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.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you’re a fan of Attack on Titan. You watched the entire show as it aired and can’t wait for more of it. What if, tomorrow, a Kickstarter went up for a 12-episode second season of the show. How much, without knowing the reward tiers, would you give? $1? $10? $20? $50? $100 (like the U.S. disks for season 1 as a whole will likely cost)?
I’d imagine that, depending on just how much they enjoyed AoT, most people would answer with a number within their price range. Given the popularity of the show, such a project would be a fairly safe bet to break the current record for animation projects on the site (currently Bee and Puppycat’s $872,133).
But let’s make a key change to this project. Let’s suppose that, instead of a give-what-you-can model of pricing, this hypothetical Kickstarter only allowed pledges at or above $500 level. Even for a series with a lot of enthusiastic fans, I’m willing to bet that turns some of them off. Even if that $500 level includes a meet-and-greet with the anime’s entire cast and signed copy of volume 1 of the manga, that’s just more than what many people are willing (or able) to pay. And that is the crux of the matter when it comes to discussing who buys anime.
If you’re familiar with the Japanese anime sales figures I sometimes look at, you may be aware of something called the break-even point, a rule-of-thumb figure that sets a general line between profit and loss for a given show at 3000 disks sold per volume. (The math is fairly elementary. At 10 million yen per episode, 12 episodes cost ~120 million yen. Selling 3000 copies of 6 disks at 7000 yen per disk nets a gross profit of 126 million yen. While that number varies depending on things like show budget, alternative income sources, and how many episodes are packed into a volume, it’s good to have a rough number in mind because it sets a scale for what constitutes success and failure for a show. But what does that number look like for the U.S., and what does that say about the comparative purchasing power of western fans in general?
Ever since Inu x Boku SS first drew my attention to the subject in June of this year, I’ve been quite interested in the concept of anime in the context of its broader commercial impact. It’s not exactly counter-intuitive to point out that anime doesn’t get made in a vacuum where disk sales, important as they are, are the only thing that determine the success or failure of a project. There are many factors that play into that equation; licensing cash, character goods sales, TV ratings, etc.
But manga sales are particularly interesting for two reasons. First, we can track them fairly easily; animenewsnetwork keeps English-language versions of the weekly Oricon rankings of manga that date back to 2008, so there’s a lot of baseline data that we can compare with newer series. So when Blue Exorcist did Blue Exorcist things…
…it’s pretty obvious where the cause lies. Second, because the increase in sales per volume can potentially be really high (see above chart), it’s sometimes worth it for manga publishers to take a gamble and partially fund an anime adaptation. While such funding isn’t going to pay for most anime by itself, readers of this blog will be aware of the tangible influence of marginal increases in financial stability.
What follows is an analysis of how manga to get an anime adaptation in 2011 fared overall at the marketplace, with a look at when and why publishers chipping in for an adaptation ala Shonen Sunday in 2013 is a good business move in theory (while still hinging, as everything ultimately does, on competent execution).
Ever wonder what anime get sequels and what don’t? The simple answer to this fairly simple question is “sales, plus a few mitigating lesser factors”. We know this, beyond the obvious intuition, because over the years, we see those with robust sales totals get continued much more often than those with lackluster ones:
A more interesting question is perhaps this; which anime this year have the best chances of getting continued? After some delving into the subject, I can finally answer this question to a respectable degree of confidence. Based on data from 615 shows airing from from 2005-2012, the first season of an anime which sells x units per volume has P odds of getting a sequel, meaning either a second season or a movie.
P(x, t, L)=.01+θ(x-2250)*(.7-1650/(x+L*750))*e^(-((t-1)*θ(t-1))/.7)
Where t is the time in years passed since the first season aired, and L=1 corresponds to the series having been licensed. θ is the step function, 0 when the number inside the brackets is less than 0, and 1 when the number inside is greater than 0.