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Animator: “I Can’t Afford A Girlfriend, Let Alone A Wife”

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The dire financial straits of Japan’s animators appear to show few signs of improving, with a reported average yearly salary of Tokyo-area animators being around a measly $11,000 and the percentage of those leaving the industry entirely at 8 – 9%.

One animator reports a monthly wage of only $700: “I can’t afford a girlfriend, let alone a wife.”

Even a producer from well-known, although oft-troubled, animation studio Gonzo laments:

“Since last year the number of orders for new projects and our fees have been dropping. A 30-minute TV episode contract used to be ¥18,000,000 ($180,000), but now it’s around ¥13,000,000.”

The Japanese anime industry has experienced shrinkage since the 2005-2006 year, reducing in size from approximately 97 billion yen to the smaller, but still sizable, figure of 78 billion in 2008.

Japan’s strict hierarchical salary structure has always meant that younger workers must toil for some years at their professions before invariably receiving larger and larger pay raises as their seniority and (hopefully) experience levels increase.

This system, combined with the recent financial troubles of the anime industry and the already-low salaries paid to industry workers have resulted in Japan’s younger animators being reduced to practically below subsistence level wages.

The Japan Animation Creator’s Association, or JAniCA, recently reported the figures on Tokyo-based animator salaries as mentioned above following an investigation, giving the average yearly salary of an animator in his twenties as ¥1,100,000 (currently $11,412 USD).

With their pay being such a pittance, it is no surprise that JAniCA’s reported rate of these animators leaving the industry as being as high as 8-9%.

An article by Yahoo! Japan theorizes that some of the reasons for these humiliating salaries may be the increasing amount of animation work being exported to cheaper Asian countries (South Korea being a prime example), and a skill “vacuum” developing amongst younger workers as the number of skilled Japanese animators decreases.

One quote from an interview in Yahoo article comes from a 24 year old animator is given to illustrate common sentiments among the industry’s impoverished younger workers:

“I have zero money to use at all for recreation. Even if I could find a girlfriend, I really wonder if I could even marry her…”

As Yahoo estimates the average monthly salary of such workers in their 20’s as a pitiable ¥70,000 ($726), he might indeed have just cause to worry about such prospects, especially when the income expectations Japanese women have for their prospective husbands is taken into account.

Attempting to do something positive for the currently down on its luck industry, JAniCA is approaching the Japanese Government with the idea to create facilities helping to nurture Japan’s young talent, as well as to raise the public perception of the industry by non-otaku Japanese, whom for the most part take a rather dim view at the Akiba-related world of late-night anime.

Such an “Anime Palace”, as Yahoo calls it, may indeed have the whiff of an unreliable PR effort, but most in the industry and many fans would certainly wish to see something done to safeguard the essential supply of talent.

Via Yahoo! Japan.

There are however also those who see something of a shakeup as a necessary experience for an industry which has enjoyed an apparently unsustatinable bubble, one which now seems burst…

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