Thanks to the anime industry enthusiasts over at mania.com forums, who collect all the official sources into their forum posts, we can always take a look at data from Bluray and DVD sales in a practically collected format.
For example, rather than looking at a single season, that might be exceptionally weak or strong, we can get an even better overall picture, if we look at the whole previous year, merged into a single list, from the Winter 2011 season that started in last January, to the end of the Fall 2011 seasons that ended in last december.
Some important notes:
– These numbers represent how much the average volume of the series sold. If you saw a list with slightly larger numbers, that was probably only counting the first volumes’ sales. If you saw one with significantly larger numbers, that added all the disk sales from different volumes together, into a single result.
– The numbers are taken from best-seller lists, so they don’t include the sales from every single week when an older anime sold a few dozen units. The actual amount of disks sold is slightly larger. At the bottom of the list, the ones with zero as their sales number, are the ones that didn’t manage to get on a top list even at their release week.
– Most of these are late-night anime that are relying on disk sales for profit, but a few are mainstream TV shows that are funded by ratings, and not by otaku buying power. Their low sales don’t necessarily mean failure.
– Profitability for a show with average production costs, starts somewhere around 3000-4000 units of sales. Between 4000 and 10.000 is a comfortable success, between 10.000 and 20.000 it could be called a hit, and beyond 20.000, it’s an important, industry-defining hit.
So here is the list itself:
71,057 – Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
42,690 – Fate/Zero
33,812 – Infinite Stratos
32,982 – Persona 4
31,523 – AnoHana
27,773 – Tiger & Bunny
25,624 – The iDOLM@STER + G4U Bundle
22,413 – Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon
17,837 – Uta no Prince-sama Maji Love 1000%
16,498 – Steins;Gate
13,651 – Working’!!
13,310 – Gintama’
12,887 – Ao no Exorcist
12,020 – Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
10,532 – Guilty Crown
10,223 – Natsume Yuujin-chou San
*9,119 – Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san.
*8,529 – Hanasaku Iroha
*8,150 – The iDOLM@STER (standalone)
*7,967 – Dog Days
*6,776 – Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season
*6,633 – Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
*6,513 – RouKyuuBu!
*5,398 – Mawaru Penguindrum
*5,321 – Hidan no Aria
*5,299 – Freezing
*5,241 – A Channel
*4,980 – Tamayura ~hitotose~
*4,824 – Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi
*4,395 – Mayo Chiki!
*4,199 – Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi 2
*4,068 – Shakugan no Shana III -Final-
*3,985 – Usagi Drop
*3,800 – Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni!
*3,579 – Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!!
*3,509 – Shinryaku!? Ikamusume
*3,478 – NO.6
*3,384 – Seikon no Qwaser II
*3,352 – Maken-ki!
*3,216 – Starry Sky
*3,177 – Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?
*3,065 – Last Exile Ginyoku no Fam
*3,030 – Mashiro-iro Symphony
*2,934 – Nichijou
*2,738 – Onii-chan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki ja nain Dakara ne!!
*2,718 – Nurarihyon no Mago ~Sennen no Makyou~
*2,543 – Chihayafuru
*2,469 – Yumekui Merry
*2,451 – Gosick
*2,394 – Manyuu Hikenchou
*2,117 – Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai II
*2,055 – Mirai Nikki
*1,941 – Ben-To
*1,929 – C3
*1,824 – Sengoku Otome ~Momoiro Paradox~
*1,679 – Kami-sama Dolls
*1,630 – Sacred Seven
*1,626 – Precure: Suite Precure!
*1,596 – Ikoku Meiro no Croisee
*1,591 – R-15
*1,577 – BLOOD-C
*1,566 – Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu!
*1,546 – UN-GO
*1,543 – C
*1,517 – Astarotte no Omocha!
*1,491 – Level E
*1,401 – Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai
*1,398 – Kimi to Boku.
*1,362 – Kami-sama no Memo-chou
*1,328 – Tono to Issho ~Gantai no Yabou~
*1,277 – Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi
*1,271 – Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi
*1,186 – Maria Holic Alive
*1,131 – SoftTenni
*1,036 – Dragon Crisis!
*1,011 – Hourou Musuko
**,967 – Dantalian no Shoka
**,963 – Rio -RainbowGate!-
**,954 – Morita-san wa Mukuchi 2
**,909 – Morita-san wa Mukuchi
**,843 – Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel Kyun Kyun Tokimeki Paradise!!
**,784 – Fractale
**,325 – Nekogami Yaoyorozu
**,**0 – Phi Brain Kami no Puzzle
**,**0 – Moshidora
**,**0 – Hen Semi
**,**0 – Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera
**,**0 – Deadman Wonderland
**,**0 – 30-sai no Hoken Taiiku
At a first look, it appears to be quite random. There is no single theme, genre, or style that dominates the top. But from another perspective, that is an interesting information in itself. This shows, that some old assumptions that we always take for granted in casual comments, such as “sex sells”, or “moe sells”, are not exactly true. Among the 16 series in the 10.000+ tier, there is a single fansevice show, Infinite Stratos, (that’s success is a surprising freak accident even if you compare it to the results of similar shows in earlier years), and the typical K-on like girl-group shows like A-channel, Yuru Yuri, and Tamayura, are only around the middle of the list.
If there is one consistent trend along the list, it’s that the top has a lot higher concentration of good shows than the bottom. Regardless of exactly what criteria you use for “good show”, Anime Power Ranking results, or MAL ratings, or personal tastes, or your smaller comminity’s attitudes, you are far more likely to find examples of high quality around the top, than at the bottom. While in the last to segments, below the 3000 tier, you can easily find 4-5 terribad shows surrounding a single gem that’s failure is a tragedy for the medium, and around the middle there are 50/50 chances, the top 16 is filled with the most memorable shows of the year, with maybe 2-3 that have obviously no business being there, and another 3-4, that you might not like depending on your genre preferences, but at least their fandoms can get away with claiming that they are good enough at what they are trying to be.
That is both good news, and bad news for us, who just hope that the creation of shows that we enjoy is going to increase.
Good, because if there is no single easy “trick” to separate otaku from their money, then there is no fear that any single trend will kill originality. Sure, there will always be at least a few studios and publishers who are just as ill-informed as the average fan, and jump at the opportunity to make a magical girl idol show that will combine the success of Madoka and Idolm@ster, but these are the kind of idiots who are just coming from the previous harem bandwagon anyways, (not noticing that harems weren’t a consistently success-guaranteeing genre either),so it’s not like their uninspired z-list series are taking away the manpower from something potentially great.
And in a sense it’s also bad, because it also means that there is no quick way to vote with out wallets to inspire creators to make more good anime. We can’t point at Madoka, or Fate/Zero, and say to developers “make more good anime like this”, without first clarifying what “this” is. Because “Make shows with good writing, directing, intelligent plot, engaging characters, and high production values” isn’t particularly useful as a message for the likes of DEEN and J.C. Staff. It’s basically a synonym of “grow talent, motherfuckers”.
The only way sales actually influence the fate of the industry, is a “natural selecion”, where those who already have talent get more money, and more chance to stay in the industry, while those who don’t, have more chances to fail, and be driven out. Just like the real natural selection, It’s a painfully slow process, where random misfortune can slow down the strong, and the weak can get lucky, but in the end, it’s working.