Madhouse, MAPPA Founder Masao Maruyama Warns of Anime Industry’s State

pluto anime urasawa art feature image
© 手塚プロダクション/​浦沢直樹・​長崎尚志/​「PLUTO」​製作委員会

In an interview with AFP last week, veteran anime producer Masao Maruyama, who was involved in founding animation production studios Madhouse, MAPPA, and M2, expressed his less-than-optimistic thoughts about the future of the Japanese animation industry.

The 81-year-old notably told AFP that the Japanese animation scene may be overtaken by its Chinese counterpart, saying, “In Japan, people are no longer trained in animation. The only reason China hasn’t quite caught up with Japan yet is because of a bunch of restrictions imposed on free expression there. … If more freedom is unleashed, Japan will be overtaken in no time.”

Image source: PR Times

Maruyama, who described himself as the “most authentic inheritor of [Osamu] Tezuka’s DNA” in the interview, also spoke of the anime industry’s obsession with commercial genres (AFP mentions shows with cute female characters as one of his examples) in lieu of building up future talent. He added that Japanese animation “doesn’t necessarily outshine” the creativity of Disney or arthouse French productions.

Earlier this year at the Berlinale Film Festival, anime director Makoto Shinkai also warned of the possibility of China overtaking Japan in the animation department. Shinkai, whose latest film Suzume was a Golden Bear nominee at Berlinale, was reported by AFP as saying, “The quality of [Chinese] movies is improving rapidly, and they’re also able to build those unique characters we have in Japan. So I think sooner or later they’re going to overtake us.”

Maruyama became involved in the anime industry as early as the 1960s and has had planning/animation producer/producer credits on shows like Perfect Blue, In This Corner of the World, Dennou Coil, Redline, Paprika, Nana, Monster, and more. Currently, he is the executive producer for the upcoming Pluto anime adaptation produced by M2. Maruyama inspired the character Masato Marukawa in the anime industry-themed anime Shirobako

Source: AFP (via The Japan Times)

Melvyn originally wanted to write about video games, and he did so for a few years, starting from his college days. He still writes about video games sometimes, but now focuses on anime-related news content and the occasional review. Some of his free time is spent self-learning Japanese, both out of interest in the language and because English-translated light novels and manga are expensive. Every anime season, Melvyn looks forward to discovering new standout episodes and OP/ED animation sequences, as well as learning about the storyboard artists and directors behind them.
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