Summer 2020’s anime season is a rare beast in that the average person could conceivably sample every new show. Such a feat usually requires superhuman levels of free time — 2019’s summer season featured, by one count, 33 new TV shows, while 2020, by comparison, boasts a “mere” 17.
It’d be nice to say this consolidation was due to some industry-wide “quality over quantity” epiphany, but the real cause of this year’s compact summer season is — you guessed it — COVID-19.
You’d think that animation production would be unaffected by the pandemic — unlike live-action shows, there are no sets populated with cast and crew members in close quarters. But Japan’s animation industry has faced its own challenges during the pandemic. Pure pencil-to-paper animation remains the same as it ever was, but other pieces of the puzzle are moving more slowly than usual: Shipments from subcontractors in China and South Korea, for example, nearly ground to a halt in April; voice-recording sessions are now done one actor at a time rather than in groups. And because the industry is so interconnected, with studios regularly contracting parts of their shows out to each other, a single problem can create an industry-wide bottleneck.