The Toei Animation Discrimination Case and Why It’s Important

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Once again, it seems, my pension for tuning out the news as much as possible has caught up with me. As per the usual, I’ve missed an incredibly important story and am now going to be super late to the party in terms of actually talking about it. Well, as they say, better late than never. For those uninitiated with the story, lets just jump right in.

So, to set the scene a little bit, for those who are unaware, Toei Animation is a Japanese animation studio who has a long history of animating well known TV series, including Sailor Moon, One Piece and Naruto. They also have a history of animating relatively progressive kids series, which is relevant to the story. As a result, the studio has a lot of power in the industry.


It was initially reported by Yahoo News, and then later reported by Comic Book and Anime News Network that a Union representative at Toei Animation was discriminated against because of being X-gender (Note: X-gender generally refers to the idea of being non-binary, and is a term commonly used in Japan). As the outlets reported, Toei tried to refuse labor negotiations with the x-gendered representative as they were representing another employee in a case of an unfair firing.

There are a admittedly a lot of details, so I would highly recommend reading articles linked above to get a full picture of the situation. With that being said, everything about this just not okay.

Firstly, it should not have to be explained why discriminating based on gender identity is wrong, but since I am sure that at least on idiot will come across this post, I will anyway. Hating people because of characteristics that are outside of their control is irrational. It is just a reality that how people view themselves in regards to their gender identity is in no small part a product of biological phenomena. However, even if it was a entirely their choice, it would not make hating them anymore ok.

However, this becomes even worse when that hate is coming from one’s place of work. Not having the same name as the one that appears on a birth certificate does not make someone a liar, and that fact that this was the company’s actual reason for refusing negotiations with this individual is a testament to the level of ignorance that still exists within Japan about x-gender people.

For as bad as the ignorance about non-binary people is, this story also speaks to another issue that is prevalent in Japan, but also in many countries across the world: overworking employees. The reason this person needed to be represented in the first place was because of Toei’s “culture of overwork,” which is extremely common at Japanese animation studios, to the point where many people quit the industry within their first few years of working.

There is also currently a petition going around to address the situation to get Toei to stop behavior like this in the future. It is not often that petitions like these ever actually make much significant change, but bringing attention to this issue and creating enough bad press might get the company to shift their views in the future. Whatever happens, it is best to not forget incidents like these when thinking about how one should view the actions of individual companies.

Japan has never really been particularly good on either of these issues, even relative to other developed countries. However, seeing social change involves creating awareness of incidents like these and calling out why they are bad. It is wrong to overwork employees and pay them way less than what they are worth, and it is wrong refuse to work with someone based on their gender identify, plain and simple.

What is your take on this story? Let me know in the comments below.

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