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Breaking into the industry: How to start a career in anime

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Anime has firmly made it into mainstream American culture. Indeed, Crunchyroll had more than 45 million registered users by 2019, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have ever-increasing catalogs of anime on their menus. If you’re eager to be part of the anime revolution, you might be wondering how you can break into the industry. The majority of anime work is based in Japan, but it’s possible to land a job in America with a careful strategy and realistic expectations.

Decide on your focus and get sideways experience

Anime is a broad area, encompassing a number of different career paths. Because of the levels of competition, it’s vital that you can demonstrate your skills in a specific area. The first step is to take an inventory of your skills, talents and qualifications, and look at how you can apply these to the anime industry. New York, California and Texas are hotspots for work in media production, translation, voice acting and marketing, so search these areas to get an idea of the types of work available.

In any area of the entertainment industry, working your way up from the bottom is generally considered the most secure path to success. If you’re interested in media production in anime, for example, get experience in a similar role in a less competitive niche to gain the relevant experience. You might look at media production for a local news show, in this case. If your degree’s in Japanese and you’re interested in a role in translation, however, a trip to Japan should be on the cards: employers will look favorably on someone who has experience of the culture.

Prepare your portfolio 

You’ll then need to prepare your resume and build a portfolio. Industry professionals will want to see samples of your work as well as a clear and focused document outlining your skills, experience and education. It’s worth taking the time to learn how to create a concise and professional resume: you’re entering a highly competitive market, so it’s essential that you stand out from your competitors. 

Your portfolio, meanwhile, could include original anime scripts, manga samples or professional articles: anything that shows off your skill in the area you want to work in. One of America’s most successful anime artists, Henry Thurlow, has talked of the importance of his portfolio as a constantly changing document, one that he honed after every job he applied to. The importance of your resume and portfolio can’t be overstated: it will be key to marking you out from your competitors.

Networking is key

Once you have a solid resume and portfolio under your belt, you need to get it seen as much as possible. This is a good excuse to head to every convention you can get to, aiming to present it to industry professionals. Keep an eye on your local comic book store too, or if you live near an anime business, try to arrange a meeting. This will not only give you the opportunity to present your portfolio, but it may open your eyes to workshops and experience opportunities, and you may be able to gather some helpful advice.

The anime industry is highly competitive, but with patience and perseverance, it’s possible to break in. Take small steps, gathering relevant experience in other niches and taking time to build a detailed resume and portfolio, and then look for every opportunity to get it seen by industry professionals. It’s a competitive industry, but it’s not impossible to find a place within it.

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Jane Sandwood

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