The Cocoa Fujiwara Memorial List of “Instant Hit” Author-Driven Originals

Kouta Hirano got some exciting news this past week when the staff for the anime adaptation of his current manga, Drifters, was rolled out. Reading about that news reminded me of a list Hirano earned his place on with that series, and about someone else on that list we won’t be hearing as much about from now on.

Typically, even the manga that command the greatest degree of fame and attention take a while to actually get to that point. Takako Shimura spent years writing 18+ manga under multiple pen names before creating the internationally recognized Wandering Son. Shingeki no Kyojin didn’t even make the charts when its first volume came out. Even undisputed king of manga sales One Piece took over a decade in print to surpass Dragon Ball’s 156 million copy total and become #1, and in the last 6 years it’s added about 220 million to that total. A big part of success for most of the authors who have achieved recognition is due to diligence and working a lot over a long period.

Manga that do amass gigantic sales totals from the launch date of their first volume tend to fall into one of three categories. First, there are the licensed spinoffs, adaptations of Sword Art Online and Mahouka and such riding the wave of another author’s popularity, often as part of a larger media blitz. Second, you have the extensions of existing popular manga series that decided to change their titles, your Major 2nds and Baki Gaidens. Lastly, you have the bona-fide originals, series which ride a name and a compelling start to immediate large-scale success.

It’s this third category, the hardest one to break into, that most interests me. In practice, it breaks down into a list of authors with strong pre-established reputations doing other popular series and Jump newcomers, and it’s fun to look at in that “tough achievement to notch” kind of way.

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The Weird To Heart Ending Song Timeline

To Heart is a fantastic anime that’s interesting in lots of little ways. It’s one of the early beneficiaries of the late-night broadcast paradigm. It offers a powerfully low-key type of drama rare in anime. Its soundtrack was composed by a man who went to an all-boys high school. Its US release involved a special video restoration process.The list goes on.

Additionally, the series’ particular combination of ending theme songs is an unusual one. The show has used both Yell, sung by lead actress by Kawasumi Ayako and Access by SPY, a band under the Bandai Music label. Two ending songs is hardly an unusual number for a 1-cour anime. What is rare is that, rather than certain songs being associated with certain episodes, different endings were broadcast in different regions, and one never made it onto the video releases, instead ending up viewable primarily on NicoNico as a VHS rip.

It’s an odd situation, and though there are a lot of facts and one neat rumor swirling around, none of them offer a fully adequate explanation.

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To Heart OST Booklet Comments

The Original Soundtrack of To Heart, which I am fortunate enough to own, comes with a booklet with short statements from the composer, director, and sound director for the show. I found them extremely interesting, especially the ones by the director (“wants to make it feel personal” is a good way of summarizing the approach of the series) and composer (who based the romantic soundtrack on his imagination and his time at an all-boy’s high school).

Included rough scans of the relevant pages as well, for people interested in a look at the original.

Translator’s Note: The first paragraph of the statement by Watanabe¬†Jun was extremely messy in the original Japanese, essentially a one-sentence paragraph with hella commas separating stuttery speech. I tried to strike the best balance I could between preserving the original statement and making the meaning clear. Apologies for any difficulties encountered in reading that part.

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Fun With Numbers: Special Amazon Tracking Target List

Over the next 3 weeks, I’ll be tracking a few older, popular anime releases with entries in the OpusData database in an attempt to relate middle and low-tier amazon ranks with smaller increases in sales totals. The database seems to update concurrent with added individual weeks for BD and DVD formats on TheNumbers (which is run by the same company). The hope is that, when the sales figures update for the relevant week, I’ll know exactly when those sales happened and be able to put both an amazon number and a sales number on the same time period. Thus, I should be able to get as good an idea of how amazon ranks relate to total sales as I possibly can. We’ll see, though; this could just as easily result in nothing of value.

For transparency, here’s the list of 12 titles, 22 releases on my list. It’s rough, just the titles and their different editions, ranks on August 24th, and links to the amazon sales pages.

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

This September is a month with 5 Tuesdays, and it’s a crowded month anyway, so it’s packed to the gills. Noteworthy for the usual “high initial ranks mean it just might make the charts” reasons are Space Dandy part 2, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and the 3-edition release of Tokyo Ghoul.

Also, there’s some weirdness happening this month:

-Descendants of Darkness isn’t ranking yet, for whatever reason. Hopefully whatever issue is causing that will clear up before its release date is really close.

-There are two Jojo editions, both getting preorders, both DVD-only, same MSRP, identical except for the level of detail on the amazon page and the level of discount offered. For now, I’ll refer to them on the tracking spreadsheet by their amazon url codes (B00X5UIUEU and B00XYHOIIQ).

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Kusanagi Mizuho and Saitou Chiwa on Akatsuki no Yona (Comic Natalie)

Manga author Kusanagi Mizuho and voice actress Saitou Chiwa talk about Akatsuki no Yona in an interview conducted (by Kishino Eka) around the time the anime first aired. It’s mainly a dialogue on the mutual respect they share, and how they influence one another in their approach to the series. This includes both serious stuff and some extremely cute conversation about the hugs they’ve shared.

There’s also a neat tidbit in there from Kusanagi regarding how the anime project took a long time to materialize, to the extent that she was more relieved than excited when it was officially set. This doesn’t necessarily mean the anime was an exceptionally troubled production from the get-go, but it’s interesting taken in context with the show’s switching distributors and soliciting uber-late as a result of VAP’s leaving the production committee during the broadcast, a rare occurrence. It’s also worth noting that the show’s first opening theme was an instrumental track, uncommon in the modern age where music publishers very aggressively use anime OP/EDs as a space to market their artists.

Kusanagi also mentions a pilot film which had been in production prior to the TV anime. I personally suspect that that footage may have found its way into the TV anime, as a brief battle scene covered in the first 40 seconds of episode 1 and the last 2 minutes of episode 2.

Original Article:

Note while reading that I opted not to translate the bottom two-thirds of page 1, as it contained only one-line character bios and some flavor text.

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Fun With Numbers: Long-Tail Figures and Uncharted Territory

Recently, via the creation of a second OpusData trial account, I was able to acquire some new data that sheds light on how several newer US anime release performed in the long term. This includes 5 releases (Attack on Titan: Part 2, One Piece Film Z, The Wind Rises, Evangelion: Ha, The Tale of Princess Kaguya) for which we have at least one week of sales data already, plus 4 releases (Momo, Hal, Bayonetta, The Cat Returns) that came out in the 12 months and failed to chart once. Excluding Evangelion: Ha, and The Cat Returns, all of these titles came out between September and November 2014, so they’re roughly comparable in terms of the amount of time since release they’ve had to accrue new sales.

[Note: OpusData and TheNumbers, where I usually get what hard US video sales data I post, are owned and operated by the same company, Nash Info Services.]

The info that can be gleaned from them is interesting, but let me just say right now that I’m really happy about the clerical error that logged Attack on Titan’s second set as a movie, and hence trackable long-term in the Opus database.

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Shimizu Kenji Comments on Fuji TV Dropping Weekday Anime (Narinari)

On August 15th, Shimizu Kenji, executive producer of many of Fuji TV’s most successful anime, comments on why the station decided to drop its weekday anime. According to him, the 19:00/7PM weekday timeslots were reasonable through most of the 1980s but saw a steep dropoff due to the increased prevalence of cram schools (keeping more kids from being home until late, when adult-oriented programs such as the Monday 9 dramas were already entrenched in their own slots) and the decreasing Japanese birthrate (thus shrinking the total number of kids available as an audience). Large audiences were vital to terrestrial Fuji TV, which explains why UHF (Ultra High Frequency waveband) stations were able to continue to broadcast anime in those same slots.

Original Article:

As a companion to Shimizu’s commentary here, it’s worth noting a few things. One, while the Monday and Thursday 19:00 slots died sequentially with Sakigake! Otokojuku in 1988 (started on Thursdays, moved to Mondays, was the last anime in both slots), the Wednesday slot lasted a full decade longer (ending in 2001). Wednesday 19:00, by the way, was the Akira Toriyama legacy slot that ran a combination of Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball from 1981-1999, then picked up One Piece for 2 years before said program shifted to Sunday evenings in 2001.

Two, at least in the case of One Piece, which admittedly moved much later than the others and is more popular than your average franchise, ratings seem to react negatively to slot changes. In 2001, the average ratings of the last 3 months of One Piece airing in its Wednesday slot (15.0) actually beat what it had over the first 3 months of its Sunday afternoon slot (14.7). In 2005, One Piece actually averaged a point less (12.1->11.0) when it shifted back in time by half an hour. And in 2006, when the show shifted from Sunday evenings to 9:30 in the morning, the ratings fell off a cliff (10.7->6.5), though they’ve improved somewhat since.

Three, the network briefly tried to capitalize on the Toriyama legacy slot by sticking a second anime slot right after it, starting from Kuma no Puutarou in 1995. This slot carried Rurouni Kenshin and the first few episodes of GTO, but that experiment ended at the same time the 1997 Dr. Slump anime did, in October of 1999. It’s possible that executives assumed that the then-new One Piece wouldn’t be able to provide the same kind of ratings tail necessary to support the secondary slot that the Toriyama shows had, or maybe Dr. Slump wasn’t providing the ratings tail that Dragonball had and they decided to phase out the Wednesday slots in pieces.

Fourth, TV Tokyo, one of Fuji TV’s major competitors, actually *launched* a large number of weekday 18:00 timeslots in the early 1990s, as did Nihon TV and NHK. Just based on how long some of those slots have lasted, at least some weekday anime was demonstrably viable throughout the 1990s. Reduced weekday competition from Fuji TV may have helped TV Tokyo maximize the returns it got airing Naruto, Bleach, and other weekday long-runners.

At any rate, the translated article text can be read below.
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Ranpo Kitan Roundtable (Kai-You)

In late July, director Kishi Seiji, actress Takahashi Rie, musician Sayuri, and animator Shiraishi Keiko participated in a round-table discussion with Kai-You reporter Yoshida Yuuya to promote and discuss aspects of the show. I found it interesting and decided to take a little time and translate the thing. Of particular interest to me was Shirashi’s comments on the last page about how she used 8mm film to shoot the ending, which resulted in the animation’s antiquated aspect ratio. It’s also an amusing consequence of the roundtable to see Sayuri, who’s in the roundtable as the ED artist and doesn’t typically handle anime production, provide some of her basic observations as a viewer that the anime talent can elaborate on.

The other main purpose of this article, especially evident on the third page, appears to be to drum up interest for a live ustream/nico broadcast of Sayuri’s “Suffocating Girl Sayuri; The Parallel Laboratory of Dawn ~Anime Version~ supported by 2.5D and Kai-You” program, which aired on July 30th. Said program features guest appearances by Takahashi, Kishi, and YKBX (illustrator of Mikazuki’s album cover, whose pictures appear in the original article) and airs another episode on August 26th.

Original Interview:

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Summer 2015 Watch List

Though I’m still crappy at getting research done and that’s not likely to change in the near future, I have a little more time to myself now and I’ve actually been able to keep up with the Summer season. I’m enjoying it a fair amount, so I just thought I’d put up a quick list of which anime I’m really enjoying at the moment.

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