Thank You Mr. President (Interview with the Sachou of TOEI Animation Philippines)

TOEI Philippines

It’s a bit late, but here it is: An informal interview with TOEI Philippines President Soya Satoshi. We were given a very hospitable tour of the TOEI production studio last February 7, 2009, which culminated with our sit-down with Soya Sachou.

We were given the opportunity to see the animators at work, and even do some drawing opportunities ourselves. It was part of our introduction to how anime does get made and it was real cool (more on that in a future post).

Part One: Small-talk

ghostlightning, intrepid journalist hits Soya Sachou with tough questions, NOT.

ghostlightning:   How many employees do you have here now?
Soya Sachou:   180 employees plus freelancers
ghostlightning:   How many freelancers?
Soya Sachou:   It depends on the kind of project.
ghostlightning:   Right now how many shows are you working on here in the Philippines?
Soya Sachou:   Actually we’re doing many different things, not only for our own shows.
ghostlightning:   How often do you go home?
Soya Sachou:   Maybe once or twice a year I go back to Japan to attend meetings.
ghostlightning:   So is your family here?
Soya Sachou:   Yes.

Part Two: Being a Fan

Soya Satoshi Sachou

LOLJOHN:   How different would you say anime fans in the Philippines compared to, let’s say Japan. How different would you say they are in terms of personality, in terms of people… like him [points at ghostlightning, LOLS]
Soya Sachou:   Since Japanese animation is very popular in the world I think they have many different fans.
ghostlightning:   Are your workers fans of anime themselves?
Soya Sachou:   They need to like their work. I don’t know really, but I’m sure they love drawing.
ghostlightning:   Are you yourself a fan of anime?
Soya Sachou:   Yeah, yeah.
ghostlightning:   What’s your favorite?
Soya Sachou:   Hmm, so many animation I like…
ghostlightning:   What was the first show you really liked?
Soya Sachou:   Ahhh, this is so difficult because …back in Japan this was a long time ago…
ghostlightning:   For me it was a TOEI show: Choudenji Machine Voltes V
Soya Sachou:   [laughs] First time I watched, it was in the ’60s in black and white: Cyborg 009
ghostlightning:   Right now, do you still get to watch animation?
Soya Sachou:   Being here in the Philippines I have no chance to watch Japanese TV, but of course I watch the TOEI shows.
ghostlightning:   What is it about anime that makes you like it so much?
Soya Sachou:   Most of the time I like watching live dramas, but the thing is – in live action it depends on the performance of the actors, in animation I really love the mix of media.
Dragon Ball Z's Shen Long, with mechafetish and ghostlightning (what a 'tard)

Dragon Ball Z's Shen Long, with mechafetish and ghostlightning (what a 'tard)

 

Candid talk about how the business of anime works

hmmm, that's a tough one...

ghostlightning:   Are the current economic conditions adversely affecting the anime industry? How?
Soya Sachou:   The number of shows being produced has lessened, the studios producing them have gotten smaller; the companies in Japan aren’t spending so much on advertising, the studios are having trouble finding sponsors to make a budget for their planned shows. Compared with other tv shows like variety programs, animation costs a lot to make so the number of shows made are fewer.
ghostlightning:   How does it work? Do you make a show then sell it to a TV Network?
Soya Sachou:   Before production starts, the studio should approach networks and companies who may want to sponsor the show. The budget is decided at this stage.
ghostlightning:   So technecally even before the show airs, you’ve already made money since the advertisers have ‘bought’ the show?
Soya Sachou:   Yes, but most of the budget is eaten up by the cost of production.
ghostlightning:   After it’s initial run, do you still make money off the show?
Soya Sachou:   It depends on the budget for production. But most of the money is made from the merchandise. Almost all of the budget is consumed by production costs so the studio doesn’t make much money. It’s the merchandise that makes most of the money.
ghostlightning:   And having poor economic conditions means the fans have less money to spend on merchandise.
ghostlightning:   How do you feel about online piracy? Right now a show in Japan is available almost immediately everywhere. Are you guys getting hurt by these activities?
Soya Sachou:   Of course the animation being available on the internet without advertising, people not paying for it, is not good for the producing company. However, there is a case when an animation is not popular in Japan, but became popular in the world. There’s this show that went on Youtube and became very popular in the world, then only afterward it became very popular in Japan also.
    [Laughter]
    What show is this, do you know?
Soya Sachou:   Um, ah, Lucky Star.
ghostlightning:   Lucky Star? Oh wow. Laughter
    Okay, since we described the business model as one where most of the income comes from merchandise sales and not the broadcast of the shows themselves. Would you say, that the free publicity generated by the pirate activities is effective advertising on the internet for the merchandise – which can be purchased on the internet as well? So since most of the income comes from merchandise, isn’t this a good thing for you?
    [LAUGHTER]
Soya Sachou:   Oh, this is difficult to answer. Haha. Personally, if the animation is shown on the internet and becomes popular, the merchandise can earn. We then have to prioritize what merchandising items to sell, to take advantage of this free marketing. If they like it, then we can sell the merchandise so we can earn. We’re more concerned about the fake merchandise. This is what can hurt us. That is my personal opinion. Of course my company is really strict about online piracy.
ghostlightning:   Personally, I don’t purchase a lot of original anime.
Soya Sachou:   In the Philippines it is very difficult to find original anime.
ghostlightning:   BUT, here it’s actually very easy to purchase original merchandise!
Soya Sachou:   Right. Haheha
ghostlightning:   So it really is a good situation for Japan, because it doesn’t spend on advertising at all, and yet there’s a big demand for the merchandise here.
Soya Sachou:   I can’t complain. Laughs.
mechafetish   I think what’s interesting is there’s a market for merchandise. There’s a clear demand for your product outside Japan. Why has there been no effort to localize or translate the anime for international consumption?
Soya Sachou:   TOEI Animation is the biggest company, but it is very small relative to most. Most animation companies only have a production department. Only TOEI has a department for sales. Sometimes these companies don’t know how to sell their product to advertisers and networks. Only now have companies been looking at the US as a market.
   
    The US market is actually very closed, welcoming only those shows which are part of the US culture. It’s like the US is the ‘original’ source of animation, as if saying ‘you are fake’
ghostlightning:   Really?
Soya Sachou:   Yes. A long time ago, like in the 1960s until the late 1980s. [...] The Japanese style of animation is very different from the American style. The US style is FULL animation. The Japanese style is limited [...] because the number of frames per second is fewer. In film the camera shoots or plays at 24 frames per second. The Americans would draw 24 drawings. But the Japanese style is only 8. Only 8 drawings in one second.The animation result is very different. If the US style is more focused on the amount of movement, how smoothly the movement looks, but the Japanese focus is on how beautiful the drawing is, or how cool the pose or style of the character is. The action is important too, the timing of the movement.

 

And yeah, that's GAI-KING!

And yeah, that's GAI-KING!

 

Parting Thoughts 

 

ghostlightning:   What was the last show you saw that you enjoyed?
Soya Sachou:   [has a hard time answering]
    Usually I watch TOEI shows for business purposes. I cannot enjoy the viewing much, and also the other companies’ programs I watch – but I cannot really enjoy the watching because I’ always thinking of how to make it or how to do better. [long pause] When I wasn’t yet in the industry, like when I was a student I really enjoyed watching animation. But once I entered…
    [LAUGHTER]
Soya Sachou:   …It was ruined [laughs]
ghostlightning:   I don’t think I’m going to enjoy working in this industry. It’ll ruin things for me. Look at this poor person! [laughs]
    [LAUGHTER]
Soya Sachou:   If you enter this business, you will lose your love for animation. [LAUGHTER]
sybilant, mechafetish, ghostlightning, Soya Sachou, LOLJOHN

sybilant, mechafetish, ghostlightning, Soya Sachou, LOLJOHN

 

I’ll have more from this trip soon. It does kind of concern me how working within the industry could turn a fan into someone who doesn’t even like anime anymore. Here Jonathan writes about the dynamic of work and fun in the very interesting blog SchoolGirlMilkyCrisis. I’m no journalist so you’ll have to pardon the lack of journalistic sensibility in this post. I hope you had a good read anyway.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in Craft, fanboy, meta, only in the Philippines and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Thank You Mr. President (Interview with the Sachou of TOEI Animation Philippines)

  1. IcyStorm says:

    That was an awesome read, and it was interesting to hear what he had to say about the whole piracy/money issue. We don’t hear much about this kind of stuff from the animation side of the companies themselves, so this is pretty cool.

  2. rabbitpoets says:

    whoa, very nice interview, thanks for sharing.

    very interesting that he mentions that you lose your love once you’re in the business. i mean it’s not terribly surprising, but it really makes you think twice if you’re interested in the industry.

    the japanese/us animation comparison is pretty interesting too. anime really only has 8 frames per second? that’s shocking to me. I didn’t think that US animation had a rep for being smoother/better than anime IMO

  3. pontifus says:

    Of course the animation being available on the internet without advertising, people not paying for it, is not good for the producing company. However, there is a case when an animation is not popular in Japan, but became popular in the world. There’s this show that went on Youtube and became very popular in the world, then only afterward it became very popular in Japan also.

    Personally, if the animation is shown on the internet and becomes popular, the merchandise can earn. We then have to prioritize what merchandising items to sell, to take advantage of this free marketing. If they like it, then we can sell the merchandise so we can earn. We’re more concerned about the fake merchandise. This is what can hurt us. That is my personal opinion. Of course my company is really strict about online piracy.

    The US market is actually very closed, welcoming only those shows which are part of the US culture. It’s like the US is the ‘original’ source of animation, as if saying ‘you are fake’

    Yes. A long time ago, like in the 1960s until the late 1980s. [...] The Japanese style of animation is very different from the American style. The US style is FULL animation. The Japanese style is limited [...] because the number of frames per second is fewer. In film the camera shoots or plays at 24 frames per second. The Americans would draw 24 drawings. But the Japanese style is only 8. Only 8 drawings in one second.The animation result is very different. If the US style is more focused on the amount of movement, how smoothly the movement looks, but the Japanese focus is on how beautiful the drawing is, or how cool the pose or style of the character is. The action is important too, the timing of the movement.

    All things I’ve been curious about. Very, very nice post.

  4. bluemist says:

    Very candid interview. And says a lot about the local anime climate. It’s hard to sell the actual anime videos here (virtually non-existent market), and yet we have anime merchandise shops cluttered all over.

  5. animekritik says:

    thank you for this post! it honest to god reads like the president is not at all interested in anime. i bet you if you went to gainax they’d all be fanboys. fossilization of toei??
    what language did you conduct the interview in?

    • ghostlightning says:

      I found it quite remarkable that he can’t name shows that he likes, except for Cyborg 009.

      The interview was in English, but he remarkably put in A LOT of Tagalog words, NOT Japanese.

  6. Ichiro Ino says:

    wow, I really enjoyed this post.. thanks ghostlightning!

  7. Pontifus says:

    @animekritik

    I wonder about Gainax, actually. There was that whole Gurren-Lagann thing, during which the one Gainax employee, I forget whom, disparaged fans for having opinions; the whole situation gave me the impression of a gulf between corporate concerns and fandom concerns. Granted, the guy was promptly disposed of, so my cynicism may be misplaced.

  8. ghostlightning says:

    @ IcyStorm

    Thanks man! I was a bit surprised too by what he told us.

    @ rabbitpoets

    SchoolGirlMilkyCrisis had a great post regarding work and fun related to the industry.

    As to the animation ‘shortcuts,’ anime also widely uses pans of all kinds, animating only a few elements on a set of stills, ‘action lines’ and others that I can’t recall right now.

    Of course there are exceptions, those with high budgets, or even select scenes in a particular anime (dance sequences like the Kannagi OP and the Suzumiya Haruhi ED come to mind) have high frame rates; fight scenes in big productions; etc.).

    @ pontifus, @ animekritik

    TOEI seems to be the opposite of GAINAX, if only to take into account the ideas in this awesome post by otou-san.

    @ bluemist

    TV has been doing a lot and has made anime quite popular, despite the lack of quality dubs.

    @ Ichiro

    You’re welcome! Thanks for adding me to your blogroll, but the name of the blog is We Remember Love. Look for me and other Filipino anibloggers on twitter. We just had a great time watching animu together yesterday. Perhaps you can join us next time.

  9. Turambar says:

    I’ll read it’s entirety once I have time, but for now, *shakes angry jealous fist at you*

  10. Shance says:

    Now this’ll make the upcoming events in here more tasty. We need more questions answered though.

    Well… I do…

  11. tj han says:

    Not exactly the most insightful, since all the stuff he says we know. The most interesting part is when he claims that people don’t like shows that are Japanese, but only shows that fit into their culture. This “mukokuseki” model is really passe, now that Japan has started to imprint their soft culture on the world.

    See how many anime series are obviously Japanese and popular?

  12. tj han says:

    Forgot to add, that’s why Toei is shit.

  13. ghostlightning says:

    @ shance @ tj han

    There’s a lot of things I don’t quite understand yet. And no I’m no expert on the industry, just curious about it. I think I’ve come across a few posts at Riuva that handled the ‘career’ of anime related employees quite thoroughly.

    Do say more about this “mukokuseki” model. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it.

  14. Shance says:

    TJ: Isn’t it why Japan is becoming the standard for animation? Of course, that means using Japanese style of animation and a theme to fit the taste. It’s the case of the now, and it seems that it’ll still be.

  15. Pingback: TOEI on Lucky Star @ Period Blog

  16. Dstation TV says:

    Nice article .Thank.

  17. hazy says:

    Nice interview. Thanks for sharing! ^^ It’s quite interesting to read about his thoughts on the industry (and the tidbit about the frames/s thing). Too bad he doesn’t enjoy anime now like he used to, though.

  18. biankita says:

    field trip! field trip! ^^

    the guy knows what’s happening in the industry but he doesn’t seem to sound like he likes anime that much. or at least, he sounds jaded by the work.

    • sybilant says:

      hehe. sadly, my cousins (long time animators and our contacts on that ground) feel the same way too. that’s what straight 72 hours of animating for deadlines does to you. anime becomes a four-letter word: work!

      It’s great to learn all kinds of new things from their perspective including IPR and market niche. apparently, Toei does very well because they cater to the Japanese kids. We’re just happy coincidences. (^_~)V

      You guys know how to sign up for the field trip. Just drop us a line.

  19. Turambar says:

    It really is somewhat sad that entering the industry detracts from the enjoyment of a hobby. Though just as we ourselves are sometimes hurt by demystification in certain anime, I can only imagine what it’s like when the complete product can only be seen as it’s individual parts and not as a whole which you can enjoy.

  20. ghostlightning says:

    @ hazy

    Thanks, one thing that’s difficult to consider is the sheer length of his career – possibly over 20 years, 17 of which spent here in the Philippines away from home. A lot of things can happen in that time, so perhaps in his love story with anime he’s gone through a lot of fallings-out and fallings-in love.

    @ biankita

    The thing is, while I find it surprising that he’s not very enthusiastic about anime itself, he is very enthusiastic about the business of it. Otherwise, I don’t think he’d be as forthright and accomodating to us. I feel that he enjoys the work itself, if not the realm of the finished product.

    @ Turambar

    I can only imagine what it’s like when the complete product can only be seen as it’s individual parts and not as a whole which you can enjoy.

    While this is probably true, I think even more corrosive is experiencing the anime for every purpose except that of enjoying it as an item of personal entertainment.

    I can imagine that Soya Sachou when he’s watching anime, he’s looking at it from the perspective of its intended audience (among other perspectives), and not for himself as himself the animation fan.

  21. digitalboy says:

    Stuff like this means everything to me, another mega-thanks for your being insanely awesome, gl!

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thanks for your enthusiasm for the post. How I wish I can bring you and so many others here to join us – as I’ve gotten an invitation to bring the local anime blogger contingent to TOEI for a special tour.

  22. sybilant says:

    @digitalboy

    well, if you’re ever in town, we can arrange a special tour as part of your vacay as long as Toei is still here. ^_^

  23. TheBigN says:

    Thanks for posting this interview. And while it has stuff that we’ve seen before, it’s always good to hear it from the perspective of someone in the business. Hope there’s more where that came from in the future from other bloggers (there’s been plenty done before, but why stop now?).

  24. Turambar says:

    Hey Ghostlightning, do you possibly have an e-mail address I can contact you buy? I finally decided to get my butt into gear and start watching the original SDF Macross, and after hitting Pineapple Salad, there’s something I want to ask your opinion on. I’d rather not leave a bunch of off-topic posts on the blog so…you get the idea.

  25. Zeroblade says:

    Wow, interesting. It’s actually surprising to know that the US, at least way back when, loathed “Japanese” anime, and now they’re eating it up like mad. Though it’s still a pretty niche market, so eh.

  26. ghostlightning says:

    @ TheBigN

    Right. This isn’t really anything new or insightful for those who’ve been following the industry closely, but the candor of the interviewee is what made the experience enjoyable for me.

    @ Zeroblade

    I’d take Soya Sachou’s words with a grain of salt. There’s some inferiority and persecution issues going on there definitely, especially that they measure themselves against Disney and not say, Hanna-Barbera, Nickelodeon, or even Warner Brothers.

    Also, as otou-san told me in a conversation, Disney doesn’t even do cel animation anymore. He goes on to ask that “Isn’t it about time we acknowledge that Japan sets the standard for animation now?”

  27. Ian K says:

    I will echo everyone else in expressing my appreciation for the posting of the interview, as well as throw out a question:

    What does the Philippine animation studio do? Do they help work on the same projects as Toei in Japan, or do they focus on their own stuff?

  28. soulassassin says:

    Pre, this is impressive. Although he sounds like he’s not into getting his hands inked, he’s more into handling the business end of the branch. Nevertheless it sounds like a very frank discussion of what goes on inside and how external problems affect the business.

    One piece of trivia I found out: some portions of Pretty Cure came from that place.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Pre, they make almost ALL of Pre Cure from that place. My cousin-in-law over there supervises the backgrounds of Fresh Pre Cure right now.

      • soulassassin says:

        Tell ‘em the first Precure blew my socks off, even in Tagalog (and sometimes makes me wear Yuri goggles). :D

        Again, thanks. :) I’ll wait for the follow-up.

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  30. SVince51 says:

    as I’ve gotten an invitation to bring the local anime blogger contingent to TOEI for a special tour.

    Hey can I join the tour? I work here at Eastwood and I’ve always wanted to know what goes on inside the TOEI Philippines, which is just a short walk away. :)

  31. Mansanitas says:

    I’m also interested in a tour to TOEI Philippines, since I’m really eager to get into the Animation industry (and I’ve always been a BIG fan of Dragonball and Pretty Cure.)

    Will there be a tour anytime soon? :)

  32. Mansanitas says:

    Hi, this was a very interesting read, it got me really excited learning more about TOEI Philippines. I’ve been trying to get into the animation field myself, so these new bits of information really made me happy. Thank you!

    Is there going to be a tour of some sort to TOEI Philippines sometime soon? I’d love to be able to see the studio for myself, being a big fan of Dragonball and Pretty Cure. :)

    I hope to be able to visit their studio soon. :D

  33. Mansanitas says:

    Ah, never mind the first comment I made, it seems it submitted itself late. D:

  34. akohito says:

    thats not true thier all bullshit..

  35. smiley7288 says:

    yah..its really nice..

  36. R_B_RT says:

    Ian K
    ============================================================================================
    I will echo everyone else in expressing my appreciation for the posting of the interview, as well as throw out a question:

    What does the Philippine animation studio do? Do they help work on the same projects as Toei in Japan, or do they focus on their own stuff?
    ==============================================================================================

    The Toei Philippines studio is the only production studio of Toei Japan. 90% of the production were done here in the philippines. Japan takes care of the pre-production and post production as well as marketing. Philippines take care of the production, that is, making key animations, IB works, BackGround, Special Effects and Painting(coloring).
    So dragonballs, slamdunk, one piece and other various anime produced by toei were mostly hand drawn by Filipino artist…
    It’s just so sad that Filipino has a lot of talent in animation but yet only few produced Filipino-content animation films….

  37. rammel says:

    wow how inspiring is that…
    i would like to be like you someday…
    it is one of my dream to be a member
    of an animation company.. how i wish
    that somebody will discover my talent
    in creating a character to a animation
    company that has a power to publish and
    to send it to television…

    if anyone read my post please remind me
    of those animation company .. i wuld be
    willing to come for an example of my
    drawing and others…

    please do reply with me:
    email add: itdepartmentcomp@yahoo.com
    cp number: 09083532102

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  40. ela says:

    i have this dream of becoming an animator. someday, somehow, i wish i could fulfill that dream of becoming one. special thanks to my master-guru-critic-friend-brother hsien.

    toei really is fantastic!

    congratulations, guys!

  41. Benny says:

    Hi ghostlightning, Im in the middle of writing my thesis and my topic is about Toei Animation business strategy. So can I use your interview as a reference. And can I have your email, so that I can ask you further question about Toei. And also, can you tell me how can I reach Toei, since my thesis focus on Toei’s business rather than the anime produced by Toei, Im afraid they wont answer my questions even if I email them.
    Thanks.

  42. Giovanni says:

    Hi guys, just finished reading all your post.

    Just wanted you to know that our company Animation International Licensing Philippines is the local licensing agent of TOEI for One Piece and Dragon Ball Z.

    Should you know someone from the manufacturing, events, publishing etc… You may want to recommend us so we can enjoy all the cool merchandise here in the local market.

    Oh by the way, we also carry other licensed anime characters. Should you be interested to know more about here’s my mobile number 0908-2020715/ 0915-8060560 / 0933-3145913.

    • I’ll spread the word to my contacts. The thing is, here in the Philippines the mainstream TOEI shows are broadcast on terrestrial networks — who no longer make big pushes marketing-wise. It’s the basic cable anime channels that do most of the events. I don’t think TOEI shows feature heavily there.

  43. sayuri says:

    WOW, i never would’ve thought that TOEI has a company here in the philippines. o_o
    i’m really interested in animation, i even considered it as my major but backed out because i thought only japanese animation studios in japan produce them and i would have to go there, i would love to visit this studio someday, don’t they have workshops or something? like for prospective animators…

    i can’t find original anime products here in the phil. they are mostly fake, i would really like to support them through buying their merchandise but i don’t know where to buy them,
    is comic alley a licensed retailer of anime products?

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