Composers/Writers/Directors With Blockbuster Chops (Updated Through 2014)

A while back I compiled lists of anime staffers who had had the combination of skill and luck required to serve in key staff positions of franchises that came out of the gate as 10k+ sellers. At the time, there had only been a total of 101 such shows confirmed, so they turned out to be both exclusive and interesting.

Since then, 2014 happened and another 8 franchises joined the 10k+ party. Additionally, the anime sales community discovered a fun exploit and demonstrated that 7 other season 1s from years past qualified. With 15 fresh groups of to accredit, it’s worth updating those lists. This time we’re keeping the lists short and together in one post, noting which names are new and which ones took a step up.

Quick rule refresher – a series counts for this list if it sold 10k+ starting with the first season, and the credit for that success goes to the staff of the first season. Also, shared credits for a position counts so long as the split is between a maximum of two people. Macross and Gundam series aside from the first installment of each don’t count.

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Fun With Numbers: Directors With Blockbuster Chops (Part 3: Commentary)

Last week, I posted a list of directors who had helmed multiple 10k+ shows.

I just wanted to make/clarify a couple of points regarding said list.

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Fun With Numbers: Directors With Blockbuster Chops (Part 2: 2 Shows)

Continued from part 1, here are the rest of the directors that managed to notch multiple credits on 10,000 plus per volume hits. 13 guys directed two non-sequel hits, which, adding in the 4 from before, gives a total of 17 people in the history of anime to make this particular list.

As before, note that while anidb and ann are being used, they are potentially incomplete sources. For example, Tsuda Naokatsu only receives Uta Kata production assistance credit on ann. I will generally give direction credit to anyone who is listed as a director on one of the two sites, and directed a plurality of the episodes. Series director vs. plain Director titles for shows that gave the two to different people were tricky to interpret – I opted to give the title to the staffer listed as just director.

An Important Note About The Classification: I only included non-sequel anime when looking for directors. This means nothing with some manifestation of a 2 in the title. Ditto for Gundam or Macross franchise entries after the original. My rationale is that it’s a lot harder to make a prime-time anime from scratch, even with popular source material, than it is to continue living in a house you or someone else built. I count A Certain Scientific Railgun and Mononoke as spinoffs rather than sequels, as the series they spun off of are considerably less well-established franchises.

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Fun With Numbers: Directors With Blockbuster Chops (Part 1: 3 or More Shows)

Unless you’re Urobouchi Gen,* if your name headlines the trailer of a given series, odds are you’re its director. Director credits are the first non-voice actor bit of information given on staff pages of ann, anidb, and mal show pages. And that’s how it should be; as important as good writing can be, directors have the desk the buck stops at when it comes to power and responsibility to make decisions in show production, often holding full or partial authority to rewrite an episode script. Ano Hana was written as part slapstick/erotic comedy before director Tatsuyuki Nagai got his hands on the script. Beyond that, directors supervise the visual component of anime, making sure a series’ art says what it’s supposed to and flows from shot to shot.

A lot of complex factors go into an anime being either a success, hit, or failure, but it’s really hard for an untalented creator to accidentally produce a hit more than once. And while hit tv anime aren’t the only achievement that deserves recognition (JMAF grand prizes and Oscars would be two others), they are one of the bigger ones; excluding sequel seasons, less than 100 people have managed to notch this achievement in the 50+ years since Astro Boy first aired.

This is the very short list of directors who have headed at least 3 separate hit franchises, with some supplementary information. A similar post on those who have made 2 shows will be up sometime in the near future.

This list was compiled from something’s list of 10k+ shows, with supplementary resume data pulled from ann and anidb. While I am making heavy use of these databases, I don’t trust them to be 100% complete: Seiji Kishi’s pages show an 8-year gap between his first credits and his first series directed in which he does (supposedly) nothing. Not only that, but anidb and ann disagree on whether his first work was as an in-betweener on Ruin Explorers or on Eiga Nintama Rantarou (anidb lists the former, ann the latter). Tatsuyuki Nagai’s first credit is as an episode director, a position not typically awarded to newbies. More likely their full histories aren’t chronicled here, though that only applies to secondary roles played in production. It’s an important thing to be aware of.

An Important Note About The Classification: I only included non-sequel anime when looking for directors. This means nothing with some manifestation of a 2 in the title. Ditto for Gundam or Macross franchise entries after the original. My rationale is that it’s a lot harder to make a prime-time anime from scratch, even with popular source material, than it is to continue living in a house you or someone else built. I count A Certain Scientific Railgun and Mononoke as spinoffs rather than sequels, as the series they spun off of are considerably less well-established franchises.

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Fun With Numbers: Composers With Blockbuster Chops (Part 2: 2 Shows)

Continued from this post, here’s the list of composers who have managed the very impressive feat of writing soundtracks for two non-sequel megahits.

Two Important Notes About The Classification: First, I only included non-sequel anime when looking for head writers. This means nothing with some manifestation of a 2 in the title. Ditto for Gundam or Macross franchise entries after the original. My rationale is that it’s a lot harder to make a prime-time anime from scratch, even with popular source material, than it is to continue living in a house someone else built. I count A Certain Scientific Railgun and Mononoke as spinoffs rather than sequels, as the series they spun off of are considerably less well-established franchises.

Also, I did not credit any composer if the credit was split 3 or more ways and I was unable to discern a clear head of the project. Notably, Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito, and Magome Togoshi split music credits for Little Busters, Air, and Clannad 3 ways. Not crediting stuff like this is tough, but giving solo songwriting props to all of them feels like over-distributing credit.

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Fun With Numbers: Composers With Blockbuster Chops (Part 1: 3 or More Shows)

Good sound is terrifically underrated. Compared to the people who make the visuals in anime,* composers are significantly lesser known. There are individual names that people know for individual big works (Iwasaki Taku, Yoko Kanno, Yuki Kajiura), but by and large the majority of people who write the bgm for anime tend to fly miles under the radar. Which is a shame, because good bgm (and good handling of said bgm) can be the keystone piece that takes an anime from good to great. In the interest of making the big achievers in original soundtracks a little more well-known, here are the composers who have written soundtracks for at least 2 10k+, non-sequel hit series.

Two Important Notes About The Classification: First, I only included non-sequel anime when looking for head writers. This means nothing with some manifestation of a 2 in the title. Ditto for Gundam or Macross franchise entries after the original. My rationale is that it’s a lot harder to make a prime-time anime from scratch, even with popular source material, than it is to continue living in a house someone else built. I count A Certain Scientific Railgun and Mononoke as spinoffs rather than sequels, as the series they spun off of are considerably less well-established franchises.

Also, I did not credit any composer if the credit was split 3 or more ways and I was unable to discern a clear head of the project. Notably, Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito, and Magome Togoshi split music credits for Little Busters, Air, and Clannad 3 ways. Not crediting stuff like this is tough, but giving solo songwriting props to all of them feels like over-distributing credit.

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Fun With Numbers: Writers With Blockbuster Chops (Part 3: Comments)

This is something between a continuation an add-on to these posts on the 17 writers responsible for 43 of the 99 non-sequel 10k+ hit anime over the history of the medium. It contains a few observations that I made while putting the list together.

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Fun With Numbers: Writers With Blockbuster Chops (Part 2: 2 Shows)

This is a continuation of this post, but some items bear repeating. First among those; this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all great writers ever. It’s just one way of looking at available statistics.

Each of the 10 writers having written for 2 10k+ shows above is listed along with the first show they are (in some capacity) credited for, their big hit works, recent work, and less notable work. The data used to compile this list was acquired via the animenewsnetwork database, and is listed on this doc.

Two Important Notes About The Classification: First, I only included non-sequel anime when looking for head writers. This means nothing with some manifestation of a 2 in the title. Ditto for Gundam or Macross franchise entries after the original. My rationale is that it’s a lot harder to make a prime-time anime from scratch, even with popular source material, than it is to continue living in a house someone else built. I count A Certain Scientific Railgun and Mononoke as spinoffs rather than sequels, as the series they spun off of are considerably less well-established franchises.

Also, I did not credit any writer if the credit was split 3 or more ways and I was unable to discern a clear head of the project. For example, Hakuouki’s ANN page credits 4 scriptwriters, 3 of which worked on multiple episodes. Giving props to all of them for what was possibly a script-by-committee feels like over-distributing credit.

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Fun With Numbers: Writers With Blockbuster Chops (Part 1: 3 Shows or More)

Aside from the current Western Conference standings,* one of the my favorite lists to look at are the lists of series averaging over 10k in disk sales on someanithing, pre and post Y2K. It’s a list of anime that won the commerce wars over the years, catching the attention of the masses in one way or the other. The database’s extremely cool creator notes on these lists the studios that made their mark on the list.

He doesn’t do the same for staff (writers/directors/composers/etc), which is understandable. Many people work on any given anime, and people can and often do misapportion credit based whose name is at the top of a series’ ann page. Anime production has a lot of moving parts, and it’s gross oversimplification to assume that one person is solely responsible for the product of the work of a 50+ person staff. That said, it’s by no means a worthless pursuit to try and dig deeper into who’s legitimately great at making anime.

Luck may turn a lot of also-rans into one-hit wonders, but it’s hard to win the 10k+ lottery twice. I looked at a sample comprised of 99 non-sequel anime (every non-sequel on the someanithing lists, plus the exceedingly likely to average 10k+ Arpeggio of Blue Steel) and looked for writers whose names showed up more than once. As one might expect, it’s a small list. Over the entire history of anime, only 17 writers have ever helmed multiple 10k+ franchises out of the gate. The 7 to have helmed 3 or more are listed below, along with their first credit and major works.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all great writers ever. It’s just one way of looking at available statistics – there are many factors that matter to the success of an anime. That said, writing multiple grand-slams is a good rule of thumb classifier for distinguishing those scriptwriters that have something beyond luck on their side. I’m making this list for two reasons other than those mentioned above. One, many of these people get treated as relative no-names, and recognizing people who make big contributions is important. Two, I’m interested in writer career arcs; how did they start off, when did they hit it big, what else is on their resumes.

I don’t know if any of this will ultimately end up being useful. With that being said, let’s recognize some history. Each of the 17 writers meeting the criteria above is listed along with the first show they are (in some capacity) credited for, their big hit works, recent work, and less notable work**. The data used to compile this list was acquired via the animenewsnetwork database, and is listed on this doc.

Two Important Notes About The Classification: First, I only included non-sequel anime when looking for head writers. This means nothing with some manifestation of a 2 in the title. Ditto for Gundam or Macross franchise entries after the original. My rationale is that it’s a lot harder to make a prime-time anime from scratch, even with popular source material, than it is to continue living in a house someone else built. I count A Certain Scientific Railgun and Mononoke as spinoffs rather than sequels, as the series they spun off of are considerably less well-established franchises.

Also, I did not credit any writer if the credit was split 3 or more ways and I was unable to discern a clear head of the project. For example, Hakuouki’s ANN page credits 4 scriptwriters, 3 of which worked on multiple episodes. Giving props to all of them for what was possibly a script-by-committee feels like over-distributing credit.

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