Attack on Anime: an Industrywide Implosion

Since the 1970s America has had an undeniable fascination with Anime, the distinct art of Asian, often more specifically Japanese, animation. Many fans who fell in love with the medium dream about moving there and pursuing a career creating the artwork that they grew to love. Animator Henry Turlow did this, and highlights some of the less flattering parts of his experience in an interview with Buzzfeed.

Horror stories plague the industry. From brutal hours to impossible workloads to sever health issues as a result of stress. There are varying accounts for what the average animator’s yearly salary is, but some accounts reference and amount that would be equivalent to $27,414.85 annually.  For reference, a full time minimum wage worker in the united states makes $15,080. On top of this, the heavy workloads and unpaid overtime make of a living situation that is virtually unsustainable for the industry.

In fact, American companies tend to take advantage of the lack of unions in many Asian countries by outsourcing the bulk of their animation to companies in Asia which, due to their lack of unions, demand a far lower price than an american animation team of the same scale.

Animation in general tends to be an extremely unforgiving job if you are not part of a union. Animators who use YouTube as their main platform for displaying their work find it impossible to sustain livable income on the platform alone.

So I think it is important to highlight potential reasons why companies have been able to justify underpaying animators in this manner in Japan especially, as they do not have the support that working animators in the united states have currently.

For one thing, many anime are inextricably tied to the Manga (graphic novels) upon which they are based. Generally speaking, when a piece of work shifts from one medium to another (typically regarding literary mediums and audiovisual mediums) it is treated as more of an adaptation, and typically speaking, the adaptation to the second medium only begins once the first medium is complete.

However, it is not unusual for manga and anime to function in tandem with one another, and to work off of each other’s’ story lines. Many popular Manga that are adapted into mainstream anime series are published episodically, akin to American comics. The wester equivalent would be if the show Riverdale had to coordinate each episode with the original Archie comics. This creates an environment built off of time constraints and restrictions for the animators. They are expected to do extremely large amounts of work for minuscule compensation, and no paid overtime compensation, in order to fit these harsh guidelines.


Another issue that plagues the industry is the costs. Anime tends to be much less expensive than western anime, with a far lower per episode budget than most mainstream western animations. Considering that a major part of that budget will also need to be allocated to legal matters such as overseas streaming rights, and that leaves even less money left over for animators. This is not even to dive into the fact that pirating is so rampant regarding Anime that it is being referred to as an emergency situation .

So between western exploitation, lack of feasible budget, time constraints, and the many other factors, the Anime industry does not seem to be heading in the most ideal direction. Much like with countless other industries, it sees that the only way to rectify this situation is through legislation and unionizing, lest we risk losing one of the most beloved animation industries to its own lack of sustainability.

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