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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Character Designer Expresses Disappointment in Anime Industry

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge

In the midst of news that animation Studio Madhouse worked a production assistant to collapse, members of the anime industry are discussing their thoughts and feelings on social media. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable and Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya character designer Terumi Nishii shared her thoughts in English on Twitter on Monday, going so far as to dissuade anyone hoping to enter the animation industry due to the poor working conditions.

Nishii wrote that she is "disappointed" in the industry and added that for character designers, there are no royalties or revenue sharing after the initial designs are made. She attributed to this as part of Japanese culture. She recommended that Japanese animators look outside to foreign companies for work.

Nishii added that many animators live with assistance from their own parents to make ends meet.

80,000 yen is about US$700.

The non-profit organization AEYAC released a survey in 2017 that found over half of animators that participated receive financial assistance from their families on top of working. The average respondent's age was 23 with approximately one year and five months of industry work experience. Most did not live at home but received financial aid from their parents. Some were also in debt for relying on student financial aid that they would need to repay.

Nishii's first paycheck was 2,800 yen (US$25). After working for a year her wages increased to 60,000 to 100,000 yen per month (US$535-890). By the time Nishii was earning this much, she'd already lost her deposit.

"Tokyo's minimum wage is 985 yen (US$8.80) per hour, but it can not be paid so much. Many rely on their parents' money," she wrote. She chided the ideology that because animators love their work that they shouldn't complain about low pay.

Animators in Japan are usually freelance, work long hours, and are burdened with high living expenses due to the areas studios are often located. An animator working for Xebec posted what appeared to be a real pay stub with the rather dismal monthly pay of 131,330 yen (US$1,103). According to the employee, the stipulations for his contact included the base pay of 130,000 yen (US$1,092), plus an additional 5,300 yen (US$44.50) to cover his commute. 3,970 yen (US$33) was withheld for taxes.

The actual working hours were set as "as much as you can in 24 hours." He was required to turn in a timecard filled out by hand at the end of each month.

Background artist and designer Yann Le Gall (FLCL Progressive, No Game, No Life) advised those looking to get into the anime industry to consider background art work. Le Gall stated that the pay is better and deadlines are longer.

The Japan Animation Creators Association's (JAniCA) latest report on the current working conditions of animators revealed that young people continue to face harsher working conditions in the anime industry, even as conditions appear to improve for older people. Young people between 20 to 24 still continue to be underpaid as a whole. Their mean average yearly income is 1,550,000 yen (US$14,000), which is 1 million yen less than the national average for the age group, according to data from the National Tax Agency.

Veteran animator Toshiyuki Inoue shared his advice to help young animators negotiate better wages last month. He noted that structural change won't happen unless there is momentum coming from many different sides. 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 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.

Source: Terumi Nishii's Twitter account

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