Japanese Animators, Directors Establish First Union (Updated)
posted on by Egan Loo
About 500 Japanese 2D animators and directors have officially established the Japan Animation Creators Association (JAniCA) on October 13 to improve the working conditions in animation studios. Although the Japanese animation industry has existed since World War II (and arguably before), this is the first union established by Japanese animators. The typical animator draws 200 sheets of key animation frames every month for several tens of thousands of yen (about several hundred United States dollars) with no vacation, social security, or retirement plan.
Studio Live's Toyoo Ashida (the director of Vampire Hunter D and the first movie and second television series of Fist of the North Star) runs the association as its president. Among the other creators who spoke at the October 13 press conference were director Satoshi Kon (Millennium Actress, Paprika), animation director Moriyasu Taniguchi (Ideon, Shaman King), Tokyo University graduate school professor Yasuki Hamano, editor Nobuyuki Takahashi (Ringu, Juon: The Grudge), and animation director Akihiro Kanayama (Ashita no Joe, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam).
One 32-year-old female animator is working in her second year at an animation company to pursue her childhood dream, but she works 12-hour days for half the salary of her former job. Another animator used to be a regular company employee with an apartment to himself, but had to move back with his parents since he could not afford rent on an animator's budget. Without health insurance, he would not check into a hospital even when an illness worsened. One 59-year-old had to cut back due to deteriorating physical health, and now subsists on 120,000 yen (US$1,000) a month. Some of the 59-year-old animator's former colleagues now receive public assistance or are now homeless.
According to JAniCA, a storyboard artist finishes the storyboard of a 30-minute episode in three weeks for 220,000 to 230,000 yen (US$1,900 to US$2,000). That averages to 70,000 yen (US$600) a week, 280,000 yen a month (US$2,400), and 3,360,000 yen (US$28,800) a year, with no vacation. A key animator earns about 3,000 yen (US$25) for one scene, and completes about two scenes of key animation frames in 10 to 15 hours on one day. That averages to 6,000 yen a day (US$50), 180,000 yen a month (US$1,500), and 2,160,000 yen (US$18,400) a year, with no vacation. If any of the workers have family or raise children, then it is impossible to work these hours without days-off. 20% to 30% of all animators earn an annual salary of around 1,000,000 yen (US$10,000), or 6,000 to 10,000 yen (US$500 to US$900) a month.
In recently leaked internal production documents that Anime International Company Inc. (AIC) (Aa— Megami-sama—, Tenchi Muyo!) confirmed were real on October 8, about one million yen (ten thousand United States dollars) was budgeted for its television episodes, with key animators and layout artists being paid for only two thousand yen (twenty United States dollars) per scene. Due to late-night television, the Internet, and other new venues, the number of television animation programs produced every year is now about a hundred — a three-fold increase from twenty years ago.
Errata: The leaked internal production documents of AIC list the budget for television episodes at 10 million yen, not one million yen.