Lists Are Fun to Make: Questions I’d Like to Attack in 2014

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you’re probably aware that one of the things I enjoy doing is going through various available numbers (anime sales, manga sales, myanimelist rankings, and the like) related to the anime and manga industries and trying to use them to gain insights into particular trends in both the industry and the fanbases it serves. It’s not easy work, nor is it flawless. There are a bunch of questions that very quickly became difficult to address in the short term (involving either no apparent path to the answer or a very long, winding path to the answer) and got shelved. Here’s a peek into the short-term reject file of issues/technical concerns still bugging me that I’d love to be able to resolve and analyze now that I’m ditching my weekly by-episode anime blogging.

1. Why aren’t there more OAD bundles/3-episode TV anime slots/Promotional ONAs being made?

-Yozakura Quartet sells roughly ten times as many manga-bundled OVAs as disks of TV anime. It’s not the only manga to sell in the 60k tier. Daily Live of High School Boys picked up a good 20,000 additional sales before the TV series aired on ONA boosts alone. There’s some straight-up exploitable jazz that could, possibly, usher in a second OVA/ONA boom if no mitigating factors are preventing it. Of course, that’s a big if, requiring no small amount of investigation.

2. Is there a reasonable classifier for genres that can be used to determine which shows are which genre (and thus track the growth and decline of certain genres over time)?

-Crowdsourced systems like mal/anidb tagging aren’t generally great at this, as they tend to vastly underrepresent things not popular on a given site’s userbase in any particular genre. I used the relatively accurate mal genretags for Ecchi series in one article, but most are not so helpful as that one. To draw salient conclusions and make meaningful statements, we need to look at the movement of the medium as a whole, not just of popular things. Or selective memories of people who don’t watch anime on a regular basis; I freely admit my first article using a viable genre classification system would be on the ridiculous breed of “Thing x is the cancer that is killing anime” myths.*

3. What is the approximate cost of producing 200 pages/1 volume of manga? How much does it vary by author pay grade/number of editors+assistants?

-An important question to consider when weighing the “true” economic worth of various successful manga. A $100,000 per volume take for a $20,000 per volume cost would obviously be worth more than a $150,000 per volume take for a $120,000 per volume cost. I’d really like to do a Bill Simmons-style Trade Value column about manga, but there’s just too much we (or at least I) don’t know.

4. What, if any revenue, does airing on satellite TV bring anime?

-I’ve taken a look at TV ratings data, but since the majority of modern TV anime airs on satellite TV, the main networks’ information isn’t worth a whole lot by itself. And TV ratings (like MAL rankings and DVR statistics) are a valuable window into interest in a show that’s less explosive than disk sales, but still economically relevant. I eventually want to get beyond measuring economic impact in terms of disk sales alone, especially for the purposes of making the predictions of the sequel probability equation more robust.

5. Is there a good database of weekly Light Novel sales?

-I know myanimelist collects the weekly rankings, but it’s really hard to browse their info catalog going back 5 or more years. I’d like to give LNs for 2011 and 2012 the full manga chart treatment for two reasons. One, the top half of LN adaptations have markedly different success records than the top half of manga adaptations, and why is a somewhat open question (though the guess is that they happen to have more of a natural overlap with typical anime buyers). Two, after that’s done, it’ll be easy to split up the anime from those years into Manga/LN/Other+Original source bins and (hopefully) yield some meaningful, quantitative distinctions between the three.

This is one of those articles where I’d really welcome people’s comments. I really don’t do a good job of keeping my ear to the ground for whatever the popular discourse happens to be, so it’d be useful for me to hear the perceptions people have in regards to the modern history of anime. Many of them might be addressed with a careful look at available data.

*Never mind the fact that it’s not dying.

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11 thoughts on “Lists Are Fun to Make: Questions I’d Like to Attack in 2014

  1. A personal request for future questions/topics to look into…
    Since January 28th, 2013, Viz has been posting the top 10 digital manga volume sales. These are only rankings, not sell numbers, but volumes can stay on the list for more than 1 week. I’ve received them via e-mail each week. I’m curious to see if these rankings are related to other statistics we know about the English-speaking manga industry. Like if an older, OOP manga series went digital (say ‘Please Save My Earth’, since that was being advertised on 1/29/13), is there a threshold before it could get a physical re/print? Plus there is a year’s worth of data to collect at this point, and it may be interesting to compare those numbers. MAL numbers are interesting.. but this helps point to where fans are actually putting money down on.

    (I have all of those e-mails since 1/28/13, so if you want me to collect all of that information for you… let me know! And thanks for all of the articles this year. I’ve found them very interesting, even though I only found this site a few months ago!)

    • In general, one of my biggest problems to date with examining the US manga market is how limited the lists are; the NYT GN top 10, which is the granddaddy of complete tracking, only gives ranks. Even worse, it only had 2 new titles total (One Piece 69 and Demon Love Spell 5) make the list in the first 3 weeks of December. The combination of those two factors makes it very difficult to glean much out of those lists except that the same things are very persistently popular. As I’ve written, you just can’t draw general conclusions while only looking at the star-power franchises.

      In general, the US hardcopy market seems a lot less dominated by week 1 and 2 sales than Japan does; It’d be interesting to see if that same trend persists in ebooks. Too, removing Kodansha USA’s titles would go a ways towards helping more marginal series get onto the list. Whether or not the actual data would be usable would be somewhat dependent as to whether or not the e-manga market operates under roughly the same demographic bases, but the once-a-week release frequency PSME seems to have had suggests that people buy digital manga faster. The turnover (or lack thereof) alone would be interesting for study. I’d be happy to look over the lists you have.

      However, I think it’d be difficult to examine the specific issue of series getting full print rereleases unless there’s a solid paper trail of ~10 series which got ebook->paperback reprint runs. Do such cases happen often? If there were enough known cases, I’d probably break down their relative viability via some function of their place on their release-week chart and the strength of the series that they had to compete with (i.e. 5th place in a One Piece/Bleach/Black Butler first week would be a lot more impressive than 5th place in a release week for less A-list titles). It’d be doable, but complicated enough that I’d want a core sample of the aforementioned size.

      Sidebar on money stats versus no-money stats: Both are useful, especially in contrast. No-money stats represent the potential consumer base for a product (or in mal/anidb’s case, a first approximation of that base). Money stats represent how many people buy a product at its current price. This is particularly relevant to the anime market, where the Aniplex-mandated $150 cost of owning Madoka Magica on DVD makes it a much lower ranked series on amazon than, say, Is This Is A Zombie. Madoka almost certainly has the bigger total fanbase, and many probably value it to the tune of $50 but not $150. The money stats might similarly contrast with the no-money stats in the emanga case, since buying one ebook a week (for 20 weeks in PSME’s case) adds up very quickly.

        • This is amazing, thanks. The most interesting thing to me is how short the 2012 comic book sales in general fall compared to the manga market in Japan; Tales From a Not So Fabulous Life was the only thing to break 100k! I guess that 500 yen price point is even more powerful than I thought it was. Plus, it gets kids on the customer list, something I know a lot of mainstream comic companies would love to have.

          I will almost certainly be able to do some stuff with these (even if all the pre-2007 links seem to be broken).

    • I’m currently working on an article/dataset with the number of new series per week in the oricon top 10 versus the NYT top 10 for manga here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsrLCSzBWkEvdDlhSFRJWkJ1bVUtWDJKTHdtSWVQVUE&usp=sharing

      I’d really love to include the data on emanga publication, which viz is on the record as saying has a very different consumer base, if you do have it. I don’t need it in a particularly convenient format; you can forward me 52 weeks of email and it’d still be significantly easier to process than putting together manga sales graphs from their thresholds. 🙂 I’m probably going to publish in the next 3 or 4 days, so anytime before then would be appreciated. Either way, thank you for setting me on this thread!

  2. Pingback: Weekly Light Novel Sales Data for 2009 (April-December) | Animetics

  3. For the revenue/expense of manga production question, check out Bakuman Chapter 35, which breaks down everything from the mangaka’s POV quite nicely:

    http://www.batoto.net/read/_/21021/bakuman_ch35_by_akatsuki-manga/

    Revenue:
    One-shot: 9000 yen
    Serialization: 1200 yen per page, 1800 yen for color pages

    Expenses:
    Assistants:
    Rookies: 10,000 yen per day/ 4 day week/ 160,000 yen per month
    Veterans: 380,00 per month
    + Housing, food, heating, electricity, etc

    They end up with three assistants by the end of the chapter.

    • I like ann’s classification system a lot, more so for the theme system than the genres. At the very least, shows under their moe tag probably contains more moe per show than shows not under the tag (which was the bare-minimum requirement I used for the mal tags in the ecchi article). My major worry when I first looked at it was that a lot of the themes might have been incomplete, but I’ve been going through it in the last 2 weeks or so. Right now, it looks pretty good from where I’m standing, though the projects involving it are a bit on the back burner right now.

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