Despite renewed calls for change, Japan still ranks as one of the top countries with the longest working hours in the world (but not the highest productivity rate, go figure). Illegal unpaid overtime is a common practice at many companies—a phenomenon exemplified by the legally accepted term karoshi or “death by overwork”.
Cool Japan urgently needs to take some time off!
Modern slavery at Japanese animation studios
Spoiler alert: Animation studios have a reputation for their insane work schedules, enslaving their animators till they collapse. Or worse.
The anime series we love binging on are actually brought to us via the invisible cost of studio employees’ work-life balance. The work culture in the animation industry is fueled by the need to keep up with the demand, and it’s unsurprisingly a competitive field that aspiring artists are desperate to get into.
Salaries for animators are low, too, and most companies have a cap for overtime, beyond which you simply don’t get paid—no matter how much you work.
It’s a Madhouse
Founded in 1972, the animation studio Madhouse is known for a reel of famous hits: Black Lagoon, Nana, Death Note, Summer Wars, as well as frequent collaborations with well-known manga artists.
However, Madhouse has recently come under fire for erasing 150 hours of one of their employe’s overtime and denying responsibility when he was diagnosed with mental health-related illnesses. The news was tweeted by Shohei Sakakura, a youth labor rights activist and editor-in-chief for the youth labor advocacy group and magazine Posse.
— 坂倉昇平＠ブラック企業ユニオン（総合サポートユニオン） (@magazine_posse) June 25, 2019
= Animation studio Madhouse erased 150 hours on an employee’s time card after he was taken [to the hospital] by ambulance following 393 hours of work in a month. In addition to refusing to pay overtime, they completely denied any responsibility for the employee’s subsequent diagnosis with mental illness, declaring “they cannot judge whether it is due to work or not.” Despite him collapsing after 220 hours of overtime?!
The production assistant at Madhouse has been trying to seek compensation for his unpaid overtime which would amount to three million yen in total. The bargaining process started earlier this year, but it’s been a tough battle to even get the company to admit that things might be wrong.
In the middle of negotiations, Madhouse issued a statement denying the working conditions at the studio could have led the employee to develop dizziness and psychosomatic disorders. In short, they said, “we’ve done nothing wrong.”
How to politely say that you can’t do something in Japanese
With that cheery story, it’s time to level up your Japanese and learn how to state that you are unable to do something either because it is impossible or too difficult.
So far, unless you’re familiar with super formal Japanese, you’ve probably used the negative form the verb できる (to be able to) as できない.
- 判断できない = cannot judge
However, in a very formal context, できない wouldn’t be polite enough. So, you’ll use the JLPT N2-level suffix かねる instead.
You need to add the suffix to the verb ます stem (minus ます).
- 判断します = 判断し + かねる = 判断しかねる = cannot judge
- 分かります = 分かり+かねる = 分かりかねる = cannot understand
|長時間労働||choujikan roudou||long working hours|
|により||ni yori||due to, according to|
|運ばれる||hakobareru||be transported, taken in|
|制作進行||seisaku shinkou||production assistant|
|制作会社||seisaku gaisha||production company|
|拒否する||kyohi suru||deny, reject|
|うえ||ue||on top of|
|月末||getsumatsu||end of the month|
|による||ni yoru||due to, because of|
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