Fun With Numbers: Yuruyuri and the Oricon Threshold Iceberg

Towards the end of 2011, the chief editor of comic Yuri Hime, Naitarou Nakamura, revealed that Yuruyuri, a then-7-volume manga series which was adapted into an anime series in summer of that year, had sold over 1 million copies. That in itself isn’t a particularly rare feat; 49 different manga sold that many copies in 2011 alone, as did 15 individual volumes.

What makes Yuruyuri’s case particularly instructive, though, is that it had never appeared on the Oricon charts until June of 2012, 6 months after hitting said million copy mark. How is it possible that a series can hit that impressive a milestone without charting once? The short answer is that the Oricon charts are a very incomplete list. In the past 5 years’ worth of manga charts, we’ve never had a threshold that was below a five-digit number of copies. That means that, in theory, it’s entirely possible (if not extremely likely) for a series to sell 10,000 copies per week without its fans hearing a word about it. If this hypothtetical volume did that for 52 weeks, its total sales of 520,000 volumes would be 25,000 copies shy of the last series on the 2011 top 50 individual volumes list (One Piece’s first volume).

The above example is a bit extreme, but Yuruyuri’s performance isn’t that far off. There is a fairly strong limiting case we can look at to get an idea for how exactly Yuruyuri made it to the magic million (which required an average of ~143,000 copies sold per volume);  Assume the sales were entirely fueled by the anime’s popularity boost. The series had 7 volumes out for the period between the anime airing (on July 4th). Between July 4th and December 18th, there were a total of 24 weeks of Oricon sales charts. 1,000,000 copies/7 volumes/24 weeks=5950 copies/volume/week. The lowest threshold over that time period was 18,406 copies/week for one week in mid-October. Even if we assume that all of those sales were packed into the 12 weeks in which the anime was airing, that’s only up to about 11,900 copies/volume/week, still short of the most generous available threshold over that time period. In a less stringent case, if the manga was already half of the way to a million copies and the anime provided a more moderate boost (which would still have been doubling the series’ sales in a quarter of its previous 2 years in print), it would have been even easier for the series to remain entirely under the radar en route to the million-copy mark.

Yuruyuri had a successful anime, averaging about 8348 disks per volume, and thus didn’t need the manga success the way a lesser series might have. But it does serve as one of the more powerful counters to the idea that the success of a anime in advertising a manga necessitates an appearance on the Oricon charts. It also illustrates the fact that, when actually see big boosts in sales, those might be significantly bigger than just what we observe. The most successful manga advertisements, the crazy-chart Blue Exorcists, are easy to quantify. However, many series, even those that end up as clear-cut successes from an insider’s point of view, are not.* One thing that should always be kept in mind, especially when looking at manga for adults like Aoi Hana that packs a per-volume price tag (~1030 yen) twice that of newer One Piece volumes (~430 yen), is that a series doesn’t have to be making the Oricon charts at all to make its publisher happy.**

*I am guilty of oversimplifying these cases myself at times, so I can’t really blame other people for doing so. To wit, the gain-probabilities I name in this article are for minimum gains, not exact gains.

**Yuruyuri, by the by, runs about 930 yen/volume.

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Fun With Numbers: Comparing US Print and US Digital Manga Markets

The argument that diversity in a medium benefits fans is a pretty simple one, which can be made several ways. From one angle, it’s good to have a lot of series selling well because then the medium is safe financially if one superhit series ends. From another angle, it’s good to have a lot of series selling well because that means the industry can experiment more, finding the sweet spots of niches that might fall through the cracks if the industry was mostly dependent on 10 or so series earning 80 percent of the total income. I mean, it’s good to have those sort of “carry the team” hits, but an industry solely dependent on established blockbusters is going to be in trouble when the big guy’s fuel tank runs dry if they don’t have some sort of farm system in place to generate another crop of them.

When a market has strong diversity, one of the ways it manifests is in a rapid turnover rate in bestseller lists from week to week; series in the top 10 one week will be quickly pushed aside by new releases. Particularly in front-loaded markets (i.e. ones where the majority of sales take place over the first 2-3 weeks of release), it’s a very discouraging sign when a given week’s slate can’t even beat the runoff from last week’s. Since manga is a market where the thresholds for charting are ridiculously high and hard numbers are almost totally unavailable outside of Japan, this turnover rate is one of the few ways we can start to compare the two markets.

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Fun With Numbers: Anime as Manga Advertisments in 2011 (Part 1: The Solid Baselines)

Update 2 (July 15, 2014): New, more accurate data is here.

Update (Jul 1, 2014): This post doesn’t measure releases in 2-week totals, which turns out to be a huge deal in many, many cases. I’m currently working on an updated version of both this and the other 2011-2012 manga boost posts. Just be aware of that before citing the data from here regarding any one show.

Some time ago, I published an article looking at how anime adaptations produced in early 2012 affected the sales of their source manga. It was interesting data to take a look at, and it was interesting to see which anime really boosted the manga sales. Long story short, there are cases where a manga really jumps from mid-tier to franchise level (Space Brothers, Kuroko’s Basketball, Inu x Boku SS) soon after the anime airs, and cases where the anime doesn’t have much visible effect.

It was very intriguing to look at, but it wasn’t a sample large enough to draw real definitive conclusions from. So I’ve recently been pulling sales records for manga that had an anime adaptation air in 2011, to get a better idea of how the two media are interrelated. This post contains the first half of that data, specifically the data for which I have specific totals from both before and after the anime first aired, and some observations on that data.

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Fun With Numbers: Was Aku no Hana Commercially Successful?

“[…] Nagahama says he’s well aware that a lot of people will go “what the fuck” and “this is gross,” “I hate this, I’m not watching this.” But he’s pretty much okay with that, too, because he thinks it’s fine as long as it leaves an impact on people. Viewers may dismiss it right away, but some may check it out later and find it interesting, or they may come across the manga, recognize the title, and read that.”

-excerpted from this animesuki translation of an interview with Hiroshi Nagahama, director of Aku no Hana.

That may seem provocative, but it’s actually a fairly common philosophy in the business of anime for a publisher to fund a loss leader, in this case an unprofitable anime that stimulates manga sales. There’s quite a bit of evidence that this can work, though anime serving as a commercial for the manga generally has to stand out to drive up manga sales. I believe numbers inform the debate, so it’s worth taking a look at how that gambit played out.

Indeed, the eighth volume of Aku no Hana, the first one out after the anime aired, showed a little over double the sales of the first volume. So there’s a pretty strong case that the anime got the manga more attention. The more interesting question for me is this: in the face of seemingly abysmal sales of the anime’s first volume set to come out in late July, could the increased sales of the manga still make the anime successful? For the purposes of this article, “successful” means that it produced a gross profit equal to its production budget.

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Fun With Numbers: Inu x Boku SS and Anime As a 20-Minute Manga Commercial

Following up on the impressive (well, to me) discovery that Inu x Boku SS is Square Enix’s top manga, I had another thought. It went something like this; “Well, that anime was pretty darn good, and I know it sold a fair amount of Blu-Rays. I wonder if that has anything to do with how successful the manga is right now?” And so I took to the Oricon rankings, checking for shows from Winter and Spring 2012 that came from manga source material, and looking to see if they experienced a boost in sales. So I put a lot of numbers into a lot of spreadsheets, got distracted by the Saurday anime slate, and made a lot of graphs. If you’ve ever wondered why manga publishers sponsor anime, this should be an entertaining read.

InuxBoku-b2

So. Much. Paper.

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Fun With Numbers: Inu x Boku SS and Square Enix Doing Something Right

So yesterday morning, I was reading through the newer articles on ANN, when I spotted one that piqued my interest: a comics ranking with Inu x Boku SS’s ninth volume at the top. I didn’t spit out my coffee*, but that was a fairly surprising result. And this wasn’t getting to the top in a total off-week, either. It sold about 220,000 volumes, more than the next two new volumes on the list (Deadman Wonderland 12 and Blast of Tempest 9) combined. That put it near the top, if not *at* the top, of the manga Square Enix is currently publishing. So I started to wonder; considering this company was publishing Fullmetal Alchemist just a few years ago, isn’t this kind of a notable downgrade? The answer, unearthed after some digging, was several kinds of interesting.

InuxBoku-a1

Though nowhere near this interesting

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