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Anime Sensei to Student: “Get A Life!”

Veteran anime director Yoshiyuki Tomino (Brave Raideen, Mobile Suit Gundam) gave a realistic, yet somewhat harsh response to a student’s question posted on Global Voices Online. Matt Alt’s Alt Japan blog has translated the original column, and its quite a sobering read:


Dear Director Tomino,

I am a second year high school student. The time when I have to decide on which university I want to go to, and what kind of career I want, is rapidly approaching. I know this sounds vague, but I am filled with the desire to make a living by drawing. I can’t talk to my parents about this. The last time I told them “I want to draw for a living,” they basically told me “there’s no career in that. You should go to university and become an OL (office lady) like other people.” After hearing this kind of thing I lost interest in discussing it with my parents, but it’s a fact I need to start making decisions about my future. Even if I am hazy about what it’s going to be. That’s why I’m writing you, Director Tomino. How can I decide my future path? I’m willing to take anything you dish out, so I’d really appreciate it if you could share your thoughts.

Miyuri, Aichi Prefecture


Now that is a tough question. All I can tell you is the same thing your parents did: you should go to university and become an OL.

If you’re a second-year high school student saying you want to be an illustrator, you’re old enough to be asked about your qualifications. Seeing drawing as a job you can just somehow land is an amateur’s way of looking at things. You need a great deal of actual experience to work in this industry.

Putting it in an easier to understand way with animation as an example, simply loving drawing isn’t enough to become an animator. By the second year of high school, an aspiring animator should be drawing “in-between”-quality illustrations every day, without fail. What’s more, assuming you’re in the art department of your school, you should be constantly applying to art competitions and such.

Not only do you need to have those qualifications, you need to have the personal drive and physical strength that is demanded of a craftsman. Even if you somehow did manage to make your dream a reality without these things, you wouldn’t be able to advance your career past in-betweening. You would find yourself overworked in a sea of others trying hard just to stay afloat. I can’t recommend that.

You may have considered going to a specialty school. But I need to tell you that it is virtually impossible to turn that experience into a job. If you’re considering being a manga artist and have penned a dojinshi, that’s a hobby; it isn’t training for work in the industry. “But I could use Comiket as a springboard to turn pro,” you might be thinking here. The fact is, that isn’t just about how good your illustrations are. It’s about having the editorial sense to turn your comic into a proper product. That know-how isn’t the sort of thing that can be developed in a classroom or with a test. You’re venturing into a very strict world where the only thing that matters is “does it sell or doesn’t it.” If you want to know more about it, please read Naoki Karasawa’s Manga Gokudo (“The Extreme Way of Manga”). It is extremely true to life, and shows that even if you do become a manga artist, continuing to make a living at it requires all sorts of effort and sacrifice. Only those who are capable of doing that are capable of making a living by drawing.

If after reading this you find yourself saying “but I still want to do it,” that isn’t desire. You need to know IN YOUR BONES that you are willing to STRUGGLE to do this, that you’re willing to starve before taking another kind of job. Desire alone isn’t enough for a job that requires you to have the facility in a wide range of styles to draw hundreds of illustrations of a certain quality within a certain timeframe. As a freelancer there’s the fear of never knowing when the next job is coming in, meaning you have to put your all into whatever comes your way, meaning you don’t have any real control over what you’re working on. You can always take a job at a studio, but only those with the drive and physical strength to do the same thing in the same place over and over again for a decade or more on end can make it there. This is why I’m telling you you’re better off going to school and becoming an office lady.

That’s all I can tell you, speaking as someone with experience in the matter. If you still feel like you want to pursue a career in art, the important thing is to take the style you plan to work in — whether it’s design, nihonga, oil painting, pen and ink, pencil, whatever — and practice doing it every single day. Universities will have practical tests, so you will need to push yourself to do at least three drawings a day. When working in pen, you need to get yourself to the level where you can easily crosshatch freehand. This is the level of ability that is already being demanded of you, Miyuri, so there’s no time to waste with simple “desire.”

After reading feedback and Twitter responses to his answer, Tomino has since posted an addendum on Global Voices.

(Thanks, Nick Rucka)

  • Trevor

    Honestly, the best thing you can tell someone considering to go into this field is that they will never make it. Those that listen to that advice would never make it anyway, and those that ignore it and take it as a challenge will do just fine.

    • This post, the last one on Paul Giamatti, and your comment are excellent food for thought.

    • Chris Sokalofsky

      That is exactly what our professor at animation school told us on the first day of class, and repeatedly throughout the year. Obviously it wasn’t entirely true, as 5 of the 14 in our class DID make it, and are now “living the dream” so to speak. But Trevor is correct. If you want someone to work 8 hours instead of 6, you tell them that they have to work 14 or they will fail. If you want them to succeed, to tell them that without fault they will never make it. And then, some of them just might.

    • Beginning artists need more help and real advice, not roadblocks set up to test their resolve. Just be real. No one needs artist machismo.

  • Karim

    As real as his statement of this Industry can be, advising to give up at a certain age is pure B.S… she’ll have time to figure out if this job suits her or not, this what I would call a “life”, making mistakes and/or succeeding. Basically learning from this journey.

    I experienced that when someone would tell me that I was too old to fully learn when I started my animation education (24 y.o), hopefully these people were not convincing enough and I’m currently having a blast. I intend to thrive for as long as I can hold a pencil or a mouse, that’s what this LIFE is for ;)

    • Chelsea

      Do you mind if I ask why you were told that you were ‘too old’ to start animation school?

      Something to be considered here is that Japan has a very different social and career system than other countries do. I’m curious if you’re from the US or somewhere else. If you’re from the US, I don’t know why someone would say to a twenty-four year-old that “It’s too late for you.” If in your post-high school years, you worked very hard to develop your skills… what do four extra years between high school and college matter in the US? It worries me if I’m mistaken in my thinking that in the US it is ‘okay’ to wait a bit between high school and attending an art school so long as the wait is used to do some serious self-study.

      I think Japan has very different industry standards. But then again, I don’t know much about Japan or about what their animators really go through… aside from the fact that the job doesn’t seem as prestigious as we make it for some people in the states. While many of our animators are being paid rather well (not exceptionally, but studio animators make decent money as far as I know), what I know of Japan’s industry is that an animating job is fairly common, not paid very well and not seen as anything particularly special.

      Please, someone correct me if I’m wrong- I would love to know more. But reading the harshness of this letter adds to my assessment. Animating is not easy in the US by any means and every animator has to struggle with explaining that they do in fact ‘draw cartoons’ for a living. But in Japan, because animation is so much more common there and used for -every- kind of media, I think it is sometimes more of a struggle for their artists and that is why Tomino’s response was so strict.

      • purin

        I suppose, also, in the US the school system is such that we’re all playing catch up in college to make up for whatever we lacked in our required schooling and sat through until we had the chance to pursue it.

      • Karim

        Chelsea > To answer your question, it happened in France, at Annecy during a job fair, I was in first year and applying for internships. The crazy thing was that the guy at the booth (won’t say the company name) also told that to few others as well. I’m pretty sure he mentioned the learning curve as being tough the older you get. I would get it if I was in my 40’s and never drew in my life, but that was too much.

        Also in France, most of the animation schools weren’t taking students older than 24 years old in first year… and that’s a pure shame. Maybe things have changed since then, but apart from La Poudriere, I don’t know any other school in France accepting older students.

        Fortunately this is changing with the online schools and possibly others not to mention the Animation Workshop (Denmark) that had students in there 30’s.

        In addition to my rant, Tomino in his letter focused on his Industry overlooking the independent landscape where you don’t need to be a clean-up machine with illustrator skills.

      • G. Melissa Graziano

        My fellow students in UCLA’s MFA Animation program ranged from their early 20s to mid-40s. I think it benefited all of us, as we all had different experiences and talents.

    • Charlie

      Thats what life is for, for artists in the states. But not in Japan. Its quite a different ball game, with time and age limits, contests that define your ability, and ridged social casts with biases and rules that where defined a long time ago.

      Japanese students must choose a career path for the rest of there lives in high school. If a student graduates, without the proper ties to the industry of there choosing, then they will be doomed to never being able to enter that field. Furthermore, if they attempt to enter the field later in life, as you and I are doing, they will simply not be able to get in, as the time limit to find that kind of job have sounds tough and constricting to westerners I know, but consider this,

      If you declare “I want to be an artist” at 6 years old in Japan, and your parents supported that decision, you would be groomed as an artist from that point onward. Making ties and learning the trade at an early age. Where as the same declaration in the states may get you a passive, “thats nice, wait till your older” response which could lead to a feeling of uncertainty well though college.

      Other people have already posted this type of response. Yes its a culture thing.

  • AJ

    That is pretty sound advice the artist industry is hard to get into, learning office duties is a lot more stable. she can still learn and try to be an artist in her free time.

  • 2011 Toddler

    Universities have practical tests for drawing?! We don’t EVER have any of that! At least not where I went!

  • Japanese universities offer only a major in “Office Lady”?

    • Iritscen

      Japan: Blazing that trail to the 1950s. At least for women.

    • Not really its more like a short term for a degree in business, usually more like an associates degree for general competence. The terms office man and office lady are common.

  • purin

    It comes out as harsh, but it’s something that is true: You don’t go into art, especially animation, for the career. You go into it for love, pure love.

    …. but, love or no love, that probably would have scared and guilted me out of it, since I tell torment myself all the time about how I “should” be drawing at this age. For me, that mentality actually makes me less adventurous and reliant on “proper” schooling and technique instead of getting out there and experimenting with everything (which is how you really learn, even in art school. You have to just do it).

    It’s only when I realize just how much of it comes from the heart and love that my work starts to flow from me and I realize that I really do have the dedication perhaps even the ability.

    But, so what if you missed a certain success mark by a year or two (“Gee, I wanted to be an artist, but I’m 16, and I’m supposed to have started to have that dream in earnest at 8. I guess that dream is totally down the drain and I must live my life always sighing and wondering what could have been if my school had better art programs”)? It’s better to start just a little bit later than a lot later. People live a long time these days, and so you have that much more time to hate your life and regret not having been able to draw in-between quality at sophomore year.

    I suppose this is why there are some amazing artists who are content to only do things like doujinshi and other small-time things without ever going fully into the art market.

  • A great read and fantastic, real world advice. Better than the “follow your heart and all your dreams will come true” B.S. we are indoctrinated with in the west.

    • Cerry Zane

      That’s not completely B.S. If you have a dream, and you have the skills and the drive to excel beyond a large portion of your contemporaries and competition, then you can succeed.

      Having a dream is not bullshit, especially if you can deliver the goods.

      And on a slightly dramatic note,’dreams’ are an integal part of being human . Pixar is the perfect example of a company founded on dreams (apart from capital & investors).

  • lola

    Well said, sir. You could always ‘desire’ to be something but if you don’t have the work ethic to pursue that ‘desire’ then you’re better off working in an office. I know a lot of high schoolers that should read this.
    However there are always those few exceptions that work their butt off for a few years and go from being amateur to borderline pro because they’re so passionate about their art. Sadly these exceptions are few and far between.

  • MichaelHughes

    Sounds like a cultural, Japan industry specific thing. No one would say 16 is too late for anything in any industry in the US.

  • In the immortal words of Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

  • Gray64

    Sound advice, really. The best reason I’ve ever heard of pursuing any kind of endeavor is “because it’s intolerable for me to do anything else.”
    That being said, as sound as his advice is, Tomino has always struck me as a bit of an ass. Or at least as a creator who is EXTREMELY disenchanted by the industry he works in. I read an interview with him once where he kept painting himself as a craftsman-for-hire, and when the interviewer asked him what his dream project was, he refused to come up with an answer; he pretty much said he just did whatever his bosses asked of him and tried not to think beyond that. Seemed like a very sad, cynical fellow.

    • purin

      That reminds me somewhat of something I overheard in the labs. I heard someone say he didn’t feel too much of a need to be on the creating side of things. He enjoyed animating, and so long as he had something to animate, he was content.

      But those are coming from different feelings, probably.

    • Iritscen

      Tomino is in fact famous for being difficult and contrary in interviews. As much as I admire Gundam, he’s the last famous animator in Japan that I would ever ask for advice.

  • Charles

    He makes it sound like in-betweening should be an olympic sport. Plus, with a few exceptions, youd never know they cared so much about in-betweening when watching anime.

  • Whofan

    Gundam is just a toy commercial that looks like a Star Wars ripoff! Lightsabers, psychic powers, come on! It’s no suprise there’s a Gundam embargo that Lucasfilm made.

    • Upstanding Citizen

      Tomino actually conceived of Gundam well before the release of Star Wars, and was rather pissed off when Lucas did the exact same thing he was trying to do. I think Star Wars probably wound up influencing Gundam anyway, but the result is still a rather different (perhaps more subtly political) beast.

    • Jarko

      Have you actually seen Gundam? Even with with giant robots it’s more science fiction than Star Wars is and less black and white in its morals.

  • when i feel like i would never make it in animation, i just tell myself i would never make it in accounting either

  • That’s probably the best advice to give someone. I am a current college student and a student leader here with our student org. I try to tell people who want to go into this field that it’s not about what you are willing to do but what you are willing to give up, but often to no avail. And even with all my hard work I still find will find a staggering uphill battle, to find work. But I am ok with that…

  • It’s un-American of those Japanese to insist that one need to be good at something to make a career of it.

    • Gray64

      Where did that come from? Who’s saying that?
      I think Tomino’s saying that being good at drawing isn’t enough. You need to be good AND fast AND consitant AND able to take direction AND a host of other things.
      I don’t think ANYone believes you can suck at a skill-based profession and still make a viable career of it.(Though I will say I’ve seen artists who are fairly lackluster become more successful than others vastly more skilled and talented because they can turn out their lackluster art on a timely, consistant basis and their more talented bretheren have a harder time meeting a deadline).

      • @ Gray64

        In Real America “you can be anything you want”, all you have to do is “have faith in the future” and “keep reaching for the stars” but “don’t sweat the small stuff” because “good things come to those who wait”.

        All that tedious master-a-skill stuff is rarely mentioned.

  • Bryan

    I didn’t see “Get a life!” anywhere in there.

    • wgan

      he was actually saying get a office lady job instead

  • Rezz

    Anyone who works in the animation will agree that’s sound advice. To rely on desire is just not enough.

    animation is hard painful/ sacrificing work.

  • Tony C

    You need a degree to be an ‘Office Lady’? Seems a bit much.

    I thought the office lady type job would be what gave you your bread n butter whilst you trained to be what you wanted.

    This guy seems to paint a picture of Japan’s industry a cold machine. I hope that’s not true. It’d definitely push me outside the country for this sort of career. Study animation in Europe somewhere instead and then start my career there. Manga and Anime have been the same for the last 15 years anyway.

  • It’s interesting, but nowadays you grow-up constantly hearing everybody from your parents to Seasame Street tell you that ‘You can do anything as long as you set your mind to it’. Maybe we hear it so often as kids we become so numb to the true meaning of the phrase, we no longer afford following our dreams the time and effort such a task actually deserves.

    When I told my Mother what I wanted to do (Character Design) she flat out told me “I think you’re wasting your time”. I guess she was dissapointed that I no longer wanted to be the Veterinarian/Egyptologist/Forensic Scientist that she could brag about to her friends. I’ll never forget how she made me feel that day, she wasn’t the first person to tell me I wouldn’t make it as an artist but she was certainly one of the few people I thought would always stand by me no matter what.

    Still, here I am 4 years later, unsure of myself and if I have what it takes, and now I can’t help but remember what she said and wonder if I really am just wasting my time. But I think I’m going to remember what Trevor and Jeffrey Simonetta said. I wouldn’t be where I was today if I didn’t love animation, and both me and Miyuri have to be willing to make sacrifices and stand up for ourselves. If we don’t try and fight against the expectations others have for us we’ll never be truly happy in what we do.

    • Gray64

      And more power to you! Ultimately, you yourself are the final judge on whether or not your time is wasted, so ig you love animation, you aren’t wasting your time.
      I agree that we hear “you can do anything so long as you put your mind to it” so much that most of us don’t realize the implications. “Putting your mind to it” is 5 words that stand for one hell of a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

    • Scarabim

      Yeah, I totally get it about what parents can do to your ambitions. My folks were all like, well, okay, you can TRY to be an artist, but we have our doubts; never did I feel they really believed in me, not ever. What they believed in was a regular job with health benefits. I remember a great cartooning job offer I got once, from a major company, and how did they react? Were they proud, enthusiastic, eager to cheer me on? No, they were like “well, you’d better measure up, you’d better not blow it.” They even opened and read the letter from the company during my absence, without my permission, as if it were some kind of scam I needed to be protected from. And that’s the way it went, all the time I lived with them during the early days of my career, I always had the vague feeling that, by pursuing a career I truly wanted, I was doing something wrong. I finally got the hell out of there while I was still in my teens, best thing I ever did. It’s a lot worse to hear your own folks denigrate your ambitions out of ignorance than hearing the hard truth from someone knowledgeable like Timono. He’s just trying to make the reality of the difficulties of an art career clear to someone who’s wavering, not break the spirit of someone who’s working their butt off to make it. Parents can be a bitch to your ambitions. Once you decide you don’t owe them an explanation for your dreams and stop trying to impress them, things get a HELL of a lot easier. Trust me.

    • Your mother’s concept of art sounds like that of a fine artist from the 1940’s who wants to sell his/her abstract oil paintings. Animation today is not just “being an artist”; it is a skilled occupation that has great need of skilled people. It is not abstract art
      as in oil painting. You can learn those specific skills.
      The output of animation on TV, film, games, etc. is gigantic. It is a field of endeavor with numerous opportunities. But only do it if you do love it. It has to be a labor of love or else forget it. I have done that over a 30 year period. I love it now more than ever. I free-lance and I teach. I do not work at Pixar or Dreamworks or ILM. I have my own style. I can also draw any style of others. I am happy I chose it.

  • Fran

    Actually you now need a degree to be an Office anything here in the U.S.–even a receptionist. But in an economic climate where even formerly reliable careers like Office Work are no longer so reliable, then it seems you could do no worse by attempting to pursue your dream. NOTHING is a sure thing these days.

  • dbenson

    Years ago I heard a talk by a tough-minded older actor at Ashland. His own work experience was all over the map before he settled into theater; he firmly felt he couldn’t have done anything worthwhile without those years in the “real world”. His advice to the kids present was to get out and learn stuff beyond acting. If you’re that good, you’ll find your way back and you’ll have something to work with.

    In the entertainment world in general, there’s already an insane surplus of creatives whose studies begin and end with previous creatives (even the ones who aren’t constantly “rebooting” or “re-inventing” instead of creating). Maybe animation — not just in Japan — would benefit from an Office Lady who brings an artist’s eye to an ignored environment, or simply sets herself to think outside the industry mindset, and finds something new

  • The one thing I’ve noticed with this industry is that everyone’s story is different. If you have the burning passion for it, you will proceed regardless.
    When I was going through college studying animation, the mother of my girlfriend at the time said on numerous occasions that I should give it up and get a real job (there weren’t many possiblities in the city I was living in at the time). I persisted and despite my first two jobs in animation falling on their arse and leaving me owed money (and yes, still the comments to get a real job) I eventually moved across the country with this girl to a studio. Despite a visit from this girl’s mother bagging the city we were now living in, and later the girl ditching me and moving back across the country, I’ve gone on to work on six animated TV series and ten feature films in a career over 15 years.

  • Whofan

    Tomino is an idiot

  • Steamboat Bill

    Is it really to late to start animation in your second year of high school? He may have given an honest appraisal but that wouldn’t always coincide with fact there are many famous artists that didn’t pick up a pencil or a paint brush until their later years. Is that really a crime? Keep in mind however that usually starting late can be difficult because you have to compensate for a lot. Theirs a happy medium between natural talent and starting early.

  • Gray64

    Obviously, I can’t speak for what goes on in Japan, but a lot of successful American animation has grown from some pretty humble roots. Cartoon Network’s Powerpuff Girls grew out of a film Craig McCracken made pretty much by himself while working as an animator for HB on things like 2 Stupid Dogs and Dexter’s Lab. Most of the stuff on Adult Swim (whatever we might think of them) were personal visions as well.
    I like a lot of Anime, but it does seem to have a sameness about it. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of experimentation in visual styles.

    • Toonio


    • Lucky

      F-ing A! The best series from the US are usually made with love and for fun, you can see in the pilot episodes that they’re made to be goofy, they’re personal and are unique. They may not have the best animation, cleanest lines, but they make you laugh and you want to see more!
      Thats why ive been aiming for TV animation since i started my degree and while it may not have the same respect as feature animation it feels like you can really have more fun with it
      I can never get into most animes the same way i can get into US series. Animation to me isn’t about making perfect lines or the best drawn characters but to entertain and have fun with it!
      in short F— Tomino

      • Short Man

        I don’t know what the people of this forum think of “Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt,” but it definitely fits the “entertaining and have fun with it” scenario.

        It’d be nice to see more tv animation from Japan like this. Not being as vulgar as possible with PaSwG, but experiment a little and stop confining to moe-blob garbage.

  • Vzk

    At least he didn’t tell her to stay at home and raise children.

  • Toonio

    One name: Ken Harris. Age/Career wasn’t a problem for him.

    The little I know of Asian cultures is that once you chose a path you die on that path, no way out. If you feel depressed because of your career choice some of the options are migration, heavy drinking or the final decision (yeah the definitive solution to a temporary problem). So it is big business making a career choice in overpopulated japan.

    And like many others before me brilliantly pointed, if you are discouraged just because somebody told you, well, you don’t have the cojones for it.

  • Jm


    Subtitles for : Silence woman your insolence will be punished!!, you would never make it as an artist!!.

    that would have been a shorter and better answer

  • Stephan

    Oy, what a jackoff. Second year of high school, that means the kid is 16! Sixteen and confused and a full grown man shits on her spirit. What is it about the arts that makes jackoffs out of citizens? Did you know doctors SAVE LIVES?

  • Karl Hungus

    Can I copy his reply and post it in the topic from a week ago where that kid was inspired by Jeffrey Katzenberg to drop out of school?

  • david

    i think it takes more skill to draw a typical anime than a typical crappy flat u.s. cartoon/poopstain. With that context in mind, his response seems on point.

    i bet that kid could come over here and churn out some FOP boards or bob’s burgers no problemo.

  • christine

    people who say tomino is a jerk clearly don’t understand the hyper competitive educational environment in most asian countries. the best colleges take students from the best high schools which take the best students from middle schools. your future success could be possibly determined at 14, which is just an unfortunate circumstance for late bloomers.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      In Japan, it’s more important what school you go to after junior high as it is here in the US for college after high school

  • Scarabim

    Here’s what I get out of the student’s question and Tomino’s advice: the student was wondering whether an art career was a good idea, worthy of pursuit. And Tomino answered, basically, that if you’re a real artist, you wouldn’t be wondering.

  • I feel like Tomino’s advice is a too negative. Granted, in Japan things may be different…I think a lot of manga-ka start their career in their late teens early twenties….but to say “if you don’t have all the pre-requisite skills by 16 you’ll never make it”, well it’s sounds insane. Moreover, I think he’s focusing too much on the aspect of “working for others”, and making your artwork into a product. I play the piano, but I’m not a professional making money off of it, should I give it up then? I play the piano for myself and I don’t really care what anybody thinks about it.
    I get that it’s hard to make a lot of money in artistic fields, but life isn’t just about money. You coudn’t pay me enough to keep me in a dull office environment 8 hours a day everyday. That’s 8 hours of my life everyday spent in misery.

  • fair dinkum, I discourage everyone… more work for me. No one ever listens to advice anyway, we all do what we want in the end

  • rebecca

    This is a real answer. They have treated this question and the person with the respect that they deserve. There are so many students out there that have an idea of what a career will or won’t be like that when given an answer like this and the time to think it over, and make better decisions about their futures.
    Sure as Mick says, no one ever listens to advice anyway, (I’m sure if I listened to mine I would never gone to university or completed my degree) there are always some parts of advice that we all take to heart.

    Teaching is not like in the movies, you will most likely never inspire anyone and remember they’re high school students they’re not your friends and certainly not people you can date.

  • Steve M.

    I can see what Tomino means here. Animation is hard work and you have to have the skill, the love, the determination, and the brain to get in the industry. If you have none of those, your better off getting a job at the office.

  • No teacher, no mentor, no person has the right to tell you not to pursue your dreams. If you love something, you should pursue it. I’ve never had any patience or respect for the grownups who get off by telling the kids what they cannot do.

    Do you want “hard facts of life?” Okay, here we go….You’re Going To Die. There’s yer hard-boiled “reality.” Do whatever brings you happiness and joy, and to hell with the rest. You have to hustle and work hard? Competition is fierce? Really? Noooo! Thanks for the news flash, gramps. Now go take your nitro pills.

  • Frank Ziegler

    I can’t see how discouraging anyone at any age is a good thing. People “make it” in the film business all the time at different ages and with different skill sets. Sometimes it’s pure luck or being in the right place at the right time.

  • Aaron H

    Gimme a break. My father didn’t become a professional artist until he was 37 and has been a freelance artist full-time ever since, and that was over 20 years ago.

    It’s just drawing. You do not need to sacrifice yourself, and starve and give up all other things you want to do in life, to get a job doing key drawings on Spongebob.

  • Tadpole

    Hmph. I hope she goes into animation anyway, creates a hugely popular franchise, and becomes a millionare, just out of spite.

  • Johnno

    I feel his advice is right. As someone who struggles and is currently in a lapse as to my future career, it makes sense to have your second options. She ought to go to university and get office experience while also practicing her drawing and art. The options are always open to her if she is diligent enough and she can always go from being in the office to full time artist if the opportunity comes or if the opportunity never happens she can still hae a means of living. Sometimes, in fact very often, dreams don’t come true. I may not ever have my dream job of being an animator/director etc. but I still enjoy doing it even as a hobby and plenty of people can still appreciate my work thanks to the web etc. So I might be disappointed, but I’ll move on and manage well enough.

  • Huh. Well, he’s right – if you don’t draw non-stop every day and dedicate your life to art, some other person WILL and THAT person will get work, every time, all the time…

    ESPECIALLY in Japan where there are soooooooooo many talented anime types readily available and willing to work for peanuts in a heartbeat. Japan is almost the opposite of America in that respect!

  • chipper

    In all honesty, I wish I had been told that. I wish I could go back and warn myself. I wanted very much to be an animator, and took a lot of good drawing courses.

    However, I failed every time even though I tried twice as hard as most students. I went through the programs that taught drawing more than once.

    I have since given up, but I can’t afford to go to school anymore for anything else. I’ve pretty much screwed up my life for putting all my eggs in one basket. I should have not pursued it, it was a huge mistake.

    Saying that dreams come true with hard work is nice and all, but it’s also not always true. Sometimes hard work just ends in heartbreak.

    That being said, I wish the best for this kid in whatever she ends up in. I hope it’s something she loves.

  • I think I fall under that group of people who heard the warnings but chose to ignor OH HEY IT’S ANOTHER 2D ANIMATED DISNEY FEATURE!

    Without getting into my life’s story, I decided to pursue animation at about the same age as the girl in the article, except this was back in 2003. Shorty after Disney closed down their Florida studio and killed off their hand drawn animation, which pretty much killed off my dreams of directing a hand drawn feature at Disney (nevermind Pixar or Dreamworks, there’s FAR more qualified people out there, like the entire graduating class of Cal Arts’ animation program).

    So if I were to give sound advice to myself from 2003, I’d probably say the same thing as Tomino. Do I have what it takes to be a hand drawn animator at Disney (or an animator/storyman at Pixar)? Hell no (I’d say my animation style and sensibilities are closer to that of golden age Warner Brothers anyways). Working at Disney, or, Hollywood studios (from what I gather. I’ve never worked in Hollywood), if you don’t fit that mold Tomino talks about, you’re absolutely not going to make it at that studio. I myself would never be able to work in a Japanese anime studio not because of a lack of passion or drive, but because artistically, I don’t fit into their cookie cutter mold.


    This doesn’t mean that everyone should just give up pursuing animation for office lady jobs. Odds are I’ll never work in Hollywood, but I recently landed a pretty darn sweet job doing animation for a social/casual game studio (pay’s good, coworkers are awesome, and the work is actually fun). What Tomino fails to mention is that there is so much more out there than Disney, Pixar, and [anime studio here]. Any country that can come out with THIS has GOT to have something more than (not) drawing inbetweens for an anime or for a Studio Ghibli film– it’s just a matter of expanding your horizons. Again, for me, that was getting into casual gaming instead of thinking that running to Hollywood would be the ONLY option I could ever do (and before anyone says it, I would still LOVE to work at Pixar. Just sayin’)

    As far as that “All your dreams can come true WITH HARD WORK” thing goes, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s what’s motivated me pretty much my whole life, and without that motivation I would never have landed my current job. As long as you can keep the realistic perspective of “Well, odds are it’s NOT going to happen, but it MIGHT if I keep at it” it’s never a bad thing. What’s the alternative, look at the futility of it all and give up before you start? Why even bother trying to live if you’re just going to die?

    (per the rules of commenting, here’s the studio I work for: )

  • Milo Thatch

    This might be a bit old by this point, but I’ll post my thoughts anyway:

    Reading his advice made me realize that I am doing things RIGHT on my own journey as an animator. I’ve sacrificed many of life’s basic social and personal needs to produce the best demo reel I could, working freelance jobs for games and advertising when I could manage them AFTER working 40-hours a week at an office job to pay the bills… all focused on the chance that MAYBE one day I will get into a feature film studio full time. I watched many of my peers get comfortable or get scared, and stop trying to better themselves and their work. I cannot live with myself if I don’t pursue this dream with every ounce of energy that I barely have to give. And in that regard, Tomino is 100% accurate.

    People who say he was too mean or had “no right” to say the things he did to her are forgetting that she ASKED for his advice. She asked and he gave it. He didn’t see her drawing in a sketchpad on the street and drop a bomb of opinions on her without her request. She came to him, sought out his opinion specifically, and wanted an honest answer. Sooo… she got it. Is the answer YOU would have given? Maybe not. But that doesn’t make it invalid. It’s his advice and she ASKED for it, end of story.

    And frankly, it was darn good advice. If you need to wonder at all if animation is a “worthy” career, then you already have your answer.

  • But…

    If he was a 100% accurate, then no one would be in any type of art job.

  • If he was 100% right, then no one would be working in the art field.

  • Some girl

    Great word of advice..for someone who is 30!
    Hey I am 16 as well, I know what to expect, but geez, way to kill my spirits. I mean come on,they are only 16!!

  • Possibly apropos because it deals not only with the career difficulties of women in Japan but also CartoonBrew’s favorite bête noire, 3D…

  • I may have mentioned it here once before that I was investigating an animation career in Japan several years ago before my current job. At that time I was warned about something very interesting, japanese animation studios look down on people who are fans of animation. Basically they don’t want to hire someone who knows anything about their shows or properties and that you only have a cursory appreciation. The issue stems from the otaku perception, basically people who day labor than waste their free hours devouring anime and manga. An animation studio will work you 12-14 hours a day and they don’t want artists that are fans or will be distracted from their job because they spent all night watching the latest Gundam series in one sitting. It is almost preferred that you don’t act like you know any of the studios shows. Either way the animation industry there is slowly coming apart, over the past few years the number of productions has dropped by half.

    That aside the attitude of discouragement that some seem offended isn’t all that offensive to the Japanese or Asian way. In fact its more looked at like a challenge to her, as the author reiterates in the addendum ignore the naysayers. This article ( gained some press last week about Chinese Mothers, the attitude is very similar, you are trash until you prove me wrong.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Much of what you say is pretty much the problem I see with the industry too. Too many fans and not enough commitment.

  • Whofan

    Hello! This guy directs a model commercial!

  • G. Melissa Graziano

    I was lucky to have one parent who was totally supportive, and one that wasn’t. In their own ways, they both pushed me to pursue my dream, and since the supportive parent also was a hard worker, it made me unafraid of the dedication needed for my chosen occupation.

    Actually, scratch “chosen occupation”. It’s a calling, like becoming a priest, or teaching. You can’t want to do anything else. Either I do what I want, or die trying. And if I do fail, at least I gave it a shot. I can always do something else.

    But it sounds like, in this girl’s case, she will never get a second chance if she chooses the wrong path. In that context, I understand why Tomino would give her that advice. For me, between the choice of being miserable doing what you love, or being miserable doing what you hate, I’d take the former any day. :p

  • MoMo

    I don’t think Tomino was being harsh at all. Not at all.

    I’ve been told exactly the same thing by many art teachers and you can never argue with someone who created the world’s most successful mecha franchise, and on an awful budget in the time Gundam 0079 aired on TV.

  • mickhyperion

    Don’t listen to negative bullshit advice like this EVER!!! If you believe you have the talent and desire to follow your dreams, then by all means do it and don’t let the bad advice of some bitter pathetic excuse of someone who needs to go get a lame office job themselves stand in your way. Follow your bliss and don’t give up on it, or find yourself filled with regret and hanging from the end of a rope someday.

  • Rafael

    I like drawing, but this is not my job, I’m a scientist. Drawing makes me feel better and happy, isn’t that does matter? =D

  • Anoniguy

    Maybe she’ll come to the US as a transfer student and succeed in our schools. She can be a western animator, where the industry is.. also all screwed up, but in a different way than the japanese one.

  • However

    Don’t listen to those who tell you that you’ll fail. People who does that, always fails. But people who ignore it and keeps believing in their dream, they will win no matter what.
    I’m not trying to sound like a kid living in her own little fantasy bubble, but thats the true. Keep believing, don’t let anyone stop you, work hard for it, never give up and make it… thats all i can say :)