Earlier this week, the mangaka for The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., Shuichi Aso, tweeted that he hasn’t received “a single yen” of royalties from Saiki K. becoming an anime series, or a game, or the soon to be live-action film. While he’s updated that statement now, let’s go into what actually goes into a mangaka’s pay.
Firstly, let break down what Aso-sensei actually said, because some people are going misread what it means. Aso-senpai claims that he hasn’t received royalties from the anime, or his characters being featured in video games. The key word here is royalties. Aso-sensei would have received some sort of upfront payment for the use of his characters and stories, but likely nothing based on the profits of the game/anime.
Aso-sensei isn’t the first mangaka from Shonen Jump to complain about this, Hideaki Sorachi of Gintama fame discussed the issue in length in a volume Q&A where he stated:
To tell the naked truth, regardless of how many people watch the film or how much the gross earnings are, not a single yen goes to the author. We are only paid an upfront license fee.
– Hideaki Sorachi (Gintama Volume 51)
Which is sad, because the Gintama live action film was great and I’m looking forward to Saiki K.‘s because they share one of the best comedy directors of our time.
From the above quote, we can see that mangaka are at least getting something from their works getting adapted into films. Though we aren’t privy, and with both Sorachi-sensei and Aso-sensei being vague, to know how much it is or how it’s given out. Mix into the fact that we don’t know what is inside their contracts, and it makes discussing this hard. A mangaka like Eiichiro Oda would have a wholly different contract than Yokota Takuma, the mangaka for Shuudan!
But from the updated tweets, and other sources, we can at least presume that the payments for adaptations come through the contract from the publisher. It’s not uncommon for royalty payments from other avenues such as international licensing to come in at a way later time than expected.
Contracts and Mangaka
We do know that mangaka, at least under Shonen Jump, are subcontractors and get paid by the page. These payments are a closely guarded secret, as most contracts are, but we do have some figures that have been released by the mangaka’s themselves to dive into and discuss, although none from Jump.
Shuuhou-sensei claims that for his first series, Umizaru in 1998, he received 10,000 yen per page, and for BLACK JACK in 2009, he got 35,000 yen per page. Obviously, he knew how to negotiate in 11 years for a better contract!
These figures don’t include the expenses he had as a mangaka, such as drawing tools or paying assistants, which for BLACK JACK, totalled 18 million yen a year. As you can see from above, the 16 million didn’t cover the 18 million yen it cost to produce the series and had to be covered either by his own savings or from royalty payments from sales of collected volumes. Being a mangaka sounds great, but it’s not a profitable one for the 99% of creators.
Where Most Money For Mangaka Come From
Royalty payments on collected volumes, or tankobons, is where most of the money for mangaka come from. It was estimated in 2009 that the average mangaka (from a manga that wasn’t featured in Jump or Magazine) made 2.8 million yen from royalties. If we use the same maths for Sorachi-sensei, who sold 795,445 copies of Gintama in the first half of 2017. At around 500 yen a volume, with 10% royalty, Sorachi-sensei brings in around 40 million yen or $350,000USD.
Sadly, I couldn’t find public sale figures for Saiki K., but considering the series wasn’t on the top 30 chart, it would have sold less than 750,000 copies.
Gintama, of course, has a long running anime series, a series of animated films, a live action one, a stage play, etc. Gintama as a brand is big, not as big as One Piece, but big enough that the exposure from these different avenues have created more fans that in turn, have bought the original works, just as the anime helped Saiki K. for Aso-sensei.
While Aso-sensei did claim he could request for compensation for the adapted works, he doesn’t want to due to his own internal pressure about the situation. Luckily for Aso-sensei, the editor in charge of Saiki K. saw the tweets and communicated with Aso-sensei how everything works and that he’ll be receiving payments soon. The lesson learnt by Aso-sensei, and everyone, is that he should ask his editor rather than publicly tweeting out his ponderings.
It’s obvious that the best way to support a manga series you love, and the most profitable for the creator, is to buy that Japanese tankobons or as Sorachi-senpai put it best:
if you’re feeling sorry for us, don’t just watch the movies, but also buy our books so that we can live at Roppongi Hills with the publishing royalties.
I don’t know if 40 million yen will pay for a house in Roppongi Hills, but a gorilla can dream.