If the bottom line is profit, AI image generators are the perfect scabs.
For whatever reason, Netflix Japan's official Twitter account thought it was a good idea to proudly proclaim that one of its newest animated shorts, called "Dog & The Boy," was produced using AI-generated imagery.
That's already bound to draw the ire of fans, but Netflix made the fatal error of explicitly noting in the tweet that its Anime Creators Base, a Japan-based hub that hosts artists dedicated to churning out anime, used AI in response to the industry's supposed "labor shortage."
"As an experimental effort to help the anime industry, which has a labor shortage, we used image generation technology for the background images of all three-minute video cuts!" the company wrote.
Netflix アニメ・クリエイターズ・ベース×技術開発のrinna株式会社×WIT STUDIOによる共同プロジェクトアニメ『犬と少年』のショートムービー。
— Netflix Japan | ネットフリックス (@NetflixJP) January 31, 2023
Dog in the Fight
The AI was supplied by Rinna, an AI company with an office in Tokyo, according to a press release. WIT Studio, which produced hit series including "Attack On Titan" and "Vinland Saga," also collaborated — an eerie sign of anime heavyweights flirting with the technology.
Watch the promotional video, and there's definitely an ominous undertone to cutesy, sappy bullshit like this being used to show off an AI image generator that the company more or less tacitly admitted took someone's job. Sorry, but not even an adorable dog and a wide-eyed anime boy cycling through dreamlike arrays of sakuras will help let this stuff slide.
And if you manage to suffer through the whole thing and reach the end, that's when Netflix really rubs the AI in. It shows an example background that started off as a hand-drawn layout. Then, through two different stages, it gets touched up via AI generation, before being manually revised in the final stage. To be perfectly frank, it looks like garbled trash.
But the most insulting cherry on top is that the credits list the background designer as simply "AI (+Human)."
As Vice notes, claims of a "labor shortage" are dubious at best. The anime industry in Japan is notorious for its demanding, stress-inducing (and sometimes deadly) schedule and insultingly poor pay, earning as little as $200 per month. Even some top animators take home less than $3,800 a month, despite anime's ludicrous earnings and popularity.
The reality is that there's no shortage of willing animators, but a shortage of those willing to toil under such miserable conditions. And unfortunately, to studios whose sole bottom line is profit, AI image generators are the perfect scabs.
More on AI image generators: Anime Fans In Japan Are Not Happy With AI-Generated Manga
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