In a previous article of mine, I talked about how Star Wars Visions was going to be coming to Disney Plus, and many fans of both Star Wars and anime, myself included, rejoiced. But alas, not all of it is good news, as some serious pitfalls have come to light within the industry, from unfair wages to insane overtime hours. The anime industry has a serious problem with its unfair working conditions, according to an artist working on Star Wars Vision
According to Anime News Network, storyboarder Joan Chung of Science Saru has said how despite having a wonderful connection with her fellow animators, crunch is a major inevitability. “I have some horror stories from this studio, which are thankfully fewer than some of SARU’s competitors. But – and this is a big one for me – a studio should not have its twenty-something girls crying in the bathroom, doing all-nighters. Neither should it have a production schedule that is so tight that it is unable to accommodate the mental health of the aforementioned production manager. I had to speak on her behalf to her supervisor and the CEO – and though they responded compassionately, practically there could not be much change. A culture with this much production pressure necessitated the long hours,” she said. “This year, Science SARU took on INU-OH, two single-season productions, as well as Star Wars: Visions – I do not believe this was a manageable number of productions. Its core employees range 40-50 in number, and though they liaise with many freelancers, the burden on the core team was heavier than it should have been.”
Chung has credits with both Japan Sinks and Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, the latter of which has an accurate depiction of what it’s like to make an anime. And at least she was able to part with Science SARU on good terms, unlike most other animation employees. As anime continues to rise, the industry can only bear so much before it falls apart.
For perspective, Chung compares the situation to the western industry, which saw a series of union strikes following the Great Depression, most prominently at Disney in 1941. “Currently, American animators’ entry salary ranges around $50,000 with the average being $68,661 (Glassdoor). The rates in Canada are comparable, though the higher brackets – particularly in storyboarding or development – spike higher in the States. The American national average for a storyboard artist is $97,073. In comparison, entry salaries for Japanese animators is around $20,000 or lower, depending on whether they are salaried (the aforementioned amount) or are paid per cut.”
“That being said, it is 2021,” she notes. “These are conditions that should have been covered in the 1950s.”
Crunch culture is a common problem across the anime industry. Animators regularly work long hours for low pay, often passing out at their desks. In extreme cases, animators have been hospitalized from severe exhaustion or forced to work extensive hours that violate Japan’s labor code. This remains a microcosm of the Japanese economy’s volatile labor conditions for workers, who contend with some of the longest hours and lowest wages in an economy of its size. And despite the growing size of the industry, this problem does not appear to be getting resolved anytime soon.
Morrisey, Kim. ‘I Have Some Horror Stories’: Animator Talks Industry’s Problems, Hopes for the Future – Anime News Network. Accessed 22 July 2021. Published 21 July 2021.
Peters, Megan. Star Wars Visions Animator Blasts the Anime Industry’s Unfair Wages (comicbook.com). Accessed 22 July 2021. Published 21 July 2021.