The translation is very rough because I did it very quickly, but forgive me, because it is worth reading. Seriously.
The interview of Kim Hyeon-tae, who works in Japanese animation business.
Q : Do you have any hobby not including your job?
I had. When I was in Korea I did swing dance for about 2 years but after I got employed I haven't had any time to go dancing.
So now I make Gundam plamodels in my home. I don't color them and just assemble them for now.
Q : Why do you think you are so busy like that?
It is simple. Production cost.
Money. The reason we are busy is money. I don't know how animation making costs in Korea now,
but in Japan it's about 12~15 million yen for a show? There are even 10 million shows when they're small.
To make it simple, if a show costs 10 million then the company should save at least 20% so the actual production cost should be 8 million.
But the money doesn't all go to drawing and painting. It includes the personnel expenses of the company.
Those employees are nine-to-fivers. The more time it takes to make a show, more money should be given to them.
And the money for sound director. A sound director hires voice actors and sound team with the money. The rest should be his/her share.
Then the money for art team and filming team. No matter what you do, this cost doesn't ever change.
Excluding this cost, there aren't big money left.
An episode is made of 250~300 cuts, and it varies in companies but some companies restrict the numbers of pictures per episode 3000~4000. Because it's related to making cost.
To reduce the personnel expenses they should shorten the time of producion.
When making a show sometimes the budget goes over. When I first when to Japan I was payed 4500 yen per cut. But it's reducing more and more.
4300, 4000, 3800. 3500... The minimum wage of Japan is 160 thousands yen per month.
If a cut pays 4000 then to earn 160 thousands I should draw 40 cuts per month.
It's very, very hard. 40 cuts for a month means I should draw one and more cuts in one day, right?
If the show is simple then it's easy but if the art is elaborate, it's hard to draw even one cut in one day.
Those people's life is worse then the minimum wagers. So they just need more jobs. So they prefer simple and quick jobs.
Of course Japan animation business world is better than Korea. Frankly speaking, there's nothing in Korea.
(Japan is)Better then Korean. But that isn't a perpect system.
A newbie animator is payed less then 160 thousands per month. They can't pay for their house.
To live on they should just draw for any shows possible.
Q : What do you hate about making animations in Japan then?
What do I hate? Everything. *laughs* The one thing is the cost.
But it's not a matter that can be discussed easily.
I want a circumstance where animators can be payed fairly as they worked.
The job is very hard. Everybody started the job because they love animes, but they are payed less than minimum wage.
It's full of people in the poor strata the government says about...
They can't date other people because they are too busy, they can't get married, they are now in their 40s and 50s...
Saying 'you guys loved anime and risked this life when starting the job' is too cruel.
To say roughly, it means that you should abandon your life as a human being and do the anime job.
'You started because you liked' is such a irresponsible statement.
You know what's funny. They tried hard to do what they like and live a harsh life,
while in Samsung or Toyota there are people who do what they don't like and live a wealthy life.
Do you think this is right?
I don't think so. That's what I hate most. Not only for me but my for coworkers too.
I firmly believe that there must be a way we can work more like a human being,
but I can't see any attitude, thinking or action for such world. we hate that most.
Q : Tell me more about Japanes otakus.
Japanese otakus hate simple stories.
But what is self-contradictory is, they hate simple stories but they love "K-ON".
"K-ON" doesn't have any plot, it is all about eating cakes and talking, and they love it.
It(the animation world) should be seen in another point of view, and yet everyone just look at otakus.
The pie of business is already small. The animation boom started with "Evangelion" was at peak at 2003.
"Suzumiya Haruhi" narrowly kept it till 2006 then it's been a downfall.
It's because nobody wants to invest since the popular animes they supported 2,3 years ago just failed in 2006.
So they must think about creating another new market, but they are still just looking at otakus.
They say their shows are universal and fun. But ordinary people don't watch them. Nobody watches them.
Q : Do Japaneses really watch animes a lot?
You think Japan is all about anime? Nobody watches them. Seriously, nobody.
The 'non-otaku normal citizens' maybe watch "Sazae-san", "Precure", "Chibi Maruko-chan" or "Meitantei Conan".
Except such big shows, normal people doesn't even think about animes.
When I say that they should make something for everyone even if means risking dangers, they say that there is Gjibli Studio.
But the business world doesn't treat Gjibli as 'anime'.
It is not included in anime business but they always include Gjibli when talking about anime, so it's really contradictory.
They say wasn't "NARUTO" big success in the world, but "NARUTO" wasn't targeted to the world when it was made.
It was completely for Japaneses, but accidentally foreigners loved it too.
It is ridiculous to see it as a success.
We should see something intended to success, and it's wrong to treat something coincidental as a result.
But because of otakus' fault, the investors and makers must make shows for otakus.
The reason the animation business is this rough and horrible now is partly because of the consumers.
Especially because of otakus.
Of course we should be thankful for them for spending their money because they love,
but as a result, under this circumstance we must make shows only for them.
At this point of view, their fault is very big, because they demand us.
Otakus stops every scenes and captures it.
I really can't understand it, but they find some pictures that look weird, then they upload them on internet.
That's really ridiculous, and it harms the business.
For example, Mr. Matsumoto Norio.
He is well known for action scenes, and he is very trusted for the quality.
He did "NARUTO"'s 130 and more episodes almost by himself.
To exaggerate big and excessive actions, he distorts proportion.
Such pictures are seen for very short moments, but it changes the power of the action.
You know the notorious bent neck scene from "NARUTO"?
That was intentional. With that one picture or without it, the next scene's effect changes dramatically.
However, not understanding it, fans say "hey, this is ridiculous!" and upload it.
Then do you know what happens?
The makers are sensitive. They tell the artists not to do so.
That's really stupid. To see what they want, otakus harm the business by themselves.
Personally... I don't want people to do fanboying or fangirling. They make the business harder.
If they say "you guys started the world of otakus!" then I can't defend myself.
However, compare the works of 70s, 80s, 90s and after 2000 then you will understand.
They say now there is more diversity, but no, there isn't.
It's unequally leant to one side.
When "Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei" came out,
many people said that the art is funny. But that was intentional.
It's not funny. It is really natural.
Even in Japan there aren't many people who can draw that freely.
I can't understand otakus saying 'the art is funny so the show is stupid'.
They are the ones harming the diversity of anime.
Q : What do you think about moe animes like "K-ON"?
Personally, about moe characters, moe animes, something like "K-ON"...
I think, to say radically, there must not be one and we must not like it.
It's bad for business. It kills diversity.
They say that the existence of such show means diversity, but if such show make a hit then everybody will doing the same thing.
And the consumers are the ones who make that trend. They can't decide rationally and wisely.
They should know how will their consumption impact the business and what kind of feedback it will bring to themselves,
but they don't think rationally and they just go wild for what they like. The show even had a collaboration with a convinience store chain!
I know they aren't the major, but I can't understand those people buying useless same fan items for about ten times and boasting about them.
Then other shows will do the same, because it will make the money.
As a result, otakus will say that people don't understand their taste, but it's their fault.
Would normal people think that 'oh, "K-ON" seems to be popular, I should buy their stuff'?
They will think that 'those otakus are creepy'. Too much is truly worse than too less.
Q : Then, what might be "K-ON"'s main factor of popularity?
As an anime concentrated on characters, in the shows like "K-ON" the art is very important.
It caught the girls and the characteristics very well.
The five girls even walk differently. Therefore the fans feel that 'somewhere in this world, such cute girls might exist!'
Q : Will such trend go on?
It's concentrated on characters more than the drama,
so recent animes themselves are just 20-minute commercials for characters.
That is the trend, and it will go on.
Now there are less invest and the business is cold, so I think it will be more like that.
It won't be cured since there aren't an anime normal people can consume.
Q : By the way, the recent animes seem to be just for one broadcast season(13 episodes). Why?
It's because of the budget after all. Again, the watchers made this circumstance.
One anime costs 12~15 million, and we don't know it will be popular or not! And that's just for 20 minutes show.
Rather then wasting 15 million yen, they can make comedy or reality show for one hour with less money.
And more people watch them. The broadcasting stations have no reason to use money for animes.
They have no reason to invest on animes. They don't need to waste their broadcasting time. They don't invest on animes.
But they have the most rights, because the stations are also the distributors.
That is why most of animes are on 1'o clock in the night.
Why would normal people watch animes on 1'o clock in the night?
Q : It seems that DVD selling is important...
They say that selling more than ten thousands would break even.
But do you think there are many shows that sold more than ten thousand DVDs? Not very much.
They said that "Tiger&Bunny" sold about 40 or 50 thousands,
but the problem is that "Tiger&Bunny" sold that much but they also spent about so.
So they barely broke even. They tried that hard but couldn't make much money.
So what's left? They should sell character goods.
Disney can do that. Mickey Mouse is everywhere in everything.
But is there a character in recent anime that can do the same?
They say that anime is character business, but actually there aren't many characters that can be used in marketing.
All they can do is making figures or giving away stationary stuffs on events.
Moreover, doing so is only possible in character-concentrated animes. Other animes are up to selling DVDs then the end.
So that's why there will be more character-concentrated animes.
Q : Among those animes of 2011, which interested you?
Ironically, because I work in anime business I couldn't watch animes a lot.
There are "Madoka★Magica" or "Tiger&Bunny" (that were a big success in 2011)...
I should watch them... I should watch them to analysis why they were popular, but I don't have time and...
Most important, I should feel like watching them to do so, but...*laughs*