The voice acting industry is highly glamorized. When talks about poor working conditions and low wages for animators are brought up, people quickly point voice actors and assume that they are getting the lion’s share of the profits.
It would make sense, right? Voice actors have recognized names and breathe life into our favorite characters. But the truth is a lot worse, and a few voice actors have been speaking out against this assumption.
Nikkan Taishū, an online publication, ran a report exposing some of the darker practices within the industry. A staff member with an anime production company spoke under anonymity and wanted to share the struggles newcomers face.
People love to share this Shirobako “salary infographic” to highlight the average wages of anime staff. However, they don’t understand that this is just based on fictional wages for the characters. The anonymous staff member told Nikkan Taishū said that young voice actors are lucky to make 45,000 ($150) for the role per episode.
As a note, the industry assigns ranks based on experience, which determines a voice actor’s pay. Rank F (newbies) are paid about 15,000 yen ($150) per episode while Rank A (those big name voices) get paid about 45,000 yen ($450) per episode. Voicing a main character or the number of lines has no effect on your income. The pay is before the talent agency takes their 20% cut for the performance.
Because of this, the staff member notes, “Now, female voice actors are only young, cute girls.”
Due to low wages, voice actors are required to appear at events, promote CDs, and to perform at concerts if they want to make a liveable wage. Due to the increased importance of public appearances, cast managers have been putting more emphasis on appearance instead of voice talent.
The staff member also noted that having a pretty face is not enough. “In the end, work is decided by connections.” They note that winning the favor of a talent agency’s president, participating in drinking parties with an anime’s source creator, and appealing to anime studio’s sound directors are key to getting high profile roles.
Another wrinkle that young voice actors are facing is the casting of music idols in anime. There is more interest in casting former (and current) idols since they already have an established fanbase and are experienced in making public appearances.
According to the staff member, this has caused young voice actors to appear in mobile games. The income is a lot lower, and since mobile games pay per word voiced, newcomers could end up making far less than taking minor anime roles. But, young voice actors are gambling that the game will be adapted into an anime with hopes that they will reprise their roles for the adaptation.
This isn’t the first time the voice acting industry has come under fire. Last year, Megumi Hayashibara (Rei in Evangelion) criticized the industry for putting too much emphasis on appearance and less on vocal talent. She feels that most new voice actors only have a “shelf life” of three years before wider fans move on to the next cute face. Instead of fostering and training lasting voice actors, they are selling cute faces.
Kousuke Takeuchi (Tesshin in Ginga Densetsu Weed) and Satomi Akesaka (Esdeath in Akame ga Kill!) also spoke out against fraud practices among talent agencies. They criticized agencies that require voice talent to host concerts or to pay a fee, commenting that these practices are illegitimate and are a roadblock for young talent.
So much for voice actors rolling in anime cash…