Ghost in the Shell: SAC- Production IG StudiosAlong with consumer electronics, semiconductors and a range of vehicles, one of Japan's best known exports lately has been anime. The term can usually be applied to just about any animated work from Japan ranging from marketing juggernauts like Yu Gi Oh to complex, dystopian and futuristic stories like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
But like so many other aspects of Japanese life, the industry was thrown into turmoil in the immediate aftermath of the deadly earthquake and the massive tsunami and radiation leak at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that followed.
"The whole thing is having a pretty significant effect right now," says Christopher Macdonald, CEO and publisher of Anime News Network. "70% of Japan's animation studios are in the suburbs of Tokyo, and those are . . . the areas being affected by the rolling blackouts. That means it's very hard for people to do work. They don't know when their electricity is going to be turned off for three to six hours; the offices start shaking every 15 minutes [from aftershocks]. For the most part, most of those studios are at a standstill when it comes to their animation work."Although in recent years the industry has suffered losses thanks to bootlegging, competition from China, oversaturation in Japan's domestic market and outsourcing of some studio work to Vietnam, India or South Korea, anime is thought to bring an estimated $2.5 billion into the Japanese economy.
Macdonald says some popular anime programs may end up having shortened seasons in Japan due to the disaster, but a lot of that programming has already made its way to international markets. "At this time we don't foresee any production delays for our series," says Jane Lui, publicity and events manager for San Francisco-based VIZ Media -- the largest North American distributor of anime -- in an email. "That fact . . . of itself is a testament to the incredible work ethic of our partners in Japan."
That being said, the situation at the anime studios remains in crisis. "Our parent companies, Shogakukan, Shueisha, and ShoPro (all based in Tokyo) and the studios . . . are extremely supportive of their staff," says Lui, "many of whom may be searching for missing loved ones, or taking care of those displaced or affected by the disaster. It will take a while for normal day-to-day business to stabilize."
Cowboy Bebop- Sunrise StudiosAside from the numerous card-themed anime titles out there, Disney [NYSE- DIS] has released a number of anime films from director Hayo Miyazaki in theaters and on DVD in North America over the last decade while Time-Warner [NYSE- TW] subsidiary Cartoon Network regularly features various anime titles in their Adult Swim block of programming.