Police have confirmed that A-1 Pictures worked one of their animators to death, ruling that being made to work hundreds of hours of overtime a month drove him to suicide.
The case centres on a man, 28 at the time of his death in 2010, employed on as a full-time animator at A-1 Pictures from 2006 to the end of 2009.
In 2010 the man quit his job after suffering severe depression, having been denied a transfer after his health collapsed, and later in the year committed suicide, prompting his bereaved family to retain a lawyer and pursue his former employer as being directly liable in a case of “karoushi” – death through overwork.
For some reason A-1 Pictures kept no record of the hours employees actually worked, but hospital records included the revelation that he “worked 600 hours in a month,” and Shinjuku police in charge of enforcing labour regulations confirmed that in the months prior to his diagnosis with depression he worked over 100 hours of overtime each month.
The family’s lawyer claims the reality was significantly worse, saying online posts he left suggest he started suffering from depression in 2008 and had to work from 134 to 344 hours of overtime in the months leading up to his departure.
He also mentions that “he frequently could not go home and no evidence of him ever being paid for any of this overtime survives” – at one point spending an entire week sleeping at the studio, and working for 3 months without any day off.
Despite the discrepancy in accounts, the family have nonetheless likely won the case – the police investigation officially concluded his death was caused by depression stemming from overwork.
His family say they launched the suit because “He loved anime and worked fervently – we wish nothing similar to occur at an anime studio in future.”
A-1 Pictures say “the police verdict was unexpected, and as we don’t know how they arrived at it we cannot comment.”
The man worked as a production coordinator, and titles he was involved in include Kannagi and Ookiku Furikabutte.
The case has prompted outrage online – anime studios already being notorious even amongst Japanese companies for exploiting their animators with miserable pay and working conditions:
“Rest in peace. I liked the studio but 600 hours in a month is just inhuman.”
“20 hours a day or something to that effect… my prayers are with him.”
“I work 12 hours a day and that is bad enough. This is awful.”
“He worked on some top titles… such a shame. RIP.”
“I would suppose they impose the same conditions on the rest of their employees?”
“Criminal liability should be sought against the directors!”
“Cool Japan – what a joke when this is what lies behind it.”
“A-1 is blacker than black!”
“Labour standards need to raid this company. 600 hours is outrageous. A 5 day work week of 8 hours a day is 160 hours, and even 16 hours a day is only 320. 600 is like 20 hours a day every day of the month. They treated him as a slave… poor guy.”
“Why is the anime industry like this? They just through away their artistic talents with this kind of treatment.”
“Hard to enjoy anime hearing stories like this about how it is made.”