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More injustices towards animators in Japan revealed

A recent report from the Japan Animation Creators Association (JAniCA) has revealed a major problem surrounding contracts for new animators entering the industry. According to the report for the year 2023, animators were surveyed to find out how much choice they had in their first employment contracts when starting to work in the industry. The data revealed that of the 428 animators surveyed, a staggering one in five animators (21.7%) received no explanation about the terms of their contracts when joining the industry, leaving them unaware of their rights and exposed to potential abuse. This represented the largest percentage of animators.


The data also highlighted the relative lack of permanent job opportunities. The second largest group (18.7%) said they were not offered an employee contract upon joining the industry and could only opt for a subcontractor contract. (without working directly for the studio).

  • The rest of the data showed that Of entertainers hired under employee contracts, 6.5% said they intentionally sought this arrangement1.2% said they opted for an employee contract after exploring both options with the company, 2.3% said they had no negotiations but were offered both options, and 12.9% said they were only presented with an employee contract.
  • Of subcontractors, 7.7% said they intentionally sought this agreement1.6% opted for this after exploring both options, 2.6% did not participate in negotiations but were given both options, and the aforementioned 18.7% said they were only offered subcontracting work. 9.6% said they do not know.

The animation director of “Kingdom“Jun Arai recently explained the lack of permanent job roles in the anime industry. He noted that since animation studios often do not own the copyrights to series (they do not collect income from copyrights on the anime they produce), But larger investors, anime studios cannot afford to retain workers permanently. This leads to larger investors reaping the profits from licensing, events and Blu-ray sales, while animators are often paid per frame, with one animator recently revealing that he was paid just $1 per frame.

As the JAniCA survey suggests, currently 47.3% of animators are freelance or self-employed, compared to 40.5% of permanent employees. Despite the notoriously low salaries in the anime industry, with 40% of animators earning less than $16,000 annually, industry figures point out that no one has the courage to speak up.

Terumi Nishii, lead animation director of “Jujutsu Kaisen 0,” refers to the “village company” system as a cause. As Shiji Zero explained, “village companies” are a category of Japanese business that prioritizes harmony over good ideas, where final action can only be taken after all members agree. Given that the anime industry has a long history of verbal contracts based on trust, Nishii cites a reluctance to a full review as a major factor in why Japanese animators have much worse salaries and labor rights than foreign ones. In his words, “common sense is determined by the environment,” meaning no one will want to raise their voice on their own.

With more animation studios securing anime copyrights, the industry could see increased wages and improved job security aligned with other countries. However, the increase in the number of anime productions, resulting in more low-wage freelance animators hired to meet demand, makes the fight for better conditions more challenging.

Fountain: The Japanese Animation Creators Association

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