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Netflix called out by anime fans for using AI to address 'labor shortage'
Featured Image Credit: Netflix Japan/Twitter

Netflix called out by anime fans for using AI to address 'labor shortage'

The streaming platform has come under fire following its use of artificial intelligence

Netflix Japan has come under fire after claiming to have used artificial intelligence to help create anime programmes.

The platform took to Twitter with the news last week, explaining the choice was due to 'labor shortages'.

But it didn't go down well with anime fans, who are now hitting back at the streaming giant.

The tweet came as the streamer shared the news of the release of an anime short titled Dog and The Boy.

The tweet has since racked up over 2.7 million views.

Just over three minutes long, the short follows the journey of exactly what it says on the tin - a dog and a boy.

With some eye-catching visuals and use of colour, the anime appears to be an impressive piece of work.

However, in the caption, Netflix Japan revealed the short was 'an experimental effort' engineered as means to 'help the anime industry'.

The translated tweet reads: "'Dog and The Boy', a short, is a collaboration between Netflix Anime Creators Base, rinna [an AI-generated artwork company], and WIT STUDIO."

It continued: "As an experimental effort to help the anime industry, which has a labour shortage, we used image generation technology for the background images of all three-minute video cuts!"

Effectively, the stunning background visuals are not the work of anime artists but are AI-generated paintings instead.

The platform used image generation technology for the background images.
Netflix Japan/Twitter

Netflix Japan's official website reveals that production for Dog and The Boy began last year.

It reads: "We challenged the joint development of animation background image generation tools in parallel with animation production.

"We experimented to see if the latest technology could be used to assist anime background art production."

Commenting on the challenges of anime production, Hirotsugu Tanaka, director of photography for the short, said he wanted to think of a way to 'give creators time to do creative work'.

A scene in the anime short.
Netflix Japan/Twitter

At the end of the three-minute short, the credit sequence shows the steps taken to have AI generate a background.

Outlining four main steps, Netflix shows the hand-drawn 'Layout' slide - the first piece of work created by a human artist in the process.

The layout is first drawn by hand.
Netflix Japan/Twitter

The second step is called 'AI generation' in which a bot produces a rendition of the original hand-drawn background.

AI then generates an image off the hand-drawn one.
Netflix Japan/Twitter

The third is also called 'AI generation' but sees the background slightly tweaked to fit more in line with the anime style.

The image is then revised by AI.
Netflix Japan/Twitter

The final step shows the background being 'Revised by hand' as a human artist comes back into the process to finish off the job.

An artist rejoins the process at the end.
Netflix Japan/Twitter

Throughout the entire sequence, the background designer is credited as 'AI +Human'.

The news drew criticism from anime fans all over.

After over two million views, it's no surprise that there were thousands of people eager to share their thoughts on the short.

One Twitter user wrote: "Labour shortages? The future looks bleak. Let’s agree that human beings aren’t disposable or optional."

"Just say you stole artists work through an AI generation and then claimed a labour shortage," said another.

Production demonstration of background art.
Netflix Japan

A third said they 'can't support' a project in which people's livelihoods were 'cut in favour of AI for a quick buck'.

"Anything to avoid paying people," another added, "just to turn around and blame not hiring on a mythical 'shortage'".

Referring to the controversial credits in which the background artists have just been dubbed as '+ Human', another Twitter user wrote: "So... you're just NOT gonna credit whoever did the hand-drawn parts of the background?"

A final person commented: "I'm going to actively tell others not to support this. Pay your animators and stop using AI as a cheap way to replace actual talent."

UNILAD has contacted Netflix for comment.

Topics: Film and TV, Netflix, Anime, Technology