Various Positions in the Anime Industry

Original Creator (gensaku)

The original creator is the person who came up with the concept for the story originally. This may be the original manga creator, a novelist, game developer, playwright, author, oracle, prophet, or whoever can come up with an original idea.

Director (Kantoku)

The director is responsible for the overall look and feel of the show and is the leader of the production. (Well, this is the idea anyway ) The director determines what sort of show he wants to make and creates a set of storyboards, which are sequential drawings detailing the major scenes of the show, sort of a visual script. They have various information about dialogue, music, camera work, and such and serve as a basis for the animators to create their layouts, then their key drawings from. (Some director's storyboards are more comprehensible than others. Some sketch very rough and some put a lot of detail into the drawings. There is no set way of doing it other than that everyone uses similar paper forms to work on.)


Often translated as animation director or technical director. Enshutsu is one of the most difficult and most important jobs in the Japanese animation industry. The enshutsu is between the director (kantoku) and the production staff. He is responsible for checking and supervising the show through the production, from initial story to the final released product, and in many cases, has almost total control over it. He checks the animation drawings as they are being done, sets up the scenes before they go to camera and supervises the sound and voice recordings and all the editing amongst many other jobs. The exact job and responsibilities vary from company to company, and from show to show as well. Sometimes the enshutsu ends up as the whipping boy for the director; sometimes he or she carries the show and the director sits back and watches. On larger productions there is sometimes more than one enshutsu and usually quite a few assistants. It is important to have a good knowledge of animation production as well as artistic talent to do the job and it usually takes four or more years in the industry before someone can do the job right.

Character Designer

As the title states, this person designs the characters for the show. Although this may appear to be a very creative and interesting job at first glance, it is a very demanding and difficult job as well. Some designers are given great freedom to design what they want to but more often they have to work within the constraints set by the directors, original creators, producers, sponsors or other parties. The character designer creates a settei or model pack which contains each of the characters and defines the costumes they wear and what they might carry. The character designer should provide as complete a model as possible for the animators to work from or it becomes easy to go off model and makes the job of the animation supervisor (see below) even harder.


Character Settei.

Animation Supervisor (Sakuga Kantoku)

The sakuga kantoku(or sakkan he is often called) is the person who supervises, checks and corrects the key animators drawings. The changes can be for many reasons but are most often to bring the characters "on model" - so that they fit the fixed character designs. The animation supervisor is often, but not always, the character designer as well and does many of the incidental character subcharacter designs. (The periodic cameo appearances of anime characters unrelated to the show itself in the in the background is often due to bored/weird/vengeful/insane animation supervisors.)

Original Key Drawings


Corrections (shuusei)

Key Animators (genga)

The key animators, or gengamen (even though they might be women), work from the storyboards to create layouts. The layouts define the scene's size, camera frames and positions, where the characters and such are and what the backgrounds will be like.
  After the layout is OK'ed the gengaman do the key drawings for the scene which are then sent to the directors and the animation supervisor for corrections. (See above.) The time sheet (exposure sheet or xsheet) is also done by the key animator and defines the movement and timing of the scene and breaks down everything by frame of film or video.
  In the US, these jobs are often split between different staff members with one group drawing the storyboards, another doing the layouts (and yet others setting the poses sometimes) and others doing the key animation. There are 2 - 3 steps below keys and before cels in the US but only one in Japan - inbetweens.

Inbetweening (douga)

The inbetweeners use the key drawings as reference points and produce drawings that fit between the positions on the keys. This smoothes out the movement and makes the animation look better. (The more inbetweens there are, the more fluid the movement becomes and the more expensive the animation becomes.) Inbetweening is a relatively non-creative job. It is more tracing than anything else. The hours are long and the key animators are sometimes very hard to work with. The cruelest part of being an inbetweener is that they rarely get to work on anything they are fans of and what they do get to work on they burn out on quickly. (I know some animators and an enshutsu that you can send into convulsions by whispering "Ranma" in their ears.) After 2 or 3 years of grueling inbetweening, animators who can handle it are usually promoted to keys.

Foreign Subcontractors

There are many good subcontractors in Asia but production managers seem bound by the secret Production Manager's Oath to save money to the point where they have to use somebody awful before they break down and pay somebody good more to do it right. The drawings are done quickly - perhaps it is more accurate to say "pencil lines are put on the suggested number of pieces of paper in great haste" - and the inbetweens range from passable to spectacularly bad. (We always keep the "best" ones and stick them up where everyone can see.)
  Cels are more of a problem because they are more expensive to retake and take more time to produce. Cels are also much easier to damage by scratching or tearing. When I was checking cels for BUBBLEGUM CRASH #3, we got a batch of cels from a Chinese subcontractor that had some oily substance on parts of them, often smudged by fingers. I tried water, benzine, film cleaner, glass cleaner and pretty much every other solvent I could find in the company and the only things which would dissolve the oily stuff were gasoline and ethanol. Sitting in a small poorly ventilated room for 4 hours cleaning hundreds of cels with ethanol is not a good way to start the day.
  Later, I found out that many of the cels for that show (and others) were done by political prisoners at a prison near Beijing. I had this horrible image of people being whipped when I sent back retakes with nasty notes attached to them. I imagined an army officer, who would not be out of place in the Manchurian Candidate, sitting behind a cheap desk in a unpainted concrete room saying, "Prisoner 321, you have not completed the minimum 30 sheets per day so you will receive no rations today. You will produce 40 cels tomorrow or face the same punishment."
  That was the last time I worked as a cel checker.


This one's easy. A producer produces.

Planning (Kikaku)

US animation studios call this development. These people are the ones who take the original idea, be it manga or novel or whatever, and help it make the transition to animation. They often choose what part of the story to do, help choose the staff, and bring everything to the stage where the staff can start the production. Kikaku is sometimes done by the senior producer or director.

Presentation/Production (Seisaku) (lit. work)

This is normally the main sponsor of the show and the company who put together the product, whether it is a TV show, OVA, movie or whatever. The sponsor may be a company like Bandai Visual, King Records, Pioneer, Sony Music Entertainment, or another large company.

Animation Production (Animation Seisaku)

The studio who did the actual animation work. For instance, King Records is the sponsor of Bakuretsu Hunter and would appear as "seisaku" on the credits and Xebec, who produced the actual drawings and cels and such, would appear as Animation Production.


Production Manager

Production Controller

Production Assistant

The seisaku department manages the show through the production process. The production workers monitor every sheet of paper, every cel, every pixel, every drop of paint, every script book that the assistant directors lose, every time that the key animators miss a production meeting because they are asleep or eating at the filthy little noodle shop next door (or both) and so on. This is a very hard department to work in. The phones ring constantly and it seems like everyone who can steal even a minute of extra time to do their work is doing it, so the production workers must be polite but firm.
  Most production workers work 14 hour days and often weekends and holidays when the schedule is really tight. They also have to spend a lot of time travelling, driving around the city to pick things up or drop them off or to go to meetings. When the rest of the staff is celebrating the end of the production, the production staff is already working on the next show. The reward of this position is that you can look at a show that you managed and think, "That couldn't have been done without me!" 

Art Director (Bijutsukantoku)

The "bikan" creates "image boards", illustrations from the major points and locations in the script, defining the setting, colors and other details. This is much like the illustrations done by Syd Mead for Blade Runner. The art director then creates a detailed settei (model pack) for the background artists and key animators to work from and "art boards" which are rough backgrounds (BGs) to show the BG artists how the actual BGs will look.
  When asked what the requirements for becoming an art director were, a well-known art director said, "Well, you have to be able to deal with the schedules the (expletives deleted) production people make so you have to be able to drink a lot." 

Art Model Pack (bijutsusettei)

Background (Haikei)

Color Coordination (Iroshitei)

The Color Coordinator decides all the colors for everything that will be painted/colored by the shiage department in the show and creates an iroshitei hyou (color model pack) that the staff can refer to when painting. This job requires not only good color sense but a good memory, as the CC should be able to keep an idea of what the colors for the whole show look like in her head so that when questions come up about small details and things not in the iroshitei hyou she doesn't need to pull all the models and think about it.
 The CC makes color models of each of the characters and the props, mecha etc. in the computer paint system. The painters use these models when coloring the various scenes.
 In the old days of liquid paint, there were 327 commonly used Taiyou Shikisai (Taiyo Paint Company) cel paints but they had over 1,000 in their catalog. Each color had a code number which originally was its equivalent to the DIC (Dai Nippon Ink Company) code. Color code numbers were usually a letter followed by numbers like GY-40 and RP-99. (Some companies used another paint company - Stack - but their paint was more expensive (and higher quality) and the paint codes were different.)
  A good way of telling that you had done this job too long is when you lookout a train window at a sunset or forest and find yourself determining what paint colors they it is composed of. Computers have made life a lot easier with 16.7 million colors ending the need for weird paint codes but now you look at that sunset and wonder what dpi you would have to scan it in to get good output quality.

Cel Painting/Computer Coloring (Shiage) (lit. finishing)

The shiage department takes the inbetween drawings and adds color to them either by transferring the lines to cels via a trace machine (which basically bakes carbon lines onto cels) or scans them into a computer system to color them via whatever software the company is using. This department had an extremely high turnover rate. 90% of the new hires used to leave by the end of the first year, mostly because there was very little money to be made and painting cels is not particularly interesting. Computer systems have helped a lot and now we have had to change the way we hire people for the shiage department. The old requirements were "ability to paint a cel (by any means possible)" Now, since they won't leave as soon, we want to hire people with more then rudimentary intelligence (only Cro-Magnon or higher on the evolutionary scale) and who don't try to eat the mice, keyboards and such. 
  This is the most commonly subcontracted part of the animation process. The vast majority of cels made for Japanese production for the last 5 years were done in China and Korea with the Philippines close after. More computer coloring is done in Japan but that is also moving more and more to other Asian countries as the subcontractors there buy computer systems. If nothing else at least the ability to do fast and cheap retakes has made production company life a little easier.

Special Effects (Tokushukouka)

These artists (often part of the shiage department) are responsible for special effects cels (rain, mist, smoke, snow, wind, etc.) and for the masks for the backlighting (toukakou). (Backlighting is used to make explosions, fires, jet exhausts and such to glow.) There are a few special effects specialists who are now working with graphics packages like Adobe's AfterEffects and Photoshop and MetaTools' FinalEffects to put some pizzazz in digital productions as well. This is often abbreviated as tokko.

Inbetween Check (Dougakensa)

Cel/Coloring Check (Shiagekensa)

The staff that check the inbetweens and cels. We abbreviate these as douken and seruken respectively.

Camera (Satsue)

Camera Director (Satsuekantoku)

These folks shoot all the cels, backgrounds and other elements one frame at a time to film. They live in the dark and listen to weird music. After a really grueling session they have to "decompress." We shine lights on them, increasing the intensity a little bit every few hours so they don't burst into flames or melt when they walk out into direct sunlight. Shooting an entire movie in a week (this has been done!) is a lot like the Abyss - people slowly going into High Pressure Nervous Syndrome, weird aliens floating around (the production workers), insane, sweaty guys with too much power (the directors) and they can't escape even if they go crazy and try to run away.
  Camera is one of the most important parts of Japanese animation. Most Japanese productions use a lot fewer cels than American productions so they make up for the loss of fluidity and movement by using more camera movement and different effects. The lighting effects can be absolutely stunning and there are some highly skilled cameramen around. (I met one older camera director who once went and bought bags of candy in cellophane wrappers just to make weird patchwork filters.)

Editing (Henshuu)

Same as its counterpart in live action movie and TV production. (This is totally unrelated to a couple of similar sounding words which you hear all the time when watching anime: henshin (transformation) and hentai (perverted).

Music (Ongaku)

Music Director (Ongaku Kantoku)

Music Producer (Ongaku Producer)

Much like their counterparts in the image end of things, the music director and producer are the ones who control and manage the music. The music producer is often from a music company who is a sponsor of the animation. The music producer is normally the one who comes up with the songs and singers and all such and often chooses the voice actors as well. The music director makes sure that the music fits what the chief producers and director want. The music director sometimes writes the scores and even performs some of the music.

Music Production (Ongaku Seisaku)

This is the individual, group or studio who gets the music written, sets up all the recording and does all the dirty work. 
  The incidental music in anime is normally called the BGM, which means background music. Sometimes this has nothing to do with the songs and is recorded separately.

Recording Production (Rokuon Seisaku)

This is much more than keeping tape heads clean. These people are responsible for the management of everything dealing with sound when it is being made and there is an awful lot to manage! They manage the clips and often pull sound effects or arrange to have them recorded.

Recording Studio (Rokuon Sutajio)

This is the place where they keep the fantastically complicated mixer boards with the recording production people chained to them. Sometimes music and sound effects and voices are all recorded separately and mixed in one studio but most often the sound effects and voices are done at the same place to keep things easier.
  Most recording studios have a big soundproof booth in which the voice actors perform, a control room where they have those fantastically complicated mixer boards and a small, cramped space in between which the directors sit in and fill with cigarette smoke for 12 hours at a time.

Sound Effects (Kouka)

The person or studio who collects, chooses and edits the sound effects. This person selects the ones he/she thinks fit best and plays them for the director in the recording studio (by way of a fantastically complicated mixer board) and the director chooses the ones he/she likes most. Some directors just sit back and don't care much unless something sounds completely wrong. The effects are then mixed in with the voices and music. This process is called dubbing and we usually refer to it as just DB.
  Dubbing can take a long time. A 30 minute OVA with a reasonable director, a good music/sound director and a good effects person might take 6 hours. If things don't work well it can take a day. Movies take a much longer time because they usually have much more complex soundtracks.

Engineering (Chousei)

The sound engineer is the one who is in charge of the technical end of sound. Engineers are the people (or group) responsible for making sure that the recording is all set up and goes right. They are the ones who know what all those little multicolored knobs on those fanatically complicated mixer boards really do.

When you see songs listed in credits, they normally credit the following:

Songwriting (Sakkyoku)

Arrangement (Henkyoku)

Lyrics (Sakushi)

Vocals (Uta)

Cast (Kyasuto)

The two types of voice soundtrack recordings are

After Recording (Afureko)

Pre-scoring (Puresuko)

The vast majority of Japanese animation is done with afureco, or with the voices recorded after the animation is done. The voice actors watch the action on a projection screen and perform their lines to it. The majority of Western animation is done pre-scored. The actors perform their lines (recently on videotape as well) and the animators animate the characters actions to the recording. This is also the only way to do lip synch (having the mouths move in time and in the correct shape for the dialogue) which the Japanese don't bother with (Again I complain: Why do US animation companies spend so much money on TV shows to have the mouths fully animated when the characters and action look terrible?)
  There is no "better" way to handle the voice recording. It depends on the voice actors and the production staff. A good group will get good results with either method. (I personally prefer afureco for voices because that's what I've always worked with so I'm comfortable with it).

Voice Actor (Seiyuu)

The voice actors. (I agree with Sidney Lumet that performers engaged in acting should be called actors regardless of sex and that actress can be a very condescending term).

Voice actors are sometimes not chosen until about halfway through the production process. Some shows, usually heavily funded by record companies, have actors set up when they go to storyboards. The actors who do incidental voices and appear in minor roles are cast by one of the voice actors casting companies.
  Unfortunately, for the past few years we have been seeing a wave of low quality, inexperienced, untalented voice actors who are the result of the big voice actor boom that started some years ago. Maybe they are OK at karaoke at a bar but they are absolutely terrible in the studio and require dozens of takes to get a scene right. I've seen recording times double as a result of bad voice acting. Studio time ain't cheap either!
  The voice actor boom started mostly because the sponsors and producers of shows wanted to increase the flow of money into the company (A reasonable goal). Showing off the voice actors — especially if they are female and even more so if they are cute — sells soundtracks and shows. As directors and other creative staff members often don't want to appear at events and aren't immediately attractive to fans, the voice actors fill a public relations void. The whole idol craze was going on and everybody was trying to cash in on it any way they could. Pretty soon there were "voice acting schools" showing up and they churned out a lot of people, most of whom couldn't act their way out of a paper bag.
  Some directors want to use new people for their shows because they don't want the audience to have preconceptions about the characters from seeing the names of the famous actors playing them. There is a lot of talent out there but most of the really good people come from TV and stage backgrounds rather than musical ones (I agree with these directors very strongly).