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Thermae Romae Mangaka “Got $10,000 of $62,000,000”

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The creator of the manga adapted into blockbuster bathing movie Thermae Romae has spoken of her outrage at learning that of the movie’s 6 billion yen gross she would only be receiving a paltry 1 million yen.

45-year-old mangaka and self-proclaimed “ancient Rome otaku” Mari Yamazaki, is of Tokyo extraction but now lives in Chicago, after having spent much of her life in Italy.

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She is best known for time travel bathing manga Thermae Romae, a title exploring the obsession with public bathing shared by both ancient Rome and modern Japan which proved so popular it adapted into a live action film shot in Rome.

However, even more shocking than the success of her manga is the treatment she reports receiving at the hands of studio and publisher in a recent TV interview.

According to her, the film “grossed 5,800,000,000 yen,” of which she “received about 1,000,000 yen as payment for using the story and barely made anything out of it despite it being a hit,” a revelation which soon had the studio in an uproar, to say nothing of the Internet.

She explains that her publisher “suddenly asked for permission to use the work in exchange for 1,000,000 yen,” a sum arrived at “arbitrarily” and which she went along with as she was busy with her work.

Only when she fielded questions from friends about how much of a fortune she had raked in from the success of her creation did she realise publishers had got one over her (although less kind observers might instead characterise this as a near total lack of business acumen on her part).

She concludes that “I made more when I was getting just under 20,000 yen a page for the original manga than I did when it was turned into a hit movie.”

The case has been likened to that of Shuho Sato, whose “Sea Monkeys” manga was adapted into a movie which grossed 7 billion yen, of which he saw a pathetic 2.5 million.

He has been vocal in rubbishing publishers for “Using mangaka as they please, so much so that you should not get your hopes up even if your manga is made into a movie – they are mocking us.”

He fought back by snubbing Shogakukan when they came back for the rights to a sequel, instead hiring his own crafty lawyer to help with negotiating a deal yielding “10 times more” for later movies.

As a Thermae Romae sequel is in the works, there is at least some hope that Yamazaki has had a chance to learn her lesson.

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74 Comments

  • “She explains that her publisher “suddenly asked for permission to use the work in exchange for 1,000,000 yen,” a sum arrived at “arbitrarily” and which she went along with as she was busy with her work.”

    She willingly chose to do this and deserves no more than what she agreed to. She just signed off on the contract without having any clue as to what it was for because she was “too busy.” She made her bed, now she has to lay in it. Maybe next time she’ll be bothered to read contracts or pay for a few hours with a lawyer before blindly signing anything.

  • “You need a lawyer and a good manager
    Without that, the record companies will be havin’ ya.
    I’m grabbin’ ya now, showin’ ya how
    Not to get jerked when you do hard work!”
    — KRS-One, from one of his raps off his Edutainment album way back in the 90’s.

    That advice applies equally well to sports, television, movies, and in this case, publishing.

  • Wait… It’s me or I have heard this kind of stories many many times?
    Afterall in the entertainment business they’re all trying to farm and profit with everything, I’m pretty sure that they’ll even use the diary of little girl to get a hit… oh wait, again~

  • Not to be mean here. But it’s kinda her own fault for not actually sitting down and negotiate a fair deal. Everybody know that publishers are literally blood sucking leech looking after every drop of profit they can sqeeze out.

  • mangaka are routinely abused by the publishing system, they bank on the fact that most mangaka have wanted to draw manga professionally since they were kids so they’re in it for more than money, so they take advantage of them and screw them at every opportunity

    • Silly people are silly.

      You get a job that pay money, and get a hobby of something you enjoy doing.

      Publishing your works on the internet is cheap enough that you can support your own manga if you have a decent job.

      This is not something unique to mangakas. Generally art students in the rest of the world.

    • It’s more of a rule than an exception that the upper class is filled with greedy capitalists who would sell their mothers, their grandmothers, their great grandmothers and their first-born if any of these sales would turn in a profit. Never base any agreements or negotiations with the upper class on good faith. They are money-driven, avaricious demons and should be dealt with as such.

  • Looks bad, but it’s just the way it goes.
    Say the movie was a total failure and gave the studio a loss of 62 million. She’d still get her 10 thousand bucks.
    What probably happened is that the studio got the rights for the movie at a closed sum.
    You can’t complain after the deal is done, unless it was purposedly done in a shady way, or if there’s something wrong.
    It is essencially a bet (and usually a very expensive one) from the studios. Most of the times, it’s even more rational for studios to pay a small sum plus a percentage of profits, so that if the movie sinks, the loss will be reduced.

    She could’ve asked for a percentage in profit or something.
    Being busy with your work is no excuse for signing up contracts without reading them properly, specially ones that are licensing your creative works.
    But what I think really happened is that she in no way thought that the movie was going to be this sucessful. So she accepted a reasonable sum for the rights. 10 thousand bucks is a small sum only in comparison to the gross profit of the movie… it’s quite a good ammount of money to pay to license a story to be adapted for a movie.
    I liked the manga and the anime, but whether it’s Japan, Hollywood or whatever, thinking that authors will receive tons of money proportional to the movie/series sales is kind of a fantasy, unless it’s a very famous and already accomplished author who knows how to deal with those.
    Even in those cases, it’s more likely that authors will end up profiting more with subsequent licensing than otherwise… like from future manga sales, future marketing and content overall.
    The process of shooting a movie is very costly, very risky, involves tons of pros, tons of very expensive gear, locations, logistic, marketing, among several other things – and the complexity tends to double when it’s shot in another country. Yes, the plot, the story is basically the soul of it all. But I’m not so shure that only because the movie was a success, the author who knew nothing about the movie itself suddenly deserves a bigger share. The people who deserves their share are the ones who bet their money, time and dedication to the movie itself.

  • well if you don’t deal a contract first and get the proper advice you can’t really blame anyone one but your own stupidity. we all know people is out there ready and eager to rip anyone one off. so if you place yourself in the sacrificial stone, wearing a sheepskin, what did you expect?

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, there you have it, pro-copyright faggots.

        That what copyright true objective , ripoff artists and take away their rights while those parishes get all the profits.

        “Thinks would have raked more making it herself lol”

      • Like Juno said, mangaka have incredibely tight schedules. Unless you are a superstar who earn enough to release a chapter every two month, you will have to work like a beast and have very little time for anything else.
        Making a 19 pages long chapter in ONE WEEK is no joke, you have to do the scenario, the storyboard, send the storyboard to your editor, rework the storyboard, send it again, start working on the rought draft, send it, correct the rough draft (or redo it), and THEN you can actually finish it.

        That’s for a weekly magazine, but when you work that much you are completely focused on your work and not on movie royalties.

      • Do not underestimate a mangaka’s workload. A lot of them complain that they barely get a few hours (2-4) sleep a night, not even getting breaks to feed themselves, especially when deadlines get closer. When I visited a studio apartment in Japan to talk to a new amateur author I met at an art store, the group (her and her assistants) was nearing their second-ever deadline, and they all had blankets and coats sprawled out everywhere. They couldn’t recall when they last actually went home. They had take-out noodle dishes all over the place because they had no time to actually sit down for a proper meal. The literally ate while they worked. Not to mention, the apartment was quite smelly and I believe it was due to their lack of hygeine in recent days. The only reason she allowed me to meet with her was because I told her I wanted to be a mangaka in the future. I was told to sit down and watch when I arrived. About three hours in, I was told to leave because my presence was a distraction and everyone was on a tight schedule. I never even got to speak with her again until I saw her at the store again, two months later.

        It does not surprise me that a mangaka is “too busy with work” to care about anything but making deadlines so they at least make SOME kind of money and aren’t shifted off the magazine for a more reliable author.

        • never take percentages.

          see the film maker and distributor are owned by the same people, you have a contract with the maker, the distributor charges upwards 20 billion dollars, and you never see a penny of the percentages.

        • And common sense dictates to distrust people you’ve been working with for years every time money is involved. Heck, just don’t trust anyone when money is involved. O even better, do not trust anyone ever. Instead, do that kind of kings to other people.
          That must be they key to success and why people with moral values becoming successful are an oddity.
          Oh, and just blame everything on pirates. That work in every industry, even fishing!

        • @8:08
          Managaka are kept on deliberately ridiculous schedules, spending +16 hours on their work in order to make their deadlines. I doubt she could have found time to get legal counsel while still meeting those deadlines.

        • How can you say she was stupid when media contracts are deliberately written to deceive? It’s not just the complicated language, it’s the fact that things like “profits” don’t mean what it says in the dictionary.

          You have to have experience in the industry, or know a lot about the industry to know such things.

  • This is why you don’t accept cash first, because to them it’s like you were already paid off and you no longer have any say in the matter.
    Can alway sue, but we all know that studios win every time.

  • “Yamazaki has had a chance to learn her lesson.”

    Fuck you. Big corporation exploits an artist who simply didn’t know better and it is her fault?

    What is this shit? Next time you will say if she gets raped on a street at night it was entirely her fault too?

    If the corporations had ANY amount of respect for artists this would be different, but they get away with this because stupid shit like you think it is the artist fault rather then the fucking corporation getting away with almost criminal like deals because they can.

  • “they are mocking us ”

    stupid bitch… i felt mocked the very first moment i saw that crap. she shoul be happy that she was actually able to make her niche observation hobby into a success regardless of the bilance.