Fun With Numbers: Explaining Why Unpopular Anime Get Sequels

If there’s an inverse situation to not seeing a sequel to something you liked that you know was really popular, it’s getting a sequel when you in no way expected one. Disc sales are a pretty good indicator of when something is commercially viable enough to get a second season, but they aren’t the only factor playing in. There are a couple of consistent ways that anime with non-profitable sales wind up with more than one season, and that’s what I’m looking at today. Examination of the ones that did sequel reveals a rather unsurprisingly grim prognosis for fans of old, poorly-selling shows hoping that they’ll get more.

Below is the full list of anime made from 2005-2012 that got a second season despite posting per volume sales numbers of less than 2000:

Amaenaideyo
Birdy the Mighty: Decode
Code-E
Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji
IGPX
Koisuru Tenshi Angelique
Medaka Box
Mitsudomoe
Moonlight Mile
Morita-san wa Mukuchi
Neo Angelique Abyss
Sasami Mahou Shojo Club
Shikabane Hime
Tokyo Majin Gakuen
Tower of Druaga
Victorian Romance Emma
Wellber no Monogatari
White Album
Yes Precure 5
Yozakura Quartet
Zettai Karen Children

Unlike the group of commercial successes yesterday, these series really do neatly sort out wholly into 3 causal groups.

Group 1: Failed Split Cours

Amaenaideyo
Birdy the Mighty: Decode
IGPX
Koisuru Tenshi Angelique
Medaka Box
Mitsudomoe
Moonlight Mile
Morita-san wa Mukuchi
Neo Angelique Abyss
Sasami Mahou Shojo Club
Shikabane Hime
Tokyo Majin Gakuen

It takes more than 3-6 months to get from the point when an anime is greenlit to the point when episode 1 is ready to air. It’s a lengthy process. When a second season comes out 6 months or less after the first season aired, the creators didn’t have the chance to look at the sales to determine whether or not to make the second season – they were already under contract to make it. The series in this group all fall into that category; the first season may have been failed, but the second season came out only 3-6 months after the first, before anyone had time to hit the brakes on the franchise.

Group 1a: Probable Failed Split Cours

Code-E
Tower of Druaga
Wellber no Monogatari
White Album

These probably belong in group 1, but the second season came out 9 months after the first aired, so there’s a tad more room for speculation. Code-E is a bit of an exception; the sequel, Mission-E, took a whole year to come out, but that was due to internal turmoil at Studio Deen which led to the project changing heads anywhere from 1 to 3 different times.*

Group 2: Ratings Juggernauts

Yes Precure 5

It’s kind of unfair to include this show under the label ‘unpopular’. Pretty Cure is one of Toei’s big-time blockbuster properties, dwarfed only by One Piece. Each installment gets ridiculous TV ratings, and sells mountains upon mountains of toys. Even though most installments don’t get mad bank in the disc sales department, they work in a market where that doesn’t really matter. And basically every installment of the franchise gets some form of movie. This can be generalized to works like Hunter x Hunter, Toriko, and One Piece, which get the ratings and merchandise sales to make up for their lackluster disc sales, and are profitable and renewed more or less in perpetuity.

Group 3: Loss Leaders

Bakuman
Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji
Victorian Romance Emma
Yozakura Quartet
Zettai Karen Children

These are works that are tied to a successful product (a live-action movie for Kaiji, manga for everything else) and financed by the owners of said product in an attempt to boost sales. Think Creative Assembly financing Extra Credits’ series on ancient Roman history, but with more money. If you’re hoping for sequel to something with lackluster sales and more than a year has gone by, your best bet is to hope the source material is still running. Most of these sequels took a while to happen; 3.5 years for Kaiji, 2 years for Emma, 5 years for ZKC, and also 5 years for Yozakura Quartet, a very special case which I covered in an earlier column.

So what’s the main takeaway here? While the naive odds for commercially unsuccessful works getting sequels based on 2005-2012 data are somewhat strong, between 7 and 9 percent, that calculation may well be too rosy. Though a second season for commercially unsuccessful works is possible, most that are going to get sequels have already had their fates decided on ahead of time. Unpopular works, in practice, face a very short window of time; if it hasn’t happened a year later, the odds are roughly 4/300, just over 1%. If the series isn’t tied into a running manga, the odds drop even lower. In other words, if a year has passed and a sequel hasn’t been announced yet, it’s probably time to stop waiting for one.**

*Junji Nishimura, Toshiyuki Kato, Takuya Satou, and Toshifumi Kawase are given 4-way credit for directing the series. It’s a very peculiar case, but it does explain the 1-year delay.

**That’s not necessarily the case for series that make it up to the mid-tier of shows that can be profitable once license fees are factored in. One of the other things I’m working on for my big sequel probability calculator project is the frequency of sequels as a function of time passed from the first. Results are still ongoing, but I can tell you now the curve is a bit more generous to series in the 2000-6000 pvs range.

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One thought on “Fun With Numbers: Explaining Why Unpopular Anime Get Sequels

  1. Pingback: Fun With Numbers: The Anime Sequel Probability Equation (Alpha) | Animetics

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