In 2001, writer Douglas McGray dubbed Japan "a cultural superpower," coining the phrase "gross national cool" to describe the incredible influence Japanese entertainment then enjoyed throughout the world. Less than ten years later, this hip facade seems to be cracking. Precious few Japanese anime shows air on American television. Anonymous complaints from anime industry insiders incensed at atrocious pay and working conditions continue to mount. And even the Japanese Fair Trade Commission has gotten into the mix, releasing a scathing report of the problems facing animation companies. Can the anime industry save itself? Read on for a rundown of the current state of affairs in the Japanese anime industry as of 2009.
--According to a 2005 report by JETRO, the Japan External Trade Organization, the anime industry represents a 207 billion yen (roughly two billion USD) a year domestic market. Yet two-thirds of people in the anime industry make less than 3,000,000 yen (roughly $30,000) per year. One-fourth make less than 1,000,000 yen ($10,000) per year. A quarter of the industry toils significantly below the poverty line.