Animation Veteran Claims That Industry Newcomers Only Make 120 Yen An Hour
posted on by Chris Nishijima
In a recent attempt to draw awareness to an injustice in the animation industry, veteran animator Sachiko Kamimura (City Hunter, Doraemon movies) posted on her blog about what she claims to be the starting pay for a newcomer in the field. After having watched "numerous young animators fresh out of school suddenly be thrust into a job where they can't even eat," she feels that she must reveal what could be considered one of the most shocking facts of the anime industry - a starting wage of roughly 120 yen (US $1) an hour.
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In her post, Kamimura explains that animators tend to be paid per frame of completion, rather than by a fixed salary or an hourly wage, making their wages based solely on how much they can accomplish. However, she also points out that while that was reasonable twenty years ago, today's style of animation, which needs more attention to delicate details, is not something that newcomers fresh on the scene can accomplish at a fast enough rate to make a decent living. Though she herself has become used to the pace through years of experience, she argues that it is simply not feasible to ask that much of a rookie. She estimates that even by sacrificing sleep hours and forgoing vacation time, the most that can be done is around 500 frames a month. In her calculations, an average work month of 250 hours will only earn a worker about 30,000 yen (US $251.78), much less than the national minimum wage of 888 yen (US $7.45) an hour.
Still, some other members of the animation industry seem to be in disagreement with Kamimura's claim. Noriyuki Fukuda (D. Gray-man, Lupin III vs. Detective Conan The Movie), who in her own right is an established animator, posted on her Twitter in response saying, "It's really best not to use someone's 'animators get 120 yen an hour' statement as a reference." Fukuda states that in reality, while the amount that one animator can produce does influence their pay, this is only in addition to the fixed rate that they receive beforehand, which can be between 50,000 (about US $419.63) and 80,000 yen (about US $671.41). She also explains that the more detailed work that Kamimura speaks of is rarely given to a newcomer, who is more likely to take on simple frames like those which require lip-synching. She estimates that for frames like these, one can easily accomplish four frames an hour, and that no company would take on someone who can do less than two an hour.
Another animator by the Twitter handle of @SAKUOLI says that the standard that Kamimura laid out didn't really apply to his group when he first started, but does not think that she is wrong, and has heard of even worse. He states that while there do seem to be a lot of studios that use rookies in this manner, it is a matter of sorting through them to find the good ones.
Still, while doubt may be placed on the figures that she's put out, Kamimura's claims that new animators have been forced to leave the industry due to such disproportionate pay. She believes that in order to preserve the quality of anime, and to keep new animators coming in, a fixed salary of at least 100,000 yen (about US $839.26) a month is necessary.
Kamimura's original post can be read on her blog on Blogger.