For years, animation studio MAPPA has been noteworthy for the quality of the anime it puts out, which includes widely beloved shonen like Attack on Titan, Vinland Saga, and Jujutsu Kaisen. At the same time, it’s been noted that the 12-year-old studio has a habit of taking on a lot of projects at once, with allegations of staff crunch surfacing in recent years.
That dam finally burst earlier in the week when several Kaisen staff used social media to vent about their workload. Episode director Arai Kazuto plainly stated he was “so done. I’m really disappointed. This isn’t fun anymore.” His sentiments have been echoed by other staff members, with animator RocciaNobili claiming in a now deleted post this past week’s episode was “not finished. I am happy so many people are liking it, but I wish the staff was able to finish it. As it stands right now, what is present on screen is 30% of the intended vision.”
In the last five years, MAPPA’s output has ranged from two shows to five or six at most. Some of these series have seemingly managed to skate by and air without much trouble, but others haven’t been so lucky. Attack on Titan only just wrapped its fourth and final season earlier this month after being split into multiple parts, and many have pointed out online that episodes of Jujutsu Kaisen and this summer’s Hell’s Paradise have been rushed to some degree or another.
According to animator Honehone (who also animated Chainsaw Man for the same studio), this is par for the course at MAPPA. Last year’s animated film Jujutsu Kaisen 0 was reportedly made in a short amount of time compared to an average moviemaking period of two to three years, adding that it likely set a bad precedent for upper management to judge the staff by. A staff that allegedly aren’t getting fairly compensated for their work: Itsuki Tsuchigami, one of the more recent episode directors, noted the pay was “nothing special” compared to other projects and not at all reflective of the work that went into production.
“Throw your key card in the trash can when you leave work,” wrote animator Hakuyu Go. When asked by a fan if there were any chance of Jujutsu Kaisen’s second season getting delayed in the hopes of giving staff a break, he bluntly answered that wouldn’t be the case. “Business partners and board members are the only priority. […] I wonder how long this small company will last as how it is universally recognized among audiences right now.”
At time of writing, MAPPA itself hasn’t responded to the allegations, and most of the posts from staff implying the studio’s poor working conditions. With five episodes left in Jujutsu Kaisen’s season, it may be too late for things to change. The studio presently has one project confirmed for 2024, its own original series Bucchigiri. Other projects like Adult Swim’s Lazarus don’t have set release windows.
These issues are far from isolated to just MAPPA; as we saw earlier this year with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (and pretty much every other month in video games), crunch is a big part of the larger entertainment industry. That doesn’t make it any less disheartening to hear about, and with any hope, MAPPA will take matters into their own hands, resulting in either a strike or union, hard as either may be to do.
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