A little over a week ago, I wrote about how seemingly improbable this season’s Yozakura Quartet sequel was. It was anomaly, lacking any of the traditional indicators (profitable disc sales, TV ratings in excess of 3%, visible boost in the sales totals of the manga). Or at least it was until you look at the unique way in which the most recent series of OADs was marketed. As it turns out, the Yozakura Quartet OADs, though failing to chart, were very probably profitable. The makers made their dues by exploiting a bit of a backdoor in the niche anime industry: piggybacking on the much larger manga market.
Given that I had had my mind on the subject very recently, I took a few minutes while I was checking amazon to get a feel for what Fall anime were selling early to check out how other Yozakura Quartet media were priced. When looking at the manga, I found the same volumes were being offered at radically different prices, and it all started to click. One check of the weekly manga sales data later, here we are.
The various volumes of the series were not priced arbitrarily, but as follows; ~500 yen for a normal volume, ~1700 yen for a limited edition, and ~3700 yen for an OAD bundle edition. The average sales of a given volume after 1-2 weeks were in the neighborhood of 70,000 volumes. There will always be enough normal copies for all of them (barring a colossal miscue in production), so we can assume most of those regular buyers will purchase each volume in some form. Recall that a standard episode of anime can cost from around 10 million yen (if you’re being thrifty) to 30 million yen (if you want to make 20 minutes of Tengen Toppa no Kyoukai: Do You Remember Laputa?). For the OADs to be financially worthwhile, they would have to at least make up that much budget with the sales of bundled volumes times the increased cost (3700 yen-500 yen=3200 yen). In the low-budget case, this requires a sales total of 10,000,000/3200~3100 volumes. Considering the cutoff for charting in manga sales each time an OAD-bundled volume was released ranged from 19000 to 27000 volumes, that’s a very plausible total. In the max-budget case, the sales total required is ~9300 volumes, still well within the range of non-charting manga, and less than half of the buyers who bought volume 13 as a pricier limited edition.
So while I can’t definitively say that the OAD profits were what spurred the manga, I would bet money on it at 1:2 odds. For that same reason, I’m rather dubious as to whether Hana no Uta will end up profitable; the OADs succeeded in a very unique market situation, and the first TV series, while getting less of an animation bump, still did poorly. Early figures are somewhat encouraging, but not overwhemingly in one direction.* Nonetheless, a new manga-bundled OAD is also in the works, so the anime should be viable in that form for some time to come.
Speaking of things to come, this examples of OADs prompting a second season is an interesting visible test case for the general model. Does it make sense for more manga publishers to finance OADs? Answering this question requires a more thorough look at the manga that are bundling OADs currently (Seitokai Yakuindomo, The World God Only Knows, etc.), both in terms of pricing and sales totals. What I know is that there are plenty of manga like Yozakura Quartet in the ~70,000 sales range that have no anime adapation. Check back in a week or two.
*Currently, the most-preordered BDs for this season appear to be:
1. Infinite Stratos s2
2. Kuroko’s Basketball s2
4. Freezing Vibration
5. Unbreakable Machine Doll
7. White Album 2
8. Arpeggio of Blue Steel**
9. Gundam Build Fighters
10. Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta
These placings will change, as Arpeggio and WA2 have only been soliciting for 10 days whereas Freezing, BlazBlue, and Machine Doll been soliciting for 30. Now’s about the time I start to feel a little smug about calling Arpeggio for 5000 discs. Kyoukai no Kanata is outside of the top 10, which probably bodes both poorly for it and well for those ahead of it. And not all of the Fall shows (notably Kill La Kill) are up for pre-order yet. The first Yozakura Quartet BD, it should be noted, is coming with an event ticket that usually inflates sales totals a bit above a series’ final average, but is also backed by a larger-than-normal DVD sales figure.
**Why yes, I am feeling pretty psyched about that 5000 per volume prediction right about now. Slightly more detailed smugness/examination of all the things Arpeggio is doing right in the episode 2 review later today.