Japanese animation studio Mappa (Yasuke, Attack on Titan, Dorohedoro) has opened a new 5000 square-feet studio annex in the Suginami ward of Tokyo, in response to a recent increase in projects.
Suginami, and the neighboring Nerima ward, are home to 241 anime production companies, or 44% of all the prodcos in Tokyo.
Mappa’s new three-story studio, formerly a pharmacy, was designed by Key Operation Inc., which set aside the first and second floors for the animators while turning the third floor into a space for studio management. A lounge space was also installed for the animators with “an awareness of improving the work environment.”
The custom-built desk were made with larch plywood, a warm material that, according to architect Hikaru Koyama, is intended to improve the artists’ moods:
The desk for the animator is designed so that the monitor can be placed on the shelf in the back, and the trace table, LCD tablet, etc. are placed in front, and the height of the booth is set so that communication can be taken while concentrating.
Mappa has been in the news recently for the revelation that the studio pays rock-bottom rates to its artists. Animator Ippei Ichii pointed out on Twitter that Mappa artists were paid 3,800 (USD$34) per cut. Some studios in Japan pay as much as 15,000 yen per cut.
A freelance animator who recently left the studio complained that the studio operates like a “factory” and overworks its artists instead of properly training them. He said that the vast majority of artists at Mappa had similar complaints about the company’s operations.
Meanwhile, architect Koyama points out that studios in Japan are actively working to improve conditions to address the shortage of animators:
In recent years, the shortage of human resources for animators has become serious. The cause is the outflow of human resources to Chinese animation companies and the game industry, which have good economic conditions . . . In the future, this production company hopes to gather all the branch rooms on a large site along the Chuo Line to create an animator’s village full of nature, and to add shops and cafes that fans can visit.
Mappa director Ryu Nakayama (Chainsaw Man) touted the new studio in a tweet, inviting “young and motivated” artists to reach out. He added that the new studio is close to the metro and convenience stores.
— 中山竜/Ryu Nakayama (@r_nkym_) July 5, 2021
Historically, in the United States, when studios have spent lavishly on new facilities, but not raised wages for their artists, the end result has occasionally been labor trouble. The Disney animation studio unionized in 1941, less than two years after opening its new studio in Burbank. Similarly, Nickelodeon artists went on strike after the new studio was opened in Burbank. Nickelodeon unionized in 2000.
A fun troll by the @animationguild. When Nickelodeon opened its new Burbank studio in 1998, they took out splashy spreads in the trades. The Guild followed with a similar ad reminding them that artists would rather have benefits than mini golf. Studio finally went union in 2000. pic.twitter.com/1126f2RWp1
— amid amidi (@amid) March 10, 2021
Below are some additional photos of Mappa’s new studio and the architect’s floor plan: