Character Redesign in Adapting Kanon

Visual Novels and anime are fairly different media, something that comes across whenever a work originally created in one format is adapted into another. And certainly whenever fans of the original inevitably comment about the adaptation not living up to its potential. With VNs, creators have as much time as they need to tell a story, and can use branching paths to allow the player to choose their own story (to an extent). With anime, the amount of time allotted to tell a story is limited by the production budget, but the number of different visual techniques available to the staff is vastly superior. In both cases, the work makes use of voice acting, music, and visuals, but these two media are obviously quite different. Still, visual novels occupy this interesting space in the realm of adaptations because they do feature voices and color and the main changes from the adaptation process involve more motion and camerawork; examining aspects of how they’re adapted can be a good way of attacking the question of just what’s appealing about each medium.

Character designs compete with plot summaries to be the first thing most people notice about a visually-oriented story, and they serve discrete roles in both VNs and anime. I figure a decent tack to start on is to look at a work that got adapted multiple times, so you can look at different choices different designers make in the adaptations process. So what follows is a cursory examination of one aspect highlighting this difference, the character designs, for 3 major versions of Kanon (the original game, the 2002 Toei anime, and the 2006 Kyoto Animation anime). There are a decent number of series that got the double-adaptation treatment (Kakyuusei, Fate/stay Night, Air, etc.), but I’m picking Kanon because a) the designs for all 3 versions are readily available in easily-processed formats and b) the general reception is markedly in favor of the 2006 adaptation over the 2002 one. Images used for comparison are taken from the game data (from the armpits up, as found here) and the official websites for both the 2002 and 2006 anime. These base images don’t always reflect the way characters appear – anime can scale up or down on details in dramatic/motion-heavy scenes, and VNs can highlight different features from different angles during event CGs – but they provide a useful baseline.

Full disclosure: I have not played or watched any version of Kanon, so I lack understanding of anything more than the basic context regarding the plot. This post is mainly the results of my playing around with the character designs for fun and seeing what I can get out of with them. Not that I haven’t read up a bit for some general context.

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Fun With Numbers: July 2015 US Amazon Data (Initial Numbers)

July is a month with 2 maybe-interesting releases; Noragami with 2 editions, No Game No Life with 3 editions (2 of which are already in 4-digit rank territory 4 weeks out from release). Also has some standard ongoing popular series; Sailor Moon, One Piece, Naruto.

Annoyingly, 5 of the June 30 releases (Hack GU, 3 Soul Eater sets, BlazBlue) got pushed back to July 21, meaning I still have to track them and last month’s insanely long list was somewhat redundant.

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Kishi Seiji+Uezu Makoto on Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (Comic Natalie)

Kishi Seiji and Uezu Makoto talk about various aspects of making the Ansatsu Kyoushitsu anime. I happened upon this interview a few months ago, and found it really neat, so I took the time to translate it more recently once my schedule got less busy. Contains a bunch of neat tidbits, talking about Uezu’s early interest in the series and why he’s soloing the writing duties for the show, Kishi’s struggle to replicate the precision-strike gags in the manga, the backgrounds and color schemes, how they handled casting over 30 regularly appearing characters, and a bunch of other stuff.

Original Interview:

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Composers/Writers/Directors With Blockbuster Chops (Updated Through 2014)

A while back I compiled lists of anime staffers who had had the combination of skill and luck required to serve in key staff positions of franchises that came out of the gate as 10k+ sellers. At the time, there had only been a total of 101 such shows confirmed, so they turned out to be both exclusive and interesting.

Since then, 2014 happened and another 8 franchises joined the 10k+ party. Additionally, the anime sales community discovered a fun exploit and demonstrated that 7 other season 1s from years past qualified. With 15 fresh groups of to accredit, it’s worth updating those lists. This time we’re keeping the lists short and together in one post, noting which names are new and which ones took a step up.

Quick rule refresher – a series counts for this list if it sold 10k+ starting with the first season, and the credit for that success goes to the staff of the first season. Also, shared credits for a position counts so long as the split is between a maximum of two people. Macross and Gundam series aside from the first installment of each don’t count.

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Translation: Ranpo Kitan Staff Comments

The website for upcoming Summer anime Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace recently uploaded a pair of brief comments from the team talking about the show. They were interesting (dealt with the production schedule and the Ranpo stories Uezu plans to integrate) and short, so I translated them. My Japanese is pretty rusty, so apologies in advance for any mistakes. Continue reading

Weekly Manga Sales Charts for 2015 (January-April)

These are the weekly manga sales charts for the first four months in 2015, via myanimelist news, continued from the 2014 post. I’ll be doing one of these updates every 4 months; if you want more recent data, there’s plenty of places where charts are available (eg. ann, the mal news forum I get them from).

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Weekly Light Novel Sales Charts for 2015 (January-April)

These are the weekly light novel sales charts for the first four months in 2015, via myanimelist news, continued from the 2014 post. I’ll be doing one of these updates every 4 months; if you want more recent data, there are other places where charts are available (e.g. the mal news forum I get them from).

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Fun With Numbers: May 2015 US Amazon Data (Initial Numbers)

So far, this amazon tracking project has been nominally about finding a way to benchmark the success of various US releases. In practice, it’s been mostly about being wrong.

But I am learning, bit by bit. Each mistake in prediction teaches me about why my current understanding of the rankings falls short, and putting them all together begins to get you something that looks kinda like a complete picture. I’ll only have more datapoints the longer this keeps up.

What datapoints do I have as of now? Aside from the several releases I tracked that actually charted, I’ve learned a couple things from those that haven’t. The following aren’t rock-solid patterns, but they are suggested by how things have gone. Here’s a quick summary of the most important points:

1. Space Dandy didn’t chart against a 6461 BD threshold despite 2 alternate editions, both of which ranked significantly above what I previously suspected the “no sales” line to be.

-This suggests that the non-main editions, which averaged around the 20,000 and 5000 ranks, may not have sold very many copies. To follow up on this suspicion, I tracked 2 post-release disks (Gingitsune on DVD and Devils and Realist on BD) with under-20 stock totals displayed on an irregular basis, getting a total of 43 datapoints for each release over 6 days. Multiple times in that period, the releases made it to ~20,000 in the rankings while selling two or fewer copies per day, more or less confirming my suspicions.

2. Steins Gate Classic didn’t make the charts against a 4761 BD threshold despite outdoing a confirmed seller at 8109 copies (DBZ s3) basically all of its corresponding 8 preorder days and half of its 6 post-release days.

-Add in data on other confirmed sellers, and it’s impossible to take all 14 datapoints for each and produce a result favoring DBZ s3 even a little. It is possible the time of year may be a factor in determining how many copies sold a rank actually means, Attack on Titan’s 2 parts came out in very different parts of the year and notched very similar ranks and sales numbers, making that explanation less likely to account for the observed discrepancy.

However, the Steins Gate release fell off in rank much faster after its release date than DBZ s3 did. This led me to a thought; we know that US anime releases can have fairly large long tails, much more significant than the factor-of-2 amount their Japanese counterparts seem to get from the same sorts of tails. If the US market relies more on tail sales, then it’s not unreasonable to wonder if preorders are less important, since lower costs mean less incentive to go for the early discount. By removing the 8 preorder days from the dataset, I was able to fit a formula that did a better job putting the sales of both closer to the real results (it’s still not a perfect fit) and nailed Attack on Titan and One Piece Film Z’s numbers to boot. Except…

3. DBZ: Battle of Gods shattered everything else’s numbers.

Battle of Gods sold 80k copies, which is a lot. Far more than any formula accounting for the existing ranks and sales of the other 4 releases with known sales could have predicted. The top 100 this film spent its release week rocking has to be worth significantly more than the rest of the rankings. My best guess here is an x^-0.7 power law from mainstream top-20 BD fits, with small-scale adjustments based on Battle of Gods’ own ranks over its first week.

Incorporating all of these observations plus the rank-sales data I know I have, here’s my current best-guess attempt at determining how much a given amazon rank R is worth in terms of on-chart sales S. This formula fits only the 6 days post-release, disregarding pre-orders.

If R is between 1-99: S=252000*R^-0.7

If R is between 100-999: S=10000*R^-0.4

If R is between 1000-9999: S=630-(R-1000)*(620/9000)

If R is between 10000-40000: S=10-(R-10000)*(9/30000)

If R is greater than 40000: S=40000/R

It’s super-ugly, I know, but making it piecewise is the only way to fit all the existing datapoints. We’ll see how good a job it does predicting things over the next 2-3 months. To kick that testing period off, Freezing: Vibration, April’s most likely high-seller, is predicted to total 10,338 copies across regular and limited editions, so that’s got a decent chance of charting if the thresholds are generous and the formula is less wrong this time.

Anyway, here’s the May 2015 releases I’ll be tracking, data for which was first pulled on April 27.

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Slowing Things Down Until June

I really like the writing and analysis this blog gives me the platform to work on. But in the past 2-3 months, my life situation has been fairly overwhelming, in spite of some legitimately great things happening, stuff has overwhelmed me and I haven’t really had time to gather the data or sit down and write stuff up (as you can probably tell if you check in here semi-regularly). I still occasionally play with spreadsheets or bits of code on weekends, but stringing a coherent project together is beyond me. I keep sneaking looks at the dozen-or-so posts I have drafts of in my dash, but I just never have time to actually work on them. This situation seems like it’ll continue to be the way it is for at least the next month and a half. Basically, my available recreation time has shrunk and can only really support a half-dozen seasonal anime and the core group of manga* I import.

I’ll continue to do the monthly US amazon posts and data tracking, and I’ll update the manga/LN chart archives sometime after the end of April. Beyond that, there’s only one thing (a translation of an interview I found kinda fun) that I might end up posting prior to the end of May 2015. Long-term, though, I should be back in June with some real spare time and new stuff to write about.

*Amanchu, Billy Bat, Ace of the Diamond, Kaiji, Akagi, Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii, Giant Killing, and Yesterday wo Utatte if v11 ever comes out.