From Madhouse to MAPPA – The Harsh Truth


Madhouse – Starting Line

Madhouse, which was founded in 1972 by ex-Mushi Pro animators, is a well-known company for its productions in the anime field. It was one of the anime powerhouse companies in the industry for releasing top hits like Cardcaptor Sakura, Death Note, One Punch Man, Doraemon the Movie, Beyblade, and a lot of others. You may refer to their works here.

However, in April 2019, the company was bombarded with criticism due to a thread posted on X by Magazine Posse about one of Madhouse’s staff. The thread exposed Madhouse’s greed and tyranny.

A True ‘Madhouse’

On April 5, a Madhouse production assistant (who will be addressed as A from now onwards) stepped up to seek compensation for the unpaid overtime, as well as an apology from Madhouse for its power harassment. He mentioned in his thread that he worked 393 hours a month which exceeded the limit for overtime limit proposed by the Japanese government which is 100 hours. He also joined the Black Company Union, a trade union formed in 2017. The company offers services like consultations and support for workers in any industry.

Screenshot on Magazine Posse on X regarding the thread

He also told in detail about what he had to go through in Madhouse to the point he needed to be hospitalized due to overwork. After the incident, he was diagnosed with a psychogenic reaction – also called a functional neurologic disorder. It affects the nervous system, and the symptoms cause severe distress or problem functioning. It could also result in the inability to walk, swallow, see, or hear.

At this point, A has accumulated up to 3 million yen (USD26,800) for its unpaid overtime payment. It was then exposed that Madhouse conducted a flat rate of 50 hours of paid overtime. In other words, if they worked overtime more than 50 hours, they would not be paid. It was not disclosed prior to the hiring but later after they had started to work overtime.

The Beginning of MAPPA

For its unjust and tyrannical work culture that has since forever, in 2011, Masao Maruyama, 70, who was one of the veteran animators in the industries under Madhouse, decided to step away from Madhouse and established MAPPA (Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association). Maruyama is dubbed to have a set of eyes that could recognize talented directors and key animators, as well as encourage them. Maruyama joined Madhouse for its amazing illustrations, however, when Madhouse turned into a human labour machine, he decided to wake up and realized that it was not what he was into in the first place as he treasures the freedom of creativity. 

A picture of Masao Maruyama (Source: Otaku USA Magazine)

Up until 2016, Maruyama was driving MAPPA strongly. Enabling them to produce some famous classic anime especially the legendary Kids on the Slope which was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (the creative man behind Cowboy Bebop). From then, MAPPA kept on producing more and more hits like Hajime no Oppo: Rising, Terror in Resonance, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, etc. 

What Goes Around Comes Around

However, the success of MAPPA means more productions got interested. Ergo, more workloads, and bigger growth of the company are needed. Maruyama was in despair as MAPPA would become Madhouse all over again. After careful consideration, Maruyama decided to pass the leash to Manobu Otsuka as the CEO. From here onwards, Manobu Otsuka made every vital decision for MAPPA.

MAPPA Studio’s current CEO – Manobu Otsuka (Source: Anime Expo)

Since 2016, Manobu Otsuka has proven his capability as we see where MAPPA is now. It started its breakthrough with Yuri!! On Ice, then came out later with its great anime hits like Attack on Titan, Jujutsu Kaisen, Kakegurui, Chainsaw Man, Hell’s Paradise, and many more. 

Among MAPPA’s famous anime (Source:

Of course, MAPPA is also not an alien to criticisms as Madhouse faced previously. Otsuka once admitted that it was a harsh reality in the animation industry in Japan regarding the pressures and workloads. More complaints starting to appear on social media one by one by MAPPA’s workers due to their taxing working hours. There’s even a rumour about the discontinuation of Jujutsu Kaisen animation since some of the workers starting to bail out from the company. My condolences to JJK’s fans if it becomes real.

He then further defended that the company has been working hard on improvements. For instance, MAPPA opened a new studio of 5,000 sqft in order to improve the working environment… I guess we’ll have to see what will happen to MAPPA and any other animation studios moving forward.

Maruyama Masao – Now

As for Maruyama, he is currently driving his small animation company called Studio M2 on the side. The studio doesn’t have any major anime hits. So, Maruyama’s wish to express his creativity in freedom is achieved, after all.

One of Studio M2’s productions – Pluto. Now in Netflix (Source: IMDB)

Well, isn’t it exhausting to talk about serious matters? For those who are akin to reading more casual articles about anime, maybe you can scroll to our other posts on the site. For example, this post is about the upcoming Dragon Ball: Daima.

Until then, MATA NEE~


  • Dianさま

    Dian - a 98% introvert with a mind like a black hole, she is like the lovechild of Senku and Hisoka, armed with ideas and logics sharper than a lightsaber. Social gatherings? Nah, it's either dissecting the latest anime/manga/kdrama breakthrough or debate the merits of time travel. 200% INTP.

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