The dark side of Japan’s anime industry

Anime hasn’t always been so popular like it is today, especially in the western hemisphere. Anime was a reserve of the Japanese or Asian people for a long time, but all that changed at the advent of the century. That is when anime movies such as Sailor Moon started coming out and people actually started giving them some attention. In the years between 2002 and 2017, the Japanese animation industry saw some real growth when the industry doubled in size. The annual revenue the industry generated reached some $19 billion in the year 2017. Today, there are several anime movies being streamed on Netflix just like any other movie produced in the West.

However, don’t let all the success and the obscene amounts of amounts of money involved fool you because behind all that craze and flashy production there is a very dark side. There is a very disturbing economic reality behind the craze that I feel you should know about. Let us explore that in the next section.

Anime’s slave labor problem

Let us look at how anime is produced first in order for you to understand the logic of what I am about to talk about below. Anime is usually created by hand, meaning that artists have to sit down and draw individual pictures that are later flipped into an animation by hand. It takes a lot of skill and time to produce these pictures quickly. With that being said, it makes sense learning that there is a shortage of artists that can create anime images in Japan. That is why only 200 animated TV series alone are produced in Japan in a year.

The shortage of skilled artists is a huge problem, but that is not all. Studios that produce these anime series usually rely on the labor of unpaid or underpaid freelancers. These freelancers work out of passion for animated movies and get paid less than $2 per drawing. Well, that wouldn’t be a problem if you could draw up some 200 drawings in a day, but that is not the case. These drawings re usually complicated and can take up to an hour to produce just a single drawing. Thus, artists get paid less than $2 an hour.

Working conditions are even worse

With that kind of pay you might expect the working conditions to be better, but that is not the case. Working conditions are even worse because workers are often overworked. They fall asleep at their desks and are often pressured to deliver their works on time. Even if one climbs up the ladder to become a key-frame animator, the conditions still don’t become better. It is a structural problem within the industry that needs to be changed if anime is to continue seeing the kind of success it is.

Time is always the enemy

When it comes to anime, the amount of time it takes to make a movie is usually just way too long. Production companies always start the production with a mindset geared towards keeping costs down. All the money goes to TV networks.

To understand what I am talking about, take a look at nonton anime.