Industry stalwart and the founder of MAPPA and Madhouse studio, Masao Maruyama, recently said in an interview with AFP News that Japan is at a risk of losing out its top spot in the anime business to none other than next-door rivals China.
He attributed this decline to the Japan’s anime industry being fixated on commercialization. According to Maruyama, the industry is currently banking so heavily on the money-making genre, including those starring cute anime girls, that it fails to outshine the works of its American and French counterparts when it comes to creativity.
This fixation on churning out money has made the industry lag behind in fostering the next generation of animators, which on the other hand, is being done heavily by China. The only reason why Japan outshines its neighbor now is because the latter has put shackles on the freedom of expression of creators over there.
Maruyama fears that the situation would change in no time if the animators and creators in China were to get more leeway in their works.
“In Japan, people are no longer trained in animation,” Maruyama said. “The only reason China hasn’t quite caught up with Japan yet is because of a bunch of restrictions imposed on free expression there. If more freedom is unleashed, Japan will be overtaken in no time.”
However, the industry heavyweight did say that he flip-flops all the time “saying something totally different from what I said a day before.” Even so, he believes that creating works is all about challenging yourself to do something new.
“But creating works is all about challenging yourself to do something new, regardless of what you said in the past. That makes you selfish in a way, and it’s a trait I’ve inherited in its pure form.”
Spouting this ideology, he claims to be the “the most authentic inheritor of Tezuka’s DNA”, which again is encapsulated in his work ethics.
Regardless of what Maruyama says about his flip-flopping, he has been instrumental in nourishing some of the best anime directors Japan has seen recently, including Mamoru Hosoda, Satoshi Kon and even Sunao Katabuchi.
The producer, who has the reputation of a shadow shogun, says he is happy to play second fiddle to directors and outright refutes any claims of being special.
“I have no special skills,” he said. “I don’t steer the directors but I just follow them and their talent.”
Maruyama’s other studio, M2, is currently working on the production on the anime adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto, which is exclusively set to release on Netflix in 2023. This is the third time he will be adapting one of Urasawa’s works, with Madhouse previously having animated both Monster and Master Keaton.
Maruyama has been involved in the anime industry for around 50 years. He started his career at Mushi Pro in 1965, a studio that was headed by legendary manga author Osamu Tezuka.
He co-founded Madhouse studio in 1972 along with his colleagues including Osamu Dezaki, Rintaro, and Yoshiaki Kawajiri. During his time at Madhouse Maruyama planned and set the wheels moving for some of the most iconic anime movies ever. He left Madhouse at 2011 to establish MAPPA studio. He was already 70 by then.
He would then relinquish the presidency of the new production house to Manabu Otsuka in 2016 to be the founder of Studio M2, his third production studio.
Now 81, Maruyama admits in the interview that his career was in its twilight, however, as he prepares to leave all this to the next generation, he remains skeptical of the industry he helped shape.
Source: AFP News via CNA