By this point, it’s become pretty common knowledge that people in the anime industry work incredibly long hours. That’s a reputation the industry has even in Japan, a country that’s already famous for overworking itself.
But just how much are Japan’s animation professionals working? To find out, JANICA (the Japan Animation Creators Association) partnered with publisher Dai Nippon Printing to carry out a study of working conditions in the anime industry, collecting 382 responses from artists, animators, writers, directors, editors, and producers. 312 provided information about their working hours, and the average was 230 hours a month.
Assuming a 20-day work month, that calculates out to a grueling 11.5 hours a day. The only way to get those 230 hours a month down to a regular-job-like eights hours a day or less would be to divide it up into 29 days, essentially giving animators just one or two days off in an entire month (and it’d be completely impossible in a non-leap-year February).
On the financial side of things, the 360 respondents who shared their data made an average of 4.4 million yen annually, which isn’t a bad sum if you’re not worrying about the hourly rate. However, just because it’s the mathematical mean doesn’t guarantee that anime pros all make that much, as roughly 40 percent of the respondents earned less than three million yen a year.
Of course, long hours and low pay are the norm in many sectors of the entertainment industry. Most people who pursue a career in anime aren’t doing it because they see it as a quick path to riches or a cushy, low-pressure job. They’re doing it because they love the art form. That love can sour, though, when it’s burdened by such heavy workloads. “Our schedules are enough to make your head spin,” said one 20-something woman who works as an animator. “Every day, I’m eating into my savings, rushing blindly to get my work done, and I find myself thinking ‘Just what was it that I ever liked about anime? Why do I stick with this industry?’ Sometimes I can’t find the answers anymore. It’s using up all of my mental and physical strength, plus my money and my time.”
Similar frustrations were expressed by a foreign-born male anime animator in his 20s, who moved to Japan as a student because of his love for anime and was later able to find work in the industry. “I haven’t been able to get hired to work on the anime series I like,” he said. “My work schedule is so busy that I don’t have enough time to practice and improve my drawing skills…My pay is low, and I barely make enough money to buy groceries, let alone afford insurance or pay into a pension.”
There is a possible silver lining, in that while JANICA has only now released the results of its study, the survey itself was carried out in November and December of last year. The foreign-born animator mentioned that as difficult as his working conditions were, they were gradually getting better compared to how they had been before, and hopefully that improvement is something that’s continued for him and also spread to others in the profession. Even if incremental improvements are being made, though, the anime industry is still a very tough way to make a living, and likely will continue to be so for some time to come.
Sources: Bengoshi.com via Yahoo! Japan News via Otakomu, JANICA
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