Directors of One Piece and Dragon Ball Address Alleged Anime Child Labor Hoax

An online incident involving the production of the 2024 anime series Isekai Onsen Paradise has sparked discussion within the anime industry.

An animator going by the username @_kanamemadoka_ on X, who claims to be 14 years old, asserted that she had worked on the show through her uncle’s animation studio. This studio was a subcontractor for Wolfsbane, one of the main studios producing Isekai Onsen Paradise.

According to Kaname, after submitting finished cuts, she realized she would not be credited because a Wolfsbane staff member had assigned the same scene to another animator as well.

Upset over the perceived unfair treatment as a newcomer, Kaname called out the Wolfsbane staff member online multiple times. She then received warning messages from them via X’s direct messaging system.

Kaname’s claims, which remain unverified, raised concerns over potential child labor and exploitation in the anime industry. Major figures like One Piece animation director Mamoru Yokota and Dragon Ball movie director Yoshihiro Ueda took notice, sparking wider discussion.

While details remain uncertain, the incident highlights ongoing issues around production practices and working conditions in the anime business.

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According to Kaname, the Wolfsbane staff member who double-booked eventually apologized but also warned that further public criticism could jeopardize her future work on Isekai Onsen Paradise.

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Nevertheless, Kaname posted a letter she received from Wolfsbane CEO Kohei Motokawa apologizing for the difficult experience.

Later the same day, after Kaname’s claimed age of 14 came to light, she shared that Motokawa informed her she could no longer work on the anime due to being underage.

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Kaname posted samples of her work, screenshots of conversations with the Wolfsbane staff member, Motokawa’s apology letter, and the notice barring her from the production.

The controversy brought wider attention, with multiple online commentators noting that 15 is typically the minimum age for this animation work in the industry. Major anime figures Mamoru Yokota and Yoshihiro Ueda also reacted, further highlighting the situation.

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While factual details remain uncertain, the incident fueled ongoing concerns about labor practices and working conditions in anime production. Kaname’s specific circumstances and ban from Isekai Onsen Paradise also underscored industry standards around animators’ minimum age.

Animation Industry Veterans Weigh In

Yoshihiro Ueda, director of the 9th Dragon Ball Z film Bojack Unbound, commented that while he didn’t know if the rumors were true, he denounced the potential practice of underage animators working in the industry.

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As Ueda stated: “Some people have misunderstood that being good at drawing is enough, but you must also understand people’s true nature. For that, I think you need life experience and studying beyond just art.”

Mamoru Yokota, outspoken animation director on major One Piece projects like Stampede, Film: Red, and the popular “Wano” arc, said the lengthy controversy caused him to lose interest in following it closely.

Credits: Twitter (now X)

However, he sympathized with Kaname’s situation, stating: “Adults are horrible. I say that, but we all become them someday.”

While the core facts remain uncertain, Ueda and Yokota’s reactions further demonstrate how the incident resonated across the animation industry. It fueled ongoing critiques over labor practices as well as standards around the minimum working age for animators like Kaname.

Credits: Twitter (now X)

Their commentary also highlights philosophical debates around gaining life experience before entering animation work.

Industry Insiders Speak Out

Terumi Nishii, chief animation director for the hit film Jujutsu Kaisen 0, also weighed in alongside the veteran Dragon Ball and One Piece directors. Nishii has previously criticized the practice of hiring animators through social media, seeing it as destabilizing the industry.

While uncertain if Kaname’s claims were a hoax, Nishii stated that if true, a company that employed underage animators should be shut down.

Kentarou Mizuno, director of anime shorts like 16bit Sensation, felt the incident seemed fabricated but added that animators should reconsider working for any studio that lacks oversight to prevent such labor issues.

Nishii and Mizuno’s skeptical reactions speak to broader issues plaguing the anime industry, including hiring practices and production management.

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Even if Kaname’s specific allegations prove false, the high-profile controversy presents an opportunity to reinforce standards around protecting young animators as well as stabilizing precarious working conditions.

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