Former Manga Assistant Requests Unreceived Overtime Pay to Improve Industry
posted on by Jennifer Sherman
Manga creator Shunsuke Kakuishi (Yawara no Michelangelo) created a buzz online after posting on his blog on Sunday that he did not receive overtime pay after working as an assistant to Norifusa Mita (Investor Z, seen right; Dragon Zakura) for about 11 years and seven months. Kakuishi is requesting the unreceived overtime pay from Mita for working overtime every week during that period. Kakuishi's aim in publishing the blog post is to reveal problems assistants face in working in the manga industry and to encourage reform.
Mita had said in an interview with Yahoo! News Japan in December that his assistants currently have three days off per week and overtime is prohibited so that they have ample time to rest. As a further workplace reform, Mita said that he outsources drawing to a design company. He said he believes the outsourcing system is the first in Japan's manga industry.
Kakuishi's blog post is a response to Mita's claims in the interview. He worked for Mita until April 2017 and said he received overtime pay "not even once" despite working overtime nearly every week. Kakuishi claims that while he worked for Mita, he worked eight hours per day Monday through Wednesday, as Mita said his assistants currently do in the Yahoo! News Japan article. However, Kakuishi said that soon before the scheduled time to leave on Thursdays, he and the other assistants would take a short dinner break and then continue working. He said that they would always work until at least 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., but they would sometimes work until 12:00 or 1:00 a.m. on Friday. Kakuishi says that he kept his timecards, which have an accurate record of the exact hours he worked for Mita.
Kakuishi noted that he never worked through the entire night without sleep as some assistants report. He acknowledged that his working conditions under Mita were better than conditions many assistants in the manga industry face.
"Although it's much better than industry standards," Kakuishi said, "it can't be said that it was completely white. As for if it was a workplace that accurately conformed to the Labor Standards Act, I can't really say it did." Kakuishi's mention of "white" is a reference to the concept of "black companies" and "white companies" in Japan. "Black companies" are known for demanding long hours from their employees while underpaying them, sometimes leading to karoshi (death by overwork). In contrast, "white companies" value their employees and make an effort to ensure their welfare.
In addition, Kakuishi explained that even more than an attempt to receive overtime pay he is due, the goal of his blog post is to help further efforts to improve the working environment for assistants in the manga industry. He said, "HOW can it become easier for assistants of manga creators to work? Is it possible to correct the long hours of manual labor? When I thought about those things, I came up with an idea, and that was to write a request online for overtime pay from a manga creator."
Kakuishi hopes that his claim for unreceived overtime pay will encourage other assistants to speak out about problems with their working conditions. He said he hopes the effort will move toward preventing penalties for assistants who speak out under such circumstances. He believes his request for overtime pay is "one kind of contribution to society," and he hopes it will further initiatives to overhaul the industry.
In a now deleted Tweet, manga creator Kyosuke Usuta (Pyu to Fuku! Jaguar, Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo!! Masaru-san) responded to Kakuishi's blog post. Usuta said that Kakuishi misunderstands the manga industry. He claimed that, based on their abilities, the "handful" of people who steadily work as professional assistants "receive high salaries and raise families." He added that such people are able to freely choose their workplaces, and he suggested unsatisfied assistants should find new employment.
Kakuishi then replied to Usuta on Twitter by saying, "Usuta-sempai, I think the ones who misunderstand are the manga creators." He believes Usuta's Tweet proves to further his claim that exploitation of assistants is prevalent in the manga industry.