The Cold Truth About the Anime and Manga Industry

We all love anime and manga but the cold truth is that the industry is in disarray.

Let’s start off with the manga artist. You would think that manga artists would have the best job ever, right? Passionate individuals doing what they love, telling amazing stories that immerse you into a beautiful fantasy that depicts the world. That’s something easily created, right? Wrong! Manga artists work non-stop day and night, with only around 2 hours of sleep.

Eichiro Oda, the creator of the hit shonen franchise One Piece, is one of the hardest working men out there and has one of the craziest work schedules around. Oda’s daily routine consists of:

● Waking up at 5 a.m., start working
● Continue working through the day, only taking breaks for things like eating
● Go to bed at 2 a.m.

That means he works about seven times as long as he’s sleeping. This is not just his work schedule for crunch time in order to meet deadlines, this is his routine for an entire year.

In order for Oda to get a new weekly chapter of One Piece ready, he must first undergo a series of steps to complete just one issue. Here is a breakdown of what he does throughout the week:

● Monday-Wednesday: Layout planning and character dialogue
● Thursday-Saturday: Drawing and inking
● Sunday: Coloring and other tasks

Being a manga artist may seem simple and easy to some, but in reality it is a lot of work with tons of hours being put in. All for the sake of our enjoyment as fans. If that’s not bad enough, then wait until you hear about the pay the authors receive from the work they produce as animators.

According to an article on Crunchyroll, the author of the shonen series Gintama shed some light in an interview on how much manga artists make on anime adaptations.

To tell the naked truth, regardless of how many people watch the film or how much the gross earnings are, not a single yen goes to the author. We are only paid an upfront license fee. The amount we’re paid is peanuts in comparison to the overall box office gross. The majority of the profits go to filthy unscrupulous companies such as Shueisha and Sunrise. Releasing individual manga volumes is way more profitable. But the reason why I slog to fulfill these film adaptations, to the extent that I’m peeing blood, is because there is a place in this world that is more wonderful than a mansion at Roppongi Hills. And that place, ma’am, is in your heart.

If Gintama can reach the hearts of the masses, I wouldn’t mind living in a hill made of cardboard. The authors are the only ones who harbor such honest intentions with their creations.

So ma’am, if you’re feeling sorry for us, don’t just watch the movies, but also buy our books so that we can live at Roppongi Hills with the publishing royalties.

As for the animators, their job isn’t a piece of cake either. From an article on

Henry Thurlow, an American animator moved to Tokyo to live out his dream of creating anime in the Japanese animation industry. It took him four years to become good enough to get hired at a studio. When he finally achieved his goal, he discovered work conditions that were nothing short of slave labor, with studios paying as low as $25 per week.

Let’s just be clear: It’s not a ‘tough’ industry… It’s an ‘illegally harsh’ industry. They don’t pay you even remotely minimum wage, they overwork you to the point where people are vomiting at work and having to go to the hospital for medicine. They demand that you come in whenever they realize a deadline isn’t going to be met. That probably means about a month and a half of nonstop work without a single day off. Then you will be allowed to go back to your regular six-day workweeks of 10-hour days. No one talks, or gets lunch together or anything. They just sit and work in complete silence and seem uninterested in changing this.

These are just some of the stories that have been told about the work conditions along with the extremely low pay. Most hard core fans already know all about this and try to buy as much merchandise and other licensed products as possible to support the creators and the industry. Looking at the situation from a personal view, the illegal streaming sites don’t seem to be losing any momentum, thus it may be an uphill climb for animators in Japan to ever get fairly compensated.

Only a few manga artists actually make enough money to be considered “rich” while other series get cancelled at a moment’s notice, leaving them to go on in horrid living conditions or the alternative — to stay at home with the family in order to get by. So let’s all come together and start by subscribing to legal streaming sites, buying the manga and Blu-ray sets, and maybe, just maybe, the industry we love will continue to live on.

Also, please check out the anime Bakuman on Hulu. It’s a tale about two boys wanting to become manga artists and it shows all of the hardships and sacrifices that real life artists go through every day.

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