With Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba making mega yen in Japan, weekly rag Spa! has decided to delve into that time-honored topic: poor conditions for animators.
To learn more about conditions on the ground, Spa! interviewed a 43-year-old Japanese animator going by the pseudonym Daigo Nakamura.
“In this industry, even if an anime is a huge hit, those profits go to the studio bosses and producers,” says Nakamura. “Animators are treated not as employees but as freelancers, so they typically don’t see those returns.”
Nakamura says that when he started in the industry as a douga animator, he was working some 400 hours a month while earning 170 yen per frame, for a monthly income of 170,000 yen—about $1,600. After 10 years in the industry, that rate increased to just 240 yen. At one point, he collapsed from extreme fatigue and an ambulance had to be called. It was at that point he quit animation as his main profession.
These days, Nakamura does genga as a side job. He says he earns 4,000 yen (a little under $40) for one shot, or “cut” in Japanese.
“If it’s just a shot of a character talking, it takes about an hour or two. But if it’s a complicated shot with running or fighting, it can take two days. It’s not worth it monetarily, you just do it for the satisfaction.”
When you work in genga, your pay seems to be the luck of the draw. But with complicated shots, you can earn less than $40 for two days of work—and never reap additional earnings, even if you help make a property like Demon Slayer a giant hit. No wonder so many people are trying to change the industry for the better.