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Animators: “1 Frame = 1 Hour, 1 Frame = $2”



The plight of Japan’s pathetically paid animators is once again receiving attention, this time from an NHK TV programme which delves into their dismal pay and the increasing pressure of outsourcing to poorer countries.


“With their cheap production costs, orders to China and Korea are increasing.”


Animation company CEO: “If we send it overseas we can get it done quickly and cheaply.”


“Doesn’t this mean there’ll be no more animators being raised in Japan?”


“Average annual salaries:
Animator (Animation): ¥1,050,000 ($11,500)
Animator (Illustration): ¥2,300,000 ($25,000)”

Although anime fans can usually be found railing at the supposed exploitation of the animator underclass, the actual situation is rather more nuanced – low level animation work is essentially drudge labour requiring comparatively little skill and even less in the way of creativity, and clearly the majority of animators do not climb the ranks to become high level creative talents.

More importantly, without these toiling wretches it is unlikely many niche series could ever be produced at all – fans might find higher wages for animation staff a very mixed blessing.

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  • Anonymous says:

    I remember I worked as night security for a hotel in Mexico. I worked from 7pm to 7am I got the equivalent of $10 us dollars for one days work, that lasted for 4 years while I went to school. I now work at a bank and make a nice $8 an hour.

    rent is 1000pesos (actually own a house in Juarez)
    phone/internet service is 380pesos
    electricity about 500pesos
    groceries are comparatively priced here like the US
    only fruits and meats are cheaper.
    water 15galons of filtered water a week/30 pesos
    water for washing, bathing, toilet, ect 0pesos since we have a well that, to date has never dried up. I pump it to a reservoir on the roof and let gravity do the work.

    living a pretty nice life.

  • Anonymous says:

    Just some animation faq for newfags here:

    -anime studio create storyboard/script.

    -anime studio draw keyframes.

    -sound studio make voice recording.

    -anime studio draw some inbetweens(process of drawing frames between keyframes to make animation look more like animation. Most of this process is out-sourced to Korea or China.)

    -anime studio scan all frames(keyframes and inbetweens) to computer for inking(vectorizing) and digital painting.

    -anime studio add backgrounds to frames
    (mostly digitaly painted).

    -anime studio adds lens flare, filters effects, 3D models to the scene and sound, voice recording.


  • This is all conspiracy from NHK!!! Dont get tricked guys!

    Well anyway the news must already get bribe by the West goverment or the feminist group to destroy Japanese anime culture. Why? As ussual the reason: To protect the right of all women even if they are 2D. Again from the feminist.

  • They are lying about their income.

    This was not taken from their tax return, it was from a survey.

    The cost of living is very high in Japan, no way they are living off that sort of money.

  • Anonymous says:

    Is it just me or do these drafted frames look extremely cool to put on my wall, even moreso than finished cels. I don’t really trust ebay but anyone know about reliable sources to get these? (if at all available)

    • Anonymous says:

      The best place to get original anime production art is Yahoo Japan (Japanese equivalent of Ebay), though sellers usually don’t ship abroad, which means you’d have to use a deputy service to be able to bid on cel/sketch auctions. I use the Shopping Mall Japan deputy service, which i recommend.

      There are also various celshops that sell original production cels and sketches, like Asylum Anime, Anime Gambit and Anime Link.

  • Anonymous says:

    >Animator (Animation): ¥1,050,000 ($11,500)
    >Animator (Illustration): ¥2,300,000 ($25,000)

    It’s not [i]illutstration[/i] 原画担当 refers to someone responsible for drawing key frame poses, 動画担当 is responsible for drawing inbetweens. So it’s something like senior animator and assistant.

  • Anonymous says:

    working under pressure… with some bits of salary…
    the only thing that can release pressure…
    fap fap fap…
    *Fly to heaven*

    anybody work elsewhere probably earn more then mangaka…
    but u won’t get to fap as much as they can.

  • Anonymous says:

    well this has two results… probably more anime for us but less money for the animators don`t you think? there will be a time when it will be so low that the anime media would crash instantly…

  • Anonymous says:

    The real sad thing is that these animators don’t have shit else in life to look forward to either; I doubt they’re getting girlfriends, saving money, eating well or even having pocket money to go out with friends with that kinda pay. Hell, unless these guys mostly live with family/parents, they can’t even really afford rent in Japan, can they?

    • Shippoyasha says:

      I guess that helps explain why the birthrates in Japan is criticially low. Even if you want babies and a family, you can’t reasonably expect to raise them (unless you’re into the whole foster-care system..)

      That also kind of explains why so many Japanese live VERY frugally and almost never spend money on entertainment, at least compared to how much money Americans spend with their disposable incomes.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hit the nail on the head about the birthrate thing. What Japan needs to do is MAN UP and put into place a minimum wage. I thought that they already had that in Japan, but apparently I am/was wrong.

        • Shippoyasha says:

          At least speaking of the animation staff, maybe they should establish some kind of an animators union. It’s a shame they aren’t represented at all in cases like this, kinda like with game developers/programmers. Of course, such things as trickle-down profits for animators being more prominent. Not sure how the costs will cover that as the Korean/Chinese option seems pretty viable right now. Or how it’ll go down with international laws.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yea! let’s put up a minimum wage so that the companies can’t make it if they have to hire animators in japan!

          Hell ya…!

          Putting a minimum wage doesn’t mean they get paid more for the anime, it only mean they have to pay the staff more. And even if the staff in return get to buy more anime, it won’t be enough to cover it.

  • animation by frames is not hard, it’s just very time consuming even using computers. while I feel for the plight of the animator the reality is that this kind of work is never going to be well paid, at least not anytime soon that is.

  • Anonymous says:

    I wonder if these 2$ an hour workers realize that they could make a nice side proffit selling drawings.

    Would otaku, who spend ridiculous amounts on whatever merchendise is thrown at them, buy a drawing by the original animator of their favorite anime?

  • Anonymous says:

    1 frame/h doesn’t make sense. I doubt it takes that long for a professional to draw a regular frame. 1 frame/h is probably what it takes if there’s a lot of stuff moving in a scene. In your average anime there’s rarely more than one character moving simultaneously.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow! I’m more amazed they can actually find places to outsource to (paying people less than $2 an hour)than the fact these people make so little. This is promising news should I ever decide to push an animated series on network TV (in America). If I offer these guys minimum wage, they’ll double their yearly salaries, plus the living expenses in America are much less than in Japan, especially if you stay away from the hyped up garbage ctities (New York, any place in California, Chicago, etc).

  • Anonymous said:
    Brasil? I suppose you'd know better than myself, but aren't you actually pretty well off compared to your neighbours like Paraguay and what not? Plus your president Lula da silva seems to be a pretty cool guy.
    What ever the rate, just remember the grass is always greener.

    Yeah! I Agree, i live in Brazil and here the salary is much more bigger than this, even for the most basic jobs like street-sweepers they pay more than the animator in Japan, i think that this anon is just one of many NEETs that get anger because they cant get a job without leave their homes.
    By the way, even if you don't work because of NEETness factors the government gave you a remuneration of R$950 ($475) by month to live your life doing NOTHING.
    But i agree with the other anon from Taiwan, the taxes here are absurdres.

  • Anonymous says:

    Maybe I have a distorted vision on this, but correct me if I’m wrong: Isn’t the Anime industry generating more profit today than EVER?
    So, what explains this?
    I really don’t understand… some corporate syndrome or something like that?

  • Anonymous says:

    I was in a small studio in China for a couple of months, learning animation. Each page takes around 10~20 minutes for the experts. The pay is of course bad (1~2 USD). Usually the key frames arrive at 7pm, and the 5 of these senior draw all night till morning. Then these will be scanned and colored on the PC. The work has to be consistently good otherwise you have to redraw. By that I mean you use 0.3 auto pencil to do 0.2 line works. Lines has to be smooth and equal in width. I just couldn’t gain that skill so I gave up.

  • plus, they’r forgetting that there r companies went to the digital area, where they draw anime using tablets n programs..
    n there r also 3d anime…

    well, this article is just focusing on purely traditional 2d anime

    • Anonymous says:

      but this is the root of the problem. They’re NOT in a 3rd-world country where $11,000 a year makes you a king they’re in JAPAN.

      Regardless it’s still ridiculous. No amount of ‘getting your foot in the door’ in ‘the industry you love’ is worth starvation wages. With treatment like that and wages like that, how has the anime industry lasted even this long in Japan without collapsing completely?

      I mean seriously, these guys can’t be doing any more than key framing AT MOST before they outsource the other 95% of labour to China or Korea.

    • Anonymous says:

      You forgot to say that, to make things worse, everything we buy here (hi buddy) comes with a lot of taxes included, making things much more expensive than they are meant to be.

      Even with the high living costs in Japan, at least there you can get high-tech stuff like cellphones for accessible prices, much more sophisticated than the expensive-shitty ones we get here.

    • Anonymous says:

      Brasil? I suppose you’d know better than myself, but aren’t you actually pretty well off compared to your neighbours like Paraguay and what not? Plus your president Lula da silva seems to be a pretty cool guy.

      What ever the rate, just remember the grass is always greener.

      • Fatalistic says:

        Things may cost less in Brazil, compartively. An equivalent of $11,500 USD might buy a lot and might be considered “a lot”.

        From what I’ve heard though, Brazil seems to be another country where the few live in kingly luxury while the majority are in crushing poverty.

      • Anonymous says:

        This anon is just trooling, or for a complete NEET like him that must be a ideal salary.

        I start living in Brazil two years ago and the salary here is not so bad, in fact is one of the better that i have ever seen in overseas (i’m from Taiwan), the bad thing here is because all the things are much more expensive than in US (nothing absurdres, but still just with the taxes that i pay to the government in a year i can buy a good car SUV in US).

        But it’s great if you want to save your money here and then go to other place.
        I think i’d never make so much money in so few time…

        • Yeah! I Agree, i live in Brazil and here the salary is much more bigger than this, even for the most basic jobs like street-sweepers they pay more than the animator in Japan, i think that this anon is just one of many NEETs that get anger because they cant get a job without leave their homes.

          By the way, even if you don’t work because of NEETness factors the government gave you a remuneration of R$950 ($475) by month to live your life doing NOTHING.

          But i agree with the other anon from Taiwan, the taxes here are absurdres.

  • Anonymous says:

    $11,500 annual salary equates to about $1,000 monthly

    1 frame = 1 hour, 1 frame = $2, that means 500 working hours per month.

    With regular 22 working days per month (weekends not counted), that’ll equate to … 23 working hours per day.

    Wow, these animators are sure diligent.

  • panaghoy88 says:

    It’s sad considering the high cost of living in Japan. 2$ is not enough to cover the living expenses. I wonder how these animators live their lives. Go to a capsule hotel and eat on ramen only.

    • Does packing mac and cheese make you feel that well about yourself? At least the animators are making something enjoyable for others, and do it despite making shit wages.

      Ideas are not easily replacable, but assembly line workers are.

    • Anonymous says:

      Still, I’m rather impressed by the fact that they use GIMP and Linux in the animation production, even if only in the planning process.

      I thought they normally use Photoshop or any other proprietary image editor, and an Apple machine. Well, the animation techniques used in an TV anime aren’t anything that even require a super-high-end PC, at least when there isn’t CG animation involved, and also considering the fact that animation studios have limited resources to make this kind of shows, it makes sense.

      • Anonymous says:

        I tought they use someting like Retas Studio or Toon Boom Animate or Harmony.
        But if the people who draw actually send the drawings scaned instead of on paper it would be plausible that they use Linux for that.
        As reported by ANN Toei uses Retas. Search for “ANNTV – Inside Toei Animation” on google video or bing video.

    • Anonymous says:

      From the image editor’s GUI, I guess they are using GIMP. The linux GUI is GNOME, probably. But can’t come to a conclusion about the distro they are using. From the GUI theme’s colors, and supposing that it’s the distro’s default one, it looks like an old version of Ubuntu (8.04 or 9.10, I guess).

  • Anonymous says:

    exactly why we need the government to regulate the economy, fix the companies greed and make it fairer, after all if they can’t afford to pay their staff decnt pay that in turn affects people, not just the corperate big wigs.

    less money for the CEO’s and presidents of the company, more for the grunts!

  • Barbarian of Gor says:


    The “Law of Supply and Demand” and how the Capitalist swine enshrine it only when it suits their purposes at the time, and cheat every way possible otherwise. It’s theft, pure and simple, they use a more exploitable source of labor to force down wages for what should be their base. I’m sure for all the “Poor animators” those at the top owning the thing are in the upper ranks of the elites.

    Frankly, how ’bout clamoring for a “Tariff” against “Foreign Animation” produced in Japan? Tax things like this so they can’t make it cheaper?

    I’m all for “International Trade”, but it’s supposed to be for the “Flair of the Exotic” not for using group A to cheat group B.

    • Fatalistic says:

      You’ll probably get a bunch of retards downvoting you because they think you’re a “communist” or something just because you’ve rightly exposed how horrible capitalism really is.

      The capitalist “global economy” is completely fucked up beyond compare. The statistics you can read on what percentage of people own how much wealth in countries where it’s been studied will blow your mind. In America for example, 80% of population own less than 20% of the total wealth.

      The only people who benefit at all are those at the top who are literally fucking everyone else to death. I wouldn’t be surprised if the distribution of wealth right now is just about as bad as it was during ages of peasantry/aristocracy. It’s disgusting.

      • Barbarian of Gor says:


        And the thing the “Capitalists” forget is when somebody plays a game among friends “Too Well” for too long and rubs it in their face, nobody wants to play with him anymore. Then they either play elsewhere, or collectively kick him down to take “His” ball.

        • Fatalistic says:

          Not everyone can succeed in a big way. The system does not support it. It is clear right from the beginning that few can. “The American Dream” is a lie and no amount of smug spin and rhetoric about how a very, very few lucky people like Bill Gates were somehow prophetic about “knowing what people wanted” and happened to move up in class will change that truth. It is a system which has proven to serve only those at the very top. A true rich get richer, poor get poorer paradigm. This is not progress.

          Let’s say for a minute you’re right (you’re not)– What does any of that circular reasoning drivel you have vomited all over here have to do with the literal wage slavery of the modern day capitalist system– the paying of unlivable wages to workers with little to no chance of advancement.

          You seem to have avoided that like the plague. Why? Easy. The myth of rugged individualism falls apart in the face of the damning statistics and no amount of flailing your arms about exclaiming that people “just didn’t try hard enough” is going to change the facts.

          You cannot justify the few having enough money to live 10 lifetimes over as a king while the majority who they get rich off of the backs of have a terrible quality of life and die in penury. Unless of course, you’re a sociopath with zero empathy. That would certainly explain the smug born-into-wealth people who’ve been pretty much handed everything via nepotism and just can’t understand why everyone else can’t “earn it” like they did.

        • Anonymous says:

          Time for some leadership lessons from your friendly neighbourhood Anonymous.

          Believe it or not, the majority of people who are able to live world class lives actually positioned themselves in front of opportunities that could take them there. You think Bill Gates was just, “lucky”, to found Microsoft, that Ray Kroc was, “fortunate”, to start McDonald’s? Of course not, they saw what the consumer needed, even before the consumer knew it themselves, and positioned their businesses such that they caught the massive wave, and as a result became very wealthy.

          The average, the 80%, do not position themselves for success. The ones amongst them who do work hard are working hard in slow moving vehicles. They get trapped under a glass ceiling. They work a job, hoping for promotions, hoping that maybe someone above them dies or that they can marry the boss’ daughter and take over the company. They might have the talent, they might have the work ethic, but in the position they’re in, they have nowhere to go.

          You think you don’t have a chance to make it? Maybe you’re not looking for it, because there are plenty of otherwise average and ordinary people who are able to achieve great success. The difference is they searched out an opportunity that could take them where they wanted to go. Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly once said, “Most men die at 21, they just get around to burying them until they’re 65-70 years old”. Is what you’re doing now going to give you what you want in life? If not, perhaps you need to change what you’re doing. The 80% are too afraid to leave the “security” of their jobs, even if those jobs will NEVER give them the lives they crave.

          Capitalism isn’t anywhere close to perfect, but if YOU are failing in the system, where others who have faced far more adversity than you are succeeding, then the problem lies not with the system, but with you. You can choose to be open to and actively seek out opportunities to improve your situation, or you can shrink and give up and live the life of the 80%, ever envious of the world class that succeeded where you failed.

        • Fatalistic says:

          The amount of naive people who don’t understand this shit is astounding.

          There is a massive percentage of people in capitalist first world countries who work jobs that don’t even pay the cost of living are essentially forced to either work multiple jobs as literal wage slavery with little to no free time as the make money for someone else or forced to share living accommodations (that aren’t even that great) with others as if they were an animal like a dog in a kennel or just plain turn to illegal ways of earning money.

          The fact that we live in societies where this is even happening says a lot about how broken things really are. What’s worse is the number of people in countries like America who actually believe they have a chance to “make it” some day and therefore somehow believe this makes it all ok or justifies the system in any way. Most people… don’t really move up in class, especially not to the truly wealthy class. As in, Over 99% do not.

          It’s all so a few shitheads can buy more yatchs and have a metaphorical Scrooge McDuck-like vault of gold coins to swim around in. Maybe they’ll throw some token scraps down from their ivory towers now and then in the form of a relatively tiny (as compared with their income) charity donation for appearances sake even though people who know about how things work know it’s just bullshit PR.

    • DR Movie isn’t one of the bad ones. DR Movie is actually fairly respectable and involved in a large amount of higher quality anime series and movies. They actually have a Japanese subsidiary (which does mainly cinematography), quite a role reversal compared to other Korean animation companies.

  • Anonymous says:

    These chinese people only do the in-betweens of the animation. Companies still hire expensive head animators From Japan, France, Canada, USA, etc.. to do the key’s and create the actual characters and style.

      • Anonymous says:

        20 pages from scratch, which is much more than one frame where the background doesn’t change and the positions only change slightly.

        Your comparing building a real house with building one with legos.

        • @ Anon 16:16
          Framerate is supposedly 23.976, but the drawings are generally between 7 and 13 per second. Most animations get reused. The only things that actually move at 23.976 are the scrolling backgrounds and stuff that you can just tell the pc to move around like by wiggling or so.
          The sections fully animated at 23.976 are extremely rare – generally parts of the OPs/EDs and key points of episodes.

        • Anonymous says:

          24/30 frames = 1 second of animation. Average episode length 26~ minutes. Let’s say they animate on fours (each drawing used for four frames which is pretty slow and more likely to animate on ones or twos, or each drawing used for one or two frames) at the least and they still need 6x60x26 9360 base drawings and that’s assuming they only draw one thing. You’ve got different characters and objects on different layers, backgrounds, cleanup, coloring, etc to be done.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m not sure what your point is. Yea no shit they need to draw it from scratch and they need to do 20 pages a week. That’s roughly 3 pages a day and assuming normal work hours (I’m pretty sure mangakas work longer than that), that’s like 3 hours a page. Then they have someone else ink, shade, and tone it.

          And someone has to draw the background, they don’t come from thin air. It also has to be coloured which is harder than shading. You’re assuming all frames are just a static picture with just the mouth moving. One hour is probably an average.

    • Fatalistic says:

      US minimum wage is what, like 4 times this pay? (I don’t live in the US, someone who does comment?)–and even that is an unlivable wage on its own. Living costs in Japan are pretty much similar to most other first world countries… so, yeah.

      How the hell do these people live or eat? What does a regular unskilled/labor job pay in Japan, like retail store?

    • erochichi says:

      To Midnight Tide: To animators. They are paid much better than this faked troll article tries to convince all otaku idiots to believe.
      Reason? To lure them to think they`re rich compared to animators, or fell pity, in both cases to spend more money to anime.
      I spend much to anime, but not for that reason. My reason is i choose very good anime only, having first previewed “samples” you-know-which way.
      But i really pay for my BDs.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m guessing they have alot of overhead. It’s Japan, after all. They work long hours, but they don’t work too hard. They have to pay for the timeslots on TV, for promotion, voicecasting, etc..

      Niche series might only sell a couple of thousand DVDs, at best, so it’s no wonder that many are short on cash.

      As to outsourcing to China, Korea.. I guess it’s good for the artstyle that other countries get involved. But somewhere deep down, it feels weird to get anime from China..

      • Anonymous says:

        The way they handle TV is entirely wrong. Most live action shows are sold to tv companies, who then use the popularity of a show to sell ads. In Japan, you have to pay the companies to show your stuff.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s all about where the money lies. If the station needs a new show for the ads, it will have to buy a show; if a studio needs its work shown to sell dvds, it will have to buy air-time. Simple economics. Who has the best handle on the other determines how much money changes hands and in which direction.
          By the way, sometimes companies judge wrongly. Where I live, a station dared to insist that CNN pay them for air-time. CNN, having a better understanding of who’s on top, swiftly disconnected the station, which after all the customer complaints basically begged CNN to come back on for free.

  • Anonymous says:

    So…..why do they work as animators then?

    Seems rather dubious to see someone stick with animation and getting paid an absurd sum than someone who can just “flip patties at McDonalds”.

    In fact, draw while flipping patties, you still get paid more.

    • Anonymous says:

      they work as animators because they love to do it…and because its more interesting than flipping patties…not everything in this world is just getting paid large sums of money…although it is still not that good to get 2 bucks for an hour of work.

      My personal opinion is that, the feeling of seeing your work being praised by someone (putting aside the fact that not every anime is a hit…but still every single one of them has their group of otakus – even a little one -) is for them more satisfying than just repeating the same damn movements 24/7, no one in McDonalds praises you for “getting the burger perfectly done”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Some do that.

      There are those who do it because they love animating and they flip burgers on the side. Considering the pay wage it would be more correctly said they animate on the side.

    • Anonymous says:

      It paids the bills. Most probably are aspiring artists working on their portfolio and wants to be “closer” to the industry they ultimately wants to be in.

      No different from the mail-room boy working their way up the corporate ladder.

      Typical path creative industry people go through. It’s just a job in the desire industry.

    • Anonymous says:

      Those are after market products. It’s after the fact the animator already spent the time drawing the animation frames and is already paid the low wages.

      If you think the lowly animators get a royalties check whenever an otaku buys an after-market product. Think again.

      A title needs to be a hit before Otakus buy any products. Not all titles are going to be a hit, but you still need animators draw them first.

    • Anonymous says:

      Consider the cost of a computer, wacom tablet, software licenses, electic bills, color calibrated monitors, etc. multiply that by X amount of animators it takes to finish an episode. Yeah… still drawing on paper is more economical.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think you would find the result equal to the amount of animators on staff times their average wage.
        This is probably the real reason animators are paid so little; they’re doing an obsolescent job, hopelessly competing with Moore’s law. Computer animation is only going to get cheaper and better. Currently it is still 2n $/h; end next year it will be something like n $/h.
        Their situation will only get worse and there will come a time when they simply can’t feed themselves from such a wage. They’re protected a little by the companies’ switching costs, but that’s it. Minimum wages wouldn’t really help them, since that would only serve to push companies over the digital hurdle.

      • anon@6:50
        i don’t think he asked, “why don’t they change?” he said haven’t they already changed. you’re fucking stupid. read AND understand before shooting off at the mouth.

        • Anonymous says:

          That’s obvious bullshit. If you can make your animators work faster, you can either sack a lot of them, tell them to work part-time from now on, or do more shows if possible. All of these increase revenue.
          Computers have been used in the industry for quite some time, as a means of replacing cells initially. A lot of anime on the market today is drawn on the computer. Companies also have been starting to use computers for tweening and even full-blown cg, and you can’t always tell the difference. And where you can the living animators do not always compare favourably.

        • Anonymous says:

          efficiency in an animation is moot. There’s only so much frames you need to produce for the 24 mins show. You’ll either have more frames, or you finish the job faster and get off work earlier – meaning less pay.

    • Dirty_Dingus008 says:

      Yep. 3 decades ago the yen to dollar was 255 to a Single Dollar.

      I remember the pride of my nation when we got a Real president then rather then the chicago thug now camping in the soiled shit hole now.

      I remember the $2.50 I paid for the evening show of ‘Aliens’ when I was fourteen rather then the Nine dollar MATINEE 3dee “Lets fuck over America” by the over grown smurfs show.. I still think since this “unatainium” is vital to Earth. In one decade the Full Might of Earth will be over that jungle planet dropping Nukes and using ORBITAL BOMBARDMENT to Completely squish them bugs into a small footnote in the history books.

      Reports about the almost slave like working conditions of Anime artists go back to the ’80s and no doubt further back still. The difference is that the work pool is drying up there now and the world wide recession (soon to be DEPRESSION) is taxing the ability of all the companies.