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"I'm Hito- Arno- Um... Just call me Salaryman."

The typical white-collar workers at the bottom of the ladder of a MegaCorp. In America, they'd be called "peons", "office drones", or "wage slaves"; but in Japan, they're called salarymen (サラリーマン, sararīman).

The essential ingredients for the proper Salaryman character 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. If the salaryman has been working 80-hour weeks and sleeping on the subway train, their suit may be rumpled. After a night's boozy revelries at a karaoke bar or hostess club, a carton of carryout food becomes part of the setup. Add a half-empty sake bottle, a flushed face 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 bosses and little chance of advancement. However, as a whole, they tend to be more optimistic and loyal to their companies. In part this is due to the Japanese tradition of big firms recruiting university students and committing to give them lifetime jobs. This is a bit of a Devil's bargain, though because in return, the employer expects extreme commitment to the job each day. This is encouraged by the strong Japanese work ethic and their employers, which leads to a culture of workaholism. The pressure during work and the mandatory outings to bars help create a culture of alcoholism as well. Some all but ignore their family, if they have a 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 Cyberpunk, 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 1980s 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 works.

As a protagonist, this is the adult equivalent of the Ordinary High-School Student — a shining example of Japanese conformity ripe for a life-changing transformation at the hands of an extraordinary event/individual/robot — and may well have been one when he was younger. 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 
  • Africa Salaryman is a comedy about office workers in a typical Japanese business setting except the characters are all animals.
  • Tanaka "Gabriel" Oji from The Legend of 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 Kodocha Fuyuki 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.
  • England in Hetalia: Axis Powers was recently depicted as this archetype in Himaruya's Magical Strike AU. Other character versions include France as a Magical Girl and America as the Company President's Son.
  • 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 Crayon 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.
  • 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 If I See You In My Dreams, 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.
  • 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: Diamond is Unbreakable, he is forced to assume his new identity's role as one of these, which isn't as dissimilar to his original job. His job as a salesman was pretty much the same and he only did just enough to live well but not 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. The 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 Crossover 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 reoccuring character who's 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.
  • Manjimutt from Yo-kai Watch was a salaryman in life. After getting drunk one night after losing his job he accidentally died. Manjimutt died with a Toy Poodle so that's why he became a human-faced dog.
  • Episode 5 of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is seen from the perspective of a salaryman and the two heroines (who the guy's daughter is a fan of) are almost an afterthought. It has a very different, more "realistic" style and is appropriately depressing.
  • Kobayashi from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid is a Rare Female Example, as despite being referred to as an Office Lady, she has the stereotypical clothing and personality of a male office worker, along with respected and well-paying job as a senior programmer for Jigokumeguri. Elma later starts working with her, but she spends some time as an Office Lady first since she had no idea what a computer was, let alone how to code for one.
  • Tanya Degurechaff from The Saga of Tanya the Evil was a salaryman in her previous life before being reincarnated as a girl. He was a very hardworking yet stone-cold salaryman who also had power to fire people if it's necessary. After being killed by a man he just fired because said man was rather incompetent, he's reincarnated as a little girl. As Tanya, she's still holding her philosophy, memories and work ethnics of her previous life and is still focused on her career (and safety) as ever. She's referred to as a "monster" several times throughout the series, and that ties back to her mindset as a salaryman, and she's able to combine it with her life as a soldier.
  • Pretty Cure: Nagisa's father is notably the only one of the lead Cures' fathers to be salaryman. Fathers in future series have more interesting jobs in comparison.
  • Overlord (2012): Ainz was a salaryman in his human life, and so decides to spend his new life (as an immortal lich commanding equally overpowered servants who view him as a god) by ruling his kingdom the way he'd want an ideal corporation to act. Problem is, his underlings think so highly of him his every attempt to give them vacation time or salaries fails because they think they're not worthy and will happily work themselves to death in his service, while the outside world has difficulty believing a talking skeleton who can casually cast apocalyptic magic The Archmage has never heard of is in any way benevolent.
  • Osomatsu-san: Oneshot character Sanematsu fills this role, with an appropriately sobering lifestyle to match. At least he has his brothers to come home to after work...though it's a shame that nobody else but him can see them.
  • I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up has Machi Morimoto, the protagonist, who works at a large company. She's not particularly enthusiastic about her job at first, and only took it to make a living and convince her rather overbearing parents to let her live on her own. However, after pretending to marry her kohai and best friend Hana, she starts gradually becoming more assertive, and even asks to take on additional work.
  • The Walking Man: The main character appears to be an archetypal salaryman given the way he dresses for work, though his specific profession is never disclosed.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Thomas A. "Neo" Anderson from The Matrix, until he takes the red pill.
  • Kazuhiro from Gung Ho.
  • Peter and his coworkers at Initech in Office Space.
  • The main character in Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a salaryman. In fact, each main character in the three film series is until they turn into walking piles of scrap metal.
  • The "Run! It's Godzilla" men from Austin Powers in Goldmember.
  • In Big Bird in Japan, Big Bird hopes to meet some real Japanese people instead of just workers in tourist traps, and tries to strike up conversations with salarymen he passes on the streets of Tokyo. Unfortunately there seems to be a bit of a Language Barrier in play.

    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.
  • Hi! Working Girl, a Taiwanese comedy-drama starring Jolin Tsai as an overworked office girl.
  • Reito/Leito from Ultraman Geed. He also happens to be the human host of Ultraman Zero for the series, making him markedly different from previous Ultra hosts in that he would really prefer to be doing office work and supporting his family instead of having to fight kaiju.
  • The title character of Hanzawa Naoki is a Guile Hero and (non-military) Father to His Men who shrewdly navigates the ruthless corporate world of Japanese banking to fight for justice and revenge. However, he's plagued by some of the same problems as more negative portrayals of this trope, such as being so overworked that he rarely sees his wife and son.


    Video Games 
  • 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 are this personified, wearing office suits, glasses, and headphones with built-in mics, including references 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. Their dialogue mostly features them toadying up to you, and when they're being shot at, their response is to ask if they can be temporarily excused.
  • 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.
  • Hakaiou: King of Crusher have you starting off as an office drone who's constantly scolded by your boss... until an alien bug bit you in the neck and start your transformation into a monster, firstly a werewolf-esque creature. The game goes crazier from there culminating in you transforming into a kaiju and levelling New York in the final stage.
  • 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.
  • The Newspaper Zombie 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 (1994) are examples of alcoholic salarymen. We can also assume that Ness' dad is one, as he always seems to be at work.
  • Pokémon:
  • Salary Man Champ is based upon salarymen trying get as high in career ladder as they can.
  • Katie's father Grant from Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life and Harvest Moon DS is a stereotypical salaryman, despite the western setting of Forget-Me-Not Valley. He and his family are the three of few non-white characters in the games. He often visits the local bar, likes wine, and is rather melancholy. He has an overbearing wife and a Jerkass daughter. Grant purposedly overworks to avoid his family. In DS he and Samantha are divorced.
  • Pikmin:
    • Captain Olimar 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; even outselling the game it was advertising.
  • 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."
  • Carrie's Order Up! has Reginald, an eel salaryman, complete with briefcase and tie.
  • Kero Blaster stars an anthropomorphic frog salaryman.
  • Rent A Hero is a parody of both Japan's superhero shows and its society as a whole, so naturally at one point there's a salaryman who becomes a Rent A Hero himself named "Urusaraman" (a combination of Ultraman and salaryman).
  • Dandy Dungeon's protagonist is Yamada, a lonely programmer who works a dead-end job for a video game company. But you don't play as him, rather as his hero self-insert in the game he himself codes after being fired. Who looks just like him. It's complicated... but fun.
  • The infamous Famicom game Takeshi's Challenge puts the player in the role of a salaryman who has to undergo ridiculous trials in order to improve his life.
    JonTron: It just occurred to me that this is a Nintendo game where you quit your job, divorce your wife, and go treasure-hunting.
  • Destroy All Humans!: In the second game, the non-ninja male inhabitants of Takoshima are these. Crypto decides to screw with one for literally no reason, sabotaging his chances of promotion by destroying his car. Twice.
  • Super Robot Wars T: The protagonists of the game, either Saizo Tokitou or Sagiri Sakurai, are this trope, where they place their life in line for the pride of their company the VTX Union and considered the dangers of getting attacked to be part of the life of Salaryman and raising the company's reputation. Even their mecha, Tyranado, is designed to look as if it has a necktie, similar to a lot of normal Salaryman everywhere. This being a very idealistic series means that their status as Salaryman isn't treated as a loser image. Saizou, in particular, is more than eager to tell the New Meat of his team the great importance that a Salaryman holds and why he holds such title with pride.
    • This also plays a part in The Reveal of the Final Boss being their ex-president and revered Big Good, war hero Dyma Goldwin. Unlike the protagonists, he became the president of VTX Union while skipping being a Salaryman. Turns out, being a Salaryman will also teach someone about teamwork and humility. Since Dyma skipped those, he became an egomaniac that thinks that his plans are the absolute best (because he never felt what its like to lose and swallowing bitter pills to better oneself, like what every Salarymen went through), even if he's aiming for the supremacy of mankind, and in turn eventually lost the respect of humans and the Union itself. In other words, this game is giving the message that being a Salaryman is a good thing, not a lame thing.
  • Winston Payne in the Ace Attorney games is designed to look like one. He has a gray suit, a tie, glasses, and a receding hairline. While he is a prosecutor, he's incredibly pathetic and always loses to the protagonist in court.
  • Tanaka from Fear & Hunger: Termina hails from a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Japan, wears the suit, hat and glasses, carries around a briefcase, and is in Prehevil for business reasons. His whole sub-arc revolves around preventing him from ignominiously dying in several different ways until he improves himself in both body and mind.
  • In The Sims 4, the Japanese-themed Expansion Pack Snowy Escape adds a Salaryperson career track, with Supervisor and Expert branches, a ten-hour work day, and karaoke after work. Unlike the similar Business career track, you never become the boss; even at the highest level, you're simply your boss' main underling at the Farseer Data Corporation.
  • Ghostwire: Tokyo features mook enemies inspired by the negative experiences of modern-day people, portrayed wearing typical Japanese clothing to make the point more apparent. Several enemy types clearly take the Salaryman as their archetype; appropriately, the lowest-level enemies in the game, Rain Walkers, are the most instantly recognisable Salarymen, with their negative energy coming from their sheer exhaustion due to overwork.

  • Bravoman's secret identity from Bravoman: Super Unequaled Hero of Excellence! Is flat-out named Salaryman, and eventually gets his own character.
  • Transformers Legends, a Japanese webcomic viewable on the official Takara Tomy website that was made to promote the Transformers Legends toyline, stars super-deformed versions of the Beast Wars cast portrayed as Funny Animal salarymen.

    Web Original 
  • Salaryman Man is best described as a half-heartedly voiced short about a salaryman superhero who flies using his business card and shoots... with a pistol.
  • Japan created live-action remakes of classic Thomas & Friends episodes, entitled Salaryman Thomas or Businessman Thomas. It recontextualizes the engines of Sodor in a human workplace setting. For example, in the remake of "Down the Mine," Thomas falls into 'mobile game hell' instead of a ditch, and in the remake of "Trouble in the Shed," James, Gordon, and Henry go on strike in the bathroom stalls instead of the sheds.