If we had to talk about who is active right at the forefront of the anime industry, then one of those people surely is producer Yoshitada Fukuhara from the anime studio Yaoyorozu. Fukuhara and the studio already have well-known titles Kemono Friends and Love Rice under their belt.
Fukuhara has published a book called Let’s Become an Anime Producer! The System of the Anime Producing Business (published by Seikaisha). Based on his own experiences, it explains the structure of the anime business and offers knowledge and qualities which are required for anime producers.
Our friends over at Anime!Anime! invited Fukuhara for an interview to ask the why he focuses on the anime producer’s role. We also asked the importance of the job to the anime industry, as well as his thoughts on Japan’s ubiquitous Production Committee System and the problems of the animators’ working conditions to better understand the present problems and the future of the industry.
‘Let’s Become an Anime Producer! The System of the Anime Producing Business’ published 23 February 2018 by Seikaisha.
Before we get into the interview, let us give you very a brief introduction to the concept of Production Committees. In Japan, many TV shows are funded by production committees, which is a joint venture between various companies. You may have noticed that the copyright notation for many anime includes ‘xx Production Committee (製作委員会)’. The companies involved in the production committee usually include the publisher of the original work, the manufacturer of merchandise, the music production company, and sometimes the foreign distributor of the anime such as Crunchyroll. As we will see in the interview, the anime studio itself is rarely on the Production Committee, partly as they are often contracted AFTER the production committee has been formed. There are some exceptions to this, however, such as TMS Entertainment, Kyoto Animation, and others. Hopefully, this will help you understand what Producer Fukuhara has to say in this article.
[Interview and Composition by Eiwa Ishijima]
The responsibility and authority belong to the producers.
I’d like to ask you about what an anime producer is as well as the present and future of the anime business. First of all, could you briefly explain what you feel an anime producer’s job entails?
An anime work has two aspects: the creative work (制作, ‘seisaku’) and the commercial product (製作, ‘seisaku’). They are both pronounced the same and can mean ‘produce’, but they are two different words. An anime producer must understand both aspects.
Do you think there are many anime producers who don’t have that understanding?
I would say that there are generally two kinds of producers. One that is responsible for the creative aspect and the other that is responsible for the business aspect. The two kinds of producers tend to just stick to their respective roles.
The digitalization of anime has progressed rapidly and the scope of media franchises has widened. Therefore, the importance of a producer who is an expert in both aspects has increased. For instance, the producer of an anime work with a production committee is generally an executive of the committee. This person is obviously an expert in business. However, we don’t know how much the person knows about anime as a creative art.
You mean, ideally, the person must look over the creative side of the anime as well.
They should. In fact, Hollywood producers are responsible for scripts and planning, as well as the raising of funds. They don’t have a production committee system overseas, so the producer is responsible for both the creative and business aspects and has authority over both. As a result, the decision-making process is simple and smooth, whereas conflicts often occur among members of production committees which result in delays in decision-making in Japan. Overseas producers have a huge amount of responsibility, therefore when they produce a successful work, they are highly regarded and their value rockets.
Producers abroad have high social standing and earn a lot of money, as well as having a huge amount of responsibility.
Exactly. That’s why they have to be clever. Many producers outside Japan are ex-lawyers or have an MBA. They learn how to make money when involved in film productions and become producers. I don’t think the Hollywood system is the only answer. In Japan, creators such as the directors usually attract attention. I think producers in Japan can be the unsung heroes. What I want to stress is we need clever, able producers for the anime industry in Japan.
Succeeding in business is to accommodate fans’ passions
We’ve talked about the aspects of the creative and business sides of being a producer. Let’s talk about the roles of producers for anime makers and fans.
These days fans are so connected to the anime creators that even the term ‘fan’ may have become obsolete. Fans collect information about anime works and staff via social media so that they know how much production teams love their own works. I happen to be involved in the research of an anime production right now. While doing the job, I realized how deeply Japanese anime fans understand anime works from their answers. There are fans who boast of their in-depth understanding which is often more extensive than the production staff’s. I’m proud of Japanese anime fans for their love and dedication towards anime works.
The high-level ability to dispatch information and respond are required for the anime makers for that reason: understanding the artistic value of anime works and sincerely responding to fans whose names and faces are unknown to them. I think these are the qualities which are required for producers today. The anime business depends on producers’ qualities and abilities. That why I think it doesn’t make any sense to divide an anime work into business and creative sides.