Animator “Komata Shojiki” has his name in the credits, but that’s not actually a name.

Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki once criticized the anime industry for being full of otaku, but there’s a pretty good reason for that: it’s an incredibly tough industry to make a living in. Wages are low and hours are long, so if you didn’t have an intense affinity for the medium itself, odds are you’d never even look for a job in anime production.

The difficult working conditions Japanese animators work under have come into sharper focus in the modern era, where an unprecedented amount of anime is being made and the vast majority of it airing in weekly TV format. Mercilessly tight deadlines and stretched-thin staff mean that every season there’s at least one TV series that’s limping along as a parade of artwork errors and animation mistakes, and this season it’s My Sister, My Writer (or Ore ga Suki na no ha Imoto Dakedo Imoto ja nai, as it’s titled in Japanese) that’s filling that role in spectacular fashion.

Centering on a teenager who acts as the public front for his light novel-writing younger sister (who rose to popularity by writing a story about a girl who’s intensely devoted to her big brother), My Sister, My Writer might have just been one more otaku-oriented naughty romantic comedy seasoned by anime’s continuing fascination with brother-sister incest. However, instead of getting lost in the crowd My Sister, My Writer has inadvertently found a way to stand out: laughably distracting off-model art.

▼ All of those guys in the outer squares are supposed to be the same character (male lead Yu).

The characters’ oddly flat faces, vapid expressions, and unfocused eyes have generated as much chatter among anime fans as anything else related to the show, with screen captures regularly flying around Twitter.

Then there are the truly terrifying screw-ups, like when little sister Suzuka’s mouth rips away from the rest of her face as she’s speaking.

When things like this happen, it’s usually not because the artists are physically incapable of drawing any better. There’s a certain bare-minimum level of artistic talent you have to have in order to land a job in the anime industry. The culprit, more often, is a lack of time. The episode has to be finished by its air date, and if there aren’t enough people to handle the job well, it’s up to the few animators who are available to just get it done, paring down the amount of time they put into each line enough so that the show can at least have something to use as the visuals it needs to get through the scene.

How bad are things for the My Sister, My Writer staff? With the anime still currently airing, it’s too early for staff interviews, and in general, Japanese professionals avoid bad-mouthing their former colleagues and employers, so it’s unlikely we’ll ever hear a juicy tell-all. But we can say for sure that the production team for My Sister, My Writer is having a hard time of it, because they secretly told us so themselves.

During the credits of the most recent My Sister, My Writer episode, which aired on Wednesday, viewers spotted an unusual name in the credits. As underlined in the above tweet, one of the animators is listed in Japanese as 正直困太, but that’s not really a name.

The first two kanji characters, 正直, are actually a regular Japanese vocabulary word, read shojiki and meaning “honestly” or “truly.” The remaining kanji, 困太, aren’t a name either, nor are they a vocabulary word, but combined as they are they’d be pronounced komata, which is just a slight modification of komatta, which means “to be in a difficult situation.”

In other words, the credits for My Sister, My Writer’s newest episode contain the message “We’re in serious trouble.”

It’s not clear if this is purely a message to viewers, perhaps as a plea for fans’ understanding or forgiveness, or if it’s a pseudonym adopted by an animator who was brought on to pinch hit and get the episode out the door, but in order to do so had to turn in such rough artwork that he didn’t want his real name associated with it. Either way, though, it’s a sign that viewers probably shouldn’t expect any significant quality surge for My Sister, My Writer’s remaining four episodes.

Source: Twitter/@Ly_Su_ via Hachima Kiko, Twitter/@mad_yn
Featured image: Twitter/@CotetuLgoon

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he wishes there’d been more time to animate the final fight scene in the first Fatal Fury anime.