It wouldn’t be the first time an anime studio had an entrance that looked like someone’s flat. But once I’m buzzed in and up the stairs, someone’s flat is precisely where I find myself.
Taizo’s easy-iron shirt is mainly nylon, causing him to swelter in the July heat. He stares back at me in mild confusion.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I was looking for Intergalactic Studios. The people who made Schoolgirl Milky Crisis.” Not its real name, but you get the idea.
“Ah yes,” he says. “Welcome.”
“I must be in the wrong place,” I continue. “Sorry for barging in—”
“This is Intergalactic,” he says. “Well, to be perfectly accurate, that shelf there is Intergalactic Studios. The blue ring binders and the two red box files. Oh, and the in-tray with the egg sandwich on top.”
“But,” I stammer, “what about the premises? You know, the three buildings with all the animators, and that woman with the funny eye who answered the phones, and the offices where all the marketing people had the robot statues…?”
Taizo was never full-time at Intergalactic. He was an external auditor, the accountant who turned up twice a year to sort out the tax returns. And then one day… well, I’ll let him tell it.
“One day, there’s a call from the bigwigs, and they say it’s all over. No more money for production. No shows to make, no videos to sell. So there’s no need for a studio, and no need for the marketing people. Everybody got laid off, and they sold the real estate to pay off the debt. Actually, truth be told, two of the buildings were only rented anyway.”
I look around the dingy room at the neat little row of folders on the shelves, and the slowly baking egg sandwich.
“So at the end of the day,” says Taizo, “Intergalactic is just the intellectual property. It’s just the I.P. as you say abroad. So all they need is an accountant to look after the contracts and bank the cheques.”
He rifles through the mail and comes up with an envelope bearing a UK postmark.
“Here you go,” he says. “British DVD royalties for the year ending this April. I shove that in the bank, and that’s probably me done for the week. Unless a fax comes in from South Africa or France or somewhere.”
Taizo really is it. Intergalactic Studios is now nothing more than a shelf in an accountant’s office. The studio “staff” is Taizo alone, collecting a few pennies a month to open the mail and bank the cheques.
I ask how long this will go on.
“The show’s got a few years in it. Might as well leave it to putter away and generate income. The thing the bosses really want is a movie deal. You know, DreamWorks or someone rings up and says they want a movie option. That really is money for nothing. Put Tom Cruise in it. James Cameron directing or something. All I have to do is make a few photocopies.”
But what about the future, I ask. What about the anime of tomorrow? Who will make them?
Taizo shrugs again.
“Somebody else’s problem,” he sighs.
This article first appeared in NEO #75, 2010.
I want to write something profound or even angry here, but all I can muster is despair.
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