Fun With Numbers: Do Elements of Ecchi Content/Fanservice Provide a Boost for Blockbuster Shows?

One of the things I love about giving panels/talks at cons is the Q&A component. Sure, every time there’s at least one guy whose question that’s a recitation essay, but you also get a lot of stimulation; observations beyond your field of view from people outside your normal circles of interaction. One of the best questions I got during Ohayocon came after the Myth of Fanservice panel talking about the results of this article. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was to the effect of “I get from this presentation that shallow fanservice doesn’t sell, but fanservice that’s a component of an otherwise good show actually annoys me more, because it makes it harder to recommend shows. What about fanservice as a minor component of a show, rather than the central one?” At the time, I replied that it was an interesting question, but that I hadn’t tested it and couldn’t come up with a way off the top of my head.

After I thought about it for a while, I realized there’s actually a fairly intuitive way of getting at this question. Since exactly how fanservice/ecchi elements a show has to include before being a fanservice/ecchi show varies from person to person, it was very possible that one could get a snapshot of that spectrum by looking at how two separate databases with varying standards classified a show. As fate would have it, myanimelist (ecchi genretag) and animenewsnetwork (ecchi+fanservice themetags)* classify shows as ecchi in ways that are different enough that one can split shows from my original black/white sample into 3 meaningful categories.**

1. No/Minimal Ecchi (Not tagged under either system)

2. Ambiguously Ecchi (Tagged under one system, but not the other)

3. Unambiguously Ecchi (Tagged under both systems)

Theoretically, if a show is really heavy on the fanservice, it’ll end up being in category 3, and if it’s got naked men wrestling behind one-way glass, it’ll end up being in category 1. If there’s room to dispute how much fanservice a show has and/or how central it is, it’ll more likely end up in category 2. And by comparing those 3 categories, we should be able to get some idea of how much fanservice as a component does for shows with other notable selling points. The breakdowns for the categories can be found on this doc, and analysis can be found after the break.

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Fun With Numbers: The (Relatively) Predictable Light Novel Adaptation Market

In the past several weeks, Ohayocon-induced hiatus aside,* I’ve been compiling the sales data of light novels that became anime in 2011 and 2012. Put bluntly, the ecosystem of initial print sales->anime sales->additional print sales is very, very different from manga. With manga, it was very often the case that a comparatively unpopular manga like Blue Exorcist could produce the anime sales of a superhit while a way more popular manga like Sukitte Ii Nayo could produce anime sales all too close to nonexistent. Additionally, poor-selling anime like Kamisama Dolls and Zetsuen no Tempest often led to big surges in manga sales while popular anime like Yuruyuri produced negligible manga gains.

With light novels, that sort of thing can still happen, but it’s far rarer. In general, there are two dominant trends in the light novel market. One, better-selling light novels produce better-selling anime. Two, better-selling anime produce bigger increases in light novel sales. Though it should be noted, as always, that the extent to which this effect carries does vary somewhat.

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Fun With Numbers: Anime as Light Novel Advertisments in 2011

Despite the fact that both get released in compiled volumes costing somewhere between 400 and 1000 yen a few times a year, the market for manga differs in many ways from the market for light novels. For one thing, it’s a much smaller scale market; the most popular light novels sell hundreds of thousands of copies immediately after their release, rather the millions that One Piece/Fairy Tail/Attack on Titan bring in. Too, light novel adaptations tend to succeed much more as a function of their initial popularity than manga does. To get an in-depth look at how anime adaptations of light novels have impacted the source material, I’ve plotted the sales for their first two weeks of solicitation over time, with the airdate of the anime superimposed. See this doc for the raw data, and compare the 2011 data for manga adaptations.

Note: I plot the two-week totals, rather than the one-week total, because even the average the first week total is vulnerable to a series that comes out on the last of the Oricon tracking period and having its sales numbers hamstrung. Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka had 4 volumes in a row come out on the last day of the week, obscuring a very real anime-fueled boost in sales.

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Get Behind the Bandwagon: The Added Fun Value From Loving Shows Some People Hate

To some extent, I’ve always been cogniscent of the fact that I’ve gravitated towards of a variety of indicators for the success of anime, rather than just word of mouth, because I have idiosyncratic tastes and using said variety of indicators helps illustrate that the case for or against many shows isn’t as clear-cut as many narrative-spinners would have you believe.

For the record, If there’s a worse anime blogger than Rick Reilly is a sports columnist, I’ve never met them. But I’ve read too many terrible columns by sanctimonious 70-year-old baseball writers about how Yasiel Puig has zero class and too many terrible columns by sanctimonious anime bloggers about how Kill La Kill is somehow “saving” an anime* industry that isn’t actually dying or lacking for fresh content not to see a lot of similarities between the two groups. I’m not saying that all writers who take a critical perspective on anime are like this, but far too many of them are more interested in grinding an axe against a genre rather than actually having a serious discussion about it.

But something hit me after I read this recent Andrew Sharp piece (he’s also the writer of the #hotsportstake series that mocks the aforementioned type of writing) about the appeal of bandwagoning on playoff football teams. One of his criteria that jumped out at me; “Does this team piss off Phil Simms and Jim Nantz?” I hadn’t thought about it for a while, but the Rex Ryan Jets were some of my favorite bandwagons for that very reason (plus the fact that those Jets played a defense best described as a shower of linebacker-shaped meteors backed by Darelle Revis eclipsing the sun). While my appreciation of a show is maximum when a show is great, my enjoyment of a show in a holistic sense is more of a 60-20-20 combination of 3 factors:

1. How much I enjoy it.

2. How well it performs commercially, usually in disk sales but potentially in other categories. It has to at least be a lock argument for having had break even sales.

3. The presence of a persistent group of (for lack of a better word) haters. Not just people who sort-of dislike and avoid it, but people who can’t resist taking paragraph-long potshots at it any time it gets mentioned.

This means that, as good as Attack on Titan was, it’s not a max-entertainment bandwagon. No one of any consequence particularly hates the show, and it’s just done really well. By contrast, Girls und Panzer was a near-perfect bandwagon show, putting up megahit numbers in the face of a number of vocal and hilariously ineffectual critics (it would be on my shortlist already if I weren’t currently watching it). There is really nothing sweeter in fandom than watching a show pile up vocal critics and subsequently both be good and sell well in spite of them. This post contains my personal shortlist of series I’ve had the privilege of being a fan of long enough to watch them do the Shaq thing and dunk all over the place.

To clarify before I actually get to the list, I don’t believe it’s a bad thing to hold any particular set of opinions. I do believe it’s a bad thing to constantly spend time talking scrap about stuff you don’t enjoy, and more generally about the way things are, rather than actually doing something about it. If you’re so upset about the majority of anime that get made nowadays, put up and post links to the BDs of the series you do like on your blog, or just buy them yourself. It’s trivially easy to use amazon for that sort of thing in this day and age.

That said, here are my personal bandwagon favorites of the past several years:

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