The Job from Hell. We’ve all had it at some point. Whether it’s cleaning greasy French fries out of a deep fat fryer or enduring a screaming, swearing boss demanding to know why we dared get up from our desk to get a glass of water, we’ve all endured moments in our careers that have had us closing our eyes and mentally composing our resumes so we can escape to the next soul-sucking job.
But it could be worse… we could be characters in an anime. Like any medium, anime loves dwelling on the harsh realities – or exaggerated absurdities – of the workforce, and if real life jobs weren’t enough, they invented a few of their own for our heroes to suffer through. I’ve compiled a list of some of the worst occupations to have in an anime or manga. I then realized there were so many that I had to split the list into two, those for regular jobs and those for super “anime” jobs. And even then the list was tough to break down.
Makes that dishwasher job sound a bit more pleasant, eh?
So, here are the top 5 worst “normal” jobs to have in an anime.
Teachers have a pretty crap deal, don’t they? Paid next to nothing to babysit a bunch of screaming kids and have parents yell at them for not nurturing their precious baby’s latent talents. Japanese teachers do have a slightly different experience; as a rule, the classrooms are somewhat more disciplined (though not always) and I don’t remember any shrieking parents. But if anime is anything to go on (and we all know anime is 100% real!), being a teacher in Japan kinda sucks. Trying to engage the kids seems almost impossible because they’re always distracted by either dreaming over some boy/girl they like or thinking about the latest horrific monster to arrive to Tokyo. Chances are the kids will show you no respect and you will be reduced to little more than sadistic comic relief, dancing around and squawking in chibi-form while the class laughs at your screams of anguish. This can get doubly cruel if you are a woman of “a certain age” as then you will hear nothing but sly references to the fact that you will die an old maid. Hooray. Of course, you might be one of those warm, helpful teachers who everyone loves… which is almost a death sentence, as it will guarantee that every monster of the week, every suave villain of the season, every maniac out for vengeance against those mysterious sailor-suited heroines will end up capturing you, draining your energy, seducing you, mind-controlling you or finding some other way to ruin your day. All this and you get to mark test papers too!
Luckily, anime teachers do seem to have ONE out… the role of the “cool older sister”. This only seems to work for youthful, pretty female teachers in their early 20s who are relaxed, silly and generally “cool” enough to be friends with their students rather than their “superior.” A character who can manage this may end up having a very sweet deal, even becoming part of the main core group. Of course, if the main core group fights monsters for a living, this may not be a great idea. And god help you if you’re not young enough… I mean, if you’re over 25, you’re practically an old lady by anime standards.
4. Waitress in a Maid Café
Working while in high school or college can often suck, what with having to balance your schoolwork with your job, often while desperately scrounging for money to pay the bills. Anime features plenty of characters who end up struggling with this age old issue. But one group that seems to have it particularly bad are girls who end up working as maid café waitresses, or sometimes even waitresses in general. If you’re wondering what a maid café is, the name’s pretty self-explanatory; it’s a café or restaurant where the wait staff all dress as cute maids, often of the French variety. Unfortunately, this trend attracts a lot of lonely, horny or generally skeevy guys of all ages coming to ogle the women… and sometimes more than ogle. So if an anime heroine is working at one of these restaurants, chances are she’s going to have to deal with a lot of grabby hands on top of her usual financial woes. And to add insult to injury, she usually has to run around serving food in a getup that looks like this. Can you guess how hot those costumes are going to get in the summer? Thanks, but I’ll stick with my day job… any other day job!
The term “ronin” refers to two types of people. The first and more historical meaning is a masterless samurai, usually depicted as wandering aimlessly looking for a cause to give his life meaning. This is not the bad job. This job involves katanas and wakizashis and thus is awesome.
No, the other type of “ronin” is one that gets constantly crapped upon in anime: a poor schmuck who failed the entrance exam for his/her chosen university and, rather than going to another school instead, decides to take an entire year to do nothing but study so they can try again. It’s a double whammy of eternal studying and social stigma. While it’s not the ultimate shame (exams *are* a big deal) and characters can still work other jobs or have free time, the whole thing has a sort of dead end quality to it, like you’re stuck in limbo until you finally pass that one exam. So not only do anime ronin have to study, they have to feel like losers while they do it. And if that weren’t bad enough, ronin are often found in harem anime, meaning that whenever a ronin hero is trying to study, he’s guaranteed to be interrupted by at least five women demanding either sex or his head on a pike, sometimes both (and not in that order).
2. Idol Singer
I gather that the real world of idol singers in Japan (or, indeed, in the States) is no laughing matter; there’s tons of pressure to look pretty, to act a certain way, and to basically be a perfect little princess that fans will adore.
In anime, you can throw in assassination attempts as part of that.
For some reason, there’s something about the idol industry in Japan that turns half of its workers into the cattiest, nastiest and most underhanded bitches ever caught on celluloid. As soon as the awestruck young heroine takes her first steps towards fulfilling her dream, rest assured that there is some evil glaring rival lurking in the shadows plotting her downfall, even if it means attempted rape or murder. No underhanded trick will be missed, no corrupt agent shall be left unbribed, and no opportunity for a cutting insult will be ignored. There are Middle Eastern dictators who experience less violent hatred and opposition than this.
Sometimes the scariest thing is the unembellished truth. That’s certainly the case with how anime presents salaryman positions (i.e. office/cubicle workers). There’s often not a huge amount of ludicrous exaggeration in anime depictions of office work… well, unless you’re talking about a yaoi anime, in which case it usually involves copious amounts of sexual harassment, which is pretty horrible in its own right. But no, most anime doesn’t go over the top when it comes to depicting salarymen and office workers. It doesn’t need to.
After all, why have disasters and death threats when you can show the slow, tedious drudgery of living in a cubicle, of spending hours and hours staring at a computer screen while your life bleeds away?
People often talk about the soullessness of an office job, of the sense of an empty existence and a life wasted. And a lot of anime and manga run with that all the way to the (often bittersweet) ending. Salarymen are often depicted as looking… drained somehow, living life in a permanent state of quiet tiredness. Their relationship with their family is often strained or non-existent, and their nights are spent late at the office… either that, or at some enkai (office drinking party) that seems a bit more like a work obligation than a genuine fun night out with coworkers.
Of course, your mileage may vary on whether office work is really all that bad (I’d say it depends on the company and your coworkers). And there are a few anime titles here and there that reflect the slightly more humorous side of the business, such as quirky coworkers or ridiculous bosses. But there are still more than enough depressing (and depressingly realistic) depictions of office life to make this one of the worst jobs to have in an anime universe.
What other jobs tend to suck in anime? In contrast, are there any jobs that seem pretty sweet?