Average Anime Industry Salaries Get Depressing 

Average Anime Industry Salaries Get Depressing 

The anime industry is brutal. The average salaries can get low. Just how low? Let’s have a look at how they break down per position.

The Japanese Animation Creators Association published results of average salaries and ages for different production jobs in the anime industry.

Before we get to that, Tokyo-based animator Thomas Romain created a helpful flowchart that might help better explain how the different production jobs relate to each other.

Website Washi’s Blog also has a helpful explanation of the different productions and how they fit into the process.

This survey is for 2015, so 2018 might be slightly different. Over 750 people participated in the survey, with a nearly 60 to 40 per cent breakdown between men and women. Via Yaraon!, All Nationz and 4chan, here are the results of the industry survey.

Series Director

  • Average Age: 42 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 540,833 yen ($6703)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 6,490,000 yen ($80,443)

Chief Animation Director

  • Average Age: 43 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 470,000 yen ($5825)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 5,640,000 yen ($69,907)


  • Average Age: 39 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 451,667 yen ($5598)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 5,420,000 yen ($67,180)

Character Designer

  • Average Age: 38 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 425,000 yen ($5267)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 5,100,000 yen ($63,214)

Animation Director

  • Average Age: 38 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 327,500 yen ($4059)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 3,930,000 yen ($48,712)

3DCG Animator

  • Average Age: 34 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 320,000 yen ($3966)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 3,840,000 yen ($47,596)

Episode Director

  • Average Age: 41 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 316,667 yen ($3925)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 3,800,000 yen ($47,101)


  • Average Age: 49 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 310,000 yen ($3842)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 3,720,000 yen ($46,109)

Art Director (Background Art)

  • Average Age: 35 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 285,000 yen ($3532)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 3,420,000 yen ($42,390)

Colour Designer

  • Average Age: 38 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 278,333 yen ($3449)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 3,340,000 yen ($41,399)


  • Average Age: 34 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 265,833 yen ($3295)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 3,190,000 yen ($39,540)

Production Assistant

  • Average Age: 30 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 257,000 yen ($3185)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 3,090,000 yen ($38,300)

Key Animator

  • Average Age: 36 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 235,000 yen ($2912)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 2,820,000 yen ($34,953)

Inbetween Checker

  • Average Age: 35 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 217,500 yen ($2695)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 2,610,000 yen ($32,350)

Layout Artist/Rough Keyart

  • Average Age: 38 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 195,000 yen ($2417)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 2,340,000 yen ($29,004)

Paint Staff

  • Average Age: 26 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 162,000 yen ($2007)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 1,950,000 yen ($24,170)

2nd Key Animation/Clean-Up

  • Average Age: 27 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 93,333 yen ($1156)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 1,120,000 yen ($13,882)

Inbetween Staff

  • Average Age: 24 years old

  • Average Monthly Salary: 92,500 yen ($1146)

  • Average Yearly Salary: 1,110,000 yen ($13,758)

The top positions, such as a series director, make a good salary, but if you compare that paycheck to what a television series director gets or what a Hollywood filmmaker makes, it’s significantly less.

More disconcerting is how when you move down the scale, there are people who aren’t even making minimum wage. According to Mainichi News, Tokyo, where many anime studios are located, has the highest minimum wage in Japan (it varies by location) at 907 yen ($11.24) per hour. So, compared to the lower-paying anime jobs, you could easily make more working minimum wage. That’s depressing.

If that’s too abstract, NHK did a story on animator wages, putting them in concrete terms.

NHK" loading="lazy" > Screenshot: NHK

Animators are paid about 200 yen ($2.48) per drawing.

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It’s possible to do up to 20 drawings a day.

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For a monthly takehome salary of 107,833 yen ($1336).

NHK" loading="lazy" > Image: NHK

Each workday is 11 hours long with around four days off.

Damn. It’s even more disheartening when you realise that more anime is being made than ever before, yet there are people in the industry who don’t even earn a living wage.

This article has been updated since its original publication in May 2016.


  • So… where is all the money going? Seriously, the industry is more lucrative than ever and there is a labour shortage, where the hell is the money going?

    • Well, since all the positions listed are for production, I’m guessing it’s like every other industry. The big money’s in corporate…

    • Considering how crap the wages are the shortage might be due to it being a labor of love industry,

      Or the more likely alternative is the 1% being greedy.

    • Publishers and sponsors.

      Most TV anime is actually advertising. Japanese TV doesn’t work on the syndication model the way that most places do. A production committee buys a timeslot on a TV network, and then runs programming they want to run in that slot. So a big publisher like Kadokawa or Kodansha will spin up a production committee, hire an animation studio etc. and they’ll produce an adaptation of something that is popular at the moment. Other companies might buy advertising spots, but the main idea is pushing the material (manga/novels/games) being adapted from, merchandising, and so on. The reason most anime is adapted from manga or novels is because they’re published in weekly or monthly magazines chapter by chapter, and if they increase interest in a particular manga or novel series by bringing new viewers in with an anime adaptation, those people will read the other material in those magazines, which will in turn become popular and get anime adaptations etc, basically a feedback loop. This is also why, if you watch older anime fansubs which were ripped from TV rather than off streaming sites, you would see “brought to you by Kadokawa and these sponsors” at the start, or something similar.

      Recently you’ve had examples of US-based companies jumping in and pre-licensing stuff, Netflix, Amazon etc. And while I think Netflix fucks everything up with their pigheaded devotion to the binge model (which ends up burying excellent shows because no one can watch them when they’re relevant) that influx of money to produce material *without* requiring it to directly push some company’s brand or product is a positive thing.

      But really, what is happening here is that anime studios are basically contractors making animated advertising for publishers, who pocket most of the profit.

    • Anime is massively popular but is not as lucrative as you may think. Barely any money is made from being aired on TV, so most of the money is made by hard-copy discs and merchandising (if you ever wonder why fanservice is so prevalent in anime, it’s because is a transparent attempt at encouraging disc sales) and even so, the numbers are not great (and bound to get worse with the ever-increasing competition).

      Once you get a total after all that, most of that money goes to publishers and sponsors as NegativeZero details.

  • It’s probably worth keeping in mind that a lot of Inbetweening / Cleanup work gets outsourced to people outside of Japan (increasingly seeing Thai names for example).

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