All is not well in Japan’s animation industry.

On the surface, things look better than ever. The anime industry pulls in over ¥2 trillion a year, new media companies such as Netflix are producing a slew of new titles, and an anime film, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie — Mugen Train,” just set new box-office records with its incredible opening weekend, despite being released in the middle of the pandemic.

But a peek under the hood reveals some serious problems that threaten the existence of the industry itself. Chief among them are low wages and poor working conditions. Most animators are classified as freelance or self-employed, which means they’re not protected under labor laws that apply to full-time employees. Animation directors and character designers, whose work can determine whether an anime series or film becomes a hit, rarely receive royalties. And most rookie animators are paid only ¥200 to ¥300 per drawing, resulting in monthly wages that often don’t even cover rent.