|Various Positions in the
Original Creator (gensaku)
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Key Animators (genga)
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.
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.
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
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
That was the last time I worked
as a cel checker.
one's easy. A producer produces.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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)
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 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.)
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
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.
music in anime is normally called the BGM, which means background music.
Sometimes this has nothing to do with the songs and is recorded
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.
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.
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
The two types of voice soundtrack recordings are
After Recording (Afureko)
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.
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!
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.
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