Nerdy News: News of a Forming Union

Kevin Avis

(Photo courtesy of Crunchyroll)

According to a recent article on Crunchyroll, there has been talk of a union forming in the anime industry due to a recent case:

The importance of this case stems from the impact it could have on the anime industry depending on the outcome. Currently, anime workers earn on average around $9 an hour. That is above minimum wage in the US, but they are expected to earn only $900 each month. That equates to working about 20 hours a week which doesn’t happen. Due to this discrepancy, Hideyuki Shirakawa, a lawyer from Nagoya, questioned whether or not the arrangement between companies and animators is legal.


When drawing anime characters, even the eyes can be difficult. It makes you wonder why there are so many anime drawing books in the US. Well, every book and artist are different. Whenever you watch an anime, you can see shows like Hellsing, as opposed to shows like Fairy Tail, the eyes are made with similar principles but have very different outcomes. It can take around 2 hours just to draw three frames. A lot of times, the animators draw more than three frames and this is just talking about the eyes on a character alone. Each animator then earns around $2 for one frame. So the 2 hours they spend drawing three frames, only $6 are earned. This equates to non-livable wages.

Shirakawa’s answer to the insuffienct finacnial lifestyle is to form a labor union for animators. The decision to do so usually stems from a desire for livable wages as well as more benefits within a certain job. The median weekly income of full-time wage and salary workers who were union members in 2010 was $917, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For nonunion workers, it was $717. This relates to the US economy, however, if Japanese animators do form a union, the biggest issue will be equal pay for equal work. Another advantage for these animators is the fact they will have more opportunities to get hired full-time. Companies sometimes hire animators for a limited amount of time to help cut costs.

If animators begin to unionize, they may have to pay a fee to become a part of the union. Another problem is that they are left up to the decisions of the union rather than making their own. The last issue is that most companies will lay off newer workers. Companies also aren’t fond of union workers, for instance, not all King Soopers stores are unionized, but those that are unionized pay their workers less, whereas working conditions and pay are better at non-unionized stores. If a labor union does happen, then animators are at the mercy of the companies who get forced to hire them and can expect a slight pay increase but they could be treated worse.

Whether or not a labor union is struck, animators are one of the most important jobs for anime. Everyone looks at anime and gets figures and wall scrolls that depict their favorite characters and art. While a story helps to make a character better, the artist is who makes the first impression. Some people won’t watch a show unless they like the artwork, even if the story is good, they will shrug away the show at first glance. Artists catch the eyes of potential viewers and their artwork gets turned into more products which result in more money for a company. The best thing to do is for animation studios to increase pay and hire animators full time. It is unreasonable and unethical for animation companies to pay animators small amounts to save costs. They need to understand the importance that animators have and the significance of the anime industry because the industry makes millions and has a worldwide fan base.

Collegian writer Kevin Avis can be reached at or on Twitter @kevinavis_626. Leave a comment!!