Netflix’s AI Anime Credits An Artist As ‘Human,’ Gets Roasted
Screenshot: Netflix / Kotaku
The anime community has been plagued by controversy over AI-generated imagery. Today, Netflix has joined the hot new trend of going online for terrible AI takes. The streaming platform didn’t just produce a commercial project with AI, it tried to justify it by citing the “labour shortage” in the anime industry. The artists didn’t take this bullshit at face value, and they weren’t silent either.
Dog and Boy is an anime film created by Netflix Japan and Wit Studio (which produced Ranking of Kings and co-hosted Spy x Family). According to a translation by Vice, Netflix Japan tweeted: “As part of an experimental effort to help the anime industry, which is short of manpower, we have used image generation technology to the background images of all three-minute video sequences!
The production credits list AI as co-creators of background art and music. Before clicking “play”, I would like to clarify one thing: it doesn’t matter if the resulting video is good or bad. One of the richest anime producers in the world chose not to employ at least two living artists to create the film, and that’s not great for the future of animation. Or artists as workers and community.
Worse still, the artist who had to hold the AI doesn’t seem credited at all. The background designer is credited as “AI (+Human)”. Um, I’m pretty sure the human has a real name. So not only was Netflix Japan experimenting with ethically questionable technology, they were showing exactly how little respect they have for live background painters. If Japan lacks animators, it’s because the industry pays freelancers a pittance to draw pictures by hand.
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In Japan, artists’ salaries have not increased with the cost of living, making it impossible for some to survive in the industry. Even then, companies continually find ways to underpay their employees. Despite huge success, the studio behind the film Promare and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners was forced to settle with its own staff for unpaid overtime. If artists don’t want to work, it’s probably because they can’t afford it.
Netflix could have easily solved this problem with a higher salary. Instead, it tries to remove some artists altogether. Kotaku reached out to ask Netflix about the specific challenges they have with recruiting human artists, but did not receive a response as of press time.
On Twitter, artists and creators are, as the kids like to say, “beat Netflix’s ass in quote retweets.” A Netflix showrunner wrote: “Not to be proud of girls.” Even an artificial intelligence engineer has offered to introduce Netflix to animators looking for work while chastising the company for not “looking very harsh”. The quote retweets are filled with people demanding higher pay for animators, which warms even my cold, cynical heart.
“You want everything for free, but we need money to live,” tweeted a Japanese cartoonist. “And a lot of work that can worsen our health”