Veteran Animator Toshiyuki Inoue Gives Young Animators Advice to Negotiate Better Wages

posted on by Kim Morrissy

Veteran animator Toshiyuki Inoue (recently the main animator on Maquia - When the Promised Flower Blooms) wrote several tweet threads on March 2-3 in response to the Japan Animation Creators Association (JAniCA)'s latest report on the current working conditions of animators. The report revealed that young people continue to face harsher working conditions in the anime industry, even as conditions appear to improve for older people. On average, young people between 20 to 24 earn 1,550,000 yen (US$14,000) per year, which is 1 million yen less than the national average for the age group.

Inoue tweeted that when he was a young animator some 35 years ago, he used to be paid 160 yen per in-between frame. He said that he hopes that the standard rate goes up to at least 300 yen, but ideally it should be 400 yen.

According to data reported in the NHK's Close-Up Gendai+ program in 2017, in-between animators currently earn around 200 yen per frame.

Inoue also stated in the same tweet that a cut of key animation was worth 1,700 yen 35 years ago. This number has increased to 4,000 yen in modern times. In other words, the value of key animation has increased far more than in-between animation has over time. If the price ratio between key animation and in-between animation was around 11:1 or 10:1 back then, then to maintain that ratio today, in-between animation ought to pay 400 yen.

According to Inoue, another factor to take into consideration is how long it takes to draw an in-between frame. 35 years ago, Inoue knew of people who drew 1,000 in-between frames in a month, but this would be impossible nowadays because the complexity of the character designs mean that drawings take longer to produce. This implies that in-between animation nowadays should be worth more comparatively.

For reference, young in-between animator Tetsuya Sakurai recently said on Trigger's third Patreon-funded livestream that he draws about 10 in-between frames a day, and that it generally takes him around an hour to draw each frame.

Inoue said that he hopes his statements can empower young animators to negotiate for a better deal. He cautioned against demanding a higher rate straight off the bat, and instead encouraged people to use his statements as leverage: "If this veteran animator is saying that it takes twice as long to draw animation nowadays, then isn't the current rate too cheap?"

Inoue said that he expects the production side to have one of three reactions to this line of questioning:

1) "Wow! I had no idea."

2) "Really? I'll look into it. If it's true, then we'll do something about it."

3) "Animation is too expensive these days! If we halved the price of key animation, then it would be the same as before!"

Inoue said that a regular company would have the first reaction, while a good company will have the second. The third reaction is a red flag. Inoue stressed that production companies and production committees are not inherently the enemy. Rather, they are friends.

In a later tweet thread, Inoue shared his belief that the best person to talk to on the production side is a "sympathetic producer" because they have influence over the budget. He said that talking to the Association of Japanese Animations won't produce results because the group is made up of affiliate animation production companies. The most you can expect after filing a request is a diplomatic non-answer like "We are looking into the issue."

Even JAniCA, which is an advocacy group for workers in the anime industry, has encountered roadblocks when it comes to creating tangible change at the top level. According to Inoue, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood director and JAniCa representative Yasuhiro Irie submitted a request to hold a conference where animators and companies could freely exchange opinions about improving anime production schedules, but this was ultimately ignored.

Inoue noted that structural change won't happen unless there is momentum coming from many different sides. This means that young animators shouldn't feel the need to approach the issue rashly, especially if this can result in them losing work. If the data from the JAniCA report is spread widely and even high-profile voices from around the industry speak up, then those at the top (such as company presidents and production committees) can be convinced. Inoue hopes that if these voices can prompt the Fair Trade Commission and the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency to lay out guidelines, then there will be true momentum.

In reaction to Inoue's tweets, other animators have been speaking up about money matters. Akiko Nakano tweeted that around 40 years ago, in-between animation frames used to pay around 150 yen. She stated that when you take into account the complexity of the drawings these days, then even 600 yen per frame is too low. Even in the past, 150 yen was far too low, so just raising the rates to a comparative level to the past would still be grossly unfair to animators.

Mizue Ogawa mentioned that young animators who haven't learned about the standard rates can easily get duped into getting paid even less than this standard. She said that 30 years ago, she had believed that 80 yen was the standard for new animators and accepted this amount from a regional studio for six years.

Shinsaku Kōzuma tweeted that some studios pay animators "exclusivity money" so that they can only produce work for that particular studio. Depending on your age and how far you are in your career, Kōzuma cautions that you should not accept an exclusivity contract because the amount you make in total may not be livable. According to his advice, the minimum you should accept if you are a young animator is 100,000 yen plus the rates you receive per drawing.

JAniCA submitted its report at the "2018 Research Project to Promulgate Media Arts: Activity Report Symposium" on February 23. The NHK reported on JAniCA's data in a web article that has since been removed from the site.

Source: Toshiyuki Inoue's Twitter account

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