What exactly is the workscope of the various positions in an anime studio? Namely, what’s the difference between the producer, director, series coordinator and other really ambiguous terms?
The producer handles the administrative matters, like securing sponsors, broadcast times, etc. The director directs the series, and has the final say to all matters related to the show, e.g. character design, script, storyboard, etc. The series coordinator decides what story to include and what to omit. The series coordinator can often be found in the ending credits as the scriptwriter as well. Two ambiguous terms that most anime fans are unable to discern would be 制作 and 製作. The fact that both are pronounced as ’seisaku’ and refer to ‘production’ only adds to the confusion. In the earlier years of anime, both terms are used interchangeably, whereas nowadays, 制作 refers to the animation production (e.g. key animation, coloring, BG, etc) while 製作 refers to the production of the series as a ‘product’, which includes ensuring that the animation gets made and sponsors are secured. Furthermore, art director refers ONLY to the background and has nothing to do with the animation at all, while color setters (iro shitei) set the colour scheme and the tone to fit the show (dark, gothic, sugary sweet?). Do note that an anime production studio is separated into two sections – sakuga (drawing) and bijutsu (art/BG) – both are mutually exclusive.
When people claim they have been working on a series for X number of years, what exactly do they do to the series during that time frame?
It depends what they do. Are they the director, the producers, or just the lowly animators toiling away? It would be interesting to note that some of the in-betweeners to get ‘upgraded’ to key animators along the production of a very long series (Bleach, Naruto, etc…).
How long before an episode’s air date is it fully completed and voiced?
It varies, but the episode needs to be done by hook or by crook BEFORE the broadcast. It was mentioned that the last episode of Cowboy Bebop was made in time and delivered to the broadcaster (WOWOW) in 2000 just hours before the scheduled broadcast. I believe that as a result, some anime gets crappily done (although the studio improved them for DVD release) like the infamous Yashigani episode (Lost Universe episode 4), Musashi Gun-doh and Crescent Love (especially episode 3).
When you look at the works of certain famous staff, you notice that there are years where he seems to be doing absolutely nothing. How do these people feed themselves when not doing work?
I wouldn’t know for sure, but if they are famous enough, I’m sure there would be hordes of people coming after him to get him to be an animator in their show. While not doing anything, I guess they would be providing illustrations to anime character magazines like Megami, or other stuff, like providing freelance animation services to advertisers?
Why are there no hideously ugly seiyuu?
Anything is possible with make-up. The seiyuu you see is probably dolled up specially for the fan event(s), and no seiyuu would be seen in a horrendous state there. After the event is a different story altogether…
How long does it take to produce one episode of anime?
About three months. However, studios produce several episodes concurrently within the duration such that they do not fall behind schedule.
How much does it take to produce one episode of anime?
Simply put, if we set the price of an anime DVD as 4800 yen (S$60), and the sales target is 10000 copies, simple math tells us that the budget would be 48 million yen(S$600,000), and that includes everything from animators’ to the producers’ salaries.
What is the percentage of anime work outsourced to overseas studios in China and Korea?
Traditionally, animation has always been outsourced to smaller Japanese companies, but foreign companies are increasingly competing for jobs. My observation tells me that on average more than 50% of inbetweening and coloring is outsourced, followed by 30% outsourcing of background, and 20% (and increasing) outsourcing of key animation. Some studios outsource far more than others. For example, Madhouse and GONZO outsource much of the lower animation work to Korean firms like DR Movie, Kyung Kang ANIA, Seung Bo Yeang Hang and Chinese firms like RIC, Feng Huang Dong Hua (Phoenix Animation), etc. In fact, some episodes are totally done in Korea, like Tenjou Tenge, some episodes of Death Note, and Saiunkoku Monogatari (all from Madhouse) where even the animation supervisor (sakuga kantoku) is Korean as well. Toei has outsourced virtually all of its in-betweening, coloring and background to Toei Animation Phillipines(TAP, aka EEI-Toei) and now TAP has 6-8 key animators too. Other firms outsource moderately (but increasingly) like Pierrot, Studio Deen, and JC Staff. Firms that do not outsource very much tend to be doing high-budget shows, e.g. Production I.G. and Kyoto Animation. As these places become increasingly expensive, production may be outsourced to other countries such as Indonesia (BJCF – Bintang Jenaka Cartoon Films which did part of Lost Universe, Cowboy Bebop movie, and Prince of Tennis) and Vietnam, where backgrounds for Negima? and Reideen (2007) have been made.
Who draws all those anime-accurate posters found in magazines like Megami, featuring the anime characters in risque-positions sometimes showing nipples?
The character designers themselves usually draw these posters. Usually the people involved in the settings, e.g. color settings and art design will color and do the background respectively. That’s why the pictures often look excellent and ‘anime-accurate’. Hence, one can notice that character designers often double up as (sou-sakuga kanyoku) chief animation supervisor, which checks the accuracy of the faces.
Do seiyuu, while voicing bad anime, actually laugh and think "this is soo going to PHAIL!"? Staff of bad anime such as Xenosaga the Animation, do they actually believe what they produce is good and will be well-received?
I doubt they care. They would still earn the same, regardless of how well received is the anime or otherwise. Especially with scarce and low-paying jobs…
Do the staff of the anime studios actually actively participate in fan discussions online, beyond the infamous "2chan are anus" comments?
God knows…the people in the anime industry work long hours, up to 10 hours daily (6 days a week), and they would probably be too drained to respond to crappy 2ch flamings. Although some do, and even culminate in a recent case where some guy from Gainax resigned due to the ‘drama’ in 2ch regarding the ‘dismal’ quality of Guren Lagaan episode 4.