The sales levels of anime adaptated from manga are basically a crapshoot. Not so much Light Novels. Though I still haven’t compiled at the 2012 data, but one particular bit of information popped out of the 2011 sample that it deserves its own individual mention. It’s best described as 2 rules of thumb:
1. No LN series that had at least one week where a volume sold 20,000 copies in that week (disregarding cumulative totals) that went on to sell less than 4000 disks per volume. Only one (Mayo Chiki) sold less than 5000.
2. No LN series without at least one week where a volume sold 20,000 copies sold more than 4000 disks per volume. Only one (Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?) sold over 3000.
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.
Much has often been made of how the anime industry has evolved over the years. Whenever this is pointed out, it’s usually framed in the form of some criticism; the prevailing artstyle has changed (somewhat true, but largely irrelevant), the amount of ecchi/harem anime has increased (true, though they are now less profitable than other genres), awesome manly anime don’t get made like they used to be (false), artsy anime never sell these days (false). One of the bigger indicators of sour grapes on the part of people offering such criticisms is the assertion that it wasn’t always this way, that whatever change they point out in modern anime is a symptom of the declining health of a sickly industry doomed to implode upon itself.* In reality, that implosion kind of already happened back in 2007; anime makers overproduced and had a bad year, and so made an industry-wide decision to cut back on the number of anime being made yearly. The result? Anime’s still here; the worst that happened was that 2010-2011 saw production drop back to 2003 levels, and 2012 saw an increase in production equivalent to the 2009-2010 dropoff:
Just because the industry’s making lots of stuff doesn’t mean it’s all selling well, though. That’s another point worth examining, because it turns out anime nowadays is better at churning out hits than it’s been at any point in the past.
I’m pretty ok with Yozakura Quartet getting its second crack at TV anime this season. It’s a series with a lot of potential; if nothing else, the power to produce machine guns out of thin air that fire when you say bang-bang is a unique one. But the manga is a repetitive criminally slow-paced monthly, the first anime was a hopelessly melodramatic show that failed to top 1000 in average volume sales, and the second, OVA-based anime was a thinly-veiled sakuga showcase. It’s a series that definitely could get over the hump, and clearly people care enough to keep trying.
But why? I’ve got no financial explanation. Given that its season 1 sales were less than borderline and the OVA failed to chart, the fact that it’s still getting anime is impressive and puts it in a very small circle. It’s not that the new series has been promoting the manga like a Blue Exorcist or an Inu x Boku SS either; the 7th volume in 2009 and the 13th volume in 2013 logged near-identical 70,000 volume sales totals. The most popular installment on myanimelist is only about 800th in popularity, so I doubt it’s even a max-money license show. It’s probably one of the 5 or 10 least explicable sequels to be made in the past 10 years. If I ever find out an definitive answer to this question, even if that answer is “passion project funded by the mangaka or the studio”, expect that to be its own article. But right now, there really isn’t one.
It’s that time of quarter again! We’ve got a very interesting Fall season that’s coming out swinging this week, and there’s no better way to pay our respects to a season with potential deep sleepers like Tokyo Ravens and Gingitsune than to cavalierly turn them into race horses. We’re making mad bets on the Fall 2013 Season, Vegas-style!
Before the episode, a point: Free’s first volume posted a combined BD/DVD sales figure of 25,000 volumes. If this stays above 20,000 copies per volume (it will), it’ll log in as Kyoto Animation’s best-selling TV title since Houkago Teatime planted their feet in London. If it gets a decent second week boost, there’s a non-negligible chance it passes Clannad’s 24,808 average and goes into the studio’s all-time top 5 behind Haruhi, Lucky Star, and the K-ons. Oh, and that mark is generally good for somewhere between the 40th and 60th best selling TV anime of all time. Those are some legit numbers. By accounts I’ve heard, the farm-system novel that birthed Free, High Speed, is playing out fairly directly on the screen and doesn’t leave much room for a sequel. That said, if I were an exec at Kadokawa I’d be doing my best trying to see if I could finagle one in. Remember, ignoring whether or not the ending is open or closed, 50 percent of anime that sell 4000 copies per volume or more get a sequel. I did some garbage calculations with a smaller sample of the 27 non-sequels to sell 20k+ volumes, and found that all but 8 eventually got movie or TV sequels of some kind. That said, 2 of those 8 were Kyoto Animation products.*
Every so often, the anime industry goes through a metamorphosis and comes out on the other side looking a bit different. In parts one and two of this series, I covered how late-night TV timeslots altered the landscape of how adult-oriented anime was produced and how the switch to digital painting affected both the abundance of shows made and the predominant artstyle. Unless you believe that we’re in the middle of the beginning of another one right now with Net-only full-season shows or 3DCG shows,* the most recent major sea change to beset industry was the introduction of Blu-Rays, which came into the field in late 2006 and were making up the majority of sales for most adult-oriented anime by 2009.
Welcome to part 2 of this series on how different changes in production and distribution methods affected anime over the years. Last time, I talked about how late-night TV anime came to be the norm for the industry, bringing with it free advertising and the ability to pursue more adult storylines in longer-form media than OVAs (the previously preferred form of adult-oriented anime). The impact of that still plays into today’s topic, though it’s not the subject. This time, the focus is on a pair of subsequent changes that led to still-further increases in production (the second big jump on the graph below).
The first half of the 2000s saw 2 meaningful changes affecting the anime industry. First, studios switched over from old-school cel painting to a digital paint process, reducing production costs and causing a subtle shift in both artstyle and visual presentation. Second, people started buying DVDs over VHS tapes, further reducing production costs (Incidentally DVDs being cheaper to produce than VHS tapes was a key cause of the 2007-2008 WGA strike in America).
The Summer 2013 has presented rich discussion fodder, giving rise to a number of interesting talking points. My favorite one is still the one on the merits of the core comedy in high-school life series that Free has sparked. This article is about one of those questions, one which is more complicated than some might think; Why did The World God Only Knows get a sequel? Based sheerly on anime sales, it’s a very risky proposition; season 1 literally just hit the profit line with an average 3000 sales per volume, and season 2 was well below that, averaging only 2117 per volume. If it made any contribution to manga sales, it was one of questionable value. Aside from one special-edition release that came with a bundled OAD, the manga sales don’t show a big jump after the anime airs. It’s a late-night anime, too (aired at 3:20 in the morning), so it’s not getting any help from TV ratings/ad revenue. So why are we looking at the third season of an anime whose second was already on shaky ground?
The answer is that that ground is not, in fact, quite so shaky. Once one considers the additional impact of licensing dollars, some sequels that look like iffy business make a lot more sense.
One bit of seemingly ubiquitous conventional wisdom is that makers of anime often face a choice between making works that sell and works with integrity. However, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that it’s usually worth taking the time to test conventional wisdom against actual numbers, because it can be wrong fairly often. So I took a look at the performance of Ecchi anime relative to the rest of the market over the past 8 years. Sure enough, the picture is a bit more complicated than “otaku only buy boobs”.