生しスタジオ閉鎖になったという話を聞いている。他にも出ているはずだが情報は流れない。自分自身いつ濃厚接触者になるかわからない。危険水域。— 渡部高志 (@TkashiWatanabe) August 17, 2021
Japan recently extended its state of emergency procedures to September, following a record high of over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases in Tokyo alone during the month of August. A shortage of hospital beds in Tokyo have forced officials to ask 25,000 patients to recuperate at their homes.
The anime and manga industries have both been heavily criticized for prioritizing productivity over employee health and safety. A recent New York Times investigation found that some full-time animators working on anime make as a little as $200 a month, and several of the animators they talked to revealed stories of being hospitalized due to exhaustion and stress. One of the studios that is a frequent target of these criticisms, MAPPA, recently announced that they were increasing wages and offering better benefits to the animators on its latest project, an anime adaptation of the popular Chainsaw Man anime.
While some anime and manga productions have experienced delays due to the on going COVID-19 pandemic, the industry has experienced a boom in sales and viewership as quarantined audiences look for new entertainment. At a roundtable panel at this year's Comic-Con, representatives from the biggest manga publishers revealed that they were experiencing unprecedented demand for their titles across the board, including re-releases of older titles and record sales for previous niche genres. Crunchyroll also recently announced that it had surpassed 5 million paid subscribers, shortly before the company's sale to Sony for over $1 billion USD was finalized.
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom premiered on July 4 and will air its 9th out of 13 episodes on Aug. 29. The series has been licensed by Funimation for distribution outside of Asia.
Source: Twitter, NHK News, New York Times