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.
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.