Manga Creator Receives Backed Overtime Pay From Years as Assistant

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

Yawara no Michelangelo manga (seen right) creator Shunsuke Kakuishi revealed on January 17 that he received overtime pay from Norifusa Mita (Investor Z, seen below left; Dragon Zakura) after posting a request on his own blog.

Kakuishi said that he consulted with the Labour Standards Inspection Office and ultimately requested overtime pay for the portion of a period of two years and four months in which he worked more than eight hours per day. Kakuishi reported that he received the full amount on the designated day and added that he heard other staff members also received similar compensation.

After working as an assistant for many years, Kakuishi debuted as a creator with his Yawara no Michelangelo judo manga in October. Kakuishi posted his request for overtime pay on his blog last month, partly as a response to an online interview in which Mita described measures he takes to treat staff fairly. In his initial blog post, Kakuishi claimed that he and fellow assistants often worked long overtime hours on the last day of their work week under Mita. Kakuishi worked as Mita's assistant for about 11 years and seven months until April 2017.

Kakuishi said that he received a letter from Mita on the day after he received the backed overtime pay. In the letter, Mita did not criticize him and actually thanked him.

Kakuishi stated that he was successful in his request for unreceived overtime pay because he has copies of timecards from the period he worked for Mita. He believes that many workplaces with manga creators may not use timecards. However, he hopes that his situation will encourage more assistants use timecards and keep accurate records of the hours they work.

Additionally, Kakuishi hopes that manga creators will strive more to properly regulate the hours that their staff work. He emphasized that creators need to pay assistants for overtime hours or make sure that they do not work overtime. Furthermore, Kakuishi said that publishers need to make sure that the manuscript payments they give creators are sufficient to cover the costs for creators to have several assistants. He believes publishers need to allow for the cost of paying assistants if the production schedule requires creators to have staff in order to complete work on time.

Kakuishi said that, as part of the reaction to his situation, he has heard that some workplaces do offer overtime pay. However, he wonders if assistants are receiving proper overtime as mandated by law. He maintained that creators must ensure that they are abiding by Japan's Labor Standards Act.

While Kakuishi appears satisfied with the overtime compensation he ultimately received, he has reiterated in all his related blog posts that financial gain was not his only motive. Kakuishi aims to spread awareness about the working conditions of assistants and raise their relatively low status in the manga industry. He hopes his effort will contribute to improvements in their working environments and encourage manga creators and publisher to reevaluate their systems.

After Kakuishi announced he received overtime payment he requested, the News website interviewed him about his case and posted the interview on January 22. Kakuishi said in the interview, "For my part, I feel relieved that I got payment for this [unpaid overtime] I claimed." He added that he did not expect his situation to receive as much attention as it has.

He restated in the interview that the root of the problem may lie with publishers, and they need to properly pay their creators. Other than the situation related to overtime, Kakuishi said that Mita was reasonable to work with compared to the situations of other assistants.

Kakuishi specified that because he had complete copies of his timecards, he was able to receive about 1 million yen (about US$9,000) in unreceived overtime pay from Mita. The Labour Standards Inspection Office told him that people can only request backed overtime pay for a period of two years. From his 11 years and seven months of records, Mita was able to break down the exact amount of overtime pay he was due for the last two years and fours months he worked for Mita.

Kakuishi told the website that he is not sure if he has yet had a tangible impact on the working conditions in the manga industry, but he remains optimistic that his efforts may contribute to bringing about change.

Shortly after Kakuishi posted his initial overtime pay request on his blog, he received online criticism from fellow manga creators such as Kyosuke Usuta (Pyu to Fuku! Jaguar, Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo!! Masaru-san) and Shuho Sato (Say Hello to Black Jack, seen above right; Umizaru). Kakuishi described his methods for working with his assistant, and Sato described how his policies with his own assistants have changed over the years. Both Kakuishi and Sato further discussed their standpoints on Twitter and their blogs. Sato said that he is skeptical of Kakuishi's efforts because of the complexities new creators face in complying with Japan's labor laws. Despite his concerns, Sato also apologized to Kakuishi for seeming insensitive towards the circumstances of assistants.

Source: News (Yūji Shimoyama)

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