Production committees have become a hot topic within the anime fandom in recent years.
Industry figures and animators have blamed all of the industry’s financial ills on the committees and fans have demonized the system. There’s a cartoonish image of committees. They consist of corporations that don’t care about anime and just want to suck up profits while animators slave away, earning pennies on the dollar.
Committees, some fans argue, highlight everything that is wrong about the entertainment industry. Although in truth, most anime in the last 25 years couldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for the production committee system.
What is a Production Committee?
A production committee is a joint venture company created by different independent companies. They most often exist in anime, movies, live-action TV shows, and video games. The purpose of this joint venture is to limit financial risk and to take advantage of specialization. The West has production committees as well, although they’re usually in the form of the Producer business title.
Entertainment costs money to create, and the average budget for a 13-episode anime is around 250 million yen ($2 million) with 24-episode series costing around 500 million yen ($4 million). The budget encompasses everything to produce an anime – the animation, music, voice acting, and marketing.
Different companies will come together to pool resources to mitigate the costs of producing a series. If a company were to be a sole financier, they risk losing every penny of their investment. Joining a committee means they won’t get as large of a return if a show is hit, but it also cuts down on the risk of losses.
How Are Production Committees Structured?
Companies from different disciplines will make up a committee so that in addition to money, they can also contribute expertise. In general, there will be a publisher, a music producer, a merchandiser, and a distributor. Let’s use DARLING in the FRANXX as an example. Their committee consists of:
- A-1 Pictures – Animation studio.
- ABC Animation – Production studio.
- Aniplex – Distribution, Music Production, and Licensing.
- Nippon BS Broadcasting Corporation – TV broadcasting, private channel.
- LAWSON – Production.
- Lucent Pictures Entertainment – Production and distribution.
- MOVIC – Specializes in merchandise, like figures and CDs.
- Nagoya Broadcasting Network – TV broadcasting in the Aichi, Gifu, Mie, and Toyama prefectures.
- Tokyo MX – TV broadcasting in Tokyo.
The above companies brought not just cash, but insight and connections that helped the anime earn money. Aniplex produced the soundtrack, MOVIC created the merchandise, Lucent Pictures helped distribute the discs to stores, etc.
Despite co-producing the animation, Studio Trigger is not on the production committee. In fact, it’s rare for anime studios to be involved. A-1 Pictures, Toei Animation, Studio Pierrot, Production I.G., Kyoto Animation, Sunrise, and TMS Entertainment are the rare exceptions. In truth, animation studios are third-party contractors. Once a committee is formed and the budget is set, they hire a studio to make the animation.
It’s worth noting that not all companies contribute an equal amount of work or money. You can tell which company contributed the most money based on their spot in the credits. Those at top invested more money and they’ll receive more of the profits.
When Did Production Committees Come into Practice?
Production committees are everywhere today, but it took a few decades before they became a common practice. You can credit a pair of influential 80’s anime movies for this.
1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was the first anime to feature a committee when Tokuma Shoten and Hakuhodo came together to invest in Hayao Miyazaki’s groundbreaking project.
The committee system then demonstrated how it can protect both companies and studios with 1988’s Akira. The film had a then-record 1.1 billion yen ($8 million) budget but Akira only grossed 750 million yen ($7.06 million). No studio or producers went bankrupt from funding this film that took time to produce profits. The committee members Kodansha, MBS, Bandai, Hakuhodo, and TMS Entertainment are all still creating anime to this day.
It took time for production committee’s to begin funding TV anime. 1992’s The Irresponsible Tylor was the first TV anime to have a production committee and 1995’s Neon Genesis Evangelion cemented its place in the industry.
Do Production Committees Deserve to be Hated?
Animators and producers have never been shy in criticizing committees. Last year, NHK ran a program highlighting where all of the industry’s record-breaking revenue goes and showed just how little studios earn despite creating the animation. That same year saw director Yutaka Yamamoto and ex-Gainax president Toshio Okada calling for a “slave revolt” to burn down the system.
All of the bluster and shouting drowns out an unfortunate reality: anime studios can’t afford to be committee members. It’s a “pay-to-play” system and 25% of all studios lost money in 2015. Most other studios barely make enough to pay their employees, nevermind thinking of investing in a series.
In truth, many of your favorite anime wouldn’t be created if it wasn’t for production committees. However, the current system is unsustainable because studios, who are the lifeblood of the industry, are barely making ends meet.
A Potential Alternative to Committees.
Earlier this month, anime producer Yoshitada Fukuhara proposed a partnership system.
Fukuhara suggests that anime studios should be in positions of leadership and they team up with foreign distribution companies, naming Netflix and Amazon as examples. This system would have companies like Netflix pay a distribution fee in proportion to the entire production budget.
Essentially, a licensing fee would pay for the creation of an anime. Both parties would benefit in that studios would keep the copyright and distributors will retain a larger portion of distribution revenue. However, Fukuhara said that this proposal wouldn’t replace the committee system and instead serve as an alternative for smaller projects.
It seems like committees are necessary and will be around until studios have enough money to fund their own anime.