The Director’s Guild of America puts out annual reports aggregating the proportion of episodes directed by women and people of color among TV shows. Naturally, it would be interesting to see this practice applied to anime as well. (Thus far, I’ve only collected data regarding directing overall anime projects, rather than episodes).
In anime, the role is typically 演出 or “Enshutsu” and roughly translated as “Episode Director” among English-speaking fans. In general, an enshutsu may not necessarily have that great an impact on a series the way Shigeyasu Yamauchi did on HappinessCharge! PreCure, and arguably the storyboard artist (絵コンテ “e-conte”) might have a greater effect visually on a series (and the episode director and storyboard artist are often the same person), but it’s the head management position on an episode, below the series director.
Tracking enshutsu also gives a small, but possible opportunity to considering animators of non-Japanese origin. It’s liking a minuscule amount, if any, but there are several active in the anime industry, and the outsourcing of episodes can also open up opportunities.
Fall 2013 is chosen as a test case, because it contains three categories of TV series to test some hypotheses:
- Male director Kyoto Animation anime: Beyond the Boundary.
- Male director A-1 Pictures anime: Magi, Galilei Donna, Space Brothers
- Female director anime: Golden Time, Kyousogiga, and Meganebu!
Though relative small samples, it’s an opportunity to see whether Kyoto Animation, A-1 Pictures, and anime directed by women give more opportunities to other women as well. Kyoto Animation has regularly been regarded as a studio both being run by women and having a lot of women on the staff, possibly up and over 50% female employment. Naoko Yamada is the obvious mention among their staff. Staff that has recently left the studio include Noriko Takao and Rika Ota. But notable recent additions to their enshutsu staff include Haruka Fujita and former Madhouse animator Ai Yukimura. Kyoto Animation has done well as far as promoting women to higher levels go.
Similarly, A-1 Pictures provided significant opportunity for female directors since 2013. The aforementioned Takao, after leaving Kyoto Animation, was given the opportunity to direct a movie Saint Young Men with A-1 Pictures. Shouko Nakamura also got to make her directorial debut on a movie with A-1 Pictures, Doukyusei. Kotomi Deai and Yumi Kamakura also made their directorial debuts on A-1 Pictures projects.
Whether it’s simply a producer calling the shots, or there’s just a culture inclusive of women at these companies, it’s worth investigating whether that’s also true at the lower levels of anime production.
All TV series with episodes at least 20 minutes in length are included, whether a late-night otaku series, children’s series, or long running shounen – excluding the Indian remake of Ninja-Hattori-kun and Sazae-san due to difficulty of finding information. Only 1-cour’s worth of episodes will be counted for the sake of consistency. All TV series airing during the Fall of 2013 are analyzed, taking data for episodes that air roughly between late September and the end of December. Each TV series has between 10 and 13 episodes counted in that timeframe. The data in the spreadsheet looks like this:
Data is primarily gather from Japanese Wikipedia since English sources are lacking in this category. There are instances where an episode may have two or more enshutsu. If there’s a mixed gender pairing, it’ll be noted in the “E. Gender” category. Information about gender is taken from AniDB, Japanese Wikipedia, or the Enshutsu wiki, with personal guess based on given name as the last resort.
In total, 60 series with 731 episodes are analyzed.
Overall, just 9% of episodes were directed by women, with an additional 1% of women sharing enshutsu duties with a male director. Thirty-three TV series, or just over half of the anime broadcasting in the time period, employed a woman as an episode director for at least one episode, and 27 had no female enshutsu whatsoever. A grand total of 72 of the 731 episodes were directed by women.
Five TV series had at least 30% of episodes directed by women, DokiDoki! Precure, Samurai Flamenco, Hunter x Hunter, Tamagotchi Miracle Friends, and Noucome. These five series comprise a decent variety of shows. Precure and Tamagotchi Miracle friends are both franchises geared towards young girls. Hunter x Hunter is a long running shounen series that originally aired during the daytime before getting pushed to a late-night block. Samurai Flamenco aired on the noitaminA block. And Noucome is a ten episode, otaku-oriented, Kadokawa light novel adaption. Of these series, DokiDoki! Precure had the most episodes directed by women with 5 of 12, or 42%.
The studios that had the most women in proportion directing episodes of anime were Manglobe (36%, the aforementioned Samurai Flamenco), Comet (23%, Jewelpet Happiness), and Diomedea (23%, impressively over two series, Noucome and Gingitsune). Toei had 18% among six series, though two had no female directors. Kyoto Animation’s Beyond the Boundary was at 17%, tied with Asread (the fanservice anime Yuushibu) and OLM (Tamagotchi Miracle Friends, Inazuma 11 Go Galaxy, and Pokemon XY – which had no women directing any episodes). A-1 Pictures was at 11%, with most of that coming from Space Brothers (Magi had one episode, Galilei Donna had none).
Among the anime directed by women, 17% of episodes were directed by women, a small but significant increase. However, it’s still less than some individual series directed by men. Additionally, many of these episodes are directed by the lead director herself. In the first cour of Golden Time, Chiaki Kon co-directed just one episode. Rie Matsumoto was an enshutsu of two episodes of Kyousogiga and co-directed a third. Toei’s up-and-comer Haruka Kamatani also directed an episode of the series. Only Soubi Yamamoto had other women on the enshutsu staff – Kana Kawana and Mana Uchiyama each served as enshutsu for episodes of Meganebu! Yamamoto didn’t direct any specific episode herself.
Milky Holmes and PriPara director Makoto Moriwaki was the enshutsu for five episodes, the most of all women. She directed three episodes among the Diomedea productions and two episodes for Jewelpet Happiness. Kosuke Kobayashi was the man with the most episodes directed in the time span with eight.
All of the episodes directed by non-Japanese animators were Korean. Only 8 episodes total, or 1%. Just one of the Korean enshutsu, Hye-Jin Seo, is female and she directed three episodes. All five of the Korean enshutsu worked on children’s anime: Inazuma 11 Go Galaxy, Jewelpet Happiness, Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal, Hunter x Hunter, and Gundam Build Fighters.
A significant proportion of the anime industry is women. However, women are most likely to end up working in color design, a field that doesn’t necessarily trend towards key animation or directing. As such, it doesn’t make it that surprising that women are so absent from directing episodes, though the number is far below than already low expectations (I imagined just one in most series.) There was however a large discrepancy in the productions that employed women as enshutsu in the timeframe, and the ones that did not.
Beyond the Boundary was probably not the best example of a Kyoto animation production, just with two episodes directed by Naoko Yamada and Rika Ota respectively. The series production began well after Noriko Takao went freelance and after Tomoe Aratani joined Nintendo. But also before Haruka Fujita was promoted and Ai Yukimura joined the company. Animation Do director Hiroko Utsumi was also likely busy with Free! at this time.
The three A-1 Pictures series had somewhat high variance. Ayumu Watanabe’s Space Brothers had three episodes directed by women, while Yasuomi Umetsu’s Galilei Donna had none. The studio is known for its productions revolving around the hiring of freelancers. (The studio website itself only lists producers and staff working in CG, composition, color, and in-between animation). The advent of women leading a significant number of their productions began in the Spring of 2013 with Noriko Takao’s Saint Young Men. If the studio has begun increasing its hiring rate of women, it’s possible that the change is more discernible in recent years. However, it may also be determined by the Director themselves.
Soubi Yamamoto’s Meganebu! employed a couple women as enshutsu. Rie Matsumoto’s Kyousogiga had a role for just one other woman, Haruka Kamatani, who gained significant attention from her later work on Go! Princess Precure. (Matsumoto had gained attention from her work on the Precure series, specifically Heartcatch Precure.) There is obviously no obligation for women to hire other women to these roles. It’s also possible that the current pool was limited with staff working on other series, but also simply limited available talent accessible for a given studio.
The most important result is that the Fall 2013 gave (a perhaps arbitrary) 10% baseline. Just two women serving as enshutsu on a one-cour series is above average, and just one makes a show above the median. Some future projects include:
Looking at Studios Specifically:
- Kyoto Animation – the studio is known for its prevalence of women both on staff and in significant positions on staff. If Beyond the Boundary is a poor representation of this, other series should give a clearer picture.
- A-1 Pictures – Specifically in the years 2013 through 2016. It is both possible to find a shift, but also simply that different productions are just hiring different staff given the studios somewhat amorphous nature.
- Diomedea – Though the studio isn’t one of note to most anime fans, 5 of 17 epiosdes in the Fall 2013 season were directed by women.
- Manglobe – The recently bankrupt studio’s sole project Samurai Flamenco had an even higher proportion of female enshutsu than Diomedea, with 4 of 11.
Children’s Anime Marketed Toward Young Girls:
- The Precure franchise – In the time frame, 5 of 11 episodes were directed by women on DokiDoki. Kids shows may have more women, particularly with ones targeted towards girls. Rie Matsumoto also gained fame through this franchise.
- Aikatsu – Because data collection is also an idol activity.
Series Directed by Women:
- Is the three shows this season necessarily representative? To what extent can women in a series director role influence the staff of a series?
Correction 10/25/2016: The data originally misgendered, incorrectly identified, and thus neglected to include Haruka Kamatani (as given wrongly on anidb). Some text and percentages have been modified to reflect this correction.