Keisuke Iwata, president of Japanese TV network AT-X, recently discussed the likelihood of a transition to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in anime production. Speaking from decades of experience in the industry during a talk at Tokyo’s Digital Hollywood University, he went as far as to say, “It is fully conceivable that anime production processes may be completely replaced by AI”. Having worked as a producer on many renowned anime titles, including Pokémon, Prince of Tennis and Shaman King, Iwata went on to express his beliefs that AI could not only replace manual anime production, but also replicate the styles of famous anime creators.
Rembrandt’s art style was recreated last year, all using AI analysis of the artist’s 346 known works. The result of The Next Rembrandt AI project, a collaboration between companies such as Microsoft and Dutch bank ING, was a brand new work in the painter’s style (as shown below). It is therefore entirely possible for this process of deep learning, based on algorithms modelling abstract data, to be applied to any art style – for instance, Hideaki Anno’s. Analysis of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shin Godzilla and other works would produce an “Anno-style” imitation. All the detail that is currently synonymous with hours of human effort would be perfectly recreated, and could be used to create all-new works in his style.
Iwata even believes that AI will eventually be up to competing with humans in the arena of creativity. “AI is already starting to encroach on the area of creation,” he said. “It seems AI will be able to support things like character design, storyboards, art design, backgrounds, sound production, and colour setting. Unlike AI, 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 fall behind AI].”
Workers in the anime industry often suffer from low wages and poor working conditions, the level and length of hard work involved drastically opposed to artists’ pay per hour. A 2015 report published by the Japan Animation Creators Association stated that animators earned US$28,000 on average in Japan in 2013, entry-level animators earning as little as US$9,200 per year. With the industry already struggling to provide for such a vast number of human workers, AI replacement may well be seen as the most realistic solution. But in a world where the virtual is holding greater sway on our reality day to day, can this concept really be shocking any more?