It’s been well-established that an anime adaptation of a manga or light novel can be a huge boon to the source material. What’s a bit less obvious is whether or not boosting print material can fuel the production of a second season of said anime.There are at least a few reasons why it shouldn’t; for a manga get adaptation boosts primarily from the first season – afterwards, their sales tend to plateau or drop off (even if the series does get a second season). It makes sense on an intuitive level that there would be some sort of diminishing returns on subsequent seasons of anime; sequels tend to sell between 0% and 50% fewer disks, and people don’t tend to start watching anime from the second season onward. But whether or not those diminishing returns carry over to print sales, and if so to what extent, is a somewhat separate question.
In this post, I’ll be exploring that question, comparing the rate of shows getting sequels with and without print sales boosts over different ranges of disk sales, to get an idea of whether or not print sales boosts actually “matter” towards a show’s sequel odds.*
For the purposes of this column, a “significant” print boost is one where the sales after the first season of the anime has been available for 2 or more months show a 20% increase compared to the sales prior to the airing of the first season of anime (both figures averaged over 2 volumes if available), *or* a series that charts for the first-time post anime at a level that would have beaten at least one threshold for weeks where that series failed to chart by at least 1000 copies. If you want to check why a series is classified one way or the other, or you’re curious as to how exactly an individual adaptation from this period affected the sales of its source, you can find all the data used here in the following posts:
Initially, the sample I was analyzing contained 136 print adaptations made over 2010-2012, but I had to eliminate several of them from the final analysis. Specifically, I excluded from analysis series that had a definite split cour sequel (less than a 1 year gap between season airdates) and those that did not have releases both before and after the anime aired. Either of these conditions is represented by a dash on the source spreadsheet. The final sample contains 113 show-source combinations. I counted shows as having gotten a sequel if they got a second TV season that aired one year or more after the original, or if they got a movie.
After splitting the shows between those that did and did not get print boosts and sequels, respectively, I further split them up into several subcategories based on disk sales. My basic reasoning in creating said follows from the following 2 assumptions:
1) Given other sources of revenue, a disk average of 3000 copies is generally enough for a series to be considered break-even.
2) Sequels tend to sell an average of 20% fewer disks, with a 1-sigma range of 0%-50%.
This led to the creation of the following categories:
sub-0% (Would require an increased average to profit via disk sales) [avg<3000]
0%-20% (Would require a a better-than-average, but within 1σ, dropoff in disk sales) [3000<avg<3750]
20%-50% (Would require a below-average dropoff in disk sales) [3750<avg<6000]
50%-10k (Could survive a 50% dropoff, but not necessarily 100% safe) [6000<avg<10,000]
10k+ (Averaged over 10k in disk sales, money almost certainly not an issue here) [avg>10,000]
Dividing up the shows into these categories by disk and print sales, and measuring the frequency of sequels in each group led to the following results:
Essentially, at lower levels of disk sales (20% or less dropoff required), everything that did get a sequel got some sort of significant print boost, though the general rate of continuation is fairly low. The series in this range that got sequels were Bakuman, Chihayafuru, Space Brothers, Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka, and Maken-ki. When you get to series with really high disk sales, how the print source did ceases to matter and the sequel odds are just very high regardless. It should be noted, though, that only 5 series out of 36 total with 3750 or higher averages did not get some sort of significant print boost (these 5 were Mouretsu Pirates, Seikon no Qwaser, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Ladies Versus Butlers, and Freezing).
What’s a little odd is the 20%-50% dropoff category. If they were getting print boosts similar to those of series with lesser disk totals, one would expect them to get sequels more frequently. The answer to that quandry comes from the fact that not all print boosts are created equal; a 30% boost to a light novel that comes out 3 or fewer times a year that bumps it up from 10,000 copies to 13,000 copies is not economically equivalent to a 30% boost to a a mainsteam, 5-volumes-per-year weekly manga that takes it from under 300,000 copies to almost 400,000. This particular interval contained a bunch of series like Joshiraku, Mayoi Neko Overrun, and Humanity Has Declined; series which, while boosted, don’t carry enough raw volume in their totals to move the sequel needle. For comparison, Maken-ki and Kore wa Zombie were both selling at least 40,000 copies post-bump.
Final word seems to be that high-volume print boosts matter somewhat in determining whether low-selling series end up with a season 2, though they’re nowhere near as important as disks in most cases.
*They almost certainly matter in determining whether a manga publisher wants to be a part of production committees and offering up new sources for adaptation long-term, just not necessarily for a particular show being continued.