Japanese animators prefer to work for China

The newspaper The Nishinippon Shimbun published an article noting that the anime industry in Japan is experiencing a “brain drain” towards Chinese production companies settling in the country, and offering better working conditions. However, international pressure seems to be having a positive effect on Japan’s poor working conditions.

«The animation industry, which is the engine of “Cool Japan”, symbolizes Japanese culture popular abroad, Japanese wages do not rise. On the ground, animators work on a short-time and low-paid basis. In a sector with such a “black” image, some “white” Chinese companies are said to be entering the market».

«About 40 minutes by train from central Tokyo. The team works quietly at a computer in a room in a building in Machida, Tokyo. The man slid a pen across a tablet and neatly drew lines on a sketch of the character. Colored Pencil Animation The Japan office was established in 2018 leading China’s animation production Colored Pencil Animation Design».

«As a business cooperation window with the Japanese animation industry, the company handles the production of works to be broadcast in China and animation for Japanese game applications. The team consists of 17 people from Japan, China, Vietnam and Italy. In the Japanese industry, most animators are freelancers, often on outsourcing contracts that are not subject to the minimum wage.».

«Some studies have shown that animators earn an average annual income of 1.25 million yen (with an average age of 27). “Some people’s salary, converted to an hourly rate, is less than 100 yen, and some people work late at night, holding down other part-time jobs.“, mentions Takao Nakayama, 36, from the advertising agency Nissen (Tokyo), which supported the creation Japan Colored Pencil Animation».

«To create an environment where they can focus on production, Colored Pencil Animation Japan hires the animators full-time and provides accommodation and transportation allowances. The average annual salary of a new hire is about 2.5 million yen, which is relatively high compared to industry standards. The work schedule is based on a flexi-time system, and few people work overtime even before deadlines. The company says: “For the viewer to enjoy animation, the creator’s heart must be happy”».

«Animation production is considered a household name in Japan, but in recent years, as well as Japan Colored Pencil Animationother Chinese companies have entered the market. They offer a good working environment and some of the staff are changing. “Deep down, there are industry practices that benefit from the understanding of animators’ achievements”30-year-old Daisuke Iijima of the Teikoku Data Bank mentions».

«According to Mr. Iijima, the “production committee” system is common in Japan, in which publishers, broadcasters and others share production costs. This system makes it difficult for animators to return income, as they have limited budgets and are hired at a low unit price even if they are successful. According to a 2019 survey by the Japan Animators and Directors Association (Tokyo), only 14.7% of the approximately 380 respondents (median age: about 39 years) were employed full-time and 50.5% were independent. Almost 10% of respondents had an annual income of less than 1 million yen».

«Independent and without social interest“; “Designs are too complex for rewards and cannot be mass produced“; “I want young people to get a good education instead of making them disposable“; The survey finds annoying complaints from the workers themselves. Mr Iijima says: “No progress has been made in terms of transmission of powers or generational change. The growth of Chinese-owned companies could shake the strength of the Japanese brand».

«However, there are also signs of change in Japan’s manufacturing landscape. The phenomenal success of the anime “Kimetsu no Yaiba” and Makoto Shinkai’s “Tenki no Ko” has led to widespread belief that investment in production costs will pay off, according to the report. The rapid growth of video streaming services and the expansion of international markets are also drivers. “Producers are beginning to feel the need to actively increase production costs“. Yasuhiro Irie, 51, animation director and president of the Japan Animators and Directors Association, says,».

«When Mr. Irie was in his twenties, he believed that animators must be “selfless” and that their income was low because of their own lack of skills. “That will not do good work, and the work will not last. The sector is in a period of transition and there is increasing pressure to review the working environment“, he said now».

font: The Nishinippon Shimbun

Copyright The Nishinippon Shimbun. All rights reserved.


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