Japanese voice actress and singer Atsuko Enomoto highlighted the harsh working environment in the anime industry in a space hosted on Twitter with mangaka turned politician Ken Akamatsu and fellow voice actress Akemi Kanda.
When Akatmatsu asked Enomoto if there was anything that she would like him to do as a politician, the latter brought up the issue of low wages for voice actors in the industry and asked Akamatsu to improve this situation.
She pointed out that only those voice actors who are confident and have been performing in the industry for a long time can demand better wages.
“The fees for animation work are too low. We can raise prices, but the reality is that there is dumping going on. Most companies cannot raise prices. Only those who have been performing for a long time and are confident can afford it,” she said.
The pay for a voice actor is dictated based on past work and experience. According to Enomoto, a voice actor who has just debuted (juniors) earns only about 15,000 yen.
“If it goes to 18,000 yen, they say it’s too high for a regular job, and the field can’t pay the difference between 15,000 yen and 18,000 yen,” Enomoto revealed.
While the discrepancy in pay first began for voice actresses, male voice actors too are facing a similar situation due to the increase in competition.
“The departure first occurred in the women’s voices, because we couldn’t ask for more (for the performance). We have more people, so we can’t raise the price from 15,000 yen for everyone,” she said.
Enomoto was of the opinion that a VA’s pay did not match up to the hours of work that they put in for their roles. Additionally, she revealed that a voice actor and his or her agency do not have an employment contract. They are treated as sole proprietors and are not subject to labor-related laws and regulations.
The worst part, according to her, was that the situation hadn’t changed over the course of 24 years that she has been in the anime industry.
Enomoto cited the weak position in which voice actors found themselves as part of the problem. Most of the VAs found it hard to speak up about their working conditions which made it hard for their situation to improve.
“If you are in an office, it is hard to say anything because people think it is the opinion of the office. I’m not a regular performer, so I can say things like this, and I’m confident that even if I do, they will use me, so I say them,” she said.
Another reason for the low wages and unfavorable working conditions was the low budgets that anime studios have for producing an anime.
“We have been asking for an improvement in the working environment, but we know that there is no money for production, so we have been saying for a long time that there might not be any improvement, and we have been wondering what to do,” Enomoto said.
Akamatsu and the twitter fans who were following the space were surprised that such specifics were put forward in a discussion.
Akamatsu, who is the chief advisor to the Hyogen no Jiyu wo Mamoru Kai, or “Association to Protect Freedom of Expression,” told the audiences that he would work to improve this situation of voice actors.
“This is not good for a voice actress who ranks third in terms of occupations elementary and junior high school students want to become. We will work to improve it,” Akamatsu said at the end of the space.
Enomoto made her debut as a voice actress playing Yukino Miyazawa from Kare Kano in 1998, which she auditioned for while still in high school. Her debut single was Be My Angel the opening theme of the 2001 anime Angelic Layer.
She had earlier come forward stating her own experiences as a young voice actress, as well as her feelings about harassment in the entertainment industry in Japan.
Editor’s note: According to some comments, the 15,000 yen that junior VAs receive are for a period 20 hrs, distributed over a week. The breakdown comes to 750 yen per hour. The minimum hourly for Japan in the fiscal year of 2021 was 930 yen.