You Were So Close, Justin!

I rather like the lucid description of the home video business. It’s clear that this was Justin’s area of concentration in his feature describing the “Anime Industry.” Quotes, because it’s more about finance than industry.

I have a no-longer-hidden agenda about this: if people can learn and be equipped with how the finance end and the way money moves between parties in this industry, they would at least try to only whine about intelligible things and say things that makes sense. Or so I hope. Actually any improvement from the status quo is desirable, and I was hoping a home videos guy like him can at least answer this question:

Why didn’t anyone buy Kaiba?

Let’s recall Crunchyroll’s troll graphics reposted from /a/

It’s oh-so-easy to believe that the success of an anime project is based on how well it sells on DVD or BD or what have you. After all, it’s true. But it’s also not true in a bunch of cases. There are a lot of nuances and it’s not always the same thing even if we narrow things down to only late night anime bankrolled by the typical production committee. It’s not even always the same thing if we narrow it to just, say, noitamina shows (maybe a topic for another day). The break-even factor is also a big deal; by default a production committee show doesn’t need to make all its money back from home video (with exceptions). Anything that is an adaptation already is going to have the original material being pushed by some marketing person trying to sell it.

Anyway, the point is, this is not so simple! It may not even make the kind of logical sense you think it makes (or I think it makes).

So when I’m reading this pretty neat essay about the home video business (kind of wished he went into BD vs DVD a bit, but oh well) and you see this chart:

I’m like, great, now everyone is going to think somehow home video sales to break even equals the cost of the production equal a production that doesn’t lose money. It’s not even what Justin was referring to at that point.

Which is, actually, okay. Because people who don’t know much about the finances of all this wouldn’t know what the Manabi line is. But those who do would be like, wait, why is it so high?

Actually it is always good to be critical of stuff you read on the internet. And Manabi line was born on the internet. So let’s go to the best write-up we have so far about that.

Many titles fall in this category. Marginally performing shows, many of which didn’t sell as much as their popularity would make you think they would.
Ex: Manabi Straight!, true tears #1, Sketchbook, Gun X Sword, Yami to Boshi to Hon no Tabibito

The line of profitability. Also the line at which one could say a title is doing okay, but some may call some titles that sell this many a failure, so it’s quite hard to judge.
Ex: Denno Coil, Soul Eater, School Days, Linebarrels of Iron, Super Robot Swars OG, etc

First thing, easy low-hanging fruit: the Manabi line is the oricon first-week figure. Note that in Justin’s write up there is a big point about how even some poorly sold show can break even in the long run, and that’s really at play here. To that end, some numbers I read suggests that for the typical late-night anime we’re looking about maybe 10-15% additional Oricon-recorded sell-through until it gets lost in the noise. So the 3000 or 2900 figure for the Manabi line is ballpark enough.

Second, it is quite hard to judge, even for 2ch types in general. That kind of accounting is just off limits to outsiders. And it would be expected that different productions break even at different points, even if they may be within the proverbial ball park. So given that I am not the 2ch type, I am not going to make a guess here. Or rather, should you?

Man, she really is a problem child.

So when it comes down to it, it’s not extremely difficult to break even. I think that is the whole point behind late night TV anime. There are a lot of juicy stuff that supports this in detail that is left out of Justin’s first part write-up, so maybe one of these days we can talk about it. For now, please just don’t get the wrong idea about something something BD/DVD sales something profit. It is not so simple.

I know I know I just linked to a simple ranking where BD/DVD sales something something …wait, just what does it mean? It’s kind of a trick question isn’t it? Significance, I think, is the metric. Which may not be the same thing as profitable or success. Something to think about.

I’ll leave you with one more thing to think about: Manabi Straight is getting a Blu-ray box. It joins the rest of the cast of digitally-created anime from before Macross Frontier. I mean, most shows break even is a pretty safe bet I’d say.

8 Responses to “You Were So Close, Justin!”

  • dm00

    Ah, now I see what you mean when you said you thought his graphics were misleading.

    I think it’s a bit of a mistake to put your emphasis on “why did no one buy Kaiba?” if you’re going to argue that “DVD sales aren’t the be-all end-all of the matter, anime is made to do lots of things…”

    Which is true, but, which of those other things did Kaiba do? It’s not a promotional vehicle for a manga or novel (nor toys nor pizza vendors). Is there something else (soundtrack CDs, promotion for the OP singer)? Do you think there will be more series that might be said to be “like Kaiba” as a result of the over-all success of it?

  • omo

    I think it’s not a mistake. If I made a mistake, it was that I asked or framed the leading question incorrectly. From your response I get the feeling that your answer to the Kaiba question is probably different than the one I have.

    For starters, the main point I’m trying to make is that you just don’t have enough information to make the points you’re trying to make in your comment.

  • Fencedude

    Honestly, I think its fairly obvious why Kaiba didn’t sell, and the fact that some people have to ask why it didn’t sell shows that they completely don’t get it at all.

    I cannot imagine anyone, at any point during the production of Kaiba, expecting it to be a hit. I’m sure they would have liked better sales (who doesn’t?), but Kaiba, while nauseatingly pretentious, was not pretentious at all about its pretentiousness.

    …or something.

    I couldn’t really handle Kaiba, or its partisans.

  • Fencedude

    Oh yeah, and while I know that that wasn’t the point of your post, it sorta felt like it got lost along the way (even though that, in and of itself, was the point).

    And I don’t have anything to add/comment on the bulk of your post anyway, so tangents it is!

  • ToastCrust

    On one hand, the whining and misinformation is pretty rough.

    On the other side though, I get the feeling most retailers/publishers don’t mind this misunderstanding.

    It also seems weird he suggests late night anime don’t bank on merchandise. I mean, clearly they aren’t structured like a Gundam or Shonen Jump primetime show, but you can’t honestly go on Hobby sites and not notice the great variety (but in only limited number) of derivative goods printed on everything from bookmarks to traveller mugs to underwear, right?

    I wonder if there are any states on how much of the cut the production committee gets from licensed goods like that. Particularly with the figure industry.

    Which reminds me, the whole difficulty of producing figures for anything other than anime. Perhaps the reason for that’s lurking in how manga or video games differ in the way they’re financed. I haven’t seen any clear cut post on the subject, regardless.

  • Fencedude

    I would really like to see an explanation for why its seems that you can have five different figure companies making figures for a given anime, while for almost any other medium (except some videogames, I guess), that sort of arrangement would be inconceivable.

  • ToastCrust

    Probably because there are enough instances of people buying *all* of X character’s things (not to mention multiples of each) that there’s really no compelling reason for the IP holder to acquiesce to a demand for an exclusive license.

    After all, there’s a number of cases where those products won’t actually be in competition, as a good chunk of the buyers will simply get both.

  • omo

    For the figures…well in some cases it’s really just people preying on late-night otaku fan base. I mean, you would only produce a figure if people would buy it, and it’s not like normal people pay $100 to buy fixed scale 7″ little plastic girls. So once a title is decided to be a “hit” then you will see a lot of figures for that title.

    In some cases it’s also a matter of the type of the figure. For example GSC or MF may make a nendo or figma of some character and decide to go ahead with a fixed-pose one if it sold well enough. It’s more about a product line for those type of figures since nobody else would make a Nendo or Figma or whatever.

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