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This is why Modern Anime Sucks. The Business Model Relies too Much on Otakus.

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So, GONZO is dying. That’s sad but they haven’t been good in a while so I’ll keep you in my memories for making some great shows 10 years ago.

But more importantly, over at Canned Dogs, they posted up a list of GONZO DVD sales. See, this is significant because it provides a lot of information, mainly what went right and what went wrong for the company, as well as consumer tastes.

Sales of the first volume DVD for Gonzo anime:

12,318 Strike Witches LE vol.1
11,906 Vandread vol.1
*8,486 Last Exile vol.1
*8,029 Vandread the second stage vol.1
*7,456 Rosario to Vampire vol.1
*7,403 Gatekeepers vol.1
*6,996 Saki vol.1
*6,992 Kiddy Grade vol.1
*6,376 Hellsing vol.1
*5,990 Saishuu heiki kanojo vol.1
*5,558 Fullmetal Panic! vol.1
*4,332 Crono Crusade vol.1
*3,998 Black Cat vol.1
*3,821 Seto no hanayome vol.1
*3,773 Tower of Druaga ~the Aegis of URUK~ vol.1
*3,538 Witchblade
*3,074 Choujyuushin Gravion Zwei vol.1
*2,732 Gankutsuou vol.1
*2,722 GANTZ vol.1
*1,978 Kaze no Stigma vol.1
*1,802 Gad Guard vol.1
*1,668 Choujyuushin Gravion vol.1
*1,542 SAMURAI7 vol.1
*1,508 Samurai Girl Real Bout Highschool vol.1
*1,374 Getsumentoheiki Mina
*1,278 Blassreiter vol.1

The anime that didn’t make it to the top 100 in Oricon did not get a sales calculation so we can safely assume that they did sub1000. We thus know that Afrosamurai, Basilisk, Blue Sub 6, Bokurano, Burst Angel, Desert Punk, FF Unlimited, GK 21,  Glass Fleet, Kaleido Star and its 2nd season, Linebarrels of Iron, Masters of Epic, Melty Lancer, Peacemaker, Pumpkin Scissors, Red Garden, Romeo x Juliet, SA, Shangrila, Arad Senki, Solty Rei, Speed Grapher, Trinity Blood, Welcome to the NHK, Yukikaze, Zaion did not sell well in Japan. I hesitate to conclude this because I thought some of the above shows were really good and probably wouldn’t not do well? But then again, considering the barometer of popularity is mainly DVD sales and TV ratings, you can see why good series would get shafted. Bolded series are those that I think were good or great.

Look carefully at the two pieces of data I’ve provided here. What trend do you notice? I’m pretty puzzled by how only the really new (past 1 or 2 years) and the really old (first 2 years of GONZO) shows are on the top list. Why?  It’s not like shows where they collaborated with other studios aren’t listed, cos I see FMP season 1 up there. So the numerous AIC partnered shows should be eligible as well.

The most obvious observation is that otaku-pandering fanservice shows, even if they are horrible, do a lot better than any other type of show. This is because only otakus buy DVDs! In Japan, nobody buys expensive anime DVDs except otakus. And even otakus are limited by financial constraints so they can’t be getting everything. The list of unpopular anime contains only one arguably pandering show, that is Kurogane no Linebarrel, and it was pretty bad too. On the other hand, looking at the popular anime list, Strike Witches is the top seller in GDH history, followed closely by Rosario and Saki. The rest of the shows are populated by the great shows made before the age of Moe, or just random shows that I don’t see why people would buy DVDs for, like Black Cat, Gad Guard, Blassreiter etc. In other words, this explains why so many studios choose to make anime with harem or fanservice, because these are a lot cheaper to make than an epic scifi and provide much greater returns. I think the main reason why Last Exile, Vandread and Gatekeepers rank so high is because they were really good, animation and story-wise, for that time period, which was a transitional phase to the use of CGI over cel, and people were wowed by the graphics.

GONZO realised too late that people no longer care about good anime, they just want moving anime girls with their particular fetish attached. GONZO’s dead not only from that of course, it’s also because they themselves don’t know what’s good anime and made lots of rubbish (for the American market, they claim). But beyond this, I find it a huge problem when the anime  industry’s business model relies almost solely on DVD sales for income, supplemented by merchandise sales and negligible TV (most are shown late night anyway). Obviously the Japanese DVD-buying crowd’s preferences are going to be prioritised, as they provide the largest source of income, and this is dangerous for anime itself because many of these people only like shows that are fanservice or anime girl-oriented!

Miyazaki’s Ghibli movies always make huge amounts of money, that is because they have a market including the whole of Japan, and the world. Modern anime mainly has a market of only otakus. Argue however you want, but that is the truth and the impression of many Japanese. For them, once beyond a certain age, mainly high school, even Jump is considered childish, and most anime are just way too otaku to be caught watching. But it doesn’t have to be this way, does it? We have had plenty of great anime over the years, which if marketed well should be or have already been well-received by mainstream crowds. Examples include Planetes, GitS, Honey and Clover etc.And then we have the polar opposite, something so otaku that it unites the various diverse otaku legions into one consumeristic horde, and that sells well too. I’m obviously referring to Haruhi.

PS ever since I came back from Japan, I’ve not watched a single episode of any anime besides Cross Game, Inazuma 11 and Gintama. It’s not like I’m quitting, I actually found Canaan, Tokyomag, GA and few others quite good but just didn’t have the motivation to follow them weekly. I’ll probably marathon them at a shot someday.

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39 Responses to “This is why Modern Anime Sucks. The Business Model Relies too Much on Otakus.”  

  1. 1 Jura 1 comment

    Burst Angel and Trinity Blood are awful. o.O

  2. 2 Miha 17 comments

    Target otaku group has a much lower age integer these days, btw. If you’re in grade school and watch anime, that’s still OK by ippanjin standards, but when you enter middle school I guess you’ll get a few eyeballs rolling if you’re too open about your hobbies. And the reason why harem and tits sell better is precisely because of this: most otaku these days are middle- and highschool kids, even in Japan.

    Also, GONZO is a sort of special case because apart from not knowing what market they should be catering to, they tried to break free of this suffocating business environment that is called production committee system. So they funded a bunch of shows themselves, thinking they’ll be able to hog more revenue for themselves this way, but it didn’t happen. They were still producing shitty anime.

    Your point is truth though, but it’s a limitation creators these days have to work with. You can dip your shit into that wota gravy as much as you want (Akiyuki Shinbou) or try to such stories to non-wota types as well (Yamamoto Yutaka) and still make great anime. Bottom line is, as long as it’s great and the creators get paid off, I don’t care who they have to cater, as long as it’s not foreigners.

  3. 3 2DT 1 comment

    Kaleido Star didn’t even chart, huh? That is truly shocking and sad.

  4. 4 DiGiKerot 55 comments

    Actually, the first volume of Linebarrels sold 6,045 copies, though sales dropped off pretty sharply after that. Wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t a few other holes in that data, though, particularly for older shows where it’s harder to come by that data.

    It really is half the picture, though, as Gonzo, more than any other studio, really did used to rely on the fact that they’d be able sell their productions to the US distributors for a pretty penny. Trinity Blood, for example, may have sold like crap in Japan, but I’m under the impression that the US sales were really, really good.

  5. 5 jinyamato 110 comments

    this is pretty true… the trend is there and evident to be really obvious. nowadays anime studio do lotsa moe-kei ( or i call them moe-shit) cause it sells. i mean what kind of otaks wouldn’t buy them? it’s a surefire way to sell goods.

  6. 6 GlenGrimLoch 12 comments

    I make a point of only watching at most one fanservice thing a year. lolz, this year the closest thing was Shangri-la lolz.
    Anyway, considering the statement that watching anime is considered childish…I guess that is true, but still a bit strange, considering that ‘Jdrama shows’ are, from what I’ve seen, bigger crap than anything ever put into animation.
    The sad thing is that my watching habits aren’t put into the calculations because I don’t buy DVD’s lol. But I don’t feel like wasting hundreds of $, just to raise the standard a wee bit.

    The attitude of hardcore anime fans just makes it harder to defend it to the public. You can spend hours proclaiming how great the medium is and then they just have to point out one otakunoob making a fool of himself and his surrounding and you’ve lost the war.

  7. 7 aval 4 comments

    It is abominably stupid of Japanese Animation companies to rely on DVD sales to make money. It is a model which will not work anywhere, least of all Japan. There might be other models out there but the best one would be the tried and tested TV sponsors.

    Think about it, do they really expect an 18 year old otaku with measly pocket change to go out and buy some crappy series DVD costing well over 5000 yen? What have they been smoking all this time?

  8. 8 tragic comedy 46 comments

    Gotta milk us cows for all we’re worth y’know…after all, everyone has to find a way to get food on the table.

  9. 9 Miha 17 comments

    @aval, it is a tried system that works well, it just doesn’t reward titles that don’t take core fans into account. Obviously it’s not just DVD sales at work. Rental, digital sales, merchandise, event ticket sales, theatrical ticket sales, licencing etc. The downside is that people who actually create anime get hired for cheap to do the grunt work while the rest of the production committee system profits from multiple sources of revenue. The current system is both a blessing and a curse IMO.

  10. 10 feng 38 comments

    @aval: The marketing models that used to work for Japan are pretty weird, not least of all this otaku-sales model. Problem is, when the economy is not booming/stable, it takes a pretty big hit.
    And 18-year-old otakus? They should definitely be targetting a higher-age group with more stable income.

    Talking about Gonzo, Shangri-la’s quality is definitely dipping towards the end.

  11. 11 aval 4 comments

    It works. I agree. Does it work successfully? That is contestable at best. When an animation studio tries to sell the product primarily through markets like DVD (i.e company to a single person), the studio will have to narrow the focus of the subjects they touch upon to better suit the crowd they are selling to. (in Gonzo’s case, they tried one fanservice series after another). But it cannot work forever.

    How many people would buy the DVDs of a series like Strike Witches? Or Rosario? By putting in oodles of fanservice, they pretty much shut out the female demographic. They eliminate the crowd that wants a plot (or wants to see a manga adapted - Gonzo did that more than frequently). And the mainstream folks are out anyways. All that is left is a 15-18 year old with too many raging hormones who has to rely on his cash-starved parents to give him money to see underage girls running around in their underwear. It is not hard to see why they failed. If they really wanted to sell DVDs, they ought to have made OVAs instead.

    Had Gonzo done even a little bit of thinking, they would have realized that the series that ought to have been animated for strong DVD sales are the ones which are more accessible. e.g. Cross Game - a sports anime which is going for a good run of 51 episodes.

  12. 12 tj_han 1439 comments

    Aval, you’re reading the data wrong. GONZO failed because they didn’t make good moe-otaku pandering shows until the end, when it was too late. GONZO failed also because they made shows that sucked and banked on American sales.

    As for how many people would buy SW, well it sold as much as Haruhi.

  13. 13 aval 4 comments

    Well yes, actually you are correct. But what I was stressing was a bit different. To come back, my point was that if the studio starts relying excessively and exclusively on the DVD sales, what we’ll get on the TV are series which just aim to please the lowest common denominator (which is actually what is happening right now).

    I really miss the days when anime was original. I really miss the series like Ergo Proxy. Boogiepop Phantom. Monster. Kare Kano. GTO. (I can go on forever). We don’t see such series anymore, and one reason for that (I think) is because of these god-damned sales numbers. :(

  14. 14 zzeroparticle 7 comments

    There have always been original shows, but when looked at as a percentage in any given span of time, quality shows still constitute a low percentage. One only has to look at stuff like ARIA, Eden of the East, and Bakemonogatari to be happy that there’s still no lack of creative output.

  15. 15 GlenGrimLoch 12 comments

    But the fact remains that quality shows rarely garner the respect and income they deserve.
    cheap crap teenage hormones == $$$
    expensive quality stuff trust in intelligence customers == bankruptcy
    Considering that the whole purpose of developing anime shows is to ultimately create profit, it isn’t hard to see which business model is most attractive.

    Sometimes a show gets the respect it deserves (Rurouni Kenshin for example) but those are mostly the exception that proves the rule.

  16. 16 GlenGrimLoch 12 comments

    PS: plus signs ‘ ‘ are getting filtered out?

  17. 17 relentlessflame 5 comments

    It’s not as if the market “just started” to be motivated by profit. As the interests of the market changed, the publishers changed their products to adapt. You just perceive those old shows as “original” because those are the sorts of shows that the market wanted and/or the producers financed at the time. Today they’re making anime for today’s market, which has changed over these last 5-10 years. But very few anime were ever made out of the goodness of the anime studio’s creative hearts; it’s all because someone with money said “make this”, and one presumes those financiers had a good plan on how they’d get that investment back. (One could argue that Gonzo, who financed many of their own shows, might not have had so great a plan…)

    So basically, your complaint amounts to “why aren’t people buying more of what I like?”, and that question really doesn’t have an answer. No matter what model they used — whether through sponsorship, or merchandising, or some form of special financing — someone’s got to pay the bills. I think the speculation of the article is that Gonzo was banking on a (largely American) DVD-buying public that just wasn’t there for them, which makes sense given the collapse of the American anime market.

    Some other minor points…
    - The average DVD-buying “otaku” is a working male in their early-to-mid-20s; lots of disposable income, no responsibilities.
    - Short late-night otaku-centric TV shows basically are “the new OVA”. They just found, through experience, that shows sold better with TV exposure.
    - Mainstream TV anime doesn’t typically sell well on DVD in Japan (Gundam and Macross excepted), so banking on shows like Cross Game for DVD revenue may not be a great plan either.

    In short, it’s just not so simple. While your “expand the market, sell more product” theory sounds reasonable on the surface, you’d need to understand a lot more about how the market works to see why it just doesn’t work that way these days.

  18. 18 GlenGrimLoch 12 comments

    There are gazillions to be made in advertising, so I wonder why not everyone just goes with television, advertising and product placement.

  19. 19 Miha 17 comments

    Because no advertiser is willing to pour down money on shows that get broadcast after midnight. I imagine that you have to be pretty desperate if you want wota money.wwww TV anime do have commercial breaks though, they just fill up that time with sponsor messages, usually from music and anime production companies.

  20. 20 RDS 3 comments

    … sign ….

    so, there is “good” anime and there is moe-fanservice anime. Meaning that “good” anime must not have moe and/or fanservice, and once there is fanservice - it automatically renders the anime “bad”…


    you forgot to say: “according to my opinion”. Because what is good/bad is nothing but your opinion. And do you really think that YOUR opinion is of such importance so you can summarily dismiss a whole class of people, who do like moe/fanservice anime (and whom you call “otaku” for some reason) as a no-gooders?

    well, if that is your attitude, than the gloves are off, and i go straight to the


    we, “otaku”s, like moe-fanservice because it’s fun. And we don’t like your “good” anime that much because we are smarter than you. For us your “good” anime is …. lame. Not good enough. Not as good as our high IQ would want it to be. Not as good as an average book on OUR bookshelf.

    Of course, we realise, that due to anime being (big) business, we can’t get good anime. Big business being what it is … Impossible. That’s why we treasure the moe-fanservice : pure unspoiled fun. And if we want to engage our brains - we open books.


    Being ABLE to like moe-fanservice is a sign of higher intelligence. If you look at the history of arts (…eh, it’s probably way above your head, but i’d try still…) you’d see how, as human’s intelligence grew, the “good” arts - straightlaced, serious, God-fearing, etc, were replaced by The Renaissance - a lot of fun, oppai and fanservice.

    I pity you for your weak mind is still stuck at the pre-Renaissance level.

    Let me guess, you don’t like oppai in anime because you get real nosebleed when you see it? … don’t go ballistic, just joking.

  21. 21 omo 137 comments

    Hmm TJ, Gonzo tanked actually because they banked $$$ on anime that didn’t sell. Nothing wrong with the production model in that they were the ones who were trying to make a real difference, to set up a system that works better.

    Pandering to foreign sales was a potential thing because they did make a lot of money (up to half of their DVD revenues in some cases) from oversea licensing. And shows like Last Exile does do well overseas (relative to domestic). So the problem is making anime people like, and that’s always the hardest thing to do.

  22. 22 tragic comedy 46 comments

    they actually tanked because of the crunchyroll debacle. that one sent them all the way down the deep end.

  23. 23 Anonymous 21 comments

    @tragic comedy

    I’m surprised crunchyroll hasn’t gone away yet.

  24. 24 Tiny Red Man

    This is so god damn true! It’s one hack of a trend for the past 2 or 3 years now. Anime studios are trying to create animes full of moe characters. After that, the characters can be made into figures, and have different character albums. That way, when the figure makers and music companies pay licensing fee to the studio, they earn. I’m not sure the amount, but it isn’t that great though. Great examples being haruhi, lucky star and SW. I’, sure there are more, but can’t list them all.

    as for the milking money from the 18 year old otaku thing. I have to remind everyone that otakus are no longer 18. Some are way older than that, such as 35, and have work and financially capable. So, spending wise, shouldn’t be a problem.

  25. 25 GlenGrimLoch 12 comments

    “Being ABLE to like moe-fanservice is a sign of higher intelligence. If you look at the history of arts (…eh, it’s probably way above your head, but i’d try still…) you’d see how, as human’s intelligence grew, the “good” arts - straightlaced, serious, God-fearing, etc, were replaced by The Renaissance - a lot of fun, oppai and fanservice.

    I pity you for your weak mind is still stuck at the pre-Renaissance level.”

    OK you’re free to spread whatever beliefs you have but you really should have done some more reading lol. Heck even Wikipedia can provide a sufficient background. You just conventiently and without reason added ‘oppai’ and fanservice to the end of that sentence. Fact remains that it takes NO talent or skill whatsoever to add some cute stuff or lots of cleavage, yet it completely takes the center of the stage whenever added. That’s why so much RETARDED anime is actually being watched. Solely because it provides after dark action for the lonely animetard.
    The Renaissance for that matter was a very intelligent movement. What you are saying is: “Screw philosophy (deeper meaning, the need for an ‘understanding’), screw content or storyline, who cares about science (reason) or progress (doing ‘new’, revolutionary things) WE HAVE BEWBS!!!”

    Good luck with your higher intelligence, you’ll need it.

    Frankly I don’t even care about it all that much, people can watch whatever the heck they want, but when they start roaming the streets shouting that what they’re doing suggests high intelligence then the arrogance-, foolishness- and not to mention bullshit meter explodes.

  26. 26 Miha 17 comments

    @GlemGrimLoch: Yeah, cuz my head explodes from intellect overdose every time I peek into one of them Saimoe threads. 0/10

  27. 27 bumrush1223 21 comments

    the moment i read “being able to like moe-fanservice is a sign of higher intelligence”,”high IQ” just reinforces the fact that you are one of those marching morons devoid of what you’re so proud of. POSER!the world would be glad to be rid of you. u probably think with your dick, troll.

  28. 28 DrmChsr0

    Nono, it was the Oscar nomination that did them in.

    Oscars tend to do that, lol.

  29. 29 DrmChsr0

    RDS: GAOGAIGAR. Watch that.

  30. 30 RDS 3 comments

    @DrmChsr0 - i’ll give it a shot, thanks for the tip.

    @GlemGrimLoch - you say “…it takes NO talent or skill whatsoever to add some cute stuff or lots of cleavage..” - well, you are dead wrong. Be it as simple as you think, there would be no demand for moe-fanservice because there is more than enough hentai around with all boobs one would ever want… still no hentai is as popular as K-ON or Strike Witches.
    So: no, it is not THAT simple, my low-IQ friend. Go back to the drawing board, will you?

    @original post : What really pisses me off is : you don’t like moe-fanservice? fine, DON”T WATCH IT! And don’t tell me “there is nothing but moe now” - cause it’s bullshit - for every moe-fanservice anime there are several non-moe, even today. You may whine all you want but there is SO MUCH non-fanservice anime around, you won’t be able to watch everything in your lifetime. Literally.

    But noooooo…, those moe-haters DO watch all that fanservice and then, with indignation, go public and loudly proclaim for all Internet to hear how they hate that “shit”! Just like those right-wing politicians, who emerge from porno-theaters or gay toilets and start loudly condemning … all that.

    Is it a cleansing ritual or what?

  31. 31 GlenGrimLoch 12 comments

    LOL ugly troll is trolling.
    BTW the only reason that hentai isn’t as popular as moecrap is because at least with hentai most people feel freaking ashamed of themselves for watching it, at least it implies that they have some sort of standard.
    And if you read anything you’d know that I DON’T WATCH IT. I don’t watch it because I don’t want to puke. I’m not being hypocritical. I merely responded to the fact that YOU believed that watching moecrap implied ANYTHING besides a LACK of intelligence.
    Anywayz, gonna stop feedin’ the troll now lol. The mere thought that people like you exist…lol…
    The internet sure is an ugly place.

  32. 32 RDS 3 comments

    The Internet is not ugly, it’s just fair:

    Do not poo on something other people like - just because you happen to have different taste.
    -OR, IF YOU DO-
    Do not whine when you receive poo in return.

    fair enough?

  33. 33 GlenGrimLoch 12 comments

    A ‘different taste’ would be enjoying your cartoon things and keeping quiet. ‘Being completely wrong’ would be shouting that you’re massively intelligent because you like watching something (particularly when you don’t even give a single decent argument…for example “why” it elevates you above others. It is and stays mindless entertainment. Any claim otherwise deserves a proverbial punch in the face.)

  34. 34 otakubaka 2 comments

    they need to lower the price or get with the program and use online websites..

  35. 35 Jon 33 comments

    @GlemGrimLoch: agreed.

    @RDS: K-On! = creative? =.=”

    “It’s not a matter of taste, it’s a matter of fact”

  36. 36 Shiroi Hane 2 comments


    Were Gonzo they not among, if not *the* first, to do free international simulcasting?

  37. 37 Soulstrider 8 comments

    It’s sad because it’s true.

    Bacause things like this I vowed to not watch moe focused shows like K-ON.

  38. 38 Seo Entertainment 3 comments

    Hm… moe sells the best…at least it seems like it.. so therefore, a lot of anime is focusing on moe…isn’t it? I do feel like there’s some animes that are just too…commercial…but people like money, and lots of money is better than just a little. Just my opinion

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