New system could start as early as next year, making it easier for foreigners with anime aspirations to get their foot in the door.

Anime is Japan’s biggest youth-oriented cultural export, and a love for the medium is a contributing factor in many foreign students’ decision to study in the country. But while certain anime characters practically never age, in the real world we eventually finish school and have to find grown-up jobs.

This puts foreign students who came to Japan to study animation production in a bit of a bind. Under the current system, transitioning from a Japanese educational visa to a work visa requires that the applicant’s would-be job be related to the knowledge and skills that they acquired while studying in Japan. For example, as reported by, if a student came to Japan to study fashion design, then secured a job as a designer or in apparel product planning, their visa application should go pretty smoothly. However, there’s an additional stipulation that the job has to make significant use of the applicant’s acquired-in-Japan education, and so a student who studied fashion design would face difficulties getting a work visa for a position that involved physical clothing production, such as cutting and sewing fabric.

Many educational courses for those hoping to work in the anime industry focus on skills such as art design and animation direction, since those are the specializations where the glory (and the money) are. However, those coveted positions on the production team aren’t handed out to fresh-faced newbies. Most starting jobs in the anime business are extremely low-level, grunt-work gigs. In-betweening, the process of drawing the transitional poses between other artists’ illustrations to make their characters move more smoothly, is one of the most common tasks, but since it’s not specifically what students were trained to do, it often won’t qualify them for a work visa.

A culture of paying your dues by doing basic, routine tasks until you’ve demonstrated sufficient reliability and work ethic is something that happens in just about every professional field, but some argue that it’s particularly pronounced within the anime industry. In response, this month the Japanese government is launching a study to determine the feasibility of loosening the requirements of just how tightly connected anime job tasks must be to a foreign student’s Japan-acquired education.

Currently, visas can be granted if the “training period,” in which the work is loosely related to the applicants’ specific anime-related education, lasts only a few months. Pending the results of the study, though, the government is considering extending that period to one year, or perhaps even two, with the revised requirements possibly going into effect as soon as 2018.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/ via Otakomu
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