Coronavirus Coronavirus

In Japan, the pandemic is at its worst stage yet. As daily cases hover above 20,000, major animation releases are being delayed and famous voice actors are falling ill. And now, according to at least one filmmaker, studios are seeing outbreaks, but refusing to share details of the cases.

On Twitter, director Takashi Watanabe (How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom) wrote that he’d heard of a studio locking down in response to a Covid cluster. He condemned the studio’s refusal to discuss the closure openly. His tweet reads in full as follows:

There’s a tacit gag order, but I’ve heard that at least one company has shut down following a cluster outbreak. I’m sure there are other cases like it, but information isn’t circulating. I don’t know when I myself could come into close contact with a positive case. We’re in dangerous waters. Why is the animation industry still continuing? Though I understand this isn’t a matter for production assistants or production-desk workers to decide.

In a follow-up tweet, he added:

Will they not understand until animation workers too begin to die, one after another? Or are the workers responsible because they’re often freelancers? Aren’t the companies responsible?

According to Anime News Network, an animator known as Nyonnyon wrote that they have heard of at least five studios locking down due to Covid in the workplace. They didn’t know whether these were clusters or individual cases.

Japan has not resorted to the kind of sweeping lockdowns used in the U.S. and elsewhere. Until recently, cases have been low by global standards, and in any case stringent lockdowns are not legally enforceable in the country.

Working conditions in anime studios have come under the spotlight recently, for other reasons. Industry artists have spoken out against chronic problems like low pay and overwork. A recent report by market research firm Teikoku Databank warned that studios will have to address labor issues if they are to stay competitive against Chinese employers.

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Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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