There’s a lot of exploitation in the animation industry, which is why many fans wonder if anime creators themselves make any money. I mean, it is a valid question. Up until a decade ago, we really didn’t have anime pop into the mainstream and streaming services for it were supremely limited. Anime was doing fine locally in Japan because it had the distribution rights. But before the 2010s, if a person outside of Japan wanted to watch anime, it was YouTube piracy or bust.
Of course, that meant that the actual creators of said anime, such as the mangaka of the original source material and the people who worked on the anime adaptation, wouldn’t see a penny from International audiences. But that has changed significantly in this past decade, where the ease of access to anime is much more apparent due to subscription sites such as Cruncyroll and Netflix, to name a few. Still, there is a level of unfairness in the anime and manga industry, where a lot of anime creators don’t get paid their full dues.
Which is unfair because the manga industry is especially known for its cut throat deadlines and overworking environments. Often this culture leads to either the mangaka experiencing extreme burnout, or worse. The case of Berserk’s author, Kentaro Miura, and his untimely death was a high profile one because of its implications. Despite how renowned his creation was, the creator himself was so exhausted that he ended up getting sick and passing away, before he had a chance to complete telling his story. And it’s heartbreaking to see.
Anime creators should be making more money, but oftentimes they don’t. And now we know it isn’t for a lack of audience either, considering anime has become a global phenomenon. So, what is happening here? Why are the people that have created some of our favorite series not getting their dues? What could be the reason for this level of exploitation? Well, that’s what we are going to discuss in a round of F.Y.I!
The Manga To Anime Pipeline
So, how does a normal manga become a popular anime series? Well, it’s not as common as you’d think, because there are so many manga out there. Yet only a choice few get picked to be adapted, following years of consistent growth in audience and showing promising profit gains. So, constant updates, while not compromising on quality and growing fan numbers are what contribute to getting your own anime.
That might seem simple but those are very specific conditions that may or may not work out. There are plenty of manga out there with so much hidden potential, yet they get overlooked because they simply don’t have the numbers when it comes to following. There is a monopoly where some genres of manga, such as Shounen, are definitely more favorable when it comes to being adapted versus something like Seinen, or even Shoujo. And even if your manga is a Shounen, will it make it into something like Shounen Jump? And even if it does end up doing that, can you do chapter uploads that are high quality in their art style while meeting truly grueling deadlines?
If your answer was yes, then great. Through all the intense pressure to make your work meet all the right standards, you have finally made it into the upper echelons of manga greatness and the Anime Gods™ have chosen your project to be on the silver screen. And of course, both the mangaka and the anime creator will make money off of this, if the series ends up being successful.
Anime Creators Do Make Money (But Disparity Still Exists)
You’d imagine that with how popular manga and anime have become over recent years, being a mangaka must be a lucrative job. After all, the world of anime is endless, with new productions coming out every single season. Surely, who wouldn’t want to create art and get paid for it? It sounds like a dream.
Except it’s more akin to a real job than you’d think. You know how they say ‘if you work in what you love, it won’t feel like a job’? That’s a lie. At some point, turning your hobby into a job will make you feel burnt out with what you initially loved about said hobby. And then you’re just left with no gratification, the constant grind overtaking joy. Especially if the amount of work you’re doing doesn’t provide you with the profits you were gunning for.
Resources are expensive, and creating hand drawn stories that span years and decades take a lot of them. Not to mention the time and effort put into making something as involved as a manga or an anime adaptation. So, it has to be successful to see any returns on the investment made. And sadly, there wasn’t a lot of profit back in the day because the audience was contained at the time. Yes, international fans could still watch those anime and become fans of it, but to watch them legally, where it would be helpful for the actual anime creators, was still hard.
To this day, anime creators don’t make the bulk of their money through the actual viewing and ratings of the anime itself. Instead, it’s through sales of DVD collections, box sets, merchandise and the soundtrack collection. All of that was either limited to Japan, or a very small amount was sent to be sold through exports abroad. However, things have changed due to the globalization of anime, leading to sites like Crunchyroll and Netflix having regular collaborations which mean that some of the money that fans spend on these anime does go back to the original creators. This means animation studios could ultimately pay the creator of the original source material, aka the mangaka. It isn’t perfect, but it’s still leaps ahead of what we used to have.
With a crackdown on illegal streaming sites and bootlegs by companies, it ensures that the money and profits made go back to the right people. And hey, isn’t it for the best if you could directly support the person that created something you so obviously loved? The mangaka community has often talked about how hard it is for them with the amount of work they put in, only for their work to get canned and illegally put online. So, yeah there is something there.
Ultimately, yes, anime creators do make money, now. It’s still a very competitive industry, so there might be overworking going on. But hey, at least we aren’t in the wild west of the early aughts!