29 days ago, on August 8, 2014, Creative Intelligence Arts launched a kickstarter for an original Masahiro Ando/Jiro Ishii anime project, Under the Dog. Yesterday, that project reached to reach its $580,000 funding target, and currently has an average of $68/backer from 10,486 total backers as of this writing. The success of this particular kickstarter, one of 5 anime-related ones that I am aware of (not counting anime sols projects), is obviously a good thing for the makers, and is also an encouraging sign for the future of anime crowdfunding.
Before I start, I should note that I didn’t fund the kickstarter because it didn’t seem like something I would watch if it existed today. I’m not going to be a poser and say I was a super-huge fan of this when I wasn’t. Academically, though, the project carries a few interesting implications that are really permutations of one big thing – it lacked a lot of advantages that previous such projects have had.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you’re a fan of Attack on Titan. You watched the entire show as it aired and can’t wait for more of it. What if, tomorrow, a Kickstarter went up for a 12-episode second season of the show. How much, without knowing the reward tiers, would you give? $1? $10? $20? $50? $100 (like the U.S. disks for season 1 as a whole will likely cost)?
I’d imagine that, depending on just how much they enjoyed AoT, most people would answer with a number within their price range. Given the popularity of the show, such a project would be a fairly safe bet to break the current record for animation projects on the site (currently Bee and Puppycat’s $872,133).
But let’s make a key change to this project. Let’s suppose that, instead of a give-what-you-can model of pricing, this hypothetical Kickstarter only allowed pledges at or above $500 level. Even for a series with a lot of enthusiastic fans, I’m willing to bet that turns some of them off. Even if that $500 level includes a meet-and-greet with the anime’s entire cast and signed copy of volume 1 of the manga, that’s just more than what many people are willing (or able) to pay. And that is the crux of the matter when it comes to discussing who buys anime.
If you’re familiar with the Japanese anime sales figures I sometimes look at, you may be aware of something called the break-even point, a rule-of-thumb figure that sets a general line between profit and loss for a given show at 3000 disks sold per volume. (The math is fairly elementary. At 10 million yen per episode, 12 episodes cost ~120 million yen. Selling 3000 copies of 6 disks at 7000 yen per disk nets a gross profit of 126 million yen. While that number varies depending on things like show budget, alternative income sources, and how many episodes are packed into a volume, it’s good to have a rough number in mind because it sets a scale for what constitutes success and failure for a show. But what does that number look like for the U.S., and what does that say about the comparative purchasing power of western fans in general?
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.
This time, we cover several topics, including the inspiring success of crowdfunded anime since our last show, several bits of recent anime news (both depressing and intriguing), and the rockin’ Summer 2013 slate of anime.
I’ve mentioned before how I often I see misconceptions about shojo manga in my group of anime-fan friends. The most common misconception that pops up is that shojo is a one-note genre (rather than a demographic, which it is by definition), but a close second is the assumption that female fans are a small minority among those that follow anime. While that’s somewhat true in Japan, it couldn’t be further from the truth in America. Indeed, female fans may make up the majority of manga buyers in the United States. So why so few shojo anime? I’ve got a take on that.
In the long-delayed second episode, we talk about Kickstarter. More specifically, we start by discussing anime and manga it’s funded already, and use what numbers we have (mainly myanimelist statistics) to wildly speculate on what else might be a viable candidate for a Time of Eve-style international BD release.