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Japanese Anime Artists Band Together to Save Colored Pencils

When word broke out that a major colored-pencil manufacturer would stop selling a variety of pencils preferred by anime artists, the Japan Animation Creators Association got its members organized. The strategy worked—partially.

In case you need a reminder that there’s an association for everything, this story should do the trick.

Recently, the Japan Animation Creators Association (JaniCA), a trade group for professional animators of anime, posted an emergency call on its website. The problem? The Mitsubishi Pencil Company, which produces the colored pencils favored among animators, announced that it would stop producing all but the standard red pencil.

The pencils have a bit of a cult following among anime artists, noted Casey Baseel, a writer for the Japanese-to-English news translation site RocketNews24.

“There’s probably a bit of home-country favoritism in that choice, but thousands of satisfied customers can’t be totally wrong, and some studios have even made them the designated pencils that must be used in tasks such as checking and correcting animation sequences,” he explained.

The association’s Daisuke Okeda, in a statement, noted that the situation is more dire than it might sound to an outsider.

“The impact on animation studios is not small. Most artists use that pencil. We have not yet verified if there are any replacement products we can use,” Okeda said, according to Anime News Network.

JaniCAlaunched a petition to convince the pencil-maker, whose history dates back more than 125 years, to reconsider its decision. The move quickly proved successful, but only partially.

On Tuesday, Mitsubishi Pencil announced it will reverse course on some, but not all, of the pencils scheduled to go off the market. In particular, it will keep its popular light blue, yellow-green, and orange colors on the market, along with red. But the company told AFP that the other colors don’t stand a chance.

“We will end production of the other colors by the end of the current year as scheduled,” the spokesman said.

The decision by the pencil-maker in some ways had little to do with the world of anime. The stationery industry in Japan has seen steep decline due to the growing popularity of digital options for illustration and coloring. The Financial Times [subscription] also explained that with lower birth rates in Japan, fewer colored pencils are being sold to children, the company’s traditional base.

Now, artists, despite the slight reversal, are doing their best to buy up the remaining stocks of the colored pencils—just in case.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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