Women in the anime industry face sexism. This should come as no surprise to anyone. What can be disappointing to know is that Studio Ghibli, known for its strong heroines, is not sure that a woman can be a director. Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura said in a interview 2016 when asked about female directors that “women tend to be more realistic and handle everyday life very well.” Men, on the other hand, tend to be more idealistic – and fantasy films need that idealistic approach. coincidentally, men are chosen.
Unfortunately for Mr. Nishimura, the women in the anime industry today are proving him wrong. Whether they’ve been in the business for years or just started, female directors create incredible work – all the more incredible for the extra struggle they have to go through to get there.
A director’s path may differ somewhat due to available opportunities and work environments. Female directors often work for years or decades under other directors, scripting or directing individual episodes. There are usually some projects and studios where these women intersect, such as Kyoto Animation, which has a number of female directors, writers, and writers.
A perfect example is Naoko Yamada, who made K-On!, A silent voice and Liz and the blue bird, all with Kyoto Animation. She’s now trying a different style with the fall 2021 anime Heike’s story with the Science SARU studio. This show is about war as witnessed by blind girl Biwa, who travels as a musician and has the ability to see the future. It will be exciting to see how Yamada achieves this with the studio that produced Devilman crybaby and Don’t mess with Eizouken.
While Yamada has had several opportunities for achievement in quick succession, this is not always the case. Sayo Yamamoto waited years for his chance, serving as storyboarder and assistant director for many projects before directing Michiko and Hatchin in 2008. However, Yamamoto’s dominant breakthrough as a director could be considered to take place in 2016 with the premiere of Yuri !!! on the ice, the intensely popular sports anime.
The show was a true passion project and took years to come to fruition. Yamamoto first entered the short film Endless night at the Japan Animator Expo 2015 to show how she could create a show about figure skating, but there still seemed to be a lot of hesitation about the possible success of the show given its late time slot, which would not normally have attracted a lot of viewers.
This wait between projects is nothing new for female directors. Rie Matsumoto participated in the PreCure series for years before 2015, when she was able to direct Blood Blockade Battlefront, Studio Bones’ horrific shounen track that’s almost as far removed from PreCure as possible.
Dedication to a single show such as PreCure is nothing new for these directors; it is a good method for making connections and gaining valuable experience. Kotomi Deai is best known for her work over several seasons of Natsume’s Book of Friends. Ai Yoshimura worked as an episode director for Gintama for many seasons and also directed Ao Haru walk and Well done Danshi. Noriko Takao was the talent behind Holy Young Men, but stayed with the Idol @ ster series in several different roles. Kotomi Deai works as a storyboarder and episode director under Sayo Yamamoto for Michiko and Hatchin is a perfect example of female directors crossing paths and using their previous experience to later secure a position as chief director.
Of course, there are also a few exceptional cases of female directors who seem to come out of nowhere, and in a way that makes their talent impossible to ignore. Atsuko Ishizuka was interested in music and graphics, not anime, and went to school to study these areas. However, his short animated videos set to music have caught the attention of the anime industry. his video Gravitation was featured at an international film festival, which prompted studio Madhouse to contact her with an offer.
In 2004, Ishizuka did his first professional job, The Waltz of the Moon. She continued to perform with Madhouse, including No game no life in 2014. His last animated series is A place beyond the universe, which aired in 2018 – a very impressive career trajectory for someone who has done AMVs for their own enjoyment before.
Soubi Yamamoto is another young director who has made her mark in the industry, mainly with a series of OVAs that capture the feeling of a new generation. Yamamoto delves into LGBTQ relationships that explore life beyond romance, and his characters often display signs of depression and anxiety that viewers can relate to deeply.
In addition to directing Méganebu! With TOHO Animation in 2013, Yamamoto was largely under his own direction, writing and directing his OVAs and series, including That boy caught a newt, This boy is a professional wizard and This boy is suffering from crystallization. The last title is an excellent synthesis of the stories that Yamamoto tells. In this OVA, a high school student discovers that he begins to crystallize when stressed, which only increases the crystallization. This interesting and relevant portrayal of stress and anxiety communicates the struggles of mental illness and the stigma against it. Time will tell if Soubi Yamamoto will continue to work independently or agree to start directing with an established studio.
What future for female directors? Several of the directors of this article have works scheduled for release soon. Ice adolescence, the film companion of Yuri !!! on the ice, will be released in the next few years, and Atsuko Ishizuka will lead the 2022 project Goodbye, Don Glees!, about which we still know little. After Heike’s story, it will be interesting to see if Naoko Yamada decides to work more with Science SARU or has another studio that she would like to partner with.
Having Rei Matsumoto in the chair for another show like Blood Blockade Battlefront would be amazing, and the end of Gintama in 2021 could give Ai Yoshimura the chance to lead a new project in the near future. Atsuko Ishizuka hasn’t directed an anime since 2018, so it would make sense for an anime announcement with her as a director to appear soon. Meanwhile, Soubi Yamamoto is certainly a name to watch as she continues to build her own brand.
Whether they’re industry veterans or relatively newbies, all of these women have proven they have what it takes to make great anime. In the meantime, the women who will be making their directorial debuts in five or ten years are storyboarding and working as episode directors, bringing together the experience and connections they’ll need to break into the industry as directors. chief themselves.
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