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Understanding Anime DVD/BD Sales Data

The following FAQ is intended as a guide to understanding anime DVD/BD sales numbers, where they come from, what they do and don’t mean, how we predict and track them, and various pitfalls to avoid.

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Section 1, Why (or why not) video sales?

1.1 How important are DVD/BD sales?

It depends! Great disc sales can make a show, but low sales won’t necessarily break it. A detailed explanation of “how the business works” requires a lot more detail but for now it’s sufficient to know that DVD/BD purchases are only one revenue stream sharing the burden with potentially many others, such as:
– Mobile games/video games/visual novels
– International licensing
– Manga and novels
– Live events
– Figures and toys
– Character merchandise
– Music and drama CDs
– Rentals
– Ratings (advertising)
– Retailer collaborations (e.g. Famima, Lawson)
…and more. You even have situations where factors like government funding, the promotion of tourism, or cultural diplomacy matter.

I’m also sidestepping the byzantine world of revenue distribution among animation production committee members for the moment. Most anime is financed by multiple investors (for example, publishers, video distributors, music labels, figure and toy manufacturers, television stations, animation studios, etc), each of which may take differently-sized cuts of the various revenue streams. Video sales alone will not define “hit” or “flop” for every investor. If your only cut of the pie is figure sales, video sales are, at least directly, irrelevant to you. In Section 2, you’ll get more information on these production committees from Ultimatemegax.

What’s attractive about video disc sales is that we’re presumably here because we like to watch anime, and the video discs containing said anime are the most direct manifestation of the anime in purchasable form. It’s understandable the numbers interest us and it’s fairly obvious I’m no exception to that – but keep in mind their many, many limitations. For better or worse, video discs are simply not the primary way that most of fandom commercially expresses its interest in a franchise.

This is especially true with the meteoric rise of mobile gaming. The mobage market encompasses much more than just games related to anime franchises of course, but many major games do have such a direct or indirect connection, including some of the largest games at the time on writing (2018-08 update, so Monster Strike, FGO, Magia Record, Pokemon GO, various idol franchises, Bandori, etc) and the overall market for mobage in Japan is many times larger than the entire late night anime video disc market. A particularly successful mobage can make more in a month than an entire run of BDs for a 1 cour show averaging 10k over the course of half a year.

1.2 What's the break-even point for anime?

There is no such thing as a single break-even point. If the implication of 1.1 is that disc sales are of unequal importance from one show to the next, it follows that shows can’t all have the same break-even point.

Budgets also vary. Animation is not the only cost. You would expect a Hollywood blockbuster or “AAA” game release to set much higher sales targets than independent or niche films or games. Anime is no different – the marketing budget alone for Shingeki or Madoka likely dwarfs the entire production cost of shorts like Teekyuu or Morita-san.

There is also no assumption that video sales alone will recoup the entire budget. This is not remotely true for the vast majority of series. Even 10k sellers may well not recoup all costs through video sales. This makes the concept of “break even” problematic.

  1.2.1 What about the Manabi Line?
  The Manabi Line is a reference to the sales (2,899 vol. 1 / 2,319 average) of Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight, a 2007 series by ufotable. It’s gained notoriety as a “break-even” line, but is outdated and overly broad and unproven. It only continues to exist due to inertia – I even used to mention it in my old vol. 1 posts many years ago. While all “lines” are just arbitrarily selected numbers and 2,899 is equally as arbitrary as 3,000 or 10,000, the “break-even” baggage of the Manabi Line suggests that a rounder number may be less misleading.

1.3 Where does the sales data come from?

Every number you see here or anywhere that reports anime sales is compiled and published by Oricon Inc (株式会社オリコン). They’re the definitive source, but by no means perfect, as we’ll discuss later. There used to be an alternative called Soundscan, but it’s no longer around in any form that matters to us, and was always of very limited usefulness.

1.4 Where do the pre-release sales predictions come from?

Just as sales reports are dominated by Oricon, pre-release sales predictions are dominated by Amazon Ranking Stalker. The idea behind Stalker is simple: assign “points” to every anime DVD or BD registered on Amazon Japan, every day, dependent primarily upon its sales ranking, with some modifiers for video format, price, and Nico Nico Douga marketplace preorders.

Edit 2018-08: Sadly, Stalker is dead now, so there is no longer a great way of tracking performance before release. There is a limited Chinese replacement of sorts, but the algorithm is different and it being in Chinese means it’s a lot less accessible, at least to people like me who would need Japanese or English.

1.5 Why all the focus on Amazon Japan?

Because they’re the biggest internet retailer in the world, they have the widest selection of anime, and they publish the most comprehensive and frequently updated sales rankings. If a show is ranking incredibly well or dismally badly at Amazon, it is likely the official sales totals will bear that out, broadly speaking. They are not the only retailer that matters but circumstances make them the most useful and most readily usable.

Section 2, Production Committees

Edit 2017-05-02: For a more recent article by Ultimatemegax on production commmittees, see this post on Sakuga Blog: https://blog.sakugabooru.com/2017/05/02/what-is-an-animes-production-committee/
Introduction (by Ultimatemegax)

Greetings and welcome to the production committee portion of the Anime Sales FAQ. This section will detail about the mysterious beings known as anime production committees and give a little insight as to how sales relate to different series. As something started off with in the very first question “How does disc sales relate to success for an anime?” Production committees let us know how important those sales are to the production as a whole. I’ll start by answering the 5Ws and 1 H about them.

2.1 What is a production committee?

A production committee is a group of companies that have pooled financial resources together to produce an animated show. The way these committees are formed are through producers. For example, if the Dengeki Bunko light novel division of Ascii Media Works (a Kadokawa Group company) wants to make an anime adaptation of one of their light novels, a producer that’s experienced in anime production will contact their colleagues mentioning “we’re planning to adapt this novel into anime form” and solicit feedback from other companies. They’ll decide on the form of the committee and then determine main staff/animation studio (if not part of the committee) once everyone is on board. The committee is ranked based off of financial input into the production; higher ranks=higher financial interests.

2.2 Why are production committees important? / When did they start?

In the early 2000s, anime started to shift from the film/OVA/TV station produced format to the committee format as TV stations began to produce their own live-action shows instead of anime. This meant that the financial brunt of the show was from these companies instead of on the TV stations. Instead of shows recouping costs by advertising money, the shows began advertising for other goods (novels, video discs, manga, music, merchandise, etc). This led to fandoms checking out numbers as best they could for any way to see how shows performed (and thus these threads). Revenue from video disc sales go to the distributor and then back to the committee to help offset these costs of productions.

2.3 Who is involved in production committees?

You’ll see a variety of companies in different committees. Publishers tend to either lead the committee (if they have a video distributing arm like Kadokawa/Media Factory) or place second to a video distributor. As mentioned, the video distributor tends to be highest on the list as they get the most income from video disc sales, but this isn’t always the case. Often you may see a TV station listed at the top like Fuji Television, TV Tokyo, NTV, or TBS. Music companies like Flying Dog, Lantis, and avex are also listed here. Finally you may see some advertising companies like Dentsu or Soutsu listed. Other companies also include video game manufactures, towns, and there’s even a theatre listed in one in 2013!

  2.3.1 Are animation studios involved in production committees?
  Studios have been parts of committees. In fact we had 4 studios in 2013 lead their respective committees (KyoAni, Sunrise, Toei, and Gonzo). If a studio isn’t part of the committee, they’re just contracted to do the animation work and get paid from that (I imagine they could get royalty payments if the show is exceptionally successful, but I can’t say for sure).

  As for how they’re selected, that’s part of the pre-production process where the producers use their connections at the respective studios to see who would have time or who they want to use. For example, Genco has TONS of works that’s been animated by JC Staff, so they tend to put a lot of works there, but it’s not always the case as they gave SAO to Aniplex/A-1 Pictures. If the studio wants to invest in the show, this is where that decision is made and they put a producer on the team as well.

2.4 How can I tell who’s involved in a show’s production committee? / Where are they found?

The simplest ones tell you in the opening/ending credits. At the final moments of those credits, you’ll see “製作” (Production). This is where your committee is listed. Nice shows list the members, but some hide them under a name. For those shows, we look at who’s listed as producers and start from there in order. (ie. Pony Canyon’s producer would be listed first if they were the top company for that show’s committee). It takes time and some producers are hard to identify.

I’ve made a long spreadsheet detailing who’s involved in the anime we track on this forum. Sheet 1 is a simple “Here’s your committee by show” while Sheet 2 breaks down the shows each company was involved in.
2013 Anime Production Committees Spreadsheet

2.5 How are sequels determined?

There are many factors that go into deciding if a show will get a sequel. These relate to the original intention of the show. For example, if Kadokawa makes a series to promote a light novel title, and they feel there’s still room for growth of the novels, a sequel can be greenlit. If the editorial board of the label feel the title has reached its peak and no additional seasons would raise enough additional sales of the novels, there’s no reason to greenlight another season in favor of another title that would see growth of its sales. Aniplex and King Records are in charge of promoting their disc sales first and foremost, so titles led by them depend more on those than associated print material.

However, anime itself is not always merely a promotion. As noted in the spreadsheet, there are several series with a TV station at its helm. If they make an original show (or mostly original), then there may be additional seasons if ratings are high enough to justify the costs (eg. Log Horizon and Phi Brain being funded by NHK or Gatchaman Crowds from NTV). Thus the answer to “Is (blank) able to get a second season?” is nearly always “look at the committee and see if the first couple of companies got their investment back and see stabilization or growth possible with a second season.”

2013 Anime Production Committees Spreadsheet
New 2017-05-02: 2017 Anime Production Committees Spreadsheet

Section 3, Sales and Prediction Data Sources

3.1 Oricon Inc

The following Oricon publications are relevant to our discussions:
Tuesday: Top 50 all-genre DVD, Top 30 animation-only DVD, Top 20 all-genre BD, Top 10 animation-only BD
Thursday: Top 100 all-genre DVD, Top 100 all-genre BD (Note: as of mid 2018, we no longer get these in a reliable manner. They tend to be multiple weeks behind, and with a few holes.)
Monthly: Top 50 all-genre DVD, Top 50 all-genre BD
Yearly: Mid-year YTD rankings, Full-year annual rankings (various thresholds)

The following describes the changes in ranking coverage over the years. The first number is the threshold after which Oricon stops counting sales towards the total. The latter is the threshold after which we don’t have access to the data:
DVD Weekly Ranking
– 2002/10/07: Top 100
– 2003/07/07: Top 300 / 100
BD Weekly Ranking
– 2008/07/07: Top 50 / 30
– 2011/03/14: Top 100 / 50
– 2012/12/24: Top 200 / 100

The list of retailers Oricon receives data from can be found here: http://www.oricon.co.jp/rank/about/

When posting the sales data, the following format is used:

Anime Rank,All Rank,Last Rank,Week Sales,Total Sales,#Wks,Title
2,3,,”15,596″,”15,596″,1,”Uma Musume: Pretty Derby v1
7,11,2,”2,991″,”32,847″,2,”Kidou Senshi Gundam The Origin v6″
From left to right, the numbers are:
– Ranking in Tuesday animation-only list
– Ranking in Tuesday or Thursday all-genre list
– Ranking in last week’s all-genre list, if applicable
– Sales this week
– Cumulative sales to date
– Number of weeks ranked
– Title of release

  3.1.1 Oricon’s Pros
  - Industry leader, trustworthy, timely, a long (enough) history (back to 2000), and above all available.
  - The most level playing field we can get. Relying on distributor numbers would be highly problematic, as they rarely report sales and often do so imprecisely and without much context. With Oricon, a third party is reporting sales direct from retailers. While distributor numbers are what truly matter, they aren’t consistent.

  3.1.2 Oricon’s Cons
  - Not everything is reported. As seen in 3.1, if a disc ranks outside the first threshold it’s never counted, outside the second threshold we don’t (directly) see it.
  - Thresholds can be high enough to prevent low sellers from ranking at all, or ranking past the first week.
  - Due to the above (and other factors), sales reporting is heavily front-loaded, with very few discs ranking beyond their first 2 weeks.
  - Because coverage methods and video formats have changed over time, comparing sales of recent series to those from even 5 years ago is difficult.
  - While they cover many retailers, by no means do they cover all. KyoAni Shop, for example, does not report sales to Oricon.
  - There can be very large gaps between what Oricon reports and what distributors report. See this post for examples.

  3.1.3 Oricon’s Biases
  - Because Oricon reports on a finite number of releases each week, the best way to make the rankings is to have sales compressed in the first 1-2 weeks. This ensures you make the rankings at least once. This is exactly how late night anime operates, which is why Oricon works so well for our purposes.
  - This does mean that Oricon is less useful for “slow burn” series that accumulate sales over a long period. Kids’ shows, for example, are less likely to rack up large preorder sales. Their sales would presumably come over a longer period of time in smaller doses, usually falling short of Oricon thresholds, and therefore not being reported. Particularly as many are DVD only, where thresholds are higher.
  - Shows with a broader mainstream appeal can also be underrepresented on Oricon. Nodame Cantabile might be an extreme example but during an interview a producer for noitaminA stated that over time, Nodame Cantabile has actually sold three times what has been reported through Oricon (or through 2ch as he puts it). For a series that has gone on for three seasons over a period of years, airs on the more mainstream noitaminA block, plays out like a soap opera, and has a successful live action adaptation, this seems believable.
  - Another example given in the same interview is noitaminA show Hakaba Kitarou, which saw a bump in orders after the original mangaka’s wife published the autobiography “Hakaba no Nyoubou”.
  - This situation would apply to few of the anime we report on here but should be understood anyway.
  - Oricon does not count international orders! See this post for more details. It’s unknown when they stopped counting international orders, but it was some time before June 2014.

3.2 Amazon Japan

Hourly, Amazon Japan publishes ranking information for nearly every item on their site, including every anime DVD and BD. There are both “all DVD/BD” rankings and category rankings, such as anime-specific. For the purposes of anime sales predictions, the “all” rankings should always be used. Amazon also publishes continually updated monthly and yearly rankings.

  3.2.1 Amazon’s Pros
  - Huge retail market share, comprehensive listings, readily extractable data, frequent updates.
  - Thousands of non-anime releases compete for rankings, which helps mitigate systematic bias. I.e. if the whole anime market is slowing, this shift will not be reflected in the rankings of an anime-only retailer as there’s no control group to measure against.

  3.2.2 Amazon’s Cons
  - Ranking methodology is complex and not fully understood. Pure unit sales count is not the only consideration (price matters, for example).
  - Despite their size, they are only one retailer, and if their share of the market for a release is unrepresentative, predictions using them will be either high or low.

Section 4, Amazon Ranking Stalker

Amazon Ranking Stalker is dead, this section left for historical purposes.
4.1 What is Stalker?

Amazon Ranking Stalker, normally referred to simply as Stalker, is a fan-run sales prediction site. It has no relationship with Amazon or the home video industry and has no access to data other than that which is available publicly. It’s run by some person or persons with an interest in predicting sales and some simple but clever algorithms for converting Amazon ranking into sales predictions.

  4.1.1 Stalker’s Pros
  - Tracks and databases enormous amounts of data – virtually every anime DVD and BD from about 2010 onward, with rankings updated every hour. It is first and foremost a data collection tool. Without data collection, data analysis cannot occur, let alone predictions. This is far and away the single most important service Stalker provides.
  - Freely available on the web, reliable uptime, and at least to the trained eye, reasonably simple navigation.
  - Makes a best effort to track rankings at stores other than Amazon as well: Animate, HMV, Rakuten, Gamers, and Softmap. These rankings do not factor into its estimates, for various reasons.
  - Very successful at predicting sales with at least ballpark accuracy for most releases. If Stalker has a title predicted at 20,000 you can be all but certain it will be a major hit regardless of the exact number. Likewise, a title predicted at 200 is going to sell horribly.
  - Most of the time the final release day estimate will get you within ±30%, and the exceptions are usually easy to predict ahead of time once you know the market well enough.

  4.1.2 Stalker’s Cons
  - The final estimate is susceptible to wild, clearly nonsensical swings when a title has recently plunged or soared in rank.
  - The final estimate is overly simplistic, and conflates two very different concepts (long term prediction, and short term trends) into one number. These functions should be split out for clarity and precision.
  - Titles selling disproportionately well or poorly outside of Amazon may be heavily under or overestimated, respectively.
  - Extracting data for more than one release at a time for analysis is difficult. Navigation options in general could be more sophisticated, ideally.
  - To new users, the vast array of numbers and dates can be very confusing. This leads to seeking easy answers, which leads to the final estimate statistic, which leads to a lot of misinformation if not given proper context. This ends up being the greatest drawback to Stalker – not so much its own performance, really, but the lack of understanding in the fandom generally about how to interpret it.

  4.1.3 What exactly is Stalker trying to predict?
  - Stalker predicts first week sales as we will see them reported by Oricon.
  - Because Stalker predicts Oricon, it is not predicting Amazon sales only. It is instead trying to predict overall sales, using an assumption about how large Amazon’s market share is for the average release.
  - Stalker does not predict the total sales of a release because the preorders Stalker tracks are reported in the first week, and Stalker does not award points after release day. Anything and everything that happens after the first week of sales are announced has no connection to Stalker’s estimates whatsoever.

  4.1.4 What causes Stalker to get it wrong?
  - The point about over- and underestimations warrants additional comment. Stalker’s accuracy is almost wholly dependent on Amazon being representative. What happens when this isn’t the case?
  - I’ll explain these more later, but Stalker doesn’t ignore this entirely. It applies three corrections: 1. DVDs get modestly increased estimates per rank, 2. expensive items like boxsets get massively decreased estimates, and 3. items with a lot of Niconico Marketplace preorders at Amazon get a very small decrease to their estimates. The assumption is that releases meeting these criteria tend to rank higher or lower at Amazon than the average release.
  - What Stalker can’t do is account for series-specific consumer retailer biases. Unlike price points, affiliate link clickthroughs and disc formats, this is not something you can extract from a product listing or API. DVDs get more points per rank than BDs, yes, but the correction is identical across all releases. There’s no (obvious) way to factor in a show’s audience preferring to buy in person from a physical store, or for Gamers and HMV getting a coveted exclusive bonus that Amazon doesn’t (or, rarely, the reverse), but those can significantly skew the predictions. Examples of the “storefront effect”
    - Titles with a female target audience that prefers shopping at stores like Animate (all first week sales below)
      - Free! Vol. 1 predicted at 15,131 but sells 25,726 (70% higher)
      - UtaPri s2 Vol. 1 predicted at 27,016 but sells 54,460 (101% higher)
      - Arcana Famiglia Vol. 1 predicted at 1,083 but sells 3,462 (220% higher)
    - Titles that had extras not available at Amazon (also true of many category one shows as well)
      - Chuunibyou Vol. 1 predicted at 10,185 but sells 14,458 (42% higher)
      - Yuyushiki Vol. 1 predicted at 1,333 but sells 2,230 (67% higher)
      - Love Live Vol. 1 predicted at 10,601 but sells 18,429 (78% higher) Examples of the reverse
    - Titles that sell more (or at least rank more highly) at Amazon than other stores are less common, but here are some examples
      - Shingeki Vol. 1 predicted at 77,445 but sells 56,793 (27% lower)
      - Eureka AO Vol. 1 predicted at 6,292 but sells 4,138 (34% lower)
      - Tari Tari Vol. 1 predicted at 14,298 but sells 7,758 (46% lower)
    - Over-estimations used to be much more common, but I’m only taking examples from 2012-2013, and Stalker is much more likely to underestimate than overestimate in the past two years. Even Shingeki switched to being underestimated by the third volume.

  4.1.5 Points to consider when watching the rankings
  - Include DVDs. Often we just look at the raw rankings where BDs dominate. You can get away with ignoring DVDs much of the time, but if a series is roughly split in both formats, your perspective skews. A title ranking both DVD and BD around 200 will likely crush a title ranking BD at 100 with insignificant DVD sales. Kuroko no Basuke is a very good, if extreme, example.
  - Include multiple versions. Usually an RE is not worth a moment’s thought, but sometimes the LE is an extra special edition and the “RE” is like a more standard limited edition. HenNeko is a recent example, and for major films this is quite common. Amazon-exclusive versions also sometimes split rankings with regular editions enough that it matters to the prediction, for example Tamayura ~more aggressive~ or Date A Live.
  - Consider the overall ranking number, not just the position among anime. Rank in the animation category only is meaningless, so if the show topping Stalker’s seasonal Vol. 1 chart right now is ranked 150, that’s a very different situation than if five titles are battling in the top 50.
  - Glance at the non-Amazon lists from time to time (see the last section of this post). The other retailers are smaller and provide much less information than Amazon, so drawing firm conclusions is hard. But if you see a title doing “okay” at Amazon and amazingly at HMV or Animate, take note.

4.2 The data points - important details

In this section I’ll go over the most important and/or most confusing data points on Stalker and what they mean.

  4.2.1 最新累積ポイント = accumulated Stalker points to date since solicitation
  - Every day, Stalker looks at a release’s performance in the last 24 hours, and assigns a point value that is intended to estimate the number of sales a typical release would make in one day at that ranking position.
  - Stalker also applies a small hourly adjustment to the daily number, based on whether the title is trending up or down.
  - Since this is a cumulative data point, it starts at zero and increases from there. At any given point during release, this should not be mistaken for a final sales estimate.
  - Because we do not know the actual sales by day at Amazon or anywhere else, the values are calculated backwards from looking at Amazon performance, comparing to Oricon totals, and doing this for a sufficiently massive data set to draw conclusions. The exact math would be beyond me.
  - The exact points awarded vary by type of release.
    - DVDs get the most points for a given rank, under the assumption that Amazon is less representative of the DVD market (at least for anime) than they are for BD, so a DVD ranking high means comparatively more sales.
    - BDs get the second most points for a given rank, with a current cap of 2,400 in a day for ranking #1. I don’t know the point cap for DVD as I can’t remember the last time an anime DVD ranked #1.
    - High Price items over ~¥10,000 MSRP receive a heavy penalty, accumulating only about 1/3rd as many points for a given rank as DVDs or BDs. This is due to one or both of the following: boxed sets may be disproportionately ordered through Amazon (because Amazon’s higher discounts get more attractive as MSRP rises) and/or Amazon factors item price into their hourly rankings, meaning an expensive item like the Gurren Lagann BD Box can rank more highly than other items that may move more units in absolute terms.
  - It bears repeating: these are estimates, they are not official sales numbers. Nothing on Stalker is, or is intended to be, official.

  4.2.2 最終予測累積ポイント = prediction of final points on release day
  - This number is calculated as follows: (avg points per day over past 7 days) * (number of days until release). Predictions start about a week after release – simple as that. Weaknesses of the final prediction
    - This simplicity results in two significant weaknesses:
      - First, titles that are strong enough to rank top 5 every day their first week will start with truly outrageous estimates. Monogatari Second Season Vol. 7 (Onimonogatari Part 1) had an initial prediction was well over 320,000. For a show whose first volume sold 35,304 opening week, meaning the estimate was probably 1000% high. The same weakness holds on smaller scales as well. Strike the Blood Vol. 1 had an initial estimate of ~10k, but it was a very late solicitation with a pre-existing novel fanbase and therefore orders were heavily concentrated in the period right after solicitation. Within another week the estimate was slashed in half and the title was ranking below #300.
      - Second, the estimate is influenced to an unrealistic degree by sudden swings in ranking.
    - It’s worth noting that the shortcomings of the final estimate affect a minority of releases, and are usually temporary. The main problem therefore is perception – unless you already know the gist of what I’ve said here, you’re likely to draw very wrong conclusions from the prediction. And when things change back just as suddenly, that shakes confidence in Stalker’s overall performance. I’ve seen this play out time and time again in discussions online. While a minority of releases are affected, they are exactly the releases that get the most casual attention – major hits, and titles undergoing sudden shifts, particularly in the first half of the season. Potential adjustments to mitigate the issues
      - These proposals that could mitigate the issues:
      - First, postpone publishing the initial estimates until much later (perhaps a 3-4 weeks after release), which would give new solicitations like Onimonogatari or Strike the Blood more time to settle down and decrease the initial shock estimates. After just 15 days, Strike the Blood was at a more realistic 4,248. Onimonogatari shed over 180,000 from its initial estimate by day 16, down to a still high but less outrageous 140,000, which will be closer to 50,000 within a few more weeks.
      - Second, calculate the final estimate using a longer period of time, such as 3-4 weeks again. This will greatly smooth out the effect of temporary distortions such as the announcement of an event ticket/coveted bonus item or a particularly well-received episode.
      - Third, while smoothing out shifts in ranking is desirable, we still want to retain the ability to visualize sharp shifts in ranking. That function should not be part of a final estimate, it should be split into another number. There are many ways to do this (Stalker’s ranking graphs already serve this purpose to an extent), like quantifying the shift as a percentage increase, or using a “hot/cold” indicator, and so on.
    - Whether Stalker will do any of these, I have no idea. I include them here as a way of clarifying the issues. In the end, by far the easiest adjustment is one you can perform yourself: pay very little heed to the final estimates until a few weeks before release, or at least take them with a very large grain of salt.

  4.2.3 ニコ予約 = niconico marketplace preorders
  - The number of preorders made at Amazon via Nico Nico Douga Marketplace affiliate links.
  - This is a curious statistic with very little direct correlation to actual sales. What it’s actually used for is to potentially identify titles with an Amazon bias.
  - In terms of the sales prediction, this statistic is used to apply a 3 point penalty per NND preorder. The assumption is that titles with a lot of NND preorders are often titles streaming on NND, therefore sales make be skewed by viewers buying at the Amazon affiliate links rather than at other stores.
  - I am not aware of anyone checking into the usefulness of this calculation in any systematic way. I’ve poked at it a bit but it seems to help and hurt predictions equally. But it rarely has a very significant impact on estimates.

  4.2.4 平均順位 – median hourly ranking
  - The median is the middle number in a set of numbers if you were to line them all up in order.
  - Rather than using averages, which are skewed by extremes, medians provide a better measure of how the release is doing typically.
  - Considering many releases rank very poorly right after solicitation, early ranks in the thousands or tens of thousands would linger in an average for much longer than they would in a median, which would purge them quickly as better hourly rankings accumulate.

4.3 The data points - page by page overview

In this section I’ll list out all the data points on pages that are relevant to our DVD/BD sales discussions. Note these aren’t intended to be literal translations in all cases, just descriptions of what they mean.

  4.3.1 Amazon Anime DVD/BD Data Page (アニメDVD/BDデータページ)
  - Top: Three search options, タイトル絞込 (free text search), 日付絞込 (date search), and ASIN検索 (Amazon ID number search)
  - Middle: Two sections listing releases at 100 per page, 更新中データ(#件) (upcoming releases), and 更新停止データ(#件) (past releases)
  - Bottom: If you select past releases, the table here just shows release date and release name. If you select future releases, you’ll see the following:
    - 最新順位 = latest hourly ranking on Amazon Japan
    - 累積pt = accumulated Stalker points to date since solicitation
    - ニコ予約 = niconico marketplace preorders
    - 発売日 = release date
    - タイトル = product listing name on Amazon Japan

  4.3.2 Amazon Anime DVD/BD Top 100 and Vol. 1 Page (注目作品と速報)
  - Top: A listing of all anime (plus western animation and some seiyuu/anime concerts/live events) currently ranking in the Top 100 among all DVDs and BDs on Amazon, in all categories.
    - 更新時間 = Above the table, latest date and time the list was updated
    - 最新/前回 = current hourly ranking / previous hourly ranking on Amazon Japan
    - 種別 = video format; ★ for BD, ○ for DVD, ◎ for a high priced item like a box set
    - 累積pt = accumulated Stalker points to date since solicitation
    - ニコ予約 = niconico marketplace preorders
    - 発売日 = release date
    - タイトル = product listing name on Amazon Japan
  - Bottom: A listing of all solicited but not yet released Vol. 1s, with one table per season with a qualifying release.
    - 更新時間 = Above the table, latest date and time the list was updated
    - 最新順位/前回順位 = current hourly ranking / previous hourly ranking on Amazon Japan
    - The rest of the table uses the same column names as the top table

  4.3.3 Individual Release Details (Non Non Biyori Vol. 1 BD for an example)
  - Top: Summary information from Amazon about the release:
    - 発売日 = release date
    - 定価 = MSRP in yen
    - 販売価格 = current price in yen with discounts
    - 中古価格 = used price, if applicable
    - 販売元 = video distribution company
    - 収録時間 = run time
    - 枚数 = number of discs
    - 商品リンク = link to the product page on Amazon
    - データ取得日時 = last date and time of data update
  - Bottom: Further details, broken into 4 tabs
    1. 最新情報まとめ = Summary of latest information, including:
      - 発売日 = release date
      - 登録日 = date solicited on Amazon
      - 最新順位 = current hourly ranking
      - 最高順位 = best ever hourly ranking
      - 最低順位 = worst ever hourly ranking
      - 平均順位 = median hourly ranking
      - ニコ市場予約数 = niconico marketplace preorders
      - 最新累積ポイント = accumulated Stalker points to date since solicitation
      - 最終予測累積ポイント = prediction of final points on release day
    2. ランキング推移データ = Hourly ranking data
      - #日前 (CSV) = ranking period, and an option to render the data table in CSV-friendly format. This sets the threshold for the X-axis of the graph.
      - グラフの最低順位を設定する = ranking threshold to show. This sets the threshold for the Y axis of the graph. 下限無し will set the lower bound at whatever the release’s worst rank has been.
      - Ranking data table on left side below X/Y selections, updated hourly. 【2013年 11月 06日 06時(水)】 ***,*58位 means on November 6, 2013, at 6AM JST, this release ranked #58
      - Ranking graph on right side, top, updated hourly. Line graph of the ranking based on the X/Y selections made.
      - Ranking graph on right side, bottom, updated hourly. Line graph plotting up to four weeks back, each week a different line, allowing visualization of short term trends, like sales rising heavily one week compared to the next.
    3. 累積ポイント推移データ = Daily accumulated point data
      - Point data table on left side, updated daily with cumulative point total. 【2013年 11月 06日(水)】 **1,425 means that on November 6, 2013, this release reached 1,425 points to date.
      - Point graph on right side, updated daily. Line graph of the point accumulation seen in the table.
    4. ニコニコ市場予約推移データ = Daily accumulated Amazon Japan preorders made through Nico Nico Douga Marketplace links.
      - Preorder data table on left side, updated daily with cumulative preorder total. 【2013年 11月 06日(水)】 *,*37(+3) means that on November 6, 2013, this release added 3 marketplace preorders for 37 total.
      - Preorder graph on right side, updated daily. Line graph of the preorder accumulation seen in the table.

4.4 Rankings for non-Amazon retailers

  4.4.1 Animate Top 10 (animate10位)
  - Top: Links to previous rankings, with links to each day and then to each month.
  - Bottom: Current Top 10 ranking with ranking number and product title, updated daily.
  - It’s not entirely clear, but it’s believed this is the ranking at their web store.
  - Also keep in mind the cumulative monthly rankings: http://www.animate-onlineshop.jp/ranking/detail.php?i=2&s=3&r=0
  - Animate is very important for titles aimed at female otaku; shows doing very well here (e.g. KuroBas, Free!, Utapri, Hetalia) can sell 50-300% more than Stalker predicts, because Animate controls a significant portion of that market share.

  4.4.2 HMV Daily Top 100 (HMV最新100位) and Weekly Top 100 (HMV週間100位)
  - Top: Links to previous rankings, with links to each day and then to each month.
  - Bottom: Current Top 100 ranking with ranking number and product title, updated daily or weekly, depending on the list.
  - Likely second-most used list after Animate. HMV is less focused on a specific demographic than Animate but it’s also much smaller than Amazon so ranking top 100 in anime on HMV is not remotely as valuable as ranking top 100 in all releases on Amazon.
  - Shows dominating Amazon tend to be the same ones near the top at HMV, though HMV store exclusives can change that.

  4.4.3 Gamers Top 10 (gamers10位)
  - Top: Links to previous rankings, with links to each day and then to each month.
  - Bottom: Current Top 10 ranking with ranking number and product title, updated daily.
  - Much smaller than Amazon but a release dominating here can be a strong sign that sales will be storefront biased (e.g. Symphogear and Little Busters recently)

  4.4.4 Softmap Top 10 (softmap10位)
  - Top: Links to previous rankings, with links to each day and then to each month.
  - Bottom: Current Top 10 ranking with ranking number and product title, updated daily.
  - Similar to Gamers, it can be an indicator of storefront bias but the ranking is not cited often.

Section 5, Miscellaneous Questions

5.1 A show shot up in the rankings, why?

While it’s possible a jump in the rankings reflects very positive feedback on an episode, a number of other things could have happened instead. The most common example is some bonus has been announced, like an art box, event ticket, figure, disc-only bonus episode, etc. Preorder trolling is another possibility, albeit uncommon. Never draw a conclusion from a single data point – always stop and take a moment to find out what the context is first. And remember that a release can fall as quickly as it jumps.

5.2 What are event tickets?

Many anime hold real life events that fans can attend to meet the staff and/or cast of the series, or to engage with other fans who also love the show. These events take many forms, from simple meet-and-greets, to staged games and interactions among the seiyuu, to full blown concerts. The nature of the event is often at least as important as the show it’s for. Popular musicians and seiyuu create a bigger draw, as expected. The two biggest event tickets in 2013 by absolute size were both for extremely popular idol groups putting on full concerts: STARISH for Uta no Prince-sama Maji Love 2000% (largest boost ever) and μ’s for Love Live.

Event tickets are typically not physical tickets, but codes that can be used when purchasing a ticket to the event. Some events are only open to people with these codes, while others may allow general admission, but give increased odds to DVD/BD purchasers, particularly if interest is going to outstrip venue size.

Some events still require you to buy an actual ticket even if you buy the disc and get the code, so these can be very lucrative with the right event. Shows with a female target audience generally get bigger sales boosts from event tickets. This may [speculation warning] reflect proportionally greater interest in seiyuu than is normal among male audiences, but it’s hard to generalize.

5.3 First week/First volume sales weren't great, will it rise later?

Probably not. People often claim that a popular character or story arc later in the series will increase sales down the line, but the data does not support this. With very few exceptions (usually multi-route romance stories with self-contained arcs), the only way a volume outsells the volumes before it is if it contains a bonus item – not because the episodes are better-received. Boosts in interest from later episodes are already accounted for in the Vol. 1 numbers, because most people start buying from Vol. 1 even if they prefer the later episodes.

To put some data to it, for all series from 2010 to 2012 where we have the data points needed for calculation (n=243), only 12.7% (31) had average sales greater than their first volume sales. In most of these cases, Vol. 1 only ranked on one format (generally BD) while one or more later volumes ranked in both formats – if Vol. 1 had ranked on both, it would have beat the average. These shows also tend to be <3k sellers. In a few other cases (e.g. Mouretsu, Girlpan, Tiger & Bunny) Vol. 1 was understocked so it could not sell to full potential, while later volumes were better stocked and thus sold more. And in most of the rest of the cases, either some popular bonus item drove sales up in a later volume, or the average and Vol. 1 sales are extremely close due to consistent sales performance, making the difference negligible. In short, sales increasing in later volumes purely due to a more positive reception to those episodes - rather than bonuses or understocking or quirks of reporting thresholds - almost never happens.

5.4 What's with all the fujoshi anime?

First, “fujoshi” probably is not the word you mean. Fujoshi is not a catch-all term for all female otaku, despite how people use it. It refers to women who are into boys’ love/yaoi, so calling all shows aimed at women “fujoshi” anime is like calling all shows aimed at males yuri anime. Female otaku are as diverse a group as male otaku, and boys’ love is only one part of the broader female otaku fandom.

Terminology aside, it’s true that shows aimed at women seem to be on the rise in the past 4-5 years. In 2013 to date, two of the top four by average sales (Utapri, Free) specifically target female audiences while another (Shingeki) has a mixed-gender audience and only one (Monogatari) is thought of as being an overwhelmingly male audience. Most late night anime arguably targets male audiences still, but this imbalance may [speculation warning] be why shows for women seem to be on the rise. The fanbase exists and is willing to spend, but their choices are relatively limited, so their yen are concentrated in smaller spaces.

It’s also partly a matter of perception. Interest in sales tracking peaks with first volume sales, when event ticket effects gain outsized prominence. Shows aimed at women have stronger ticket boosts on average and thus place more highly in Vol. 1 rankings (see K, Brothers Conflict, Karneval, etc), even though their averages may drop later.

5.5 The source material sold so much more, why are anime sales so low?

First, cost. Anime is extremely expensive, usually in excess of ¥35,000 ($350 USD) for a one-cour series. Manga and novels on the other hand cost a fraction of that, and even video games and visual novels cost much less when you compare one or two games to six or seven BDs. Secondly, anime is usually an advertisement for those other goods. If you are a fan of the show, buying the BDs is never going to be the only option for satisfying your desires. Combine vast cost differences with the variety of options and buying DVDs and BDs is something only a small fraction of a franchise’s fans will even consider doing.

The one exception is when the DVD/BD is an OAD (episodes bundled with manga, novels, games). Often these will sell considerably more than the TV series’ volumes. But this is likely [speculation warning] due to the much larger consumer base of source material readers, who see OADs as a one-off extra cost, added to an item they were going to buy anyway. It’s a smaller commitment than a whole series, which they probably saw on TV already.

5.6 How have buying habits changed over time?

This could be an FAQ in itself, so I’m going to focus on a few significant points to consider when comparing sales of the past few years (2010-now) to earlier years. In addition to changes in buying behavior itself, changes in Oricon coverage (see section 3.1) exert great influence on our perception of how things sell. This is irrelevant to actual buying behavior, but it does restrict what we’re able to see of that behavior.

  5.6.1 Video formats and demographics
  - Shows aimed at kids are mostly DVD still, with a shift to BD in its infancy at best. Recent Precure series have received BD boxes along with the DVD singles for example. But it may be years before there is significant movement here.
  - Shows aimed at women were much slower to shift to BD, and DVD-only releases still happen occasionally (even as I write this in Fall 2013, Diabolik Lovers is getting a DVD-only release). But the move to BD has picked up speed recently, shrinking the gender gap in the process.
  - Shows aimed at men switched almost entirely to BD within a few years of the format’s introduction to anime, and now your average decent-selling show is doing 80% or more of its sales on BD. Some major hits like Kyoukaisenjou no Horizon, Love Live!, and Fate/Zero have eschewed DVD completely.

  5.6.2 Front-loaded sales
  - A large percentage – upwards of 90% – of sales in recent years come in the first week. Even with much lower thresholds than in the past, releases rarely rank for more than 1-3 weeks and the second and third weeks tend to be very small.
  - But in the past, it was more common for second weeks to be larger in proportion to the first week than now. There are 93 releases from 2005-2009 that sold less than 5k week one but over 1k week two, compared to 33 from 2010-2013. When you consider high thresholds and the difficultly of ranking twice in the pre-BD era, the pre-2010 number is likely quite a lot higher than 93 in reality.
  - This importance of big second weeks can have a large impact on recorded averages. Full Metal Panic, for example, has an LE DVD average of 3,312 in the first week, and 2,356 in the second week (3 volumes). This would be virtually unheard of today. It also means that some volumes without second weeks are recorded at 3-4k, but with a second week would have sold 5-6k. These volumes without second weeks drag the average down. Average of all LEs as recorded by Oricon is 3,901 while a wk1 average + wk2 average would calculate it as 5,668. FMP also has RE versions that ranked for three volumes, further complicating the picture. In the end, depending on how much you assume the averages of the REs and wk2s hold steady, you could calculate its average anywhere from 4,250 to 7,064.
  - In short, it is very hard to take a series from 2013 and a series from 2005 and meaningfully compare their sales. There are advantages and disadvantages for both series, depending on a variety of factors.

  5.6.3 Ranking threshold changes
  - In 2005, only 2 series had ranked averages under 1,000. In 2012 it was 16. This looks bad for 2012 until you realize that in addition to the two 2005 series ranked under 1,000, there were 7 more that never ranked formally but have estimates under 1,000 and 25 more that never ranked or got estimates at all. In 2012, only 5 series went completely unranked and three of those were short-format series.
  - 2012 also had a lot more anime in total than 2005 which means, percentage-wise, 2005 looks much worse in terms of low-end sales.
  - The take-away here is that both situations are heavily influenced by Oricon’s data collection scope and practices. 2012 had many more titles that sold less than 1,000 but still ranked because thresholds on the BD Top 50 list in 2012 were much lower than thresholds for the DVD Top 100 list in 2005. 2013 is amplifying this effect even more, with a BD Top 100 list driving thresholds as low as sub-200 some weeks. Many of the lowest-selling (but still ranked) Vol. 1s ever recorded are from this year because of it.

  5.6.4 DVD/BD format split, and coverage changes
  - Prior to mid-2008, all anime from the Oricon period was released on DVD only, with some lingering VHS at the start of the period around 2000.
  - This means that despite smaller numbers of releases, thresholds were quite high as every release was competing in the same chart with 100% of its sales.
  - From the first anime BD release tracked by Oricon (Macross Frontier Vol. 1 on July 25, 2008) to the first weekly BD list with actual sales data available to us (the week of July 20, 2009, release week for the first volume of K-ON!) all BDs that were released have no data disclosed unless they ranked in the Mid-Year and Yearly lists, which excluded anything under about 4.4k.
  - Because very few shows were released on BD before mid-2009, or sold very little on the format (not many buyers yet), we are not missing data on all that many series. But some were heavily affected. For example, ef – a tale of melodies is recorded as selling much less than its predecessor, but most of that’s because we have no idea how much it sold on BD. Only three series were released in their entirety on BD during this blackout period without charting on the yearly list: ef melodies, Kemeko Deluxe, and Casshern Sins.
  - As BD releases increased disproportionately quickly for anime compared to other media, the relatively low thresholds on the BD lists allowed titles that sold very little to rank much more frequently than in the past. It also took some pressure off the DVD lists, so thresholds fell there too, though they’re still somewhat higher than BD.
  - The downside of this is that while DVD is now a smaller percentage of sales, it is potentially still significant, around 20% of sales for late night shows aimed at males, higher for shows aimed at females or gender-neutral shows. If DVDs fail to rank at all (due to their shrinking share), a series’ average could suffer by 5-20% compared to if DVDs did rank.

5.7 Only/All (vaguely defined category) anime sells because (stereotype/generalization)!

If someone uses this sentence construction in a sales discussion, odds are they have never looked seriously at the data, if they even understand how to do so.

The most popular (and most ridiculous) statement you’ll see in English-speaking fan communities is “Only moe/fanservice anime sells because otaku have shitty taste.” These people generally either do not define what they mean by moe or fanservice, or define it so broadly that it describes almost any show. Sometimes people try to make the claim based on animation studio as well, equally incorrectly.

Anyone who says anything like this can be disregarded as both ignorant of the data and probably deeply biased. While there are obviously genres and studios that sell better than others on average (not every show can be equally popular), no genre, and no studio, is successful all the time, and no one category completely dominates the rankings.

As with any statistics, people will cherry-pick the headlines that support their biases and ignore the ones that don’t. We all do it to some extent, but this is why you should always return to the original data before making a claim. If you boil it down to its essence, that is why I track this data in the first place.

88 Responses to “Sales FAQ/Guide”

  1. Randy says:

    Hi! This will probably come across as a pointless question, but I have to ask: Why do we add all the sales of every volume format and edition when ranking TV anime? Does it really reflect a show’s true standing among fans than, say, ranking each set of editions by average separately or just taking the average of a show’s most prominent/successful edition and disregarding the rest?

    • something says:

      The goal is to find out how many discs were sold, regardless of how they’re split up. Because each individual buyer is going to buy one version of a disc in nearly all cases, the number of buyers and the number of discs sold across all editions is essentially the same. It’s definitely not normal for a single fan to buy both the BD *and* the DVD, or the LE *and* the RE. If anything, a buyer purchasing multiple copies will buy multiple copied of the same format and edition (usually to get more shots at an event ticket or something).

      Only counting one edition would also severely punish shows that have both DVDs and BDs selling in roughly equal numbers, and falsely inflate series that are much more popular in one format than another. If Show A sells 10,000 DVDs and 8,000 BDs, that’s in every way a better performance than Show B selling 1,000 DVDs and 12,000 BDs. But if we just took the best of each we’d say it’s 10k vs 12k, and the latter sold more. Even though it actually had about 5,000 less buyers.

  2. Randy says:

    Thanks for that. I’m just annoyed, really, that volume sales are “adulterated” by the fact that sales some editions of some shows will not be known and counted because they didn’t rank. I’ve been finding it pointless to add them all up knowing that not all shows can take advantage of all their sales.

    • something says:

      Well, put it this way: if a version sells so poorly that it doesn’t rank at all, especially these days with the extended rankings taking weekly thresholds very very low, it was doing super badly to begin with. Adding the missing ~100 or so DVDs Gatchaman Crowds insight probably sold doesn’t fundamentally change the fact that it’s barely a 1k show.

      This was more of a problem 7+ years ago, when thresholds were very high and a pretty significant number of discs could be lost to that and not even caught in the extended rankings list.

      But nowadays it’s something to be aware of but not to worry about very much. It will only have a very small impact on any show that isn’t already a significant flop.

      The bigger problem isn’t what parts of Oricon’s reports we miss, but what part of *actual sales* we miss. Oricon’s reports are incomplete, and real world numbers may be 20-100% higher than what we see reported. And more to the point, publishers get paid for what they ship not how many discs get sold to end users.

      Now obviously you don’t want shipments and sales to be wildly out of proportion. Even if returns are much less common in Japan than America, eventually if retailers aren’t selling what they’re ordering, they’ll start ordering less… and then your shipments go down. But for any given show shipment numbers dictate the revenue you earn.

      See this page for an example of the gap between Oricon reports and publisher shipment or sales claims.

  3. Randy says:

    Thank you. In any case, I’ve long accepted the fact that not every single sale will be documented in anime. The uptight completist tabulator in me will have to suffer for eternity.

  4. peter says:

    hi guys a little request for you. i would love if you guys could give a system or benchmark figure (of the amount of discs said anime has to sell to break even) of the anime on this list. i realise itt will be a massive ballache for you guys but i bet that is the reason that most people visit this site. just to see if their favourate anime made profit and therefore help confirm whether said anime will get a second season or not. its a little thing and the benchmark only needs to be a rough estimate so we get the idea of where things stand but a lot of people will deeply thank you including myself if you added this figure.

    • something says:

      Unfortunately it’s impossible to say what the break-even point for a show is.

      1. We don’t know a show’s budget.

      2. We don’t know what percentage of that budget was paid by each committee member.

      3. We don’t know much about sales outside of BDs and CDs and (if popular enough) manga/novels, so we’re missing most of the potential revenue streams. Almost no anime is ever expected to cover all production costs with BD sales alone, though really huge hits can do so.

      4. We don’t know how accurate Oricon’s reports are for any given show. They’re always lower than reality, but how much varies a lot; so even our BD numbers are faulty.

      There are as many break-even points as there are anime. Actually, there are as many break even points per anime as there are members of the production committee. If Aniplex is selling discs and Lantis is selling music, high BD sales and low CD sales only help one of the two. Aniplex may break even, Lantis may not.

      In short, we’re lacking nearly every piece of information we’d need to even ballpark break-even points. It’s just not something we’ll ever know.

    • Jim says:

      As our gracious host says, there’s no single, reliable “break-even” line, not even as a “rule of thumb” kind of thing. It’s totally going to depend on a show’s budget and how much was invested in it in the first place, plus other ancillary factors like merchandise sales (it’s just like the way one pro sports team can have a $100 million payroll and make a profit, while another in the same league can have a $50 million payroll and lose money). But it sounds like it’s sequel odds that you really want, so here’s a link to a blog that took a stab at estimating sequel likelihood percentages based on a combination of sales totals and elapsed time since the previous season aired. Warning: lots of math ahead. It’s also a couple of years old, so adding in the data from the last two years would probably revise the author’s curve somewhat.


  5. Michelangelo says:

    Out of curiosity, why do you publish/maintain this site? Do you work in the industry and need to analyze the data anyway? Or are you just a fan?

    • something says:

      Just a fan. If I worked in the industry in a capacity that required detailed sales analysis, I’d probably have much more accurate and complete data available than Oricon reports.

      I started tracking sales in 2009 when someone on an old (and now defunct) forum I used to post at started linking the weekly sales posts. I took over the thread fairly soon after and have been doing it every week since then, for, oh, I don’t know exactly but probably over 350 weeks in a row now.

      I was interested in the numbers in part because one of my pet peeves was the way fans would argue over the “popularity” (or lack thereof) of various shows without providing any sort of data to back up their arguments. Particularly when they’d rely entirely on their experiences in western, English-language communities and ignore or misconstrue reception of shows in their primary home market of Japan. I mean, there’s sales data available. Why not at least consider it as a more objective data point to guide discussion?

      I’m also drawn to DVD/BD sales over other forms of sales tracking for practical and personal reasons. The practical reason is that it’s the one product for which we get readily available sales data with reasonably low ranking thresholds. Manga thresholds are distressingly high for the amount of manga that gets released, so the quality of the data is overall much lower. Other forms of merchandise don’t report sales in any accessible way at all, or, like TV ratings, only inform how the absolute biggest shows are performing and are meaningless for the late night series most of us are interested in. The personal reason is that, for any given franchise, I am almost always most interested in the show itself. Much less so the various merchandise that comes out for it, or even the original source material (manga, novel, games, etc). And of all the products you can buy for a show, the DVD/BDs are the item that most directly represent those frames of animation that passed through your eyeballs each week.

      Of course it quickly became apparent, increasingly so over the years, that disc sales are just one slice of the overall pie. And that the success of a show involves measuring a multitude of factors (many of which we have no way to measure), particularly when you consider how investment in a show is distributed across multiple companies in a production committee. Likewise, discs have become increasingly less “pure” a reflection of the popularity of the video content on its disc as you consider the significant (and growing?) effects bundled physical extras and event ticket applications have.

      Even so, I still don’t think that fundamentally changes the appeal of disc sales for me. They’re still the most direct representation we have of the show itself (even if not the franchise as a whole), they’re still the product I value most highly in terms of personal ownership, and they’re still by far the product with the highest quality/most comprehensive data available (even if it’s far from perfect).

      And oddly enough, it seems like a lot of others are interested in this stuff too, so there’s always people open to learning more about it. I’m loathe to claim credit for anything significant, but I *do* think that this and other sales sites have at least slightly raised the level of understanding among anime fans about how things work. And in the process I’ve also learned more about how the industry works. I had never heard the term “production committee” in 2009, for example. So I guess there’s an ongoing social component to it too.

  6. Chad says:

    What about anime that are listed as selling 0 copies?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Apologies if this is the wrong place to ask, but does Oricon also track tv ratings for anime (behind a paywall)? I know it’s not as important a metric as BD sales but I’d still be interested, especially for anime where TV stations are on the production committee.

    • Ejc says:

      I’m not sure if Oricon Biz does, but Oricon Youtaiju definitely doesn’t

      • something says:

        Yeah far as I know Oricon doesn’t do TV ratings at all. Otherwise it’d definitely get leaked.

        • Anonymous says:

          Is there any place that does? I know ANN gets their top 10s from here http://www.videor.co.jp/ but not sure how detailed they are.

          Out of interest, is there any reason why TV ratings aren’t made public like in other countries? I know here its extremely easy to find tv ratings for every single show on FTA tv and most things on Paid TV as well. Entire websites for it as well as public Twitter feed that post live updates.

          • something says:

            I don’t know of any other good sources off the top of my head but I know that for late night stuff, DVR recording numbers are generally going to be more important than ratings. There’s a bit about that mentioned in this sakugablog post.

            Also no idea why the data is so hard to get.

  8. Davv says:

    I hope I didn’t overlook the answer somewhere, but why do first volume disc sales (from what I’ve been told) invariably outstrip the rest of the series? I realize that fans can’t necessarily afford to purchase an entire series, but, assuming that first volumes don’t necessarily have the best bonus materials or best episodes, why do they always seem to sell the best?

    • something says:

      It’s a combination of two simple things:
      1. Basically everyone starts buying at volume 1 and either buys all the rest or drops off later on.
      2. Vol 1 usually does have the best bonuses.

      But vol. 1 is not the highest 100% of the time. There are scenarios where it may not be, especially if Vol. 1 is very supply constrained, or if it doesn’t have the most important bonuses.

      I took a quick look at 1,392 shows that were at least 3 volumes long and calculated whether the highest-selling volume was v1 or some other volume. And in 18.6% (259) of cases, Vol. 1 actually was not the highest selling volume.

      But we need to break this number down a bit. Of the 259, we can remove 36 cases where v1 is only “less” because it did not rank at all whereas some other volume did. Presumably this is due to higher ranking thresholds for v1 (esp if v1 came out around Christmas) or other weirdness.

      That leaves 16.0% (223) of shows with some volume other than v1 as highest. Of those, 73 are cases where v1 is at least 95% of the sales of the highest-selling volume, so they’re not necessarily meaningful. It could simply be a matter of v1 ranking one less week, but overall it probably sold as much as or more than the other volumes.

      Now we have 10.8% (150) of shows where v1 is less than 95% of the highest selling volume’s sales. We could reduce this further by looking a lot closer at *why* v1 sold less, and that would likely remove a lot of low-sellers when we look at split formats and incomplete rankings. For example if v1 sells 700 BDs and DVDs don’t rank, but v3 sells 600 BDs and 200 DVDs, v3 will have a higher total – but it probably just got lucky with lower DVD thresholds, and in reality v1 still sold more.

      Interestingly, 17 of those 150 have a v1 and a max both over 10,000 discs, which rules out things like reporting threshold quirks. There’s a variety of reasons why this might happen though:

      • OVAs: SEED and SEED Destiny sold the most in their final volumes, which included unaired episodes.
      • Stock constraints: Girls und Panzer and Tiger & Bunny were severely understocked at first and their reports never caught up to the later, better-stocked volumes.
      • Event tickets: Love Live!’s second event ticket in v7 was more popular than the one in v1, and Free! -Eternal Summer- had a v2 event ticket rather than a v1 ticket.

      Still, most of these 17 had v1s with >85% of their highest volume’s sales, so the gap isn’t huge.

      All in all, v1s overwhelmingly are the highest because that’s where people start buying, and v1s tend to have the most/best bonuses. But sometimes that’s not the case, and a later volume can sell a little bit more – or maybe a lot more, in very rare cases.

      (Ayakashi is the extreme case: v1 only sold 5% as much as the final volume did. The structure of that show was three entirely self-contained stories unrelated to each other, and the third story, Bakeneko, was dramatically more popular than the other two. It was so popular it spawned its own series: Mononoke.)

      • Davv says:

        That was a great read – thanks very much. I’m curious about why buyers overwhelmingly start collecting at Vol1, since I myself prioritize volumes with the most attractive content. I’m guessing that most start out intending to buy the whole series.

        • something says:

          If they’re anything like me, buying is 99.9% of the time a decision about a show as a whole. I don’t evaluate purchases on a piecemeal basis, I ask myself “is this show good enough to purchase?” rather than “which episodes did I like?”.

      • Davv says:

        Or, I should add, they only buy for the bonuses.

        • AholePony says:

          I would also not ignore something you touched on in your initial question: “I realize that fans can’t necessarily afford to purchase an entire series…”. The reporting is just a very small window into the sales picture after all. I would not at all be surprised if it’s common for someone to buy or pre-order vol. 1 of a show they love/enjoy but only purchase the rest over a very long period with limited allowances from parents (if they’re young) or budgets for hobbies if they’re older. I’m sure many volumes have months of sales in the 1-50 copies per week range that we never see unless they appear in the discrepancies in the yearly reports. Even then, that probably wouldn’t account for the very wide gaps between a vol1 and 2 we see so that’s where other factors come into play. As a completionist, I can’t imagine only owning parts of a series but, well, people are weird creatures lol.

          • AholePony says:

            I just thought of this; it might be that some people buy vol 1 on a preorder and volumes with bonuses, but pick up the rest on yahoo auctions or something at a major discount. That would be a good way to stretch your ¥ into owning more series per year than you normally could afford.

            • Davv says:

              Those are very plausible explanations – thanks for bringing up what I overlooked. I’ve known plenty of people who do the latter.

  9. Davv says:

    How far into a season, or ahead of it, does it become possible to ballpark estimate how well a show will do? I ask because I’ve seen people make preseason and early-season predictions which were off by orders of magnitude, e.g. predicting 5k for a 30k show or vice versa.

    • something says:

      You can always ballpark, but the quality of those ballparks will change drastically as time goes by.

      Any estimate before discs are solicited is essentially meaningless. The best you can do, if it’s an established franchise, is say “well this has a big fanbase so it has the potential to do well” (see: Granblue) or “this is in a genre of shows that almost never sell much so I have low expectations” (e.g. Minakama) but that’s only the vaguest of ballparks, based less on the show than past trends. For sequels maybe you can do a little better, like “I doubt this show that sold 50k last time will suddenly drop to 10k”… but even then there are extreme outliers, as Shingeki might quite possibly turn into.

      Any estimate after the discs are solicited but before the show airs are only slightly more meaningful. The main advantage of waiting for the discs to get solicited is that you’ll have more information about release format and extras. Suddenly that Granblue ballpark shifts towards the higher end, because oh crap they’re going all in on mobage codes and GBF is a massive mobage and you can reasonably surmise the codes will be a big deal. You may also be able to refine your ballpark based on the immediate reaction to the solicitation. Did a big rush of early adopters show up? Steins;Gate ranked incredibly well after it was solicited, so it was pretty fair to think it at least had a shot at selling well, despite being a visual novel adaptation (those rarely do well).

      Once the show has started airing, it’s simply a matter of further refining your estimates over time. You always need to keep an eye out for changes in the release itself. Did they add an event ticket? Announce a manga chapter/short story for a show based on a popular print franchise? Confirm mobage SSR codes? Is the bonus across all volumes or just v1? These can have significant effects.

      By the 4th or 5th episode you can reasonably ballpark most shows, if you’re checking Stalker. Typically, release specs don’t change after that point and most shows don’t suddenly catch fire after the first month or so. But ballparks are just ballparks for a reason. If a show *does* catch fire, throw out your old ballparks and rethink.

      But the best estimate is going to be the last estimate. More information always means a better estimate, and time is information for our purposes. Stalker is often off by some margin, but it’s extremely good at ballparking by the end. If it’s got a 3k estimate for a show, it’s virtually never going to outsell a show with a 10k estimate, let alone a 30k estimate. And a show with a 30k estimate is virtually never going to collapse into a sub-10k release.

      [Even then, there are built-in assumptions the Stalker model has, with known weaknesses. As long as you’re aware of those (most notably, be conscious of what’s ranking super well at Animate) though, you can adjust your own ballparks accordingly.]

  10. Bogie says:

    I have a question i brazzilian (sorry for bad english >.<) and there exist a blog, the most famous blog about anime in brazil, where the owner of the blog make ''predictions for second season for animes'' based on only 4 Criteria:

    1. Dvd/BD salles
    2. Mangá/Light Novel salles
    3. The publisher of the original material
    4. If the studio make second seasons

    and he really gets ben very popular because of this, but i don't think you can predict a new season anime based on only these points,
    For the salles of DVD/BD, he have a chart of salles, That it applies to all animes,

    4000 sales the anime only ''Paid for'', and no new season for animes with 4k sales.
    but Umaru-chan got a new season, he ignored the english anime, the game for psvita, goods and etc.

    My question is, is possible to make a concrete prediction based in a chart that applies to all animes and with the 4 points he uses?

    • something says:

      “My question is, is possible to make a concrete prediction based in a chart that applies to all animes and with the 4 points he uses?”

      You can always make a prediction, but it’ll only ever be just that, a prediction. Making a sequel is not determined by a mathematical formula after all. We still don’t have a second season of Madoka, despite it selling >70k. We don’t have sequels to 10k hits like Maou-sama or Nozaki-kun.

      Companies factor many things into their sequel decisions, and not all of them are numbers. Maybe they just want to change their company’s reputation by working in another genre, maybe an important executive who championed the show passed away, maybe the author of the original work quit, maybe they have a different series they find even more profitable and are willing to drop a very successful franchise to work on it (RIP Kyoukaisenjou no Horizon), maybe a producer who had a lot of connections to a given publisher switched jobs, maybe some complicated legal issue arose and a sequel isn’t possible. None of these are data points you can easily drop into an algorithm.

      You can still use numbers to come up with some odds, but a “probability” is by definition uncertain. As long as the person making the predictions acknowledges the uncertainty, I think it’s totally fine to try to draw correlations between sequel production and other data points. It’s fun, and it can be informative. And I could see the guesses becoming reasonably accurate over time.

      But a guess is still a guess, even if it’s informed by past events.

      • Bogie says:

        Thanks, Many Brazilians are basing themselves on what this guy is talking about to say with certainty which animes will have second season or not.
        Kobayashi-san for example, according to him, no chance of a new season, and because of that many friends of mine do not even believe he will have a new season.

        Thanks for the answer, I intend to confront him and I want to understand more about how it works, because it’s an insane thing in the Brazilian community, everyone practically only cares about how much an anime sells to know if it will have a new season or not

        • something says:

          Yeah, an overly strict focus on disc sales in determining sequels is definitely something fandom is guilty of.

          I mean it’s totally reasonable to say “shows with higher sales are more likely to get sequels”. That’s just common sense. But “more likely” is not at all the same as “guaranteed”. If he’s providing a guarantee, then that’s definitely wrong, and I think he should have more than enough evidence on hand to know this already!

          So it all comes down to how it’s being communicated. If people know it’s only a prediction, not a fact, that’s fine. If they start taking it as fact, well… they just aren’t paying attention.

          • Bogie says:

            Enjoying your patience and kindness with me (thanks for that)
            What do you say about this? https://www24.atwiki.jp/anime-urisure/pages/527.html ‘-‘

            is problaby the chart he uses

            • something says:

              Its use of the Manabi Line (まなびライン) is very outdated, but otherwise it breaks sales up into reasonable-looking chunks.

              But of course being in one chunk or the other is only a measure of disc sales. Not of the chance to get a sequel. So yeah, this chart is a nice guideline but is not intended to predict sequels.

                • something says:

                  The comments that the Goboiano article draws on aren’t wrong per se – they come from an anime producer after all – but they reflect only one limited perspective among many.

                  “Manga gets adapted into an anime → anime becomes popular → manga sales rise → anime Blu-ray discs does not sell. That is the pain experienced by companies that shell out 200 million yen to make an anime that does not sell well while the manga, that did not pay a single yen, does. It makes us think, “did we sign up for this?””

                  This scenario is definitely real but it only applies to a particular subset of shows:
                  • Adaptations of novels/manga,
                  • that don’t have the print publisher on the committee (or in a minor role),
                  • and don’t have other major investors on board who help shoulder production costs,
                  • or lack equitable revenue-sharing agreements.

                  So if you are a video publisher like Pony Canyon or Aniplex, and you put up the vast majority of the funds required to adapt a manga/novel into anime, then yes absolutely you can be burned by low disc sales. If the manga gets a great increase but you have no agreements in place to tap into in that new revenue, you’re out of luck.

                  But if the print publisher is leading or a close second on the committee, or contracts are written up such that the video publisher can share in other revenue to offset expected low disc sales, then we have a different situation.

                  And say the print publisher sees a big manga bump, but the video publisher wasn’t satisfied with the disc sales? Maybe the print publisher will decide to fund a second season and take some of the burden from the video publisher. There’s ways to make this work.

                  “Even streaming, which was supposed to be a ray of hope, is not strong enough to be a money maker…”

                  Things change rapidly, and this is no longer the case. While domestic Japanese streaming isn’t quite equal to domestic home video sales yet (it’s getting there), if you add in international streaming it’s definitely higher. Now that doesn’t help the video publisher if they don’t share in that revenue but again this all goes down to how committees are structured. If funds are allocated in line with a realistic expectation of return, maybe video publishers shouldn’t be leading as many committees as they are!

                  So the solution isn’t to double down on BD Sales Or Bust, in an age where physical media is irreversibly losing ground. The solution is to set up your committee/funding structure in a way that accurately reflects how consumers are spending their money on otaku franchises.

                  And from the Goboiano piece: “If those Blu-rays don’t sell, your fav show will never get anything more than a single season.”

                  For the article to state so unequivocally that it can *never* happen when it so obviously can happen is just demonstrably wrong. Every time we see a sequel to a low-selling show, it’s obvious there are more factors at play than just BD sales. Every show is different, every show needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

                  And what about all those shows with good disc sales that never got sequels? There’s no need to oversimplify this.

                  I feel like fans are quick to line up at either the “BD sales are all that matters!” or the “BD sales never matter!” extreme, and that’s a shame. The truth is very much in the middle. It depends massively on how the committee is structured and what their expectations are.

                  (Lastly, the replies at the link you provided are almost uniformly terrible and should be disregarded, but that’s par for the course for forums.)

  11. Disco Haruhi says:

    I have a question about producing your own “anime”

    I’ve seen a few independent animes popping up here and there, and small teams of people in Japan producing shows, but recently I’ve seen some short animation on youtube done with clip studio and a small team of people…

    so say you have 4 crazy friends and you want to make yourselfs into lolis, so you learn till you’re able to whop out a 30 min episode every month, how would you go about actually making money from it?

    Like, how do these companies in Japan become anime companies. I know there must be some 5 to 10 team startups that somehow got money/contacts to start producing anime.

    I wish there was some sort of guide for that type of stuff lol

    • something says:

      I don’t know much about starting an anime studio, but the difference between uploading the occasional episode to Youtube to get some ad revenue vs becoming a full fledged animation studio would presumably be capital and connections. Starting a company is one thing, starting a company that major production committee investors will trust with their series is quiiiiiiite another. From what I can tell, many new anime studios tend to be spun off from existing anime studios, and/or started by industry veterans who already know the ropes. I don’t think just starting in a basement and then getting your work onto TV is a particularly common occurrence. More likely the amateur work would be used as a portfolio to get a job in an established studio.

      But take it all with a grain of salt, I don’t get into inner industry workings to quite that extent.

  12. _North says:

    Hello, I have a thing similar to MALgraph that parses through a user’s data to find extra statistics and stuff. It’s currently offline as I’m rewriting it, but would you be interested in letting me use your data? Thanks.

    • something says:

      Sure, anyone is free to do whatever they’d like with the data here, as long as it’s not going to hit the site with a ton of scraping bots and cause performance issues or whatever.

      • _North says:

        Thanks a lot, do you reference a database for the titles or name each show yourself?

        • something says:

          I name them myself, but my naming philosophy aligns very closely to MAL’s. It just won’t be a 100% match. For me that means original JP titles always, using the most common romanization method you see online today (which is basically Hepburn with a waapuro approach to extended vowels, i.e. no macrons), but if a title is clearly referencing a word from a different language, spell it like that language would (i.e. きんいろモザイク is Kiniro Mosaic, not Kiniro Mozaiku). I usually shy away from the ‘ after an ambiguous ん (Kiniro vs Kin’iro) because I figure someone doing a ctrl+f on a page to find something won’t think to add the ‘. Subtitles are sometimes included and sometimes not, depending on what feels right. Usually they come after a :, like “ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka”. I used to include symbols and such like ~ or stars but eventually stripped that out most places to simplify things. Also things like ~ were messing up some formulas.

          In any event I’ve been doing this since 2009 so I’m sure there’s lots of little inconsistencies. So it’s possible you’ll see some titles slightly differently on some pages. Sometimes I’m copy/pasting, sometimes I’m typing manually, so there’s no guarantee it’s consistent everywhere. Especially in the weekly ranking posts, though I’ve tried to standardize those more recently.

          Basically, there’s no database of data behind this site. It’s a big old spreadsheet. While I have formulas and such for building out the bigger ranking lists (the per-volume, averages, quick view, etc) there’s a lot of manual work that goes into it as well. You’ll probably have a small (but not terrible) mess to clean up depending on how much you’re looking to download.

  13. joao victor says:

    Takagi-san sold 5000 copies of DVD/BD on the first week, Was that good for a first week basis?

    • something says:

      It’s well below estimates, but still quite solid by any meaningful measure. We just have to see how well v2+ hold up. v1 came with a “teasing simulation game” that may be inflating sales.

      Regardless, it’s very firmly “above average”.

  14. Black Watch says:

    Hi, Are these BD/DVD box sets only available to buy on the periods right after the anime aired? Because these weekly sales data give me the impression that the sales don’t grow with the time (or grows negligibly), so i’m unsure if they keep the stock on sale, for example, i want to put my hands on Baka to Test (2010), Rakudai kishi (2015) and shingeki no kyojin, but they’re a little old, i find some BD boxs on internet but they are not the premium/deluxe version that this post describes (the same ones on the weekly sales posts), do they still exist? Unless they aren’t worthy my money, for example, these event tickets are useless, then someone tell me please if these simple box ones are almost the same as the premium version, if not, where do i find the premium ones?

    Note: I live 180 degrees of latitude from japan.

    • something says:

      “these weekly sales data give me the impression that the sales don’t grow with the time (or grows negligibly)”
      This is correct. Anime disc sales are very front-loaded. Most shows do ~80% of their sales in the first week. Now, in part this is exaggerated because Oricon isn’t good at tracking the long tail of sales over time, so we’re definitely missing out on some data that would reduce the percentage wk1 takes up. But by and large, it really is front-loaded as heck.

      Discs tend to be available for a long time after release, though. Some shows will completely sell out, but most shows can be bought easily a year or so later. As for the limited editions, they aren’t really “limited”. With a few exceptions, the “limited” edition is really the only edition. For films you might have a legitimate “regular edition” that sells a noticeable amount, but this is rarely the case with TV anime. So unless a show just goes truly out of stock, whatever you buy is very likely the same edition other people preordered or bought week one.

      • Black Watch says:

        Thanks for the reply something-dono, i feared this doubt would follow me until the day of my death, but thou savest my pointless life, and now i shall buy without fear.
        Now remember the wise words coming from a stupid man, buying anime isn’t a cost, but investment.

  15. scineram says:

    What happened to weekly lists? Their reporting seems to have vanished from both ANN and MAL news a few years ago when I wasn’t looking. Oricon still publishes them, right?

    • something says:

      Oricon still publishes them, yes. The only place I can find them posted these days is as screenshots on a Chinese discussion forum (baidu). Even 5ch doesn’t independently post them anymore, they just reference the leaks from elsewhere. I personally paid for an Oricon Youtaiju account for many years to get the prelim rankings (Animation DVD Top 30, Animation BD Top 20; the full rankings, when we used to get those, always relied upon leaks from Oricon Biz, which costs thousands of dollars a year), but got to the point where that $120/year for Youtaiju was much better spent on other things.

      I can’t speak for anyone else as to why they stopped posting weekly, so I’m not sure why they all stopped around the same time I did. Just a weird coincidence, I think. But I know I stopped putting up weekly posts because the physical disc market had fallen into near-irrelevance, making it not worth the effort anymore. I also haven’t watched any anime in quite some time (ever decreasing amounts over the last few years culminating in essentially nothing this year and no plans to start up again), so I’m only continuing to track sales at all out of sheer habit.

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