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An entire Tokyo anime company has apparently disappeared, leaving artists unpaid for their work

Dec 10, 2019

Tear-jerking reports from multiple artists as studio, which produced a theatrical anime this year, erases its online presence.

By this point, it’s pretty common knowledge that working in the anime industry is anything but a quick and easy path to riches, with long hours and low pay being very much the norm for a lot of artists. Except for the superstars, anime professionals need a nearly endless supply of hustle, and that’s something that freelance artist Gen Sato (@GENP37 on Twitter) is quick to recognize. A freelance illustrator, animator, and character/mecha designer who’s been working since 1986, on his website Sato still states his professional philosophy as:

“Because I’m poor, I don’t turn down offers to work, so that one day I will be able to turn them down.”

Unfortunately, a strong work ethic doesn’t mean much without suitable business ethics on the other side of the employment equation. In a tweet sent out this week, Sato revealed that he’s yet to get paid for some of his recent work, and what’s worse, the company that stiffed him seems to have disappeared entirely.

Sato says:

“I never thought that a company producing theatrical anime would not only not pay the workers, but also erase all trace of itself from Twitter and disappear.

I’ve had some serious trouble foisted on me now.”

If you look at the original Japanese text of the tweet, you’ll also spot the kanji character 泣, meaning “crying,” a couple times. That’s appropriate not only because of the heartbreaking turn of events for Sato, but also because the company he’s referring to seems to be Tear Studio, which is, or at least was, based in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, where Japan’s highest concentration of anime studios is found. Tear Studio was established in 2013 and seems to have spent its early days doing support work, but in recent years grew large enough to be the primary production studio for theatrical anime The Royal Tutor, which premiered in February, as well as 2018’s Why the Hell are You Here, Teacher!? TV series (one of the recommendations from SoraNews24 animation critic Otaku Aniki).

▼ Trailer for the Tear Studio-produced anime Fragtime

Tear Studio was apparently operational enough to release an OVA anime adaptation of yuri manga Fragtime as recently as November 22, but if you point your browser to the company’s official website now, all you’ll get is an error message.

Update: As of the writing of this article, Tear Studio’s website was unavailable, but has since been restored.

There’s no joy at the official Tear Studio Twitter account either, which has been deleted.

Sato’s tale has evoked sympathy from other Twitter users, even as they can’t ignore the dramatic, theatric turn of events.

“This is terrible! You’ve got to take them to court.”
“Geez, so many poor people are going to be affected by what the company did!”
“It’s like something out of a suspense movie.”
“It’s amazing that they could be so terrible.”

Sprinkled in among the responses were also a few from other artists who appear to be waiting on payments from Tear Studio as well.

“Well looks like they’ve stiffed me too.”

“I think they got me too then…”

Sato doesn’t mention whether he’s tried contacting Tear Studio via phone or email, or has been to the office to see if anyone is there, but the sudden, unannounced scrubbing of its online presence definitely makes it seem like Tear’s top personnel have fled into the night, leaving an unknown number of workers unpaid for their contributions to its anime productions.

It’s worth noting, in this age of Internet-organized boycotts, that while Tear was the production studio behind the above-mentioned anime series, it’s not the publisher for any of them. In other words, buying Blu-rays of The Royal Tutor, Why the Hell are You Here, Teacher!?, or Fragtime isn’t lining the pockets of on-the-run Tear executives, but is instead contributing to the bottom line of the companies that are publishing the completed works, who hopefully will find it in their hearts to help out any as-yet uncompensated workers.

Sources: Twitter/@GENP37 via Hachima Kiko, Gen Sato official website, Tear Studio, Twitter/@tear_studio
Top image: YouTube/ぽにきゃん-Anime PONY CANYON
Insert images: Tear Studio official website, Twitter/@tear_studio
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