Ever since Osamu Tezuka undervalued his pioneering anime series Astro Boy, selling it to broadcasters at an absurdly low price in the 1960s, Japanese animation studios have been condemned to producing content on extremely tight budgets. This has resulted in famously tough labor conditions. Our eye-opening video of the week reveals just how tough this work environment can get.

Hosted by Asian Boss, a Youtube channel that reports on cultural issues across the continent, the video centers on an interview with a young key animator. Ayane Nakamura starts by outlining the current trends in the anime industry: the recruitment of foreign talent, the belated adoption of digital techniques, and so on.

Nakamura then explains why she “struggle[s] to survive.” She says that she’s paid around $37 USD (4,000 yen) per shot, resulting in a monthly salary of between $300 and $600. For that, she works 15 hours per day, with no days off. While she’s new to the industry, she points out that veterans don’t get a much better deal.

Some of her colleagues are so hard-pressed that they sleep under their desks, sometimes for a month at a stretch. As a result, they smell bad, inflaming tensions within the studio. Nakamura counts herself lucky: she rents a cheap room that’s subsidized by crowdfunding.

The video then introduces Jun Sugawara, the founder of Animation Supporters, a non-profit organization that runs this kind of crowdfunding. Appalled by the low pay in the industry, Sugawara specifically solicits donations to help young artists get by. “Even in Japan, this industry is very unique with unusual business practices,” he says.

These practices alienate many talented artists, resulting in a shortage of workers in the anime world. But Nakamura isn’t going anywhere: “Although I know I can barely get by, I am able to draw animations for my career. And that makes me really happy.”

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