Being an animator in Japan is hard. It’s very hard. But with the myriad of problems in the industry, is there a solution? Here’s what some people in the industry had to say.

JAniCA, the Japan Animation Creators Association, is an organization made up of animators, producers, and supporters of the Japanese animation industry. The organization recently released a detailed report on the current status of the business for animators.

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The released 123-page document covers details from the age and gender of animators, to their education, marital status, living conditions, insurance status, career, and analysis of work within the industry.

The latter half of the report takes up comments and is also where you can get a very real feel of the sort of difficulties that modern animators are going through. Reading through, it does seem like most animators have a general idea of what’s wrong with the industry, and even some with something of an idea of how to make thing better. Here’s a very small sample of what some of them had to say:

“This is just the opinion of someone who works on the edges of the anime industry, but I think that there’s something wrong in the earnings and expenses of Japanese anime. By my monetary sensibilities, I feel that anime DVDs are very expensive and I don’t feel the urge to buy them. On the other hand, I also work on such anime and I often find myself wondering how I can be asked to produce something of such high quality at such a low pay. It’s like a cheap restaurant chain, where impossibly high quality products are offered at low prices. If the budget is low, staff can’t be hired and the amount of time each person has to work increases. I’m sure there are many people who would like to get married and start a family, but for people in the current anime industry, such chances are probably very rare. I’ve had people around me quit for such reasons. They were all very talented people. As a result, new young staff members are hired and have to learn from scratch, but I end up wondering just how long they’ll be on board. It’s a rather boring conclusion, but I believe what is needed is more money. If we can all live normal secure lives, we could all work harder to make good anime. I apologize for such a naïve opinion.” [Male, 30’s, background artist]

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“I believe we need a structure that allows for more money to go to the actual anime production companies.” [Male, 40’s, cell artist]

“Despite the low rates, we’re made to do difficult or tedious work. While quality is demanded of us, we are not offered suitable pay or workable schedules. I believe scheduling is the most important thing, but often the schedule is messed up right out the gate, so I wish more care was put into that area. Also, I honestly wonder about the recent anime that end in one cour (roughly 3 months). I get that they want to make an anime adaptation while a property is popular, but I don’t think it’s any fun to make an anime when the original manga doesn’t have that much out yet and the anime ends on a weak note. It’s only one cour, so by the time you’re used to [drawing] the pictures, it’s already over. I don’t think there’s any point. It’s over before you can get a hang of the characters’ details and personality, so you can only move them in the easiest way possible. I think that results in a boring anime. Finally, this is a bit of a gripe, but I don’t think everything needs to have an anime adaptation.” [Female, 20’s, cell artist]

“I think it’s a problem that despite the fact that we’ve gone to high definition and things have become more detailed, the pay to the creators, especially the artists, hasn’t changed all that much. Every company puts together a slapdash schedule and a lot of time is wasted and I think that’s a waste of funds. Also, the animating work is sent off to foreign companies so quickly, isn’t that a reason that domestically, the next generation of artists aren’t getting the proper experience?” [Male, 40’s, filming]

“It’s not everyone, but I think that people in anime production have grown to accept the terrible current status (schedules, pay, aftercare of inexperienced animators, etc.) and seem to have given up. Very often, once you sit down at you work desk, you have to work for days without going home. It seems that having a normal family, raising a child, and being able to handle sudden expenditures, like illness, are more difficult than for ‘normal people’ (though it can depend on the individual). Personally, putting aside being busy, I don’t think it would be such a terrible thing if we were paid twice as much as we currently are (considering the amount and quality of work).” [Male, 30’s, production]

It’s not entirely doom and gloom. Despite the general awareness of flaws in the system, most people showed a genuine love for what they do and a drive that keeps them going despite all the hardships. Perhaps the recent spotlight on working conditions within the industry will help lead the way to more improvements.

But then again, as one individual commented:

“The anime industry – especially the TV anime industry – needs to be destroyed.” [Male, 20’s, production]


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

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To contact the author of this post, write to cogitoergonihilATgmail.com or find him on Twitter @tnakamura8.