Cost Of Producing Anime: Openings, Episodes, Seasons

Imagine this: You just finished watching an anime with striking graphics and cinematography. The story made you weep and laugh at the same time. There is this void that is left after watching the finale. Now, think about this, was the cost and effort of creating that anime the same in terms of how much we value it? Do anime production companies really earn serious money from all of these?

Animes have a huge cost of production. Depending on the anime, it can range from $100,000-$300,000 or even more for just an episode. Just like other mass media productions, there are costs for labor, marketing, advertising, merchandising, licensing, etc. The biggest cost is the production itself.

Did these numbers shock you? Given that the previous numbers that we mentioned are just for your typical anime which is not yet a powerhouse like that of Death Note or Attack on Titan. For big animes like them, surely the budget is higher. Do they earn from this? Why is the cost so high? Keep on reading to find out!

Costs Of Producing Anime And Why It’s So Expensive

It is expensive to produce anime because there are a lot of logistics, technologies, and skills involved. As viewers, we may think that behind these entertaining animes are just animators who kid around in their fun-filled production houses, but the truth is far from that.

Behind each episode (yes, even filler episodes) are burnt-out animators, stressed directors, dazed crew, heaps of paperwork… you get the picture. Of course, all of these people need to be paid. More than that the actual cost of producing an anime is already hefty.

This is the famous Hayao Miyazaki, creator of My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, among others. As you can see at around 0:42, anime production is not the glitz and glamor that we may perceive.

Further, there are important costs for the legal department, such as licensing and distribution costs. Most importantly, animes are produced not just for fun, but also for profit. Therefore, it is to be ensured that the expenses will be worth it and turn into a profitable income.

For this to come into fruition, there are also advertising and marketing costs. Surely, all of the money spent will just be put to waste if no one is interested to watch the anime, right? Are we stressing you out already with the costs?

Well, buckle up, as we will discuss the breakdown of these anime production costs. Take a look below.

How Much Does Original Anime Work Cost?

When we refer to original anime work, we are pointing to pre-production costs. This is where there is a collaboration between the original authors of manga and production companies.

Later on, this collaboration will extend to animators and directors. As you may know, the majority of anime tv series are adaptations of light novels and mangas.

It is rare to find an anime series that was made purely by anime production companies, at least in terms of series compared to films.

Keep in mind that anime production companies and anime studios are two different things. Examples of anime production companies are Sony, Bandai Visual, Viz Media, etc. As for anime studios, some of them are Kyoto Animation, Studio Ghibli, TOEI Animation, etc.

The usual arrangement is for the production company to cover the costs of production. It is then up to the studio to make the anime. The licensor is then in charge of distributing the anime locally or even internationally.

As for the costs for the use of the story of a mangaka or writer, the usual arrangement is that they will get royalties.

There are cases where production companies offer money upfront besides giving royalties, however, due to toxic anime work culture, the former is still the status quo. (Yes, mangakas are overworked and underpaid)

For some mangakas, they do not even get anything from the film or the series even if it blows up. They only get a license fee beforehand, and that is it.

The cost of this ranges from $700-$3,000. In Crunchyroll’s study in 2011, the original anime work cost was $660.

This cost is fairly small compared to other costs as there is no actual work done at this stage. So far, the costs incurred are for contracts, the organization of a team, and the like.

How Much Are General Production Costs Of Anime?

We are now on the production stage which is home to a majority of costs and other expenses. This is where the anime takes shape and is finished, then passed on to broadcasting companies.

It is a bit difficult to obtain information regarding the specific costs of production as a lot of production companies do not release a breakdown of their expenses on specific animes.

People who have worked on a certain anime are also apprehensive when it comes to sharing their income as it is viewed as rude in Japanese culture.

Take a look at the cheat sheet below to have an idea of the numbers that we are going to talk about.

how much does an anime opening cost

What Is The Cost Of Anime Direction?

It may be surprising to some that the cost for anime direction ranges from $4,400-$7,500. One may think, that these costs are just for the anime director aka his or her salary, but this is far from the truth.

Being the director of an anime is different from being a regular director. In fact, the animation director is one of the key roles in the staff of anime production which are the following:

  • Episode Director
  • Animation Director
  • Screenplay
  • Key Animation
  • Storyboard

The amount that we indicated does not only cover the salary, but also the other expenses incurred so that the Animation Director can do his or her job.

You see, the Animation Director does not direct what happens in the anime, he or she makes sure that everyone in the production team is following the general schedule.

Further, quality checks are done and also cross-referenced with the storyboard and the character designs. Sometimes, a lot of frames are even redrawn by the Animation Director to make up for the errors of inconsistency.

Did you know? Hideaki Anno is so versatile. Not only is he the Animation Director for numerous animes, but he is also a screenwriter, animator, actor, and many more. He is the man behind the cult classic, Neon Genesis Evangelion.

how much does it cost to make an anime
Neon Genesis Evangelion

There are times when there are two Animation Directors. This is actually bad news because it usually means that the anime is running behind schedule. If this is the case, then the costs are doubled also.

What’s worse is the fact that if anything goes wrong in the anime, the Animation Director is automatically the one who takes the blame. Talk about stress!

How Much Does Key Animation Cost?

We already mentioned earlier that key animation is part of the core staff in anime production. This is where the animators start drawing the sequences based on the storyboard.

Not only are there numerous frames to be drawn, just for a single episode but also this is where they indicate where certain shadings could be placed. Depending on the contents of the episode, there can be 20 to 30 key animators.

When there are a lot of movements in the episode, then hundreds or even thousands of frames are drawn. Think about it, the fight scenes in a certain episode of our favorite anime take about two to five minutes. During production, these few minutes are the result of months of drawing.

Take a look at this video to have an idea of what goes on in this process. You will then realize that even if it gets most of the percentage in terms of costs, it is still lacking based on the skills needed to fulfill the job.

This is why key animation takes the bulk of the expenses. It can range from $19,900-$25,000. This does not only cover the salaries of the animators but also the logistics for them to finish their job.

The amount may seem huge, but when you divide this between 20 animators who work 24/7, it is actually a low number. It is a fact that being an animator in Japan can be an unforgiving job.

How Much Does An Anime Script Cost?

Even though the script is not the main focus of the anime, it is still vital to the production process as it is the one that gives life to the anime. You may think that getting content from the manga is as easy as copying and pasting everything, but it is more complicated than that.

Screenwriting for an anime series is complex in such a way that sequences should be presented in a way that the audience should understand what is happening, even without reading the intricacies of the story in the manga. It is the screenwriter’s job to harmonize the story and the graphics.

Scriptwriting in anime is more than regular scriptwriting. As mentioned in this video, there are other aspects to consider in order to get that anime feel.

Anime screenwriters are usually independent contractors. Nowadays, anime studios are consistently employing screenwriters besides animators just to provide consistency and to lessen the back and forth of the media.

The costs for screenwriting ranges from $2,650-$3,100. This does not only include the initial script, but also the edits and revisions. Some screenwriters also have assistants, so this amount covers them also.

How Much Does Anime InBetweening Cost?

As complicated as it may sound, inbetweening is simply the drawing in between core drawings that make up an action or movement in an anime sequence, hence “in-between.” These drawings in between other drawings are responsible for the movements that we see in the anime.

Based on Crunchyroll, the cost for this ranges from $14,600-$15,200. However, this is no longer certain as of the moment. Not a lot of studios have in-house inbetweening artists. Sometimes, they leave these parts to low-level animators who are looking to gain experience.

The indicated cost is probably in situations where the second key animators also do the inbetweening. But more often than not, studios outsource this job.

This video shows you exactly what inbetweening is, how it is done, how it looks, and how much work it is.

How Much Does Anime Finishing Cost?

The finishing process is actually made up of many parts. This includes the staff who digitize the drawing. There are also people who put color in the digitized drawings. Further, the cross-checking between the graphics, storyboard, and the backgrounds.

It may seem like the end of the road, but it is not. There are times when the finishing process determines that there is a lack of numerous content. This means that the process needs to be repeated again, from adjusting the storyboard to creating new drawings.

They almost always do not cut corners or shortcuts in terms of the graphics as it is ingrained to the Japanese how things should be done. So if there is an error, then it is back to the drawing board. This is why the cost ranges from $15,900-$20,000.

How Much Does Anime Sound Production Cost?

When it comes to all of the sounds present in the anime, that is a whole different game. The production company also hires a sound production company.

We rarely ever see anime studios that have their own sound production. If the cost is given to them by the production company, they use the money to outsource independent contractors or certain individuals from a sound production company who can also work independently.

Here is an example of a sound design. Take note, this is not the original sound design of Kobayashi-san Chi No Maid Dragon, hence this is a remake. In this remake, there are more metallic and whooshing sounds.

This is not just dubbing which later on we will discuss, but mostly, this includes all the sound effects in the anime. Narration can also be included here as well as the opening and ending credits.

The average cost for this is $15,800-$18,000. This covers sound design, sound effects, and also sound sequences.

What Are The Other Expenses In Producing Anime?

There are still a lot of things that we did not cover in-depth that get a chunk of the production costs. Some of them are the following:

  • Photography ($9,300-$9,500) per episode
  • Producers ($45,200-$46,000) annual
  • Storyboard Artists ($31,030-$32,000) annual
  • 3DCG Animators ($31,982-$33,000) per episode
  • Art and Backgrounds ($15,900-$18,200) per episode
  • Shading and Lighting ($2,000-$3,000) per episode
  • Editing ($2,700-$3,000) per episode
  • Key Animation Supervision ($3,000-$3,240) per episode
  • Printing ($6,700-$7,000) per episode
  • Other materials ($5,300-$5,500) per episode

These numbers are based on Crunchyroll’s information which is way back in 2011. Therefore, if we are going to project the costs in 2020, there will surely be an increase especially because of the pandemic.

You can check this out to see how much the staff earns based on their position. Surely, their incomes are a huge part of the production costs.

Again, not a lot of production companies and anime studios reveal their cost breakdown, so we can simply provide estimates based on the data we gathered.

How Much Does It Cost To License An Anime?

Licensing of an anime is serious business as it is the key to distributing the show locally or internationally. With the boom of anime in western media, licensing fees became steep especially in companies that only do flat-fee deals.

Disney and Netflix are actually part of this practice wherein getting a license is just a flat fee. However, it is different for Crunchyroll and Funimation where it is based on royalties as well as giving a minimum guarantee (royalty fee+initial fee)

Based on Anime News Network, big anime titles can be licensed with $250,000 (minimum guarantee) per episode. However, if there is high earning potential, then it can go up to $400,000.

costs for anime  dub
Netflix Originals do not have licenses. They contact the anime studio and let them produce it. (Source)

There are also different costs when it comes to sub-licenses, however, the trend of streaming sites nowadays is to just get a fixed-term license. Only huge broadcasting companies for mass media tend to do sub-licensing, and for that, they usually go the royalty and minimum guarantee route.

If you need the nitty-gritty on this and how licensing works based on a new or old title, you can take a look here.

How Much Does It Cost To Dub An Anime?

Before we move on to dubbing, let us briefly talk about the Japanese voice actor or seiyu. These people are actually paid based on a ranking system. Even if you have a high rank, you do not get tons of money when you start working on the anime.

No one can confirm how much popular seiyus earn, but even the popular ones claim that making guest appearances in shows are more profitable. Yikes! So animators and seiyus are on the same boat.

Moving on to dubbing, it is sad to say that foreigners who dub animes get paid more than the original Japanese voice actors. Even if there is no specific amount as to how much is spent in dubbing (distributors do not reveal the amount) the fact remains that production companies aim to have in-house dubbers.

There can be two reasons for this, which are the following:

  • It is easier to distribute titles as the voice actors are already there. The equipment are ready. Having in-house dubbers is efficient for business.
  • The costs of paying employees to dub an anime is way cheaper than getting individual people to dub it.

We think that these two reasons are valid because why else would a company invest in a new department if it will suffer losses?

Did you know? The English dub of Luffy of One Piece was done by Colleen Clinkenbeard. It is interesting to realize that both for the English and Japanese languages, the voices are of women.

20 Animes And Their Production Costs

Do you ever wonder if your favorite anime was expensive to produce? Take note, even if an anime is extremely popular, it does not necessarily mean that they are gaining back their investments or if they were even expensive to produce.

Note: The titles in this list are both anime tv-series and films. These are the titles that have their production costs out in public may it be officially or via leaks. Keep in mind that anime production companies and studios do not publicize the costs.

AnimeProduction Costs
One Piece$90,000 per episode
Dragon Ball Z$50,000-$60,000 per episode
Attack On Titan$150,000-$160,000 per episode
Jujutsu Kaisen$150,000 per episode
Black Clover$140,000 per episode
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure$120,000 per episode
Demon Slayer$80,000 per episode
Naruto Shippuden$90,000-$100,000 per episode
My Hero Academia$110,000 per episode
Death Note$1,000,000 per episode
Neon Genesis Evangelion$60,000 per episode
One Punch Man$70,000-80,000 per episode
Bleach$160,000 per episode
Dragon Ball Super$180,000 per episode
The Tale Of Princess Kaguya$53,300,000
Princess Mononoke$20,000,000
Spirited Away$19,200,000
In This Corner Of The World$3,750,000
My Neighbor Totoro$9,400,000
Stand By Me Doraemon$35,000,000

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