The low, low salaries in Japan’s anime studios are well documented, yet new disclosures still have the power to shock. The latest insight into the matter comes from an animator who calls herself Ryoko, in a Youtube video uploaded by Animator Dormitory.
The video focuses on Ryoko’s first nine months in the industry, from April 2019 to January 2020. (Ryoko is a fictional character, but the facts are real based on the experiences of animators who stay at the Animator Dormitory, run by the non-profit organization Animator Supporters.) After commenting on matters like desk ergonomics and the challenges of animating water, she reveals that she earned 668,000 yen (USD$6,320 by today’s rate) in 2019. That’s equivalent to a monthly salary of 74,000 yen, or $700. Ryoko took time off in December, but even so, those wages are “pretty meager” (as she puts it herself). Watch the video below:
For a young animator, though, Ryoko says she is earning relatively well. Noting that many first-year animators can expect between 30,000 and 50,000 yen per month, she attributes her own “high” wages to her combination of employed and freelance work, as well as the fact that she got to do mostly key animation in those months. But she mentions another occupational hazard: pay often comes with several months’ delay. “Even with savings,” she laments, “it’s hard to make ends meet like this.”
Ryoko’s comments tally with other reports, including comments made by young key animator Ayane Nakamura in a video we profiled in 2019. Nakamura said she gets paid around $300 and $600 per month. A 2019 survey by the Japan Animation Creators Association found that anime workers aged 20–24 earned an average of 1,550,000 yen (US$14,660) per year — more than Ryoko and Nakamura, but still only around 60% of the national average for that age group.
Nakamura’s video features Jun Sugawara, the founder of Animation Supporters. The non-profit organization organizes crowfunding that subsidizes artists’ accommodation. It also runs the channel that hosts Ryoko’s video, as well as others on the subject. Sugawara’s work is remarkable. So is the fact that he has to do it at all.