Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Industry

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Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Industry

#1 Post by StellarOrb » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:12 am

Hi all,

So recently, I've come across a collection of articles and blog posts centered around the work conditions for artists in the anime industry, mostly centered on the account of an American (the first American to ever to work in a major anime studio) who traveled to Japan to fulfill his dream of working on anime. Before reading this, I had no knowledge of what the work conditions were like, but now...

Here are his own words:
“Let’s just be clear: It’s not a ‘tough’ industry… It’s an ‘illegally harsh’ industry. They don’t pay you even remotely minimum wage, they overwork you to the point where people are vomiting at work and having to go to the hospital for medicine. They demand that you come in whenever they realize a deadline isn’t going to be met. That probably means about a month and a half of nonstop work without a single day off. Then you will be allowed to go back to your regular six-day workweeks of 10-hour days.”
At his original job with Nakamura Pro, he earned about $300 a month... for ten hour work days, six days a week. However once he moved to Studio Pierot, he started earning about $1,000. Even though it's an improvement, it's still pretty horrible and wouldn't allow anyone to live comfortably without a second source of income (pretty much impossible, since they're already working more than full-time.)

With all seriousness, you make more working minimum wage in the United States, 8 hours, 5 days. Life on that salary is pretty bad enough, so I shudder to think what it's like in Japan, especially in a city as expensive as Tokyo, where most about 90% of anime is made. In fact, living on welfare would probably be a better option. I'll have to do more research on the topic to find out more.

Still, I have to ask- how do you guys feel about supporting an industry where your life is shit, unless you're an A-list voice actor? I know many people who boycott or avoid buying from companies they see as unethical. Like not buying Nike shoes because they outsource to foreign sweat-shops, or the meat industry for their horrible treatment of animals, etc.. At least, does this change the way you watch anime, or even think about it? Does supporting an industry like this extend the responsibility to the viewer? Does it bring up a moral dilemma to watching anime? I want to hear your thoughts.

As a side note, the dude has been working on Tokyo Ghoul, Pokemon, and Naruto Shippuden, which is pretty cool. He even mentions that if he sticks around, he'll be working on the "Bolt" movie soon.

Sources!

Crunchyroll article (includes links to a Japanese blog on the topic, if you can read it.)
Buzzfeed article (a little more in-depth)
An insightful comment from his Ask Me Anything on Reddit. (make sure to also check out the full thread!)
His Tumblr shows off lots of the animations he drew himself!

An article about a Japanese anime worker's experience
Same story ^ (Anime News Network)

Oh yeah, how are all your NaNoRenO's going? Sadly, mine seems to be falling apart. //sobs
Edit: My NaNoRenO seems to be getting back on track... for now? ;~;

...If only I could find an artist that commissions $1 per image. LMAO
Last edited by StellarOrb on Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#2 Post by Mad Harlequin » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:55 am

Thanks for posting this. I've heard a few stories here and there about the issue, but I didn't know where I could find more information from an industry insider. (I don't browse sites like Reddit or Buzzfeed that often.)

I think as consumers, we ought to be aware of what's going on. I'm not sure a boycott would work unless it really hits transgressors where it hurts: their coffers. Is the Western market large enough to do that by itself? I don't really think so. But there must be some way to help ensure better working conditions.

So yes, I'm morally conflicted, and have been for quite some time.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#3 Post by Caveat Lector » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:05 pm

Wow, that's just awful. No one should ever accept working for next to nothing in any profession. This is just flat-out labour exploitation. Would you happen to know which studios treat their employees (comparatively) better than others (by comparison)? I think from now on, I'll support those studios instead.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#4 Post by StellarOrb » Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:14 pm

Caveat Lector wrote:Wow, that's just awful. No one should ever accept working for next to nothing in any profession. This is just flat-out labour exploitation. Would you happen to know which studios treat their employees (comparatively) better than others (by comparison)? I think from now on, I'll support those studios instead.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a universal issue in all of anime. Even big-name studios like Pierot (Tokyo Ghoul, Naruto Shippuden) only pay about $4 per image. Other lesser known studios pay less- about $1 per image. Like, how many do you expect an artist to finish in a 10 hour day? So far, I don't know any studios that break this convention. There seems to be an attitude of "That's just how it is." and "Deal with it." that prevents any progression.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#5 Post by SundownKid » Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:22 pm

That's pretty crazy. If this is the case, even as more animes are changing to be more and more similar to each other, is it that the price of making an anime is just unsustainable, or is there some kind of shady business practices going on by the higher ups that just rip off the artists working on them?

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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#6 Post by StellarOrb » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:03 pm

SundownKid wrote:That's pretty crazy. If this is the case, even as more animes are changing to be more and more similar to each other, is it that the price of making an anime is just unsustainable, or is there some kind of shady business practices going on by the higher ups that just rip off the artists working on them?
Okay, so artists are payed per frame, and anime (along with all tv shows and movies) runs at 24 frames per second. So in Pierrot's case, 24 * 4 = $96 per second.

96 * 60 = $5,760 per minute.

5,760 * 24 = $138,240 per episode.

That's for all of the anime's visual aspects, which is the bulk of its content. I can't find the net worth of the studio anywhere online, but considering how big Pierrot is, that should be nothing. Public television is no stranger to massive budgets. For perspective, in America, The Walking Dead has a budget around $3 million per episode, and The Simpsons has had budgets of $2 million per episode.

Naruto is huge worldwide. $138,240 for the animation is nothing.

Now, that figure is my personal estimation, and isn't entirely accurate due to the separation of tasks (BGs, Key frames, In-betweens). But Crunchyroll did say something about the cost of anime in a recent article. I don't know what studio the study centers on, but it seems to be an average of numerous studios, meaning the animation itself is shown as a lot less than I had in my estimate. Apparently, the average anime episode costs about $145,214 to fund. Again, this really isn't much. They can by far, spare more money to pay their artists. The shit conditions for artists seem to be a result of habit, with no real justification.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#7 Post by StellarOrb » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:15 pm

Naruto is huge worldwide. $138,240 for the animation is nothing.
I almost forgot- remember just how many still images and re-used frames/animations are used in anime. That would kick the price down a massive step. So it's definitely possible to increase artist wages without sacrificing too much of their corporate wealth.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#8 Post by LVUER » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:26 pm

I agree that animator/artist in anime industry is paid dirt... it's kinda a wide-known dirty secrets of anime industry... That's why when there was a project to build anime/manga museum in Japan, it got a strong reaction... and they ask for better wage for animator instead...

Anyway, for the work hours... it's not only for anime industry... It's also has been a long and widely known problem in Japan. I don't know if it's because lack of regulation... but even in regular office, it's normal to work 10-16 hours a day (and that considered normal, not over-time work) from Monday to Saturday... no wonder if they are dead-tired and overwork... and lots of people died from overwork in Japan (I thought it was a myth).

When asked why the workers still doing that, knowing that it's unfair and probably a breach of regulation, well, that's a Japanese culture for you... they are very close to one another, very social... they don't want to leave early knowing one of their mates still working. They also don't want the company think they are lazy to leave "early"... and other similar reason...
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#9 Post by netravelr » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:59 pm

I'll also say that the more favorable the job, generally the lower the pay. As a programmer, I can get a lot more money working on say software than games because with games there's so many people who want to do it, if you leave another person would gladly take your place. Now they have it much worse than I do, but it seems like it's just taken this idea to an extreme.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#10 Post by StellarOrb » Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:36 pm

LVUER wrote:Anyway, for the work hours... it's not only for anime industry... It's also has been a long and widely known problem in Japan. I don't know if it's because lack of regulation... but even in regular office, it's normal to work 10-16 hours a day (and that considered normal, not over-time work) from Monday to Saturday... no wonder if they are dead-tired and overwork... and lots of people died from overwork in Japan (I thought it was a myth).

When asked why the workers still doing that, knowing that it's unfair and probably a breach of regulation, well, that's a Japanese culture for you... they are very close to one another, very social... they don't want to leave early knowing one of their mates still working. They also don't want the company think they are lazy to leave "early"... and other similar reason...
Yeah, work hours like these might also lend some explanation to why Japan's suicide rates are so high...

Although, I'm not so sure about the "social" part you mentioned. I think it's more about honor than community, because even in one of the sources I linked above, it's mentioned that nobody ever talks to each other in the workplace, or eat lunch together, or even make friends. They also don't seem to be interested in it either. They just don't want to look bad in comparison, maybe.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#11 Post by TheEpicKnot » Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:39 am

Do you know if manga artists are treated any better? I read a lot more manga than I watch anime, so I'm curious.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#12 Post by Taleweaver » Fri Mar 13, 2015 3:37 am

TheEpicKnot wrote:Do you know if manga artists are treated any better? I read a lot more manga than I watch anime, so I'm curious.
Unlike anime, manga is an art form that can be created by one single artist - and in fact, many if not most are. This means the payment for his work depends on how much he can sell it for - well, and the famous artists certainly don't go poor from their art.
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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#13 Post by Tyrantauranox » Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:41 am

The video game industry is also known for unpaid overtime abuse. My record is over 100 hours in a single week, working on an action-RPG for a 50-person studio.

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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#14 Post by agentyoda » Sat Mar 21, 2015 1:06 am

That's really sad, both the pay and work conditions. It's sad to see so much time devoted to work, and yet so little human interaction therein. I've wanted to go to Japan for a while, but i'm a bit worried that no one will want to make friends with me and hang out: both because i'm a foreigner (i've read horror stories about foreigners in Japan) and because it seems like it's taboo to approach someone you don't know.

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Re: Anime and Ethics: Horrible Work Conditions In the Indust

#15 Post by Shoko » Mon Mar 30, 2015 3:17 am

While the pay they're giving them is monstrously bad, I don't think boycotting is a real answer. The anime industry is in decline as it is and it seems like it would just cost the animators whatever money they do get.

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