How Much Anime Artists Make Money? It’s Different For Japan And U.S.


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Key Takeaways

  • The salaries of anime Artists in the U.S. range from $36,930 to $113,600 annually.
  • The median salary for anime artists is $63,970 per year or $5,330 per month.
  • Famous anime art YouTubers can make significantly more than anime artists on a regular 9-5 job.
  • In Japan, anime artists earn roughly $10,000 per year, making significantly less than they would in the U.S.

How Much Money Do Anime Artists Make

According to Comparably, the median salary of anime artists in the U.S. is $63,970 annually. It’s a common misconception that anime artists, especially those based in Japan, have some deep wallets.

When it comes to the artists tasked with the nitty-gritty of bringing a show to life, their salaries aren’t so glamorous. There’s a lot of complexity to the staff and hierarchy of an anime, especially a popular one. This factors in as well. It’s also important to consider that anime, in comparison to other animated shows or styles, is much costlier to produce and takes longer.

An episode of anime is produced frame by frame. A single episode may be composed of hundreds or even thousands of frames. A key-frame animator is one of the top positions available. These artists are responsible for the most important snapshots in the episode and the leading frames.

They typically work with lower-level animators, sometimes termed in-between animators. These animators handle the short frames in-between shots to animate the scene. This work is tedious and time-consuming for hand-drawn anime.

Many anime artists work late nights and overtime to finish all their frames. However, an anime artist’s salary isn’t typically very stable for several reasons. Most in-between animators aren’t salaried or even paid by the hour. More often than not, these artists are freelancers and are regularly picked up (and set aside) by animation studios.

Keyframe animators are usually contracted or salaried, but their earnings don’t outweigh in-between animators or assistants. Even the biggest names in the industry are paying their artists a minimal amount to save costs.

If there’s anything anime is known for, it’s for being hugely popular and quick to go viral. The merch of popular shows and even smaller ones are endless. Don’t those earnings go to the artists? It turns out, no.

Typically only the creators of anime get a cut of the check, and the majority of the profits go to the studio (in fact, many creators of anime and manga see little to no of their merch profit). It seems that anime studios are keen on holding onto as much the profits as possible, even if that means severely underpaying their staff.

Is this a core issue in the anime industry? According to Research and Markets, the anime industry is expected to reach USD 56.39 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 9.7%.

Some argue that this issue with burnout and underpayment stems from Japan’s work climate and existing issues with employee-employer relationships. You’ll find this exact issue in any industry in Japan.

By comparing salaries paid in the U.S. with the salaries paid in Japan, there’s a huge difference. An entry-level animator in Japan makes around $10,000 USD a year, an amount hardly enough to live off (Kotaku). That’s roughly $50,000 less than what is paid in the States.

How Much Anime Artists Make In A Year

In most cases, anime artists aren’t paid yearly. Because many anime artists work as freelancers, their yearly income depends on a steady stream of work or projects.

  • New names in the anime industry can expect to make around ¥1 million per year or around $10,000.
  • Animators in their 30s, on the other hand, make around ¥2-3 million, an increase of $20,000-30,000.
  • Japan’s poverty line starts at ¥2 million if that’s any indication of how much an anime artist makes.

Many animators are forced to take second and third jobs to support themselves. This burden is even heavier when you consider that the majority of anime in Japan happens in busy urban centers, such as Tokyo, where the costs of living are exceptionally high.

In contrast, anime artists in the US make an average of $68,970. Notice that that’s for anime artists, not just animators. Like Japan, US animators must diversify their portfolio with freelance work, commissions, and graphic design.

The higher cost of living and labor laws in the US could contribute to this higher salary. The majority of this sample group seems to come from metro areas, which could also factor into the large difference.

Another important thing to consider is the US networks make more money off shows via sponsorships and ads. According to Vox, even the legendary creator of Astro Boy was expected to make a loss from his show.

Many animators work part-time on top of their more stable, full-time jobs. The money they earn from animation, while a small amount, is extra income.

Many animators work overtime, not only to complete projects with strenuous deadlines set by studio executives but also to make enough to feed themselves. Many have come forward saying that this dynamic in the industry is unethical. It’s unethical, but it’s expected, and the same goes for many Japanese industries.

It’s considered a cultural no-no to even leave work early, and this leads to many animators feeling burned out or even developing mental health issues.

Why Are Japanese Animators Paid So Little

One theory is that the standard in the industry has long been to make as much profit as possible. Costs for staff and production are kept low, and any potential revenue is eagerly divided among the studio executives and network. This is further complicated if the anime has been adapted from manga because then the publishing company will also receive royalties.

To maximize their profits, studio executives allot minimal salaries or budgets to the staff behind the anime. This means that key-frame animators have a heavier load on their shoulders, as they are often unable to hire assistants for coloring or other tasks.

At first, in-between animators were hired alongside the key-frame animators, but even they were delegated to freelancing and paid significantly less.

How Much Do Animators Get Paid Per Frame?

The most common way of paying anime artists is by frame. In-between animators and key-frame animators can expect to make different amounts per frame. In-between animators, according to most sources, make ¥200 per frame or drawing. ¥200 adds up to be around $2.00.

These frames can take several hours to complete, making this compensation completely unacceptable. This amount is hardly enough to make a living even for in-between artists who are changing only small aspects of a frame. Some animation artists only make $5-10 per hour, which is below Japan’s minimum wage. Key-frame artists enjoy drawing more elaborate and important frames, but they are compensated only somewhat more than in-between animators.

Fortunately, innovations in digital art have improved the rate at which artists are able to draw and create frames. Still, some industry professionals point out that this payment rate had remained unchanged since the 60s when ¥200 went much further than it does now. As a result, many animation artists have taken to lobbying, unionizing, and even going on strike to get the wages they deserve.

Some mangakas have stepped forward in recent years to say that they have not received any royalties from their mangas adapted into anime. Instead, they are paid an upfront licensing fee and never receive any further profit.

The same goes for animators. Even if their series becomes a huge hit, their pay remains unchanged. Interestingly, this leads to a substantial variation in the style of a series and how it is animated. This is because studios swap out animators often, while key-frame animators typically stay on board for a project.



Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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