a painting and a story of a foreigner.

25 April 2019 ● 3 mins read ● 3 images

This is a photo reference to anime background study I did recently. The reference photo was taken in Toyama-ken after a final interview at an anime studio for a professional animator training program.

Digital Painting:

Reference photo:

Comparison with AI:

As I took the reference photo while walking, I was thinking "do I really want to leave my safe job as a software engineer and jump into the anime industry this early or stay longer and try to build my own path creating anime?". Then I saw that huge X in the sky.

Rather than seeing it as a NO symbol, I saw it as a symbolism for a turning point.

I'm already 25. I used up 2018 going into a dead-end for using machine learning with anime, and now I can finally pause overthinking about the technology to more efficiently make animations. Until further research by experts are completed and technologies mature, I will simply focus on improving my own art and create what I love.

Taking all of these into account, I asked: would I really want to be drawing on paper everyday, working really long hours as expected of the anime industry earning much less than what I have now, or should I stay as a software engineer at a silicon-valley-like startup where I have work-life balance, earning a good enough salary, while building my portfolio with my own anime short films that I have the creative freedom to write and network with people from the industry?

I went with the latter. Or rather, I was forced to. After a few days, I received a 合格 (passing) letter from the studio. I was ready to sign it given that this is my foot in the door, so to speak, but we had a few problems with getting a visa since their training program is not technically a school that can sponsor visa. We did plan for a couple of options, including requesting for remote work with my current company or trying to find a way with immigration. However, after getting passed on to different departments in the Immigration Bureau, it was not possible. I had to mail them that I tried all the options we thought of but unfortunately we can't make it work with the current laws and my foreigner status. Perhaps someday I could try again if I ever get the chance to apply for permanent residency, or even naturalisation, but that would be quite a long time from now.

It felt rather sad having to cancel my resignation with my current company, but at the same time I felt this small relief where another door closed on me so I can focus better on the remaining open doors. I appreciate all their efforts working with me to try to make an exception, especially for me as a foreigner, and will definitely keep in touch with them, but for now it's back to the grinding again, studying the art of Japanese animation and slowly transitioning from engineering.

Life is indeed a journey.

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About Sho

Sho Akiyama

I'm an animator in Tokyo, Japan

Director/Animator with CS/ML background

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