Netflix has been criticized for using AI art in an anime instead of hiring artists

Netflix is ​​being severely criticized on social media for using artificial intelligence to create anime instead of paying real human artists. Which, fair.

Released by Netflix this week, The dog and the boy(Opens in a new window) is a three-minute sci-fi anime short about a boy whose robotic dog is waiting for him when he goes to war. It’s not a unique story(Opens in a new window)but what makes this anime stand out is that its background art is made with AI and not drawn by humans.

After pictures shown during The dog and the boy‘s credits, a human would hand-draw a relatively rough layout of what he wanted. This image was then run through an AI art generator a number of times before finally being reworked by hand to create the final artwork used in the anime.

It is unclear who exactly did this work The dog and the boy does not name her. Instead, it simply lists its background designer as “AI (+Human)”. However, it lists Rinna Co., Lt. as his AI development company.

in one Tweet from Netflix Japan(Opens in a new window)the company has reportedly characterized its use of AI art generation in The dog and the boy‘s production as an experiment(Opens in a new window) is intended to alleviate an alleged labor shortage in the anime industry. This has prompted a quick and furious response from Twitter users, who claim there is no labor shortage – just a shortage of companies willing to provide decent working conditions(Opens in a new window) and a living wage(Opens in a new window). The median median income for top anime talent in 2019 was reportedly just $36,000, while those further down the line can earn as little as $200 per month.


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Netflix Japan’s post now has thousands of quote retweets and replies, with the general consensus being that using AI art generation as a substitute for human artists to use polite language is terrible. AI art creation has been a contentious issue in recent months, with artists concerned about issues of copyright, theft and job losses. Unfortunately, Netflix’s latest move seems to have substantiated those fears.

The potential ramifications of Netflix’s AI experiment seem even more ominous given that American studio Netflix Animation has laid off 30 employees(Opens in a new window) last September to streamline production.

Mashable has reached out to Netflix for comment.

The dog and the boy was produced by the Netflix Anime Creators’ Base(Opens in a new window), while anime studios Production IG and Wit Studio provided support. Dubbed the “Community Space” at the time of its launch in 2021, the Netflix Anime Creators’ Base was originally intended to bolster Netflix’s anime offering by developing concept art to support studios in pre-production.

“From this space, we want to promote best practices and high production standards to equip creators with the necessary tools and resources for anime production over time,” Netflix said at the time.

Last year it was reported that Netflix’s Japan division failed to report a profit of 1.2 billion yen ($9.3 million) over three years(Opens in a new window). As a result, Netflix was hit with around 300 million yen ($2.3 million) in additional taxes, including the amount the company initially failed to disclose.

Labor shortages aside, it certainly sounds like Netflix has more than enough resources to hire a few background artists, pay them a decent wage, and actually list them by name in the credits.

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