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Sakuga Blog: 25 Anime Production Assistants Share Their Troubles in Anonymous Survey

posted on by Kim Morrissy
76% reported working unpaid overtime, receiving psychological/physical abuse

Fan-run animation production information blog Sakuga Blog posted the results on Tuesday of an anonymous survey it conducted with 25 anime production assistants.

Overtime Work

According to the survey, 96% of respondents worked overtime. 72% said they did it "always." Only 20% said they don't work on weekends or public holidays. In addition, 76% had accumulated unpaid overtime work. 44% said they worked unpaid overtime "occasionally," while 32% said they did it "always." The respondents spoke about how they were expected to be on call, and one respondent said: "You can never go on a vacation in case anything happens and you have to help out with other episodes too.”

Power Harassment

Furthermore, 76% said that they received power harassment (i.e. psychological/physical abuse) from their superiors at work. 56% said that it happened occasionally, while 20% said that it happened always.

One testimony read as follows: "I've quit working at a studio not with just unpaid overtime pay, but with about 100,000 yen of my regular wages unpaid. There were also several cases of pushing a ton of work on newcomers until they completely burn out, and then suddenly firing them with no say in the matter… At the first studio I worked at, I hear there was a case of suicide before I joined. That studio used time cards that went up to 500 hours. We were told to choose between getting punched or kicked, and there were actually people who sustained injuries from being hit or strangled. I can only hope that things can improve as soon as possible."

Positive Comments

Sakuga Blog noted that it did receive positive testimony from at least one production assistant. The production assistant sympathized with the plight of less fortunate workers, but also wrote: "[…] the topic of 'overtime' comes up a lot but to be honest, the time that I spend working isn't painful. So while the word can't help but conjure up the associations it does, my experience doesn't match that of others when they talk about overtime. Of course, I don't think that people who value their time outside of work should be forced to work. It's a matter of how you choose to live your life."

Another production assistant said that the studio they worked at had started giving days off to staff in an effort to reduce the amount of overtime. "However, the anime production system itself has not changed," this production assistant wrote, "so when we get series without a good schedule, those days off inevitably go away and we end up having to work overtime every day. I'm in a situation where the studio itself has improved its policies, but the production process and how we actually make anime has yet to catch up.”

Other Employment Conditions

The survey also clarified the employment status of the participating production assistants. 92% said that they were either a full-time employee or a contract employee (employed for the duration of a production or multiple productions). 92% also said they received either full or partial compensation for travel expenses. Roughly half said that they received bonuses and salary raises. This is in contrast to the status of animators, the majority of whom do not have employee status.

Sakuga Blog stressed that the workplaces and experiences of production assistants are diverse, so the small sample size in the survey should not be taken as fully representative.


On April 5, a Madhouse production assistant joined a trade union and commenced the process of collective bargaining. The anonymous assistant is seeking compensation for unpaid overtime, as well as an apology for the various forms of power harassment he received. According to reports by Bungei Shunju, the man had worked up to 393 hours a month during crunch time, and was recently hospitalized due to overwork.

In 2010, a production assistant working for A-1 Pictures died by suicide. The Shinjuku Labor Standards Inspection Office cited depression due to overwork as the cause of the staff member's suicide.

Image via Sakuga Blog

Source: Sakuga Blog (kViN)

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