August was a boring month as far as high-powered releases go. September is not, and there are a couple of series (particularly the Steins Gate combo pack hovering around 1500 with 4 weeks to go and the second half of Attack on Titan) which figure to have a pretty decent chance of making the US BD charts and providing really useful data. 4 solid datapoints wouldn’t be much, but it’s a lot better than 2. I could get more pumped about that if one of the release titles due out this month weren’t straight-up false advertising.
The commercial impact of anime goes well beyond its disk sales. Manga may sell to more people, but anime is extremely visible, airing on TV (albeit often late at night) and propagating around the internet at a very rapid pace. This visibility very often can lead to an increased strength of the franchise in general, propping up sales of print material, figures, and any various other related goods. Sometimes, anyway. 2013 was no exception, and saw a number of manga adaptations have anywhere from minimal to explosive effects on the sales of their source material.
I collected the manga sales history, including thresholds for series which charted sporadically, on this doc, and plotted it below. Note that these sales are not total, but the total number reported in a roughly fixed time period. Comparing sales tail length is a whole other issue, and I’m trying as much as possible to compare like figures.
One important difference from similar breakdowns of 2011/2012 series is that here I’ve opted to use the total sales from a series’ first 2 weeks of release (the highest reported total in that time interval), to attempt to minimize the effects of a bad split in creating artificial variations. It’s still an issue either way, but the difference between 9 and 14 days is a lot less than the difference between 2 and 7 days.
Two important series-specific notes prior to the plots. First, Maoyu is plotted here, in the manga section, because the manga charts more consistently than the light novel did and, more importantly, has available data from both before and after the anime aired (the LN ended just prior to 2013). Second, I can’t parse impact for series that don’t have at least one volume which released after the anime began to air. I thus will not be covering Servant x Service here, though there is data available. I will cover it in an addendum post come September when volume 4 has been out for 2 weeks.
I’m a strong believer in the value of 20 minutes of time. Between work, the anime I do watch, the fact that I do play games on occasion, and my ongoing quest to find the next To Heart*, I’ve got plenty of venues to bank my time. There’s no real reason to keep watching a show, even if I’m enjoying it a little, if it doesn’t have at least an upside of being an 8/10 product. What follows is a list of Summer 2013 shows I dropped more or less because of their lack of realistic upside.
Aside from perhaps the hair episode of Yami Shibai, the 5-minute preview for Go Nagai’s Robot Girls Z was the most impressive, repeatable five minutes of animation I watched last month. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s over here. Short version: it’s a 5-minute comedy which, but for the more modern cutesy character designs, could totally have been written by Go Nagai. Its style of humor, featuring excessive violence and heroes doing more damage than the monsters they fight, is what he’s always been all about.
Being that I was excited about the project (this was only the 0th episode), I flew over to ann to check the profiles of the freaks involved. As it turns out, the director, Hiroshi Ikehata, has only ever handled one TV series before (Ring ni Kakero), which isn’t a very good sample size to judge a director on. But he has held the position of episode director numerous times, on all manner of series (from A-Channel to Yuyushiki).
There are no less than 8 new directors making their debut in this Summer 2013 season with similar information about their early careers available.* One of them is Hiroko Utsumi, the director of Free! Others run the quality gamut, from C3-Bu’s Masayoshi Kawajiri to Neptunia’s Masahiro Mukai. And, lest I forget, Shishiou Igarashi made a smashing debut with The Unlimited this winter. It’s definitely possible for first-timers to post veteran-esque performances, but far from guaranteed.
This observation led me to a question; what, if anything, can we glean from a first-time director’s experience in the bullpen? If it that experience is important, what part of it is? Is it better to have worked as an understudy to a great creator on a memorable show, or to build up tons of experience grinding out lots of support roles? To attempt to answer these questions, I pulled up resumes for the 11 directors who first got their hands on a serial anime project in 2012 and combed them over to see if anything in particular was a good indicator of their respective performances. This article outlines a number of the potential performance I examined, some better than others.
Redline is the best anime movie I have ever seen. By which I mean it is the best anime I’ve ever seen and the best movie I’ve ever seen. While this summer season is certainly one for the books, it’s not delivering anything quite like that movie (and it wouldn’t be fair to ask it to). But because the movie’s now available free on youtube,* and because this is definitely the most fun season to be a part of since subs of the movie became available roughly 2 years ago, I decided to pay tribute by summarizing how everyone’s doing at (roughly) the halfway hash in the words of Sweet JP and co.
[Warning: Spoilers, if that kind of thing bothers you.]
Not that it matters, since the novel Free was based on was in the Kyoto Animation Award contest, but I think they were the perfect studio for this show. Of course, it’s a given that the high-energy swimming scenes would look good.* But the motion-heavy body language is boosting the comedy along with the action. something really pronounced in the one scene where Gou and Amakata revealed they wouldn’t be sleeping outside. Hiroko Utsumi really milked those one-syllable words for all they were worth.
Will: Once again, this show is really good. Cool looking combat, cute girls, and the jazz trend continues. I guess that’s just the battle soundtrack they’ve gone for, which I wholeheartedly support. It’s so awesome every time. I like these characters, and it’s pretty much what I expected, but better. I actually saw the drama this week, and I wasn’t surprised. The main character still has confidence issues, the rival is typical rival, noting out of the ordinary. Hell, even the way Sono talked to Yura was pretty typical, and in my opinion justified. I mean, the music and acting made it really dramatic, way more than it seems like it should be, but in that situation, I’d do the same in a way. I’ve done team competitions before, and I’ve frequently been the one to tell people, “Hey, this is a game, have fun, lose with a smile, or don’t compete.” Yura was really taking it too seriously and personally when she surrendered. It’s airsoft, at least try to take someone down with you. All that said, I still enjoy the hell out of this show.
Drew: I agree that the fundamental concept was pretty regular for interscholastic competitions of any kind, but I do think the show went a few hundred meters too far down melodramatic avenue to make its point. I don’t need it to be a huge issue, and by making that scene what it was, the show brought itself closer to the bad side of the gap between fun entertainment and serious drama. There’s a market for combining the two in a skilled way, but there sure as hell ain’t one for shoehorning one into the other. That aside, it was a fun tournament episode, and the matches shown in detail, both the win and the curbstomp, were good viewing. I hope we get a rematch in the future and it’s either light-hearted or a GaoGaiGar ripoff. So long as it’s not that kind of dramatic.
Sam: I think the issue with the drama is that it wants to be manly with its ideals, but the rest of the show is so uninterested with being like that that when it does try and get manly, it gets really stupid. The entire show to me right now feels like two different elements pulling desperately towards opposite ends of the quality spectrum, and while I still like it, I really want it to just drop the pretense and be fun. When its fun its fun, but it isn’t good when it is not fun.
Will: Y’know, I honestly don’t really feel one way or the other about the drama. It’s just there to create some tension and conflict in a show that doesn’t inherently have any. It’s exactly what I expected. Some episodes of K-ON! had things like this, and really, Hidamari Sketch is one of the few that ends up being really great without any real conflict or drama. I’m honestly only discussing the drama in C3-bu because episode to episode, there’s not much else to say. It’s cute girls doing cute things, with some jazzy airsoft action. Either you like it or you don’t. It’s a great show so far, there’s just not much to talk about. I guess my point is that the drama does not feel incongruous to me, it just feels like token drama, and nothing more.
Sam: I’m OK with token drama, but this drama is kind of dragging the rest of the series down. It stinks because the rest of the series is great, so I just hope that the drama improves or decreases its prominence.
Will: I think it’s just building towards some awesome character development. I mean, that’s why everyone fell in love with Gainax in the first place, characters really growing as the story goes on. Half the things they’re known for are coming-of-age stories. And I mean, It’s not like this is a completely different crew, not everyone left for Trigger.
Drew: Maybe not everybody left for Trigger, but a large portion of the senior staff did. The Director, Art Director, Sound Director, Animation Director, and Character Designer are all people whose history doing things for Gainax does not predate Dantalian. It’d be interesting to take a fuller look at the staff, but I personally think the comparison between new and old Gainax is very tenuous. Their strongest link is the brand name. People have, in the interim, tried to tell the same type of story at other studios, but few of them are as good as Anno or even Imaishi at said job. I look at their ability to insert a non-forced coming-of-age story into a show of this type with considerable skepticism. Time will tell, but I suspect it will be mostly moot as the show gets back to fun airsoft next week.
Sam: So this might just be my favorite of the season so far, of what little I have watched. I went in expecting little, but the way that the airsoft battles are staged are everything that I have ever wanted in these kinds of things: interesting, varied, and awesome. So far I haven’t been liking the drama though. It brought up the idea that Yukochan is lonely and wants friends, but the way that it presents it makes me feel less like the group is destined friends and more like Yukochan is slightly emotionally damaged and C3-bu is just there at the right time. Still, when the airsoft battles start, everything just clicks.
I’m covering Dangan Ronpa for 3 reasons. First, the Lerche power trio is involved. Second, C3-bu is a show we decided to do together as a slaparound on weekends. Third, it’s a mystery and I have no clue how it goes, so it should be fun to react to in real time.