Who earns more, Homer Simpson or Evangelion’s Rei Ayanami?

No other country has a voice acting industry as robust and vibrant as Japan’s. For American cartoons, voice acting is often relegated to a behind-the-scenes affair but in Japan you can expect any new anime series or character-driven video game to put its vocal cast front and center in marketing and promotions, since the presence of a popular performer will earn the project immediate attention.

But despite all that, Japanese Twitter users were startled to learn how much higher the pay ceiling is for American voice acting, prompted by a recently published-in-Japanese article that details how much the English-language voice cast for The Simpsons earns.

Originally published in English last year, the article says that Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardly Smith (Lisa), Hank Azaria (Moe), and Harry Shearer (Mr. Burns) each make US$300,000 per episode. With most one-year Simpsons episodes consisting of about 22 episodes, that works out to US$6.6 million a year.

Compare that to the 70 million yen (US$630,000) top-earning Japanese voice actress Megumi Hayashibara (Evangelion’s Rei Ayanami, Slayers’ Lina Inverse) reportedly earned in 2017. Hayashibara is followed by Masako Nozawa’s (Dragon Ball’s Goku) 40 million yen (US$360,000) in the anime voice acting earnings list, and third-place Ryo Horikawa (Dragon Ball’s Vegeta), the highest-earning anime voice actor, weighs in at 30 million yen (US$270,000).

▼ It’s unclear if the 70 million-yen figure for Hayashibara includes the earnings from her extensive work recording anime theme songs.

The dramatic difference in top-level earning power had Japanese Twitter users leaving comments like:

“I wish the Japanese anime industry could pay creators, the foundation the industry is built on, like the Simpsons cast gets paid.”
“You could finance an entire modest-budget 13-episode anime series with those six actors’ one-episode salaries.”
“They make enough to buy a new condo every episode.”
“It’s the American dream.”
“I want hit anime series to give more credit to their voice actors.”

Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that the Simpsons cast, as the article itself mentions, didn’t start out earning such princely sums. For the show’s first ten seasons, they earned just US$30,000 per episode. Even that, though, is far ahead of the average per-episode pay for entry-level regular cast members for Japanese anime, which Japanese wage aggregator website Kyuryo Bank says starts at around 60,000 yen (US$540) per episode.

▼ In addition to information on salaries, Kyuryo Bank also has awesome anime-style illustrations for all sorts of professions.

There’s also the fact that all of the six Simpsons stars provide the voices for multiple characters. Castellaneta is also Krusty the Clown and Groundskeeper Willie, for example, while Shearer is also Principal Skinner and Ned Flanders. In contrast, it’s extremely unusual for Japanese voice actors to voice more than one recurring character in the same series.

More than anything, though, the pay gap is a result of The Simpsons being a mainstream series in the world’s largest media market, while anime, even in Japan, is more of a niche. Add it all up, and it turns out that in terms of real-world currency, Springfield Nuclear Power Plant pays a lot better than Evangelion-operator Nerv.

Sources: Livedoor News/Gigazine via Jin, Ceron, Screen Rant, Ceron, Rank1, Kyuryo Bank
Top image: YouTube/Animation on FOX
Insert images: Kyuryo Bank

Follow Casey on Twitter, where on any given day his mental soundtrack is made up of at least 20 percent Megumi Hayashibara songs.