And sadly, there’s a chance they may never get paid.

Making anime is a tough job in a highly competitive field, and not every artist or organization in the industry will stick round forever. Still, it’s pretty weird for a studio to basically disappear, but that’s what seemed to happen with Tokyo-based Tear Studio earlier this month, as both unpaid artists and even business partners couldn’t get in touch with anyone from the studio.

However, Tear Studio has now suddenly resurfaced, though sadly only to announce the company’s demise. Tokyo Shoko Research reports that Tear has submitted its bankruptcy paperwork to its lawyer, who will be formally filing it later this month. Meanwhile, roughly 50 workers, including animators, remain unpaid for their work, and depending on how the bankruptcy proceedings go, could possibly never receive compensation.

For those wondering how Tear’s temporary vanishing act was possible, most anime studios don’t maintain a large permanent staff, but instead keep the number of full-time employees as small as possible. The employee ranks swell with contractors once the studio gets hired to produce an anime, then contract again once the project is done. Tear was operating normally up until the end of November, with its latest work, Fragtime, starting its theatrical screenings on November 22, and it wasn’t until a contractor tweeted about not yet being paid that the general public realized the company had gone dark.


According to Tokyo Shoko Research, Next Batters’ Circle, the official name of the company to which Tear Studio belongs, owes about 8 million yen (US$74,000) in unpaid workers’ fees. However, that figure is dwarfed by the approximately 43 million yen (nearly US$400,000) in debt Tear owes to its creditors. Depending on how the bankruptcy proceedings shake out, it’s possible that creditors will be ruled to have priority over the unpaid contractors, which would leave them with no viable way of getting the money they were promised by Tear.

Next Batters’ Circle, which has a facility in Sendai in addition to its main Tokyo studio, says that its situation was caused by rising labor costs, which eventually outstripped the payments it was receiving to produce anime. However, another startling figure in Tokyo Shoko Research’s report is that Next Batters’ Circle was founded in 2013 with just 500,000 yen (US$4,630) of capital. Starting a company with barely enough money to buy a couple big-screen TVs seems like an incredibly flimsy safety net, and was likely contributed to the company taking on a huge amount of debt when operating costs ended up being higher than it had anticipated.

Source: Tokyo Shoko Research via Livedoor News via Otakomu
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