This article is the continuation from Part 2

This third part will examine an assumption that’s often circulate in the web, especially in anime forums, that if the studio has the money, they can hire better staff.

anime-production-staff-moneyAs explained before, the anime industry is quite unique because it allows individual animators to express and experiment with their own styles. This has resulted in considerable diversity of styles in the anime industry. Yet, it also makes the gap between talented and experienced animators with less talented and experienced animators become more obvious. I tshould be noted, however, that no matter the difference between their talents and experiences, the animators still get paid the same amount.

The reason for this is that the anime industry really depends on freelance workers. There are in-house animators, who are signed to a contract to a certain studio and receive monthly salary from the studio. Yet, many great animators opt to go freelance because it gives them more freedom in choosing only the projects they want to do. Until this piece is written, the only anime studio in Japan that uses completely in-house staff (directors, animators, and even their inbetweeners) in their projects is Kyoto Animation. Other than Kyoto Animation, studios really depend on freelancers and outsourced works.

This leads us to the question, “do freelancers get paid monthly as in-house staff do?”. The answer is no. Freelance animators’ salary are decided by the amount of works they do, regardless of the difficulty or the quality of the output. Mecha designer of Space Dandy and Nobunaga the Fool, Thomas Romain, once explained it in one of his tweets.


It doesn’t matter if the animator is an expert or beginner, all will get paid according to the number of cuts (also known as scenes) they’ve done. This quantity-oriented system motivates animators to create their work as good as possible in order to gain trust and opportunity to work in future projects.

So, it’s not that easy to recruit veteran animator with the promise of high wage. Firstly, number of veteran/prodigy animators are not proportional to the number of anime produced in each season. This caused the veteran animators to have strict schedules. Take Toshiyuki Inoue, for example, who is also known as “perfect animator.” His schedule is so strict that studios that want to recruit him for their projects must contact him one year in advance. It’s not rare that this kind of animators have to decline offers because of their full schedule.

Secondly, work in the anime industry is based on connections. Directors usually choose to work with people they are acquainted with, especially when it comes to perfectionist directors such as Hayao Miyazaki. It’s the same with animators and animation directors. Money is not always the main or only motive to get involved in certain projects. In some cases, they get involved in a project because some people they know are also involved in it, or maybe just because the project seems interesting to them.

We can take some example cases from Toshiyuki Inoue and Kenji Horikawa; and Yasuhiro Takemoto with Shouji Gatoh. Toshiyuki Inoue, who is known for his strict schedule, is also known to specialize into movie/theatrical feature projects. But in spite of that, because of his friendship with the head of P.A. Works, Kenji Horikawa, Inoue made exception and was willing to work in two of the studio’s series; The Eccentric Family (Uchouten Kazoku) and Shirobako.

Established relationship also work in favour of the writer Shouji Gatoh, author of light novel series Amagi Brilliant Park. When he wanted to have said novel to be adapted into anime, he asked for help from his friend and one of Kyoto Animation’s director, Yasuhiro Takemoto. Takemoto had worked together with Gatoh in making the adaptation of Gatoh’s earlier novel series, Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid, and since then, they became great friends. But the problem is, at the time when Gatoh asked for help from Takemoto, Kyoto Animation had been focusing more on adapting light novels published under their own publisher, KA Esuma Bunko, rather than adapting novels from other media companies (Amagi Brilliant Park is published by Kadokawa). But even though adapting a novel from a powerful media company like Kadokawa is less profitable than works from KyoAni’s own media library, Takemoto still accepted Gatoh request in respect of their friendship; not because of Gatoh offered them money.

it may sounds unbelievable for these to happen in an “industry,” a realm where things are often measured in money. Yet, in the anime industry, while money do have importance, the power of human relationships and trust may have more decisive influence over money in affecting choices.

Shirobako has also showed how relation affects people in anime industry on episode 18.

Other than relations, an animator’s preference may also hold an important part in in deciding to accept a work or not, especially with certain great or genius animators who possess rather eccentric traits. One example is the case when mecha animator Masami Obari, well-known with his “Obari Sword Pose”, once tweeted:


“Hm, Mahou Tsukai Precure..
Please make Yuusha* Precure someday(ー人ー)”

“**The other day there was a big company that called me, and I thought, “Another robot anime project!”. Turned out they offered me to do a character’s finisher attack animation for the footage bank… I declined it by saying that I was still working on G-tekketsu

The “big company” that Obari mentioned probably refers to Toei that seemed to be interested in asking Obari to cooperate again after they read his tweet about Mahou Tsukai Precure. Obari himself was once recruited by Toei to do mecha animation for  Smile Precure in episode 35.

Smile Precure (35th episode) scene Obari once animated

Maybe because of that, when Obari received the call from Toei, he expected request to make another mecha animation. But when he found out that the request was for (human) character animation, Obari, who is a well-known mecha-otaku (as depicted in his twitter, @G1_BARI), declined the offer as it isn’t related to his preference of animating mecha.

To be continued in Part 4.

KAORI Newsline | Original text by Yoza Widi | Translation by Daniel Ageng Satrio

* The word “Yuusha” that Obari tweeted refers to the Yuusha mecha anime franchise created by Sunrise production in the 90s, where Obari was the animation director in one of its series, Taiyou no Yuusha Fighbird (the same series where he created the Obari Sword Pose).

** This tweet has been deleted by Obari, perhaps because he felt uneasy towards the company that he referred to.

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