We all know that the coronavirus is impacting pretty much every aspect of our lives, but we in the West have been lucky enough to continue having a wide variety of art delivered to us via TV and streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Disney +, ect) without too much in the way of delays. The new season of She-Ra is coming in a matter of weeks and we’ve had no disruption to RuPaul’s Drag Race. Even Trolls managed to weasel its way into our homes over the past few weeks despite cinemas across the globe being shut.
However, the list of delayed anime, both series and films, due to the pandemic has grown lengthy enough that it requires a rolling update from Crunchyroll. From Pokemon to One Piece to Sword Art Online, even massive properties haven’t been immune to the delays in the anime industry.
So what is it about anime that has made it more prone to delays in the current environment?
A Manic Production Schedule
Its true that some high-profile shows have been delayed in the West, most notably the list of Marvel shows currently filming for release on Disney +, but most of these have been before the series begins airing. This is because the show is written, boarded, produced, and edited well in advance of its eventual release date. She-Ra is getting released in the middle of the pandemic because the bulk of it was finished months ago and most of what was impacted by stay at home orders were polish and editing, which are easier to do from the comfort of home than recording and animating.
Anime, however, condenses most of these processes into a single week for each episode. For an episode that airs on a Friday, it is started on the Saturday before and finished sometimes only with hours to spare before showtime. It is a manic process, even moreso when companies like Funimation want to produce a SimulDub for large releases like My Hero Academia, which requires them to translate, localise, record, and mix all the English dialogue within hours.
An Industry Susceptible to Delays
Because of the tight schedule they are working toward, any hiccups or changes along the way can become major problems. Episodes are frequently delayed due to natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis as there are temporary disruptions to people’s lives in Japan. However, there hasn’t been a disruption like this within living memory. While Western shows had the luxury of shutting down and adjusting their production schedules and methods without immediately missing a deadline, anime studios are now having to figure out new ways of working, either in small, socially distant groups or even remotely, while they see airdates come and go before their very eyes.
This is why the news of so many delayed anime have been hitting us seemingly at once.
Back to Normal?
The big question on everyone’s minds is “When can we all go back to normal?”. For many, this means seeing friends and family, hugging loved ones to feel physical contact again, and going back to work to earn a living. If you’re anything like me, and I’m so sorry if you are, that means seeing a normal schedule of anime returning to our screens.
The truth, though, is that we don’t know when we’ll get to go back to normal. We don’t really know what the new normal will look like. The delayed anime and video games will likely get more frequent as the summer hits as supply chains are disrupted further. Bright side, you might get your favourite video game early, like some people did for Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Will the anime industry continue with their previous production schedules on a rolling basis or will they adopt a more delay-resilient schedule when we can all go back outside again?
There have been some bits of good news. Funimation have managed to put out a couple of dubs by sending equipment out to actors to record from the safety of their own homes, no small feat considering how many characters and actors tend to appear in some titles like My Hero Academia. It may be a long time before we get close to the kind of schedule we’re used to as it takes time for people to adjust their ways of working, but as Japan finally enters the lockdown phase of tackling the virus, we need to take the good news where we can get it.
It is impossible to tell what studios will do in the months that come. Personally, I do hope that they space out their development a bit more, giving their artists, actors, and production team more room to breathe, but Japan likes to do things differently. Its why we love them, after all.