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You Can Help Make an Animator's Life Easier

July 7, 2017 11:00am
by Mike Tamburelli

In recent times, it has become ever more apparent that animators in Japan’s anime industry have it rough. You may recall a story from just a few weeks ago wherein Studio Khara, the talent behind the Rebuild of Evangelion movies, were able to pay potentially newly-hired animators just slightly more than the industry average at around $920 USD -- which really is not great, especially when you consider the need to pay the always costly Tokyo rent. Standards for animator pay in Japan are quite low, but there's a few things available to industry outsiders that they can do to help, and even change the lives of the next generation of creatives. This is where the Non-Profit Organization known as Animator Supporters comes in:

Animator Supporters have identified 3 key risks for Japan’s animation industry workers:

  • Animators in their twenties often make no more than 90,000 yen a month
  • 90% of new animators quit within 3 years due to low pay and harsh working conditions
  • Without proper support and mentoring for animators, Japanese animation as a cultural pillar risks collapse

Jun Sugawara from Animator Supporters has come forth to present the organization’s fundraising goals in English. As of now, they have run 3 successful crowdfunding campaigns both within Japan and overseas to tackle perhaps one of the biggest issues facing young animators today: housing.

The yearly "Animator Dormitory Projects" aim to raise money for affordable dorm-style housing for animators. Paying no more than 30,000 yen a month including utilities costs, animators can skirt Tokyo's rent prices and live in an environment where they can not only survive, but thrive. Remember the point about young animators not receiving proper support and mentoring? The goal with the dormitory project is to allow an environment where new animators can learn from the more experienced hands.  

This year, the English campaign lives on Indiegogo'Generosity platform, and Jun has outlined the project's mission and history:

Our goals

・To make an environment where start-up animators can devote themselves to their work without worrying about whether they can pay their house rents or make a stable living

・To bridge the skill gap caused by income inequalities

・To create a space where start-up animators can learn techniques from skilled animators so that they will be able to make a stable living in the animation industry.

Since March 2014, we have established the Animator Dormitory in order to achieve these goals. In Animator Dormitory, animators can stay live there for 30,000 JPY per month (including utility expenses). They will also get chances for social exchanges beyond the boundaries of companies and receive technical support for illustrations and drawing.

Our History

• March 2014 First Animator Dormitory opened in Asagaya

• March 2015 Animator Dormitory in Ogikubo opened

• March 2016 Animator Dormitory that is bigger opened in Asagaya

• March 2017 Girls Animator Dormitory opened in Naritahigashi. As of May 2017, eight animators are living in the Animator Dormitory.

Of course, what I'm hoping to inspire through outlining all of this is at least your visit to the project's page, here. With a campaign that is running until the year's end having already eclipsed 50% of its goal, it is exceedingly clear that many people value the prospect of improved conditions for the people working so hard to create the content we love. And hey, there ae some pretty sweet perks for donating as well. Do you want to actually just hang out and chill with these folks? Well, that's a perk you can unlock at just a $150 USD donation if you've helped in the past, and at $300 if you are donating for the first time.

One of my favorite aspects of the project as a whole is the human aspect brought about through social media, especially Facebook. The animators who you are supporting often take the time to write their feelings out, conveying them to all of the project's followers. Check out some recent examples:

These creatives have already gained so much through the project's support -- how cool is this?

As a hyper-avid consumer of Japanese animation, the chance to affect meaningful change in an industry that has done so much to enrich my life these past 12 years or so is an incredibly meaningful one. My goal is not necessarly to coerce everyone to donate to this project directly - after all, we all have our own lives and circumstance to deal with - but merely to raise awareness. If we can help foster the creativity of the next big name in anime, someone that perhaps the next generation will be able to consume and enjoy, then I know we will have done our little bit to keep the industry alive.

Thank you Animator Supporters for your continued dedication, and know that you will have my continued support.

2017 Animator Dormitory Project:
Animator Supporters: 
Official site (Japanese)


Naoko Yamada’s ‘A Silent Voice’ Film Review

October 20, 2017 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

What do fan-favorite animated works “K-On,” “Tamako Market,” and more recently, “A Silent Voice,” all have in common? Each of them were directed by powerhouse talent Naoko Yamada — one of Kyoto Animation’s best in-house creative minds.

The self-described “method” director has time and time again left a powerful impact through her works, and “A Silent Voice” is by no means an exception. The motif of the film is clear, and the delivery exceptional; from start to finish viewers are strapped-in for a heartwrenching rollercoaster.

After transferring to her new elementary school, Shoko Nishimiya is often targeted by her fellow classmates for her inability to hear. Leading the unrelenting harassment would be Shoya Ishida, who we find much of the film based around. Discarded as “harmless fun” by his peers, it takes no time at all for the effects of Shoya’s bullying to surface — this would be the beginning of Shoya’s undoing. Following an incident in which the harassment is finally called out, Shoya rapidly loses the trust of those around him, and is rightfully demonized for his actions, thus resulting in the tables turning on him.

While early parts of the film follow a much more naive, younger Shoya, most of the film finds itself following his teenage years.  By this point in his life, it’s apparent he’s become a much more self-aware individual. Constantly haunted by the actions of his past, however, Shoya struggles with the effects of depression, a disorder which cripples his ability to partake in day-to-day interactions with those around him.

Visually manifesting such a personal issue is never an easy task, but that’s where Chief Animation Director and Character Designer Futoshi Nishiya’s veteran flare presents itself, constantly complimenting the story through the creative use of both color and contrast. 
While Shoya fights to correct the actions of the past, he learns to rediscover the Shoya of the present — even if he nearly destroys himself to achieve this. Building friendship, developing trust, and learning to love oneself — that’s the basic motif of the film. Touching on a number of different themes throughout, “A Silent Voice” is painstakingly crafted with attention to detail. Through the use of sound, color, and lighting, the film carefully delivers a powerful message that will stay with you for a lifetime. 

What we can expect to see next from Naoko Yamada remains to be seen, but if it lives up to the beauty of “A Silent Voice,” her place in the industry will only further be solidified as a creative. “A Silent Voice” is in theaters across North America now, with screening locations and tickets available to view here.


Adorable 'Fate/Grand Order' x Sanrio Collab is a Must-See

October 19, 2017 4:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

Sanrio, the company behind the iconic Hello Kitty franchise and certified marketing powerhouse, are definitely no strangers when it comes to the world of collaborations. Heck, just earlier this year, they teamed up with the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise in preparation for the live-action movie for some seriously charming goods.

I'm happy to report that they're back at it again, but this time in collaboration with massively-popular mobile RPG Fate/Grand Order. Check out some of the goods you'll be able to get your hands on, beginning November 11.

Various iconic characters from the mobage have been plastered all over any type of collectible merch you could possibly think of -- pens, badges, phone cases, folders, t-shirts, bags -- you name it, they've got it. You'll be able to purchase the loot at Animate stores across Japan from November 11 until December 17, and at Tokyo Station's Character Street from December 12 through 25. If you aren't able to be in Japan at the time, I definitely suggest keeping an eye on your favorite online retailer. 

Perks for waiting though? The goods will also be available in early January of next year, at a special collaboration cafe planned for opening in Ikebukuro. I’ll admit that I can’t wait to see what kind of snacks cute Gilgamesh will be baked into. Need a closer look at the character designs? Check them out below:


Three New 'Mob Psycho 100' Projects Are in the Works

October 19, 2017 2:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

Mob Psycho 100 was the surprise hit of the Summer 2016 anime season, bringing the unique and zany art style of author and illustrator ONE to lucid, strikingly-animated life. Seemingly, the show has proved to be popular enough to justify three different projects, seeking to shed further light on the daily life and struggles of secret-esper Shigeo Mob Kageyama.

Next year, the beloved franchise will receive a live-action TV drama, a stage play, and a special anime event.

Let's start with that TV drama.

We've seen a ton of investment from Netflix recently, in both Japanese live-action and anime production. As it would turn out, TV Tokyo is teaming up with the streaming service to produce this live-action adaptation of the esteemed franchise. It will star actor Tatsuomi Hamada as Mob, and will begin airing on the channel's "MokuDora25" time slot in January. There is no word yet on a possible Netflix streaming deal, nor of a release outside of Japan.

After you've soaked up Hamada's realistic rendition of the character, why not go see Mob's original voice actor fight it out on stage? In a surprise announcement, Setsuo Ito will reprise his role in a special stage event that will take place at Tokyo's Galaxy Theater from January 6-14. 

Whether you decide to take part in the aforementioned productions or not, take comfort in knowing that more anime is on the way, and that it is particularly special. Mob Psycho 100 Reigen ~Shirarezaru Kiseki Reinōryokusha~ (The Miraculous Unknown Psychic) is an OVA episode being produced by the exact team that crafted the original anime, and will heavily feature Mob's master Reigen as he crafts his autobiography.

Reportedly, this special episode will incorporate some scenes from the original show, but will also include some new bits supposedly from Reigen’s perspective. The special episode will be shown just two times at Chiba Maihama Ampitheater near Tokyo on March 18. There is currently no word on any sort of wider release after the event.

So what do you think, Mob fans? Has any of this got you jazzed? Be sure to let us know below! And for those of you who have yet to partake in this absolute trip of a storytelling experience, Funimation has provided a synopsis of the original anime below:

Kageyama Shigeo (a.k.a. Mob) is an 8th grader with powerful psychic abilities. Working under his not-so-capable master, Reigen, Mob uses his powers to exorcise evil spirits. But his will to be normal causes him to suppress his powers and feelings until he hits 100 percent — a point where his pent-up emotions are unleased and a darker power takes over.


Netflix is About to Release a Ton of Original Anime

October 19, 2017 12:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

Netflix has been making a huge push for original content on their platform, and during a recent call with analysts, the company's Chief Content Officer Ted Serandos outlined an ambitious plan to increase the amount of original programming available on the streaming service dramatically. 

As it would turn out, anime will be playing a large part in the company's efforts to ensure that at least 50% of their programming is original content by the end of 2018. With an $8 billion investment, Netflix will introduce thirty new anime series and eighty original films to their streaming ecosystem by the end of 2018 alone. 

Until recently, Netflix had been content with simply licensing anime for streaming outside of Japan. Successful examples of that strategy date back to 2014's Knights of Sidonia and include such fan-favorites as Little Witch Academia, Kakegurui, and Fate/Apocrypha, the latter two having yet to be released. Unlike services such as Crunchyroll which simulcast new shows weekly, Netflix releases their licenses in seasonal chunks, in an effort to encourage binge-watching.

That trend certainly shows no signs of decline anytime soon, as Netflix already has a number of high-profile licenses in the ranks for next year in addition to the above-mentioned; the least of which being Kyoto Animation'Violet Evergarden and Maasaki Yuasa's DEVILMAN crybaby
In what could have only served as a precursor to this announcement, we reported in the past of anime like Studio Bones' A.I.C.O -Incarnation-, a show which is funded in part by a chunk of Netflix cash. This is the kind of production we’re all expecting to see more of following this news. Even the recent sensation that was the Ezra Koenig, Production I.G. and Studio Deen co-production Neo Yokio did not strictly follow this framework, as that project saw first saw the light of day and obtained its first stack of cash from Fox's now-defunct Animation Domination programming block.
So now that we know that Netflix is serious about either fully-funding or partly-funding their anime releases, thus landing them a spot on said shows' production committees, the possibilities have certainly been widened endlessly. Will this result in individual projects having higher budgets? Will it result in there simply being more anime content? For the answers to those questions and more, we'll just have to wait a little bit longer and see.


‘DARLING in the FRANXX’ Receives First CM, Release Date

October 18, 2017 4:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

After so much waiting and anticipation, we couldn’t be more excited to share that the latest CM for A-1 Pictures and Studio TRIGGER’s collaborative animated series “DARLING in the FRANXX” is finally here. Included alongside the CM is our all-new key visual for the series, as well as the January 2018 premiere date we’ve all been clammering to find out. 

The translated text from the trailer can be read below:

This place is a "birdcage."
A place that is shut
A place that is controlled
There is only one reason to live —
We battle
For the sake of our fathers
To someday fly away —
For the sake of the world
But that girl, Zero Two, was different
Won't you become my darling?

Originally announced during Anime Expo 2017 at the Studio TRIGGER panel, “DARLING in the FRANXX” is the latest brainchild of Atsushi Nishigori, following a group of teenagers and their Franxx. There’s currently little known about the project beyond a campaign of PVs released to introduce each of the series’ main characters, though from those alone the series already shows potential. 

With the series premiere slated for January 2018, we can only imagine the slew of story-filled information we’ll be receiving in the coming weeks and months. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as even more is announced, and if you’re interested in checking out our past write-ups on the series, you can view our archives. 

DARLING in the FRANXX Official Website


Pachinko ‘Madoka Magica’ Offers Exclusive Happy End For Mami

October 18, 2017 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

For many fans of anime, it’s common knowledge that there will always be more official material than what is presented to you within the constraints of any given cour — whether that be manga, light novel, or even video game. What many don’t realize, however, is that deep within the confines of any given pachinko parlor here in Japan, you’ll often find an entire world of never-seen anime content that players are tasked with grinding through to unlock. One recent example that particularly exemplifies this is “CR Pachinko Mahou Shoujoi Madoka Magica,” a pachinko title that completely flips the story of “Madoka Magica” around, should you pull off the right combo. 

Spoilers below:

It goes without saying that there’s one scene early on in the “Madoka Magica” animated series that stands out a little more than the rest. It was this very scene that would go on to shape much of the story from then onwards, and it’s this very scene that is completely altered within the pachinko spinoff game. Before we get too into that, check out the video below:

What’s totally different from the original series, just in case you didn’t manage to catch it, is that within the gameplay of this new pachinko title, Mami actually survives, rather than her untimely passing as it was originally set. Fending off Charlotte, it’s unclear just what repurcussions this would bring forward. There does exist numerous other pieces of “Madoka Magica” media in which Mami does survive, or simply doesn’t have the interaction with Charlotte at all; including the spinoff manga series “Madoka Magica: The Different Story,” as well as the third entry into the film series, “Madoka Magica: Rebellion.”

With just how recent this pachinko title is, one can only wonder just how many story-altering animated scenes there are. What makes this clip so interesting is the fact that it’s a real animated realization of just how the fight between Mami and Charlotte could have played out. So while I don’t exactly fancy myself playing the pachinko title myself, I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on just what those who do play it discover. 


Famitsu Provides Fresh Details on Nippon Ichi's New Game

October 18, 2017 12:00am
by Mike Tamburelli

Just a few days ago, word came via Nippon Ichi Software's official Twitter account that they were developing a brand-new title, and that the four colors in the announcement graphic were of particular importance.

Now, thanks to Famitsu, Japan's biggest gaming news magazine, we have a few more solid details behind the cryptic blue, yellow, green, and red hues in the tweet and on the official teaser site. It would seem that they represent the colors of four unique princesses who will be the basis of the game.

Anata no Shikihime Kyodotan, which can be translated as "Your Four Princess Knights Training Story" (something that is likely to be smoothed over for localization) is an RPG debuting for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and perhaps most excitingly in my opinion, the Nintendo Switch. It will feature art by NIS character designer, who most recently worked on The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2, Madoka Hanshiro. 

As for that training aspect? Well, knowing NIS, I imagine that it'll involve a fair bit of innuendo, but the game's system is described as a "communication" RPG wherein you raise the characters and issue commands to them in battle. You get to praise them for a job well done, or scold them for their failures. I guess it remains to be seen if this goes as far as what we've seen in the past with games like Criminal Girls

The battle system involves issuing commands to your force of soldiers through both the game's protagonist (you, the commander), and the princesses themselves. 

Details of each of the four princesses backstories have also been provided by the magazine:

  • Veronica (voice: Hiromi Igarashi) - A gifted young witch who is part of a magical guild. Wants to take over the world with fear for her own self-gain.
  • Liliati (voice: Ayane Sakura) - Princess of her kingdom and commander of its knights. She is well-loved by her subjects.
  • Monomaria (voice: Rarisa Tago Takeda) - A princess of Yudaria, who are a fallen noble family of a merchant alliance. Makes a living through her mercenary business. 
  • Alpana (voice: Yuka Kuwahara) - Princess of the Dragon God Family. She preaches the word of the 'Great Makara Teachings,' and aims to unify all other families.
The game will be released in Japan on January 25, 2018. We'll bring you more as it's revealed, including character art and screenshots, so be sure to stay tuned!