Japan’s animators see red over pencil crisis

AFP-JIJI

Japan’s usually sedate stationery sector has been rocked by a pencil supply crisis that is drawing a backlash — and panic buying — among architects and animators.

The drama erupted in response to a plan by Mitsubishi Pencil — one of the nation’s oldest stationery makers — to stop producing a line of a dozen colored pencils, sparing only the red version from the chopping block.

The company, which traces its roots back to the 19th century, earlier said the move was in response to weak demand.

But that failed to satisfy pencil-loving architects and the animators behind Japan’s well-known manga cartoons.

In a dramatic turnaround this week, Mitsubishi Pencil said it would keep churning out three key colors — light blue, yellow-green and orange — in addition to its coveted red pencil.

But “we will end production of the other colors by the end of the current year as scheduled”, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Worries over the colored pencil line — first produced in 1971 — saw buyers rush to scoop up existing stock this week.

Major art supply chain Ito-ya’s location in Tokyo’s busy Ginza shopping district had already sold out of eight of the dozen colors on Wednesday, with only brown, pink, white and dark blue still on offer.

Mitsubishi Pencil’s reversal didn’t stop the Japan Animation Creators Association from airing its concerns over a looming supply crunch.

“The inventory of colored pencils is already gone,” it warned on its website.

  • disqus_vBekJrf7g5

    Butter shortage for three years already, better dig in for a long-term lack of red pencils. For the world’s ‘3rd largest economy’ this protectionism isn’t really improving quality of life, is it?

    • Blether

      It’s not even protectionism: if your domestic suppliers can’t fulfil demand, then keeping importers out – to that extent at least – doesn’t protect anything.

      In effect the butter policy is market destructionism – consumers are forced to become accustomed to using other products. Like margarine made from whales hunted by violent Japanese-flag-waving rightists.

      Butter is a necessary staple for preparing French food. That’s it’s becoming more and more difficult to make in Japan, leaves one wondering if this is really a first-world country. Perhaps America, Australia and other nations should work out a way to make soy sauce scarce.

      • disqus_vBekJrf7g5

        I agree. I’ve always felt that the saying ‘Do you want butter or guns?’ applied perfectly to Abe’s remilitarized Japan with chronic shortage of butter. Japan is, beneath the surface, a third world kleptocracy to make Mugabe blush.

    • Blether

      It’s not even protectionism: if your domestic suppliers can’t fulfil demand, then keeping importers out – to that extent at least – doesn’t protect anything.

      In effect the butter policy is market destructionism – consumers are forced to become accustomed to using other products. Like margarine made from whales hunted by violent Japanese-flag-waving rightists.

      Butter is a necessary staple for preparing French food. That’s it’s becoming more and more difficult to make in Japan, leaves one wondering if this is really a first-world country. Perhaps America, Australia and other nations should work out a way to make soy sauce scarce.