You may already know the hardship of being a rookie animator in Japan. Many artists suffer from poor wages and working conditions. But due to the huge demand for anime, the industry is thriving with an annual net income of over 2.74 trillion yen.
With that in mind, it would be natural to think that animators would be paid well, right? But the hole is further down. This only goes for artists who have already made a name for themselves as keyframe artists, while nothing, absolutely nothing seems to change for those just starting out in their careers.
The hardship of being a rookie animator in Japan
Even with the difficulties, the hardship of being a rookie animator in Japan, there are still those who want more than anything to become animators, driven by passion, these people do not let go of this idea:
”When I was in college, I once attended a job fair for a major animation production company. They explained to us that the salaries were commission-based and the minimum guarantee was 50,000 yen a month, but that in most cases that was all people earned for the first year.
Another person present asked them, ”Does this mean we do other part-time jobs while we work the first year?” What do you think the answer was?”
— 古美門にちえ (@Nietzsche_KMKD) July 9, 2023
”No, if you work part-time, you will never improve your skills, and your income will not increase from 50,000 yen, so until you can earn a stable income, take your time outside of work to practice on your ter.
In the meantime, you can survive by having your parents pay for your living expenses and the like. Here’s what they had to say… I remember being amazed that a company would so brazenly tell their employees to make a living by begging their parents for money. That’s when I realized this industry wasn’t in its right mind.”
— 古美門にちえ (@Nietzsche_KMKD) July 9, 2023
That’s the toughness of being a newbie animator in Japan’s anime industry. At this particular company, animators earn a monthly income of 50,000 yen, but according to a survey by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the average monthly salary for recent graduates is 226,000 yen for university graduates and 255,600 yen for postgraduates.
Taking into account the cost of living in Japan, the minimum amount guaranteed by the animation company is far from acceptable. And despite this, the company also requires employees to work on their days off, again highlighting the toughness of being a rookie animator in Japan.
Other users have also spoken about the hardship of being a novice animator in Japan, mentioning that they were also asked if they lived with their parents and if they had tuition or scholarships to return in interviews. These conditions already set the standard for entering the anime industry:
”After graduation I worked at a certain studio as a production assistant for 3 years. The fee for animators was 200 yen for 1 in half. Most newcomers can only draw about 10 frames a day for the first year.
If they become keyframe artists, they can make about 3 cuts a day, for about 2000 yen per cut. As employees, production assistants earn around 150,000 yen a month. All nights included. Two days off per month. This was the state 15 years ago.”
— おかおか@飲食店店長×アパレルせどらー (@1goen1) July 9, 2023
Just below you will have an overview of the average annual earnings in the anime industry that shows discrepancy in earnings between different positions:
The hardship of being a rookie animator in Japan: Why the low return for animators?
According to film producer Masuo Ueda, the answer may lie in so-called production committees. Production committees are temporary coalitions created to fund specific anime projects consisting of marketing companies, merchandising companies, and the like.
Since these companies are able to make the biggest investments in projects, they also reap the lion’s share of profits, leaving anime production studios with the short end of the stick.
In turn, production studios ensure their own profit by cutting salaries and putting even more pressure on their staff, hence the hardship of being a rookie animator in Japan.
Thus, we can have a little idea of how the anime industry is and the difficulties of being part of it. Only those driven by passion are able to continue.
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