Animator Comments on Crunch At Science Saru

An animator who worked at Science SARU from December 2019 to June 2021 has shed light on her experience with crunch at the studio.

In an email interview with Anime News Network, Joan Chung, who was also a former animator at Titmouse Vancouver, revealed that circumstances at the Devilman Crybaby and Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! studio led to her mentor leaving due to burnout and familial considerations. There was also a production manager who decided to leave around the same time as Chung, with the two doing so due to the combination of stress, long hours, and low pay. 

“I have some horror stories from this studio, which are thankfully fewer than some of SARU’s competitors,” Chung told ANN. “But – and this is a big one for me – a studio should not have its twenty-something girls crying in the bathroom, doing all-nighters. Neither should it have a production schedule that is so tight that it is unable to accommodate the mental health of the aforementioned production manager. I had to speak on her behalf to her supervisor and the CEO – and though they responded compassionately, practically there could not be much change. A culture with this much production pressure necessitated the long hours.”

Chung added that Science SARU had taken on too many projects in 2021, citing the INU-OH movie, “two single-season productions,” and Star Wars: Visions.

“I do not believe this was a manageable number of productions. Its core employees range 40-50 in number, and though they liaise with many freelancers, the burden on the core team was heavier than it should have been,” she said.

On pay, Chung noted that while the entry salary range for American animators averaged at US$68,661 according to Glassdoor, with comparable rates in Canada, the entry salary for animators in Japan was “around $20,000 or lower, depending on whether they are salaried (the aforementioned amount) or are paid per cut.”

Chung added that requesting for triple the amount of a standard freelancer rate still didn’t compare favorably to a Canadian salaried entry rate. And while animators in Japan are usually paid per cut, Chung thinks that the pay should take into account the days involved in drawing a cut, since details and complexity can be very different between cuts. 

Despite highlighting Science SARU’s issues, Chung brought up several positive aspects of the studio as well, such as the “vibrant and communicative” culture before COVID-19 and the welcoming atmosphere that she experienced upon joining, despite not being able to speak Japanese. She also recalled a supervisor teaching her skateboarding during lunch time. 

“I was continuously impressed by my coworkers’ ability to play while keeping their head up under a breakneck schedule. I’ve never experienced this kind of ethic in a western studio,” she said.

Chung’s comments on crunch and low pay in the anime industry come after animators shared stories of low rates and terrible working conditions on MAPPA-related productions in July and May respectively. She also shared her thoughts on how anime studios can try to achieve better budgets and pay, which you can read in ANN’s report over here.

Source: Anime News Network

Melvyn originally wanted to write about video games, so he spent a few years, starting from his college days, doing so. He still likes video games, but now focuses on writing anime-related news content and the occasional review for Anime Trending. Some of his free time is spent self-learning Japanese, both out of interest in the language and because English-translated light novels and manga are expensive.
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