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.