Veteran anime animator Jun Arai has claimed that those who animate the Pokemon anime are “the lowest-paid […] in the anime industry.”
“The Pokémon anime pays 4,500 yen [est. $42] per animation cut, which means it’s made with some of the lowest-paid artwork in the anime industry. If you work that out to an hourly rate, it’s less money than you get paid working part-time in a convenience store.”
Translation: Sora News 24
Arai later calculated that when the number of episodes and animation staff taken into consideration, it would cost The Pokemon Company around 75,000 yen per month. For comparison, the franchise as a whole made $2.98 billion (est. 308.7 billion yen) from games and merchandise in 2018. He also expressed confusion about where exactly the show’s profits were going, being it was so successful.
Jun Arai has been involved in animating numerous anime, including Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, Azumanga Daioh, Doraemon the Movie: Nobita in the Haunts of Evil, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Gurren Lagann, Halo Legends, Ikki Tousen, Love Hina, Lupin III: Seven Days Rhapsody, Monster Rancher, Outlaw Star, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Persona 4: The Animation, Sword Art Online, and many others.
As pointed out by Sora News 24, Arai has never been involved with the Pokemon anime. While it is likely he would discuss working conditions at different studios with colleagues and those within his industry, we cannot be sure on the accuracy of Arai’s source.
The news also comes as criticism levied at the Pokemon games has heated up. When Nintendo and Game Freak confirmed not all Pokemon would be playable in Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, fans practically rioted.
This seemed to stem from either purely the fact they could not port over Pokemon from older games, or cutting the excuse that cutting Pokemon was to improve other areas (such as graphics, balance, and the scope of the game) fell flat.
With the newly announced expansions adding some older Pokemon, fans are now accusing Game Freak of intentionally cutting Pokemon to “sell back to them later” (especially if they want to viably compete in online battles, and not have to rely on online trades).
How some felt the original game was of poor quality, its $60 price tag, and each of the two expansions costing $30, have all combined to further sour some fan’s perception of Game Freak and The Pokemon Company.
In November 2019, anime director and character designer Terumi Nishii stated in an interview how foreign investments had not resulted in increased staff pay, and lamented crunch conditions at animation studios.
In earlier news, new Pokemon animated shorts-Pokémon: Twilight Wings – will premiere January 15th on YouTube.