Keisuke Iwata, president of anime network AT-X voiced a controversial opinion about anime production while speaking at Tokyo’s Digital Hollywood University:
“It’s fully conceivable that anime production processes maybe completely replaced by a.i.”
This is a huge view from one of anime’s most successful producers; Iwata was behind series like Fushigi Yugi, Pokemon, and The Prince of Tennis. He believes that A.I. could replace humans in manual production processes, like drawing in-between frames or digital coloring.
Due to advances in A.I. technology, we may not be far off from this future. Microsoft and Dutch bank ING collaborated on an A.I. that could mimic 17th-century artist Rembrandt’s style. Google has also been working on a program called Magenta, which can create art and music.
There are some basic A.I. art programs available for consumers to use as well. PaintsChainer can instantly color art for you and Sketch Simplification can turn sketches into line art. It is possible that anime studios could use similar programs to streamline the production process for in-betweening and background designs.
Iwata would go on to say, “A.I. is already starting to encroach on the area of creation. It seems A.I. will be able to support things like character design, storyboards, art design, backgrounds, sound production, and color setting. Unlike A.I., humans have a ‘function that can forget’ and can continue to evolve with use of the brain. If you continue to discipline your brain, you should be able to demonstrate creativity that won’t lose to AI.”
Instead of eradicating low-level positions, it comes off that Iwata would like to see studios use A.I. to help ease the production burden. The anime industry has a reputation for high burn out and below-poverty level pay. But, if the industry can’t fix work conditions or pay level for low-level positions, they may have no choice but to turn to A.I. since the talent pool is shrinking.
There are many people, like Hayao Miyazaki, who feel that the human experience is what makes art special. We’ll have to see if further advances in A.I. technology will change that view, or if the industry will be forced to accept A.I. as members of the anime production team.