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JJK S2 Animators Reach Breaking Point At MAPPA, Anime’s Future Uncertain

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It has been an open secret for quite some time now that Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 has been going through a lot of production issues, primarily utterly poor scheduling by MAPPA, which forced the animators to overwork.

The situation seems to have escalated, as multiple JJK S2 animators put out tweets regarding this issue over the span of a single day. However, instead of just pointing out the poor working conditions, these tweets implied that they had reached a breaking point.

Some tweets even suggested that the production of Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 could be significantly affected, either in terms of the quality of upcoming episodes (from S2 ep 18), or maybe even face a delay.

Keep reading to get a complete picture of what has been happening.

Jujutsu Kaisen animators have a meltdown – Nov 14, 2023:

On Nov 14, 2023, multiple animators, animation directors and key animators came out and tweeted about the poor working conditions, suggesting they were approaching their limits.

The most noteworthy among them were Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 episode 16 director Itsuki Tsuchigami, episode 13 director Kazuto Arai (also worked as a key animator in ep 16), episode 12 director Shunsuke Okubo, and prominent animator Hakuyu Go.

Tsuchigami, who has been vocal in the past too about the poor working conditions, expressed that he had mixed feelings about the studio receiving praise for JJK S2 anime.

While he felt bad that the the company (MAPPA in this case) is taking credit for the work of the individual staff members, he also recognized that the in-house staff members have worked hard and have made a significant contribution to the success of the series despite the daunting schedule.

A translation of his tweet reads as follows.

Although it is unpleasant to be praised in the name of the company, I have to be grateful for the hard work and dedication of the company’s production and filming staff. They are contributing immensely to the work despite the unavoidable circumstances.

Along with this, Tsuchigami also reposted all of his previous tweets, where he had talked about the poor scheduling of Jujutsu Kaisen season 2. He is someone who had repeatedly called out and critiqued the studio, though he never named them because of an apparent NDA contract that staff were required to sign.

Check out a snapshot of his previous posts (translated by Google) below:

Itsuki Tsuchigami previous tweets on JJK S2 schedule

Back in July, Tsuchigami even said that completing Jujutsu Kaisen 0 (directed by Sung Hoo Park) in a tight schedule set a bad precedent when it came to production schedule and that it will only make things difficult in the future.

Jujutsu 0 probably shouldn’t have been completed in terms of production time. If we set a precedent that it can be made in that time frame, it will only make things more difficult in the future.

Sota Shigetsugu, who worked as key animator on ep 14 and 16 of Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 at MAPPA, also voiced something similar, expressing frustration with the cycle of overworking staff members and then using their results as an excuse to not improve working conditions.

They wondered if all of this could be traced back to the completion of Jujutsu Kaisen 0 movie in four months.

Sota Shigetsugu tweet on JJK 0 schedule

A translated version of their tweet says:

“The worst cycle is when the staff members all somehow manage to complete a schedule that would be impossible to meet under normal circumstances, while seeing hell, and the higher-ups who only saw the results misunderstand and neglect to improve, thinking ‘It’s not that bad, it can be done!’ I wonder if the beginning of this was when they completed a movie in four months…

Kazuto Arai‘s tweet on the other hand suggested that the future of Jujutsu Kaisen season 2 anime could be uncertain. The director stated that he felt deflated after hearing a bad news and that it was now time to disband.

Bad news came in and I suddenly felt deflated. It’s the most boring ending I could think of. Oh no, the festival is over. Okay, let’s disband.

Kazuto Arai JJK S2 animator tweet

Hakuyu Go, who is yet to be credited as an animator in Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 (suggesting that he is working on an upcoming episode), asked that people quit MAPPA, and throw their key card into the thrash on their way out.

This tweet was enough to showcase the horrific working conditions that the animators were going through during the production of JJK S2 and that now they had reached their limit.

When leaving the company, throw the card key into the company’s trash bin.”

Hakuyu Go Tweet

While Go’s above post suggested that the anime might get delayed, another one of his previous posts stated that chances of anime getting delayed were less because the priority here was the business partners and the board members and not the working conditions or the situation of the animators.

Go wondered how long a “small company” (referring to MAPPA) would last like this.

Hakuyu Go tweet on MAPPA

This post from Go suggested that MAPPA was clearly turning a blind eye to the issues that the animators were facing. Netizens pitched in, saying that if staff were to complain or stop working, they probably might just hire a new batch of animators to finish the job.

Unlike the other staff members mentioned above, Shunsuke Ohkubo’s tweet was more cryptic, as he posted an art of Ema Yasuhara from Shirobako (her character does the job of a key animator in the anime) looking tired and trying to hang herself.

Shunsuke Ohkubo art on MAPPA animators

Netizens immediately came to his support in the comments, asking Ohkubo to take breaks, and praising the work and the efforts he put in for the anime.

Like Tsuchigami, Ohkubo too was someone who was very vocal about the poor scheduling of Jujutsu Kaisen season 2. One of Okubo’s previous tweets literally suggested that the staff might have abandoned production at point owing to the bad conditions.

Shunsuke Okubo tweet

Shigetsugu had put out another tweet along with the other staff members on Nov 14, 2023, stating that everything was very terrible. They however deleted their tweet later.

Their post translates to: “Everything is just too terrible. What do you think people are?…

Animator Honehone tweet about JJK S2 schedule

Among claims that a lot of staff members were forced to keep quite and not vent their frustration, animation director Satoshi Sakai, who was a prominent staff member throughout the Attack on Titan anime, said that he was able to empathize with the animators who couldn’t say anything even when the situation got quite extreme.

Overseas, people tend to say, “What’s going on? I think that the Japanese people tend to say, “Keep compliance” and “Don’t post your dissatisfaction on social networking sites”.
Well, I understand both, of course I can’t disclose information, but as a fellow worker, I can understand the pain of not saying anything in extreme situations…

Satoshi Sakai empathizes with animators

However, the problem was not just with poor scheduling. There have also been claims that the animators should have been paid better for the work they put in.

Calls for better pay:

Once again, it was Itsuki Tsuchigami who talked about the pay structure at MAPPA, which ended up receiving a lot of traction.

In a post made on Nov 11, 2023, Tsuchigami expressed his sadness that the work was successful, but the staff members were not being compensated fairly for their work. According to him, this was a sign that the industry was not valuing its creators.

When I think about the scale of the work based on the amount of reaction, I realize it’s truly a large-scale project. At the same time, it’s disheartening that the compensation for the work is not exceptional compared to others, and instead, it’s a relatively insufficient amount considering the position. It’s a sad situation. There seems to be no dream.

Itsuki Tsuchigami low pay tweet

The discourse on low pay, prompted animator-director Ippei Ichii to pitch in and say a few words about the situation at MAPPA.

In his post, Ichii expressed his support for Tsuchigami’s statement, saying that it was unfair to expect the animator to keep his experiences confidential, possibly referring to the NDA that the staff signed at MAPPA, and the repercussions that Tsuchigami could face for making the statement about pay.

Ichii added that the most important thing to protect is the mind and body.

I read a summary of MAPPA. It was a tweet from an earnest person who said that they had to work themselves to the bone to maintain the quality of the work until the very last minute, even though there was no schedule, and that the pay was not fair. If there is a problem with the statement, MAPPA will issue a statement, and it is too cruel for outsiders to say that they should keep their confidentiality. The most important thing to protect is the mind and body.

Ippei ichii tweet supporting Tsuchigami

The animator-director also added that it was wrong for the outside world to criticize animators, and that it was authoritarian and paternalistic to silence those who are speaking out about their experiences.

I think it is highly authoritarian and problematic for outsiders to use the pressure of “common sense” to reduce the animator who had fully contributed with his/her spirit and physical strength to the limit to a binary opposition structure and make a tweet that wields paternal authority.

This is not the first time that Ichii himself has been vocal about the issues of low pay in the anime industry. Last year he explained in a series of tweets as to how Netflix got their job of producing anime done through MAPPA at dirt-cheap rates.

The End of MAPPA? What’s really happening?

From the tweets and comments made by the staff above, it is clear that Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 is facing major scheduling issues. But why is that happening?

Let’s start from the beginning. Jujutsu Kaisen season 1 aired in 2021. The anime however was in production for around 18 months before it finally aired.

Jujutsu Kaisen anime is governed by a production committee (which comprises of TOHO, Shueisha and other entities). As is the case with anime that are produced by production committees (which usually contain a broadcast partner), the broadcasting window for a future season is usually decided before hand.

And then the contracts are signed with the studio animating the series, which requires them to abide by the deadlines set.

For instance, Attack On Titan‘s Final Season was scheduled to be broadcast in late 2020, even before WIT Studio had agreed to work on the sequel. The tight schedule made WIT not sign on for the sequel. This led to lot of production issues, even after MAPPA picked up the work.

The case with Jujutsu Kaisen was something similar. The production committee set a broadcasting window for 2023 for Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2, and probably agreed to the date on the contract.

Now here’s where the issues begin. By issues, I mean the studio’s ambitious project – Chainsaw Man.

Chainsaw Man did not have a production committee behind it, it was funded entirely by MAPPA. And both the anime were handled by production manager Keisuke Seshimo. Production managers are responsible for creating a master schedule for an anime’s production and see to it that the deliverables are attained.

Checkout this timeline for starters –

Jujutsu Kaisen anime ended airing in March 2022. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 movie released in December 20222. The movie was produced in a span of four months, which was deemed as bad by the animators (check the tweets mentioned in the above sections).

Now, a major section of this staff from Jujutsu Kaisen was shifted to Chainsaw Man anime, which aired in October 2022, meaning the staff had somewhere around 9-10 months to animate the 12 episodes of the anime.

The same production line, with the animation directors and KAs, including director Goshozono, where then shifted to Jujutsu Kaisen season 2, which was due to release in July 2023.

JJK And CSM Staff Comparision

If we are to believe that JJK S2’s production did not start until Goshozono was relieved of his duties from Chainsaw Man anime (his last credited work is on Episode 8), then the staff only had under a year, around 6-8 months to be precise, to work on it before the anime started airing.

For a series with 20+ episodes and an arc that is focused heavily of big fights and action sequences, the timeline was too stretched. According to KA’s and other staff online, the production on an episode goes on till just days before its airing. That too after most of the staff members are working overtime.

This poor scheduling can be attributed as the main cause for the Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 animators having a meltdown.

But then, this problem isn’t MAPPA’s alone.

Not just MAPPA:

Popular anime cinematographer Shigeki Asakawa also had a few words to say on the controversy surrounding JJK S2 production and MAPPA studio.

According to him it wasn’t just the animators who faced scheduling issues and that MAPPA was not the only studio to have such issues. Highlighting his experience as a director of photography in the industry, Asakawa pointed out that it was not uncommon for a work to have an unbelievably tight schedule.

Even about 20 years ago when I entered the anime industry, photography was the last line of defense, the work was done at the last minute, the work period was short, and there were often cases of delivery [from animators] on the day before or even on the day of broadcast. There were also works that I thought were lucky to have been completed in time.

Shigeki Asakawa tweet

Sakai, who had empathized with the animators, mentioned in his post that based on his experience, every project has its own set of problems.

As someone who has worked on a variety of projects for a variety of companies, I can tell you that every project has its own set of problems that arise as it moves forward, and that is no different from normal work, and in a sense, it is a necessary form of communication.

Satoshi Sakai tweet

This shouldn’t come as surprising because in the past studios like Madhouse, and even A-1 Pictures recently, have faced similar criticism for overworking their employees and executing poor schedules.

For now, MAPPA is in the crosshair of its own animators, and even though there is no confirmed source on the situation of Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2’s upcoming episodes, the future does look a bit precarious.

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