How Netflix Is Disrupting The Anime Industry

Not sure how much you all know about the anime industry, but as pervasive as it is in Japan, it isn’t the most healthy industry in the world. These anime series are often made on shoestring budgets, which are often dictated by greedy TV networks.

In fact, working conditions are often so bad that some studios have been black-listed by the Japanese media. Ironically enough, however, the same media that criticizes such business practices are very much to blame as a result of their tight budgets.

Netflix has been producing their own original anime content for a few years now, and with them spending $8 billion on new content next year, a sizable chunk is going to anime (they currently have 30 anime projects in some stage of production or development). What’s more, the budgets for their series are reportedly significantly larger than those from Japanese TV networks.

Regarding this, Joseph Chou, a producer for Toei Animation on the Netflix original Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya series, said:

“Lately the media has been bashing the anime industry over working conditions; the TV stations have been reporting on it, but they’re a big culprit. Netflix is restoring it to a sane business model. You’re looking at maybe a 15 percent margin rather than a 5 percent loss. [And Netflix isn’t the only one.] There’s Amazon, Crunchyroll and Apple Studios all talking to people, as well as rumors there’s another major player about to get involved. They’re all scrambling to meet with everybody, but Netflix is the most aggressive.”

Additionally, Netflix also has no need for production committees. These are representatives from as many as 15 companies per series that help get the shows funded, as well as give advertisers incentive to promote. That’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and the results are series by committee, which are often shows with a series of trope checklists, and man are they awful.

“There’s no TV station involved to say what needs to be done to make something okay for broadcast,” says Kotaro Yoshikawa, VP distribution and licensing at TMS Entertainment, of working with Netflix. “Though we may still have to make adjustments, like reducing the amount of blood onscreen, for versions that will be broadcast on television.”

So what does this mean for the industry in Japan? If they want to lock down some of these big creative talents, they may need to start paying more to do so, and they may need to also allow more creative freedom. This could result in fewer shows, but at the end of the day, we can hope that it means better working conditions and higher quality projects.

But the entertainment industry is never that easy. We’ll have to see what happens.

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