Are you a huge fan of the popular Pokemon anime series worldwide? Unfortunately, many of the show’s workers might not be enjoying the fruits of their labor as much as you are.
Juan Arai, a 45 year-old freelance animator who has worked on series like Love Hina, Emma–A Victorian Romance, Higurashi When They Cry, Gurren Lagann, and Sword Art Online, recently raised a bold claim against the long-running Pokémon series and the state of its staff. In particular, he claims that the show’s animators are receiving a very low wage – with many likely earning just 4,500 yen per animation cut (i.e. a short animated sequence of unspecified length). 4,500 yen translates to around $42 USD today.
— 新井 淳(ver.4) (@arasan_fourth) January 6, 2020
“The Pokémon anime pays 4,500 yen (US$42) per animation cut, which means it’s made with some of the lowest-paid artwork in the anime industry. If you work that out to an hourly rate, it’s less money than you get paid working part-time in a convenience store.”
It’s important to note that Jun Arai doesn’t seem to have worked directly with the Pokemon anime themselves – so this 4,500 yen/cut claim is at best a professional estimate. As such, you might want to take their words with a grain of salt.
Nevertheless, Arai’s comment does line up with many existing reports about the anime industry out there. It’s no secret by now that Japanese animators rarely earn more than a pittance, and the situation hasn’t improved for years.
If true, this pay issue might be a sore point that the anime’s fans have to wrestle with for awhile.