If you’ve been an anime fan since the 90’s (or even the 80’s) then you’re already familiar with how it became so popular today. The art style, the direction, the animation, the complex stories, and the character development all encompass what the foundation of anime is for many fans of the genre. Many fans who are products of the 80’s and 90’s remember an era where it was rather expensive to buy dubbed episodes of your favorite titles of that time. In fact; if you wanted to get the first dubbed season of Dragon Ball, you had to by a set of 12 bricks (VHS tapes for Gen Z’ers who don’t know what ‘bricks’ are) that only had 2 or 3 episodes on each for $150. 2000’s kids will never have to do that now; for that exact same price, and possibly even less (maybe a third), you can get every dubbed and subbed season of Dragon Ball Z (or Kai if you want the 100% ‘true-to-the-manga’ version).
This may come as a shock to those who don’t know this, but…dubs are EXPENSIVE! Now, if you didn’t think that came as a surprise, then allow us to give you an even greater FYI. Anime…is EXPENSIVE to make! Yeah, how’s that for a surprise?
Ever heard of the phrase ‘You get out what you put in?’, yeah, that goes for Hollywood movies and Anime production. Creating Manga is one thing, but producing an anime adaptation based on its source material (the manga), is a whole other monster. The process that goes into adapting your favorite titles into anime form is more layered than you think. (Contrary to popular belief, there are those within the social media world that believe it is ‘easy’ to produce anime. To that we say…try making your own Sourdough bread and get back to us with your results!)
For this post; we’ll be going over how much it costs to produce one episode of your favorite anime title, the overall cost to make a season, and the phases that need to happen. (We’ll be going by the U.S. equivalent of Yen, so feel free to translate how much it costs in Japan.)
The Cost of 60 Seconds of 2D Animation
For anybody that’s taken animation courses, the animation part of the overall process is done in frames to simulate an action (or actions) that are taking place. This is also the part where the animators can get the most creative. If you’ve heard the word ‘FPS’ (no, not First Person Shooter) then you may have seen it whenever you render videos for Youtube. For anime in this case; it’s rendered between 24 and 30 frames per second, but for this post we’re gonna say 30 frames per second. There are 60 seconds in a minute, and with an FPS of 30, its 30 x 60 = 1800 frames per minute.
What about the cost you ask? For just 60 seconds of video, the average cost is $6000. We’re not making that up; it actually COSTS $6000 to make just ONE minute of anime! If you divide 6000 by 60, it costs $100 to make 30 frames of animation – and we haven’t even factored in the time it takes to do this! (We’ll get to that soon enough.)
The Overall Cost Of One Anime Season
So 1800 frames of a 60-second animation costs an average of $6000 (depending on the studio), so how much does it cost to produce a 23-24 minute episode? Take that $6000 and multiply it by 24, and you’re looking at $144,000; or if you multiply it by 23 you’ll get $138,000. Depending on the studio you’re looking at between $100,000-$300,000 per episode. For every 43,200 frames of animation, it costs $144,000. (Or $138,000 for 41,400 frames of animation.) You want 12 episodes? That’ll be between $1.6 Million-$1.7 Million, and in some cases up to $3.6 Million if the season is 24 episodes; the equivalent of two 12-episode runs. We’re surprised your wallet hasn’t killed you yet! XP
That number is double or triple if you’re producing an anime movie between 90-150 minutes long.
The Production Phases
Ok, we covered the money…but what about the time? Well there’s phases in the production process that have to happen before the money for said production can even be kicked out. First is the Concept Phase. You need a base or a foundation for the characters, right? Well it all starts here. The artists will create character concepts of what they want the character to look like, move like, and what their mood will be like. They then go through testing animations to get an overall feel of the character before they do a ‘final draft’ design. Sad thing about this phase is; it’s where most projects end…but not all the time.
Survived the first phase? Then the Storyboard Phase is next! This is where the ‘action’ happens as the cuts and story composition as a reference for every animation. You know all the backgrounds for all the action, rom-com, isekai, and fantasy anime titles you like? Well, this is the phase where it all comes together.
Now onto Phase 3; the Animation Phase. This. Is. The. Phase. That. Takes. The. Most. Time! Most fans get annoyed when other ‘fans’ complain about the animation of a series, but their response to that is ‘If you think it’s so easy, why don’t you try it!’ The lead artists will create the keyframes; then with the missing gaps in between, the animators will draw in the frames leading into the next keyframe the main artists have set. (Don’t forget the lip flaps, because those have to be animated too.)
Finally comes Phase 4; the Cutting Phase. All of the scenes are cut together with the colors corrected, the music produced, and the voice actors with their lines already recorded. We haven’t even factored in the cost of music and voice acting; especially if you want professionals, but this is the phases of the process in a nutshell. As for the time this process takes, you’re looking at between a couple of weeks to a few months. (A lot of studios have deadlines, so you also gotta factor that in too!)
So Big Spender, you can’t say making anime is easy, can ya? This is just the cost of producing the anime you love so much, and we haven’t even gotten into the promotional and advertisement costs, IP copyright laws and protections, overseas distribution, English-dubbing, musical composition royalties, ADR, broadcast streaming and home video release rights. ALL of this goes into the process of creating the anime that you love, and how are they able to recoup the cost? You basically BUY THEIR PRODUCTS! (Prints, Blu-Rays, DVDs, anime figures, apparel, official art books, etc.)
The next time some troll on the interweebs tells you that they think its ‘easy’ to make anime, direct them to this post and tell them to make their own Sourdough bread and post the results. Anime’s expensive, but with such a high demand for it worldwide, we don’t see it dying off anytime soon – no matter how expensive it is to make.
That will do it for this post, so until next time, stay nerdy! 😉