In a blog post on the Japanese news blog Real Economy, Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino says he believes that Japan is no longer the leader in animation and that it is being surpassed by China.
Tomino states that he believes that China is investing far more in its animation industry as part of state policy. He also remarks about doing a lecture at a university in Beijing ten years ago where there were many young anime enthusiasts who are now working in China’s animation industry.
Meanwhile, Japan’s animation industry has the same mentality as “30-40 years ago”.
“Japanese politicians, on the other hand, seem to think of anime in the same way as they did 30 or 40 years ago. There is a sense of crisis in Japan that if we continue to make an animation from a business-oriented perspective, we will be completely outclassed by our Beijing counterparts. But I don’t mean to send that much salt to the people who came to listen to my lecture, and I don’t want to lose.”
He does have a point as China’s animation industry has made vast improvements in just the past five to ten years. The country has taken heavy inspiration from not only Anime but also western animation.
Chinese studios have taken advantage of the country’s vast array of history and legends and combined them with higher animation budgets, higher salaries to pay Japanese talent, and stakes in Japanese animation companies. The result has been critically acclaimed series and movies like Link Click, New Gods: Nezha Reborn, and Heaven Official’s Blessing.
He states that he does not think Japan is a developed country anymore when it comes to animation. The Japanese animation industry did see a 3.5% shrink in the domestic market in 2020 due to the covid pandemic however the global market for anime did expand.
In my personal opinion, while I respect Tomino’s opinion on China and Japan’s animation, I think the views of the Gundam creator should overall be taken with a grain of salt.
The Japanese animation market is still expected to expand to be worth around US$ 48.3 Billion by 2030. Also while Chinese animation is undoubtedly improving, I personally don’t think it has the same number of major IPs and quality series as those of Japanese anime. That of course could change in the future though.
The current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has also stated that he is an anime and he is “working on raising the income of the people involved in Japan’s ‘soft power’ industries like manga, anime, and movies.” This directly addresses one of the larger criticism of the anime industries, the long work hours for small salaries.