Anonymous Animator Describes Torturous Daily Grind

Side effects of entry level anime labor include hives and loss of appetite

Back when Osamu Tezuka inked the deal to make Astro Boy Japan's first anime series produced for TV, he set his price remarkably low. Many say this was to prevent competition, but the lingering effect of "Tezuka's Curse" was and still is that anime studios get paid little for their TV productions, necessitating production committees, giving sponsors a large say in how anime is developed, and further translating to low pay for the difficult work in the field


Fueling the ongoing discussion how impossible it is to live as a young animator working in Japan's anime industry, an anonymous worker has used the Hatelabo::AnonymousDiary service to declare their intentions to leave and industry and document the torturous grind that prompted the decision.


Titled "I Quit" 

When I prepare for work, hives appear.
The only time sunshine hits me. I leave the house.
Arriving at work. My "Good Morning" gets ignored.
I eat silently on the desk. I have no appetite, so I chew on a rice cracker. We are not talking.
Outside the sun shines down, but the company doesn't even have the lights on, since colour checking is done on monitors.
As the evening passes, I get slightly feverish. At times it's exceeding 100.4°F.
I'm eating bread.
My concentration is at its limit, but if I don't move my hand, the work won't end.
I'm going home.  Quite frankly, all interest I had anime is drain. I haven't chatted with anyone today.
Hives. Repeat in an endless loop.


He also says he was promised a pay of 150,000 yen (1500 Euro), but only received 70,000 yen ($870)


In the past, similar reports have been called an alarmist reaction to the experience of unskilled, entry level in-betweeners, with more skilled professionals earning wages that a personal actual live on.


For example, Cindy Yamauchi's blog reaction to a 2009 salary report

I'm assuming the issue here is the salary of the young in-betweeners. Because of the nature of their position, it is close to slave labor, and I don't deny that all. Do bear in mind that I actually went through that myself for years, but like I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, this position is an equivalent to entry level restaurant job within this industry, and unfortunately it is not regarded as a position that requires a the level of skill to command a higher salary. You may not like the idea, but that's just a reality that needs to be faced, and it's not meant to be a long-term position to begin with. There are assistant animators overseas that can produce far more and at a lower rate, so I still think that the Japanese in-betweeners have the potential to earn more if they really want to choose that position as their life-time career. We all know that the pie is so small--and getting smaller as we speak--and someone asking for a bigger share will surely result in starving someone else. But, we all knew from the very beginning that this job won't bring us millions except to a select few. We all figured out how to climb our way out of impoverished situations, and so it will be for the young artists who are facing this very issue right now. I still think we are thousand times better off than those who want to break into the business of acting, singing, or fine arts, where the competition for work is extremely high. A good majority of the inbetweeners are basically spoonfed, and are not in a situation where they need to go out on their own and audition for every gig.


The bottom line is, most of us chose to be in this job, and won't trade it for whatever fine salaries less enjoyable work has to offer. I don't think anime will ever be a million-dollar job no matter how much the pay scale improves, so we'll just accept that as a fact of life and go back to doing the fun stuff.


Also, a two part look at working at "Studio X" Part One Part Two

There is a small animation studio (I'll call it "Studio X") about three hours away from Tokyo that is owned by a man known to be literally a slave driver (I'll call him A-san). It's one of those small, privately-owned companies, and I didn't even know it existed until last spring, even though it's apparently been around for many years. The young animator who sits next to me at Madhouse used to work there, and told me what it was like working for A-san. 


Studio X starts their day at 10 am and ends it at 6 pm. That's to cut back on utility costs, not because A-san is humane. The chief artist there earns approximately $1400 a month, but the most of the other artists earn anywhere from $250-350 a month. I kept asking the young animator that the amount must be a base salary on which the per- shot rates were added as you completed each assigned shot. He said no, that was all the employees received for their monthly salary. There was no way anyone could make a living out of $250, so of course they were all still living with their parents (I'm still skeptical about this salary amount, though).




Knowing the difficulties, would so still be interested in working in the anime industry?

via Yaraon and anonymous commenters

UpdateIt's been noted that though the pay and quotos are distinct, the workplace condition complaints previously appeared in a 2007 annoynous diary entry about a [ost-doctorate research lab leaving their field

Scott Green is editor and reporter for anime and manga at geek entertainment site Ain't It Cool News. Follow him on Twitter at @aicnanime.

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