Fun With Numbers: Inu x Boku SS and Square Enix Doing Something Right

So yesterday morning, I was reading through the newer articles on ANN, when I spotted one that piqued my interest: a comics ranking with Inu x Boku SS’s ninth volume at the top. I didn’t spit out my coffee*, but that was a fairly surprising result. And this wasn’t getting to the top in a total off-week, either. It sold about 220,000 volumes, more than the next two new volumes on the list (Deadman Wonderland 12 and Blast of Tempest 9) combined. That put it near the top, if not *at* the top, of the manga Square Enix is currently publishing. So I started to wonder; considering this company was publishing Fullmetal Alchemist just a few years ago, isn’t this kind of a notable downgrade? The answer, unearthed after some digging, was several kinds of interesting.

InuxBoku-a1

Though nowhere near this interesting

As it turns out, the Inu x Boku manga sold over 2 million copies in 2012. It also beat out Black Butler, Square Enix’s only other top-30 title, by about 100,000. These impressive numbers prompted me to dig around a bit, and I found some pretty interesting stuff about a) the state of Square Enix manga post-FMA and b) how and how much having an anime adapation can hulk out manga sales.

(b) is covered in an upcoming article (its subsection got way too long), but I’m gonna talk about (a) here. Let’s start by taking a look at the relative strength of Square Enix manga over the past 6 months. Here are the Square Enix manga to rank in their first release week in 2013, with sales** data for each major Square release week provided:

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-05-29/japanese-comic-ranking-may-19-25

Inu x Boku SS 9-223,264

Zetsuen no Tempest 9-99,972

Yandere Kanojo 11-25,758

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-05-01/japanese-comic-ranking-april-21-27

Saki 11-142,026

Saki Side A 5-105,429

Arakawa Under the Bridge 13-80,282

Horimiya 3-27,891

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-04-03/japanese-comic-ranking-march-24-30

Black Butler 16-322,137

Sekirei 14-86,512

Cuticle Detective Inaba 11-45,742

Ubel Blatt 13-28,744

Durara Saika Arc 3-24,615

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-03-27/japanese-comic-ranking-march-17-23

Bakaramon 7-66,770 (138,407)***

Kokkuri-san 4-22,046 (49,721)***

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-02-27/japanese-comic-ranking-february-18-24

A Certain Magical Index 11-70,946

Akame ga Kill 7-24,181

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-01-30/japanese-comic-ranking-january-21-27

Zetsuen no Tempest 8-108,673

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousai 2-34,734

Dimension W 3-21,626

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-01-08/japanese-comic-ranking-december-24-30

Hi Score Girl 3-59,016

Dragon Quest: Loto 15-36,180

Cuticle Detective Inaba 10-30,211

Mangaka and Assistant 10-29,290

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2012-12-27/japanese-comic-ranking-december-17-23

Soul Eater 23-58,331 (175,340)***

WataMote 3-43,534 (121,683)***

Daily Lives of High School Boys 7-42,057 (129,705)***

So what’s the deal here? Well, although they lack a true A-list title beyond Black Butler, I think these overall numbers mean that Square Enix is going to be fine, and has a pretty good chance of producing a megahit in the near future.

Compare, for example, the values for Weekly Shonen Sunday I examined a while back. The number of mid-tier/100k-300k sales manga is actually significantly better than Shogakukan’s production at that level, an 8-to-4 advantage for the GanGan squad. What’s more, the average by-volume age of the series is 30 for WSS and 9 for Square Enix. This means that the ones producing Square’s successes are young talent with plenty of room to grow (and be advertised via well-placed anime****). And those good young artists are the ones that produce FMA-tier hits. For one thing, Arakawa worked on mid-tier Hero Tales before creating FMA. The Weekly Jump “Big 3” (One Piece, Bleach, Naruto) are somewhat of an anomaly; most artists’ best work is not their first one. If you’re farming manga at a rate that’s producing mid-tier successes recently and with regularity, there’s really nowhere to go for your manga business but up. Put another way: magazines with Gangan in their name are one correctly-handled statistical outlier away from another FMA-style golden age.

Source: Oricon ranking charts, via animenewsnetwork

*I don’t drink coffee.

**I use first week sales rather than total sales because total sales are a) time dependent favoring newer releases and b) not available for most sub-500k volume sales. The major drawback to this method is that some volumes are released in the middle of the week, so some of these numbers (especially those under 100k) may be slight underestimates.

***Series that had very strong second-week sales which were comparable to their week-1 totals. 2-week totals are given in parentheses.

****Again, more on that coming soon. Short version: Shogakukan’s mass anime plan was indeed a very shrewd, though not foolproof, move.

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