Everybody loves Japan’s seiyu, those lovely male and female voice actors who make the characters in anime and games so realistic and enjoyable for us. This is a translation of an article that ranks the salaries of some of Japan’s most famous VAs, so you can see how much your favorite seiyu is likely earning annually.
A note about the methodology used: of course the actual salaries of Japanese citizens of is private information, but because the industry is unionized with established pay rates per spoken line, it’s possible to add up the money certain voice actor would likely be earning based on number of roles they had in the previous year, along with estimates of song royalties. These numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, as they are all estimates. (Salary dates are as of March 2017, and U.S. dollar salaries are calculated at the current yen rate of 111.)
One thing I’ve written about a lot as an anime blogger is the general health of the industry that I love so much. As the graphic above shows, salaries in the anime industry aren’t exactly high, unless you happen to be a time traveler from the 1980s, and some of the wonderful people make the anime we love to watch — specifically in-between frame animators in their first few years of work — have salaries that are so low ($10k per year), it’s hard for us to even wrap our brains around it. Even producers and episode directors make very little money, although of course it’s important to note that everyone living in Japan has the benefit of being in a country that doesn’t have any inflation.
Judging by the graphic, the only people making bank in the anime industry are the A-rank voice actors like Kana Hanazawa, who are highly sought after for voice roles in anime and games, and get song royalties, live performances two. As this chart shows, only the top names are able to make that kind of money. And most earn salaries that are nothing special.
Rank 1: Hayashibara Megumi, ７０００万円 ($620,000).
After high school, she attended nursing school even while trying to break in to the industry as a voice actors. She got her first role voicing one of the children in 1986’s Maison Ikkoku. Famous roles include Ayanami Rei from Evangelion, female Ranma, Musashi/Jesse from Pokemon and Lina from Slayers.
Rank 2: Yamadera Kōichi, ２０００万円 ($180,000).
A genius voice actor known for many roles, including Kaji from Evangelion, Spike from Cowboy Bebop, and the new voice of Zenigata, Yamadera is frequently ranked as Japan’s most talented voice actor, by hundreds of his peers. Known as the “Man with Seven Voices” in the industry, he also is the official voice for Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey, and Donald Duck in Japanese dubbed films.
Rank 3: Minaguchi Yūko, １４００万円 ($125,000).
Rank 4 (tied): Inoue Kikuko, １２００万円 ($107,000)
A lovely voice actors responsible for some of my favorite characters, including Kazami from Please Teacher, Grace O’Conner from Macross Frontier, Sanae from Clannad, and Calamity Mary in Magical Girl Raising Project.
Rank 4 (tied): Yui Horie,１２００万円 ($107,000)
Rank 4 (tied): Tamura Yukari,１２００万円 ($107,000)
A talented seiyu from Fukuoka, she has played the lead role in Lyrical Nanoha, Nui in Kill la Kill, Suzuha in Steins;Gate plus my favorite role of hers, Yamada from Yamada’s First Time, about a girl desperate to lose her virginity.
Rank 7: Mizuki Nana,１０００万円 ($89,000)
A popular seiyu and singer, “Nana-chan” has type O blood, is a tiny 153 cm tall, can only drive an automatic transmission car, and hates tomatoes. (I love the things they think to put in these profiles.) Appears in many roles, including Hinata from Naruto, Minami-ke and more. She was one of the first singers to really be marketed in a big way as otaku culture took off in the mid-2000s, and she was the first anime theme song singer to stand on the coveted Kouhaku Red and White Song Battle stage, the Japanese version of finally getting to play at Carnagie Hall.
Rank 8: Seki Tomokazu, ８００万円 yen ($72,000)
A voice actor who plays all kinds of different roles, he has played in Captain Tsubasa, Daru from Steins;Gate, and Chiaki from Nodame Cantabile, plus the most manly male anime character ever, Gilgamesh from the Fate series.
Rank 9: Nogawa Sakura, ８００万円 ($72,000)
The voice of quite a few characters, including Nemu from the Da Capo games in anime series, Hina-Ichigo in Rozen Maiden, and Erica Hartman in Strike Witches. She also has many songs under her belt.
Rank 10: Suzumura Kenichi, ６００万円 ($53,000)
Bonus: Voice actors who are rumored to earn more than $100,000:
Mamoru Miyano, estimated at $1 million.
Best known for voicing Light Yagami/Kiru from Death Note and Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate (“Christina!”), he got his start voicing Riku in the original Kingdom Hearts. Nice to know Okabe isn’t wanting for research funds these days.
Japan’s greatest living voice actress, Masako has played some of the most famous roles, including Son Goku, Son Gohan and Son Goten, plus Kitaro from Gegege no Kitaro, Sally the Witch (the first magical girl anime), and Tetsuro from Galaxy Express 999. She appears as herself in the seiyu-focused series called Sore ga Seiyu! (Seiyu’s Life!), in which she shows up and gives kind of advice to the three girls in the show on how they can break into the business. It’s a good show if you’re interested in the subject.
Pretty much Japan’s most famous living male seiyu, Furuya got his big break as the voice of Amuro Rei in 1978’s Mobile Suit Gundam. He proceeded to pretty much owned the 80s and 90s, voicing characters like Kyosuke from Orange Road, Pegasus from Saint Seiya, Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon plus a few other roles that have been forgotten over the years. (Stop! Hibari-kun, anyone?)
(My son and I were once watching a documentary on penguins, and we realized the narrator was Tohru Furuya. We had great fun, calling out her favorite Gundam quotes, while “Amuro” told us all about the mating habits of emperor penguins.)
Your parting gif, I mean jpg, from Koe de Oshigoto!, another fun seiyu series. Thanks for reading!
UPDATE: Several people said we’d made a math error converting the Japanese yen to salaries, so I thought I’d talk about this. Actually converting numbers between the Sino-Japanese system, which is based on kanji units 10,000 instead of 1,000, is actually super hard, with “1 million” being expressed as “100 units of 10,000.” If you listen to any gaijin speaking English in Japan, their numbers will always be in Japanese, because no one wants the confusion of stopping to ask whether the other guy meant 10,000 or 100,000 because he mentioned the English word “ten.”
Anyway, I triple checked the numbers with Google-sensei. ７０００万円 (7000 units of 10,000) is definitely 70,000,000 yen, or $628,716 at today’s current rate.