The typical white-collar worker at the bottom of the ladder. In America, they'd be called "peons", "office drones", or "wage slaves"; but in Japan, they call them salarymen.
The essential ingredients for the proper Salaryman include a charcoal grey (or funeral black) suit with proper necktie, a briefcase, glasses, and usually a receding hairline if they're not outright bald. After a night's revelries, a carton of carryout food becomes part of the setup. Add a sake bottle and a Necktie Headband
and he becomes the "drunk salaryman" stereotype.
Salarymen are usually portrayed in ways similar to White Collar Workers
in American programming; stuck in dull jobs with irritating employers
and little chance of advancement. However, as a whole, they tend to be more optimistic. They also have an unfortunate tendency, encouraged by both the Japanese work ethic and their employers, toward both workaholism
. Some all but ignore their family
in pursuit of their job, going drinking with office-mates after (unpaid) overtime, going home to sleep for four hours, then getting up to do it all over again.
Frequently in Cyber Punk
this class of character is referred to as a "sararyman" (or "sarariman" - same thing, different spelling), a Recursive Translation
playing off the fact that Japanese has no equivalent of the English letter "L"
. This was a reaction in the late 1980's
to the notion that the Japanese were apparently taking over the world financially
, and Westerners were suddenly encountering these mid-level types in daily life. In more recent works, the term is from time to time applied to any worker regardless of origin, who follows this optimistic hyper-dedicated philosophy. Salarymen also have quite the niche market in Boys Love
As a protagonist, this is essentially the same character as the Ordinary High-School Student
— shining example of Japanese conformity ripe for a life changing transformation at the hands of an extraordinary event/individual/robot. The difference is that the salaryman's disproportionately extensive Back Story
doesn't need to be crammed into elementary and middle school. That, plus high school kids don't constantly worry about getting fired. Using him in this way isn't exceptionally common, as these types of stories sell better with younger high school protagonists and supporting cast, even if the target audience is older
Compare to Office Lady
, the Distaff Counterpart
(of sorts) to this trope. Contrast the Western equivalent, the Workaholic
, whose life is even bleaker and his compromise with his work is tighter.
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Anime and Manga
- Tanaka "Gabriel" Oji from Black Heaven is a typical salaryman now, but in his youth he was the frontman for the eponymous heavy metal band. Then the plot comes and kidnaps him periodically to play down an alien invasion.
- In Dai-Guard, the main character is a salaryman who gets to pilot a giant robot.
- In Kodomo no Omocha the elder Hayama, Akito's father, is the extreme workaholic type until Sana arranges a special intervention.
- Black Lagoon: Rokuro "Rock" Okajima was originally a salaryman until he was kidnapped by the other main characters (a group of mercenaries/pirates) and his company tried to have him killed. He quits and joins his kidnappers.
- Ichigo's father in Tokyo Mew Mew is an ordinary salaryman with dreams that Ichigo denounces for being practically impossible. She, of course, is a Magical Girl and prefers an average life.
- Raizo in Living Game starts out as a random salaryman. Eventually his company goes out of business and he has to work construction instead.
- The whole premise of the anime Dai-Guard is actually the phrase "office workers saving the world" (by means of the protagonists and their corporate-owned giant mecha). This status does nothing to help their paychecks, of course.
- Shin's father Hiro in Shin-chan is a stereotypical put-upon salaryman. It's implied he's an outside salesman.
- "Kaishounachi" (not his real name, but an epithet roughly translating to "Useless Bum"), boyfriend of Ebichu's owner the O.L., in Oruchuban Ebichu (Ebichu Minds the House).
- In REC, Matsumaru is an ordinary salaryman (he's an up-and-rising copyrighter who pitched a couple of successful advertising campaigns for a snack-food maker, and was made to work even harder for that) who falls in love with an aspiring voice actress.
- Ataru's dad in Urusei Yatsura is the typical Salaryman: working long hours and worrying about the mortgage, especially since his house is routinely destroyed.
- Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman is a parody of Sentai shows that focuses on a Five-Man Band of salarymen... who save the world.
- The protagonist of Yume De Aetara, Masao Fuguno, is a stereotypical salaryman trying to earn his way as a salesman. Unfortunately, his extreme changes of mood, and the fact that those changes are tied to how his relationship with his love interest is going, conspire against his success.
- The first time Karin Maaka uses her vampiric abilities, she does it on a salaryman in the park after school. Kenta Usui (her love interest) stumbles upon her on his way home, and thinks that she's trying to put the moves on him.
- An entertaining recurring character in Gantz Abridged is Joe Salaryman, father of the Salaryman family. Not to be confused with Niles Trustfundman.
- Patlabor: Shinshi used to work for a software company, prior to joining the SVU2. One of the later episodes of "The Mobile Police" continuity had him contemplate leaving the force, when he was offered a management position at an up and coming computer firm. But he decided he'd rather be a public servant and politely declined the offer.
- After the Big Bad Yoshikage Kira switches bodies in the later part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure part 4 he is forced to assume his new identity's role as one of these, not that he's particularly happy about it.
- Actually it's his preferred job because they're boring and easy to overlook. Even in his job as a salesman, it was pretty much the same and he only did just enough to live well but no so much that he stood out enough to get promotions or anything of that sort.
- Albireo of .hack//AI Buster. AI_Buster_2 reveals that his eventual collapse at work was explained as overworking, rather than what actually happened (Data Drain).
- The director Matsuan, his assistant Densuke, and the public-relations man Katchin, in Android Announcer Maico 2010.
- One half of the main couple in Little House with an Orange Roof is Shotaro, whose utter dedication to his work caused his ignored wife to leave him and his two sons. When he winds up having to share a home with a woman and her two daughters, he begins to re-evaluate why that was so important to him.
- Planetes' premise can be accurately described as Salarymen IN SPACE. Debris Section's manager and assistant manager moreso than the rest of the cast, as they only rarely go on actual jobs, and are much more aware of corporate politics than the rest of Debris Section.
- Only in the anime, though. Manga is much more cosmopolitan and doesn't center on the corporate antics that closely.
- In Angel Densetsu, the hero's father is a salaryman, and like his son, is a nice but scary looking guy. In Dad's case, he wears sun glasses because he's light sensitive/in an attempt to look less scary, and coupled with the mandatory shirt and tie, the end result is that everyone assumes he's a Yakuza member.
- Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan features Binkan Salaryman. He comes with his own series, movie, and brand of sausage.
- ...Virgin Love and its sequels/prequels are chock full of Work Hard, Play Hard salarymen, revolving mainly around the Todou group but branching outwards through Cross Over characters.
- There is actually an anime named Salaryman, a Sentai-like short story with 5 coloured masked fighters defending the peace. Puns with things like Superman, Ultraman.
- Wandering Son: Hiroyuki Nitori is often seen going drinking after his days at the office, but nothing is said about what he actually does for a living. There's also Ebina, a minor character who's a a widower with a preschool aged daughter, but wishes to live as a woman.
- Variable Geo: Washio works for the Jahana Corporation, where he serves as the chairwoman's (Reimi Jahana) personal assistant/adjutant - with the added benefit of secretly being her boytoy.
- Ghost Talker's Daydream: One of Misaki's regular's was an office worker named Shimamura, who was part of popular magazine publishing company. Or was, until he committed suicide.
- Well Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash of The DCU's Super Young Team knows that when he's an adult he'll have to get a real job along these lines, so he's dedicated himself to enjoying his adolescence as much as possible.
Live Action TV
- Heroes: Hiro Nakamura and his friend Ando are typical salarymen living in Tokyo until Hiro discovers his superpowers. However, the trope is subverted when we discover that Hiro's father is actually the CEO of the company he works for. Hiro is only working a menial job in the hope that he will overcome his scatterbrained personality and become a fitting heir to the company.
- In Kamen Rider Blade, BOARD was effectively destroyed in episode one and all the Riders are fighting for themselves. In the Blade World shown in Kamen Rider Decade, BOARD is still up and running and all the Riders are employees of BOARD. Tsukasa, the titular character, calls it "Kamen Rider... Salaryman!"
- In all the Sailor Moon continuities Usagi's father "Kenji-papa" works in journalism, in the manga and anime he's a magazine editor and seems to have enough spare time to see his family on a daily basis. However in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon he barely appears, being a newspaper photographer with a very salaryman like lifestyle. The only time he's seen on screen is in the direct to DVD special act when he manages to make it to his daughter's wedding.
- The Droans/Shatieeks from Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger are the foot soldiers of the Blatantly Evil Marketing Firm B and resemble middle-aged, balding, bespectacled salary men.
- They are mentioned in the Utada Hikaru song "Keep Tryin'": "Even if your darling is a salary man, that's okay, if there's love" are the translated lyrics.
- Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan
- In the first game, one of the levels features a salaryman named Ichiro who grows to the size of Ultraman by putting his tie on his head like a Hachimaki, in order to save his daughter for a giant blue mouse. It's just that kind of game.
- There's also the guy applying for a job interview in the sequel, Moero Nekketsu Rhythm. While he's technically not (yet) a salaryman, his stereotypical suit + glasses outfit is a giveaway.
- The Japanese Engineers of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 play on elements of this, including refrences to quirky office fitness programs for wage-slaves (it's the given excuse for the Japanese engineer's ability to sprint). In keeping with the imperialistic nature of Japan in the game, fluff describes them as being looked down upon for being just regular workaholics rather than battle-ready combat workaholics.
- The original backstory for Skullomania from Street Fighter EX said that he was a Salaryman who suffered a nervous breakdown, but recovers after dressing in a costume for a childrens' party at his boss's behest, and ends up quitting to become a Kamen Rider-like Super Hero.
- In the game Karoshi and its numerous sequels, you are a googly-eyed little 8-bit salaryman trying desperately to kill himself. The point in each level is to die in Ludicrous Gibs fashion at the hands of one of the conservatively placed deathtraps littering the vaguely office-themed and less-than-vaguely threatening environment. In a hilarious inversion from Everything Trying to Kill You, the world is trying to keep you alive for its own malicious amusement.
- Kichiku Megane stars a very put-upon Salaryman... who happened to be given a magical pair of glasses that made him a lot more aggressive in all aspects of his life.
- The protagonist of the WiiWare game Tomena Sanner. With Le Parkour aspects.
- One of the zombies in Plants vs. Zombies has this appearance, using an open newspaper as a shield. Once the newspaper is destroyed by your plants' attacks, he gets angry (the game's bestiary says he was working intently on a Sudoku puzzle) and runs toward your house at a faster movement speed than the one at which he was running pre-paper shred. However, when the paper's gone, he has about the same health as your standard zombie and will go down quickly before your plants.
- The Annoying Old Party Man and Annoying Reveler enemies from EarthBound. We can also assume that Ness' dad is one, as he always seems to be at work.
- The Businessman and Office Lady trainer classes in Pokémon Black and White are based on this.
- Salary Man Champ is based upon salarymen trying get as high in career ladder as they can.
- Grant from Harvest Moon A Wonderful Life and Harvest Moon DS/Cute is a salaryman, though he apparently lives in an American-type setting.
- Captain Olimar of Pikmin is basically an alien salaryman stranded on a hostile world.
- The theme song, "Ai no Uta", struck a deep chord of resonance with Japanese salarymen and became massively popular in Japan as a result.
- In both Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Shadow Hearts: From the New World, there's an one-use accessory called "Replacement Man". Described as "a meek corporate warrior, noticed by no one" and "a doll modeled after a guy who took the blame for his boss's screw-ups and lost his job", the Replacement Man will revive the character that equipped it in battle. After that, it disappears "with a sad smile of relief."
- Bravoman's secret identity from Bravoman: Super Unequaled Hero of Excellence! Is flat-out named Salaryman, and eventually gets his own character.