9/15/2009: Directors Dispute Pay Report
Written by Cindy Yamauchi   

Coin GraphA friend alerted me to an article at Anime News Network that talks about animators' salaries in Japan because my name was mentioned in the article, along with that of my sempai, Osamu Yamasaki-san. I just skimmed through the forum discussions as well, curious to see what people thought about it. I was pleasantly surprised to see people were concerned enough to even debate the issue, considering that it is irrelevant to what workers in the U.S. animation industry are earning. I thank all the anime fans who are genuinely worried about us, but please rest assured that your anime DVDs are not being made in some kind of forced child-labor sweatshop. We chose to be in this position with our own will--bad salary and working conditions included--but it has, and will continue to improve, as our work gains wider audiences worldwide. Such improvements don't happen overnight, though, and perhaps some people are more impatient than others to see immediate change.

I'm not disputing the statistics in their entirety, which I hope I was clear enough in my earlier blog entries. The survey showed that some do make only 70,000 yen (~$800 US) per month. That's probably true, and I'm sincerely sorry to hear that, but there are many more out there who do earn decent wages despite being in non-management positions. I do dispute the claims that the industry in general pays that low. The pay scale of the management positions indicated in the article naturally differ depending on a show's budget and the skills of the artist, so please regard it as the basic industry standard, but not necessarily a fixed amount applied equally to everyone (and please note that the amount is per episode).

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.