Introduction

Over the years, the anime market has expanded and shrunk. We’ve seen surprise sales success stories, and presumed “sure things” die at the market. Conversations of how or why titles sell, or don’t sell have been made, and sales representatives have mentioned when shows sell decently. However, there has never been a real, thorough investiation of what sells, where it sells, or how it sells.

Over the period from July 24, 2011 through August 14, 2011 (three weeks), I’ve compiled publicly available data from four outlets: Wal-Mart, Amazon, The Right Stuf International, and Anime Nation. The reasoning for these five particular sources is as follows:

  • The data represents the largest spread of consumers, from the core consumer to the Tier-2 non-consumer.
  • The segregation of markets allows for a better breakdown of buying habits
  • Data for these five sources is readily available.

This piece is the culmination of many months of planning, and hours of development. I hope that you, dear reader, find it informative.

Format

This report begins with the most mass-market of the surveyed organizations, and moves progressively to the most niche. Through each, I will discuss top sellers, such as what appeared at the top the most or what made impacts in the sales landscape. After the initial discussions, these individual will be given a more thorough, big-picture overview of similarities and differences between the markets. This will include overlaps, primary deviations, and general preferences for each market, as well as how this works into the greater sales spectrum.

Mass Market: Wal-Mart

DVD Market

Wal-Mart’s motto is widely known to be “Always Low Prices.”

And, as one would expect, their clientele adheres to this principle. the core demographic at Wal-Mart. The primary movers at Wal-Mart are heavily discounted items. In particular, the biggest sellers through the study period included Yu Yu Hakusho Season 3 (FUNimation), Yu Yu Hakusho Season 4 (FUNimation), and Soul Eater Part 1 (FUNimation), all of which are $7.98 specials.

In addition, Wal-Mart’s DVD buyers flocked to bundle packs. Two-season sets of Dragon Ball Z dominated the sales charts, and singles for those not in these packs sold strongly as well, with season nine of Dragon Ball Z, and season five of occupying spots int he top ten.

Variable sections of the top ten were occupied by mass-market friendly titles, including Naruto Shippuden Set 7 (Viz Media), and Fullmetal Alchemist Seasons 1 & 2 (FUNimation). Fullmetal Alchemist: The newest title, Brotherhood Part 5, appeared in the top ten only once.

Interestingly, single volumes of certain titles managed to make an impact on the upper sales brackets. Volumes of Vampire Knight Guilty (Viz Media) lingered just off of the top-10 for the duration of the data gathering period, and regularly claimed the #11 spot.

Blu-Ray

Wal-Mart’s Blu-Ray sales told the tale of a shockingly different market. The top Blu-Ray seller through the entire sampling period was, without deviation, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part 5 (FUNimation). Other regular high-ranking sellers (items which appeared in at least eight of every ten daily tracking periods) include:

  • Evangelion 2.22 (FUNimation)
  • Samurai Champloo (FUNimation)
  • Final Fantasy: Advent Children (Square-Enix)
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund (FUNimation)
  • High School Of The Dead (Sentai Filmworks)
  • Supernatural (Warner Brothers)

Following the title’s release on August 9, Yu Yu Hakusho season 2 held a strong presence in the #2 spot.

More niche-oriented titles competed for remaining real estate among the high-sellers, including Rideback (FUNimation), Gungrave (FUNimation), FLCL, and Eden of the East: King of Eden. However, these smaller releases did not break the top 5 sales.

Wal-Mart’s Blu-Ray purchasers appear to be more outgoing with their purchases, in comparison to their DVD-buying counterparts. While the same patterns of revolving around a number of large titles was still present, there was more variation in what actually sold through to consumers. Titles like Rideback, Baka & Test Season 1, and Dance in the Vampire Bund shared sales with more mainstream fare, like Dragon Ball Z, Soul Eater, and Supernatural, and the movement in the lower ten spots in the top sales spectrum was far more volatile.

Amazon

Due to Amazon’s release of data, DVD and Blu-Ray releases were combined during the sampling process

During the sampling period, the following titles appeared in the top sales every day:

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 5 [Blu-Ray]
  • Samurai Champloo [Blu-Ray]
  • Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance [Blu-ray]
  • Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone [Blu-Ray] (FUNimation)
  • My Neighbor Totoro [DVD] (Disney)

Through the sampling run, control of the top spot shifted primarily between between FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part 5 and Samurai Champloo [Blu-Ray], though they were briefly unseated by Supernatural.

Angel Beats!, Supernatural both made strong debuts, with Supernatural’s DVD release capturing the top spot on July 25, 26, and 27. The Blu-Ray release for Angel Beats! took the #2 spot on July 27. However, both titles fell victim to the “one week” rule,
which states that an entertainment product does the bulk of its sales in the first week on the market.

Ghibli titles like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke appeared fairly regularly through the sampling period, with Spirited Away appearing 81% of all sampled days. Titles like Trigun [DVD], FLCL [Blu-Ray], and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie [Blu-Ray] were irregular appearances, each accounting for 2 days of the sampling period.

Beginning August 10, Spice & Wolf: Season 1 [Blu-Ray] and the DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack of Spice and Wolf 2 began appearing in the top sellers. Both captured the #3 spot, and were unable to unseat Samurai Champloo and FullMetal Alchemist for the #2 and #1 spots.

Right Stuf

DVD

Through the reporting period, the following items appeared in all samples:

  • Darker Than BLACK: Season 2
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Collection 2 (Nozomi Entertainment)
  • Spice & Wolf: Season 2 (FUNimation)

In addition, the following appeared in the top sales data on two or more sampling periods:

  • The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Bandai)
  • Baka & Test Season One (FUNimation)
  • Spice & Wolf: Season 2
  • Eden of the East: Paradise Lost (FUNimation)

Blu-Ray

Through the reporting period, the following items appeared in all samples:

  • Baka & Test Season One
  • Eden of the East: Paradise Lost (FUNimation)
  • Spice & Wolf Season 2
  • Katanagatari Season 2 (NIS America)

In addition, K-On! Volume 3 (Bandai) and Angel Beats! (Section23 Films) both appeared in at least two samples.

As a whole, Right Stuf was a divergence from the more mainstream outlets. Titles that didn’t even break the top fifteen on Amazon or Wal-Mart, like the Mobile Suit Gundam 00 film [DVD/Blu Combo] (Bandai), Blue Exorcist Volume 2 [DVD] (Aniplex), and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time [Blu-Ray] (Bandai) were able to push into the top ten lists. Given the smaller market, the niche customers were able to make a far greater impact on Right Stuf’s overall bottom line. Only FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood 5 appeared in the sampling, as far as mainstream offerings go. Both the Blu-Ray and DVD releases made one appearance each.

AnimeNation

Due to AnimeNation’s release of data, DVD and Blu-Ray releases were combined during the sampling process

Through the reporting period, the following products appeared in all samples for AnimeNation:

  • Demon King Daimao: Complete Collection [DVD] (Sentai Filmworks)
  • Kanokon: The Girl Who Cried Fox: Complete Collection [DVD] (Media Blasters)
  • Highschool of the Dead: Complete Collection [DVD]
  • Queen’s Blade: the Exiled Virgin [DVD] (Media Blasters)
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund [DVD/Blu-Ray]
  • Naruto Shippuden Set 7 [DVD] (Viz)

AnimeNation also boasted several titles that appeared at least twice in the top seller lists, which included the following:

  • Queen’s Blade 2: The Evil Eye Part 2 [DVD] (Media Blasters)
  • Angel Beats! [Blu-Ray]
  • Naruto Shippuden Set 6 [DVD]
  • Spice & Wolf Season 2 [DVD/Blu-Ray]

The store saw a surprisingly consistent level of sales, with little shifting of new titles from week to week. The roducts purchased were an interesting combination, with mainstream titles like Naruto and Bleach selling among incredibly niche products like Sekirei (FUNimation), Kanokon, and Queen’s Blade.

The stability from week to week implies a consistent customer-base that tends to prefer a certain products, and a relatively inelastic demand that manages to escape the “one week” rule. However, what’s particularly fascinating is that AnimeNation is the only market in which DVD sales outpaced Blu-Ray on nearly every front.

Analysis

At a glance, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to how the four markets interact. However, there are key points of intersection among each, some minor, some major.

Point 1: “Ass Kicking” Shows Sell

Every market has titles that sell, which encompass the traits of an “empowering” anime. These are shows that empower and immerse the viewer be it through strong characters, easy-to-follow plots, intense action, or a combination of factors. These are the more approachable shows, that appeal to the broader audience. In the mainstream markets of Wal-Mart and Amazon, these were the chart toppers – Fullmetal Alchemist, Samurai Champloo, and Dragon Ball Z. In niche markets, these titles managed to creep into top seller lists for at least one sampling period at a time, and managed to keep at least one title present in all markets through the study’s duration.

Point 2: Franchises Sell

In the mainstream markets, Supernatural and Final Fantasy both exhibited strong sales. Both managed to achieve high ranks across several sampling periods.

In all markets, Neon Genesis Evangelion remained strong in the top ten sales positions.

Point 3: Price Is a Factor

Price is a major selling point for shows in certain markets. In the Wal-Mart set, the $7.95 shows topped DVD charts, with a one-period exception. The rest of the chart was filled with discounted shows – two season bundles, $14.95 seasons, and even single volumes. In the Amazon set, items like Cowboy Bebop: the Movie [Blu-Ray] arose primarily due to a low price ($10.00),

Point 4: Blu-Ray Viewers Are More Adventurous Buyers

Sales in DVD markets were mostly static – aside from positions shuffling, the overall sales changed little between sampling periods. However, Blu-Ray sales saw more variety, and more variance in purchases. For example, Wal-Mart saw titles like Baka & Test, Gungrave (FUNimation), and Rideback (FUNimation)enter its higher-ranked sellers, and Amazon had titles like Summer Wars (FUNimation), Eden of the East, and Spice and Wolf (FUNimation) selling well.

Point 5: The One Week Rule Grows Less Effective as One Travels Out From the Niche

On stores like Right Stuf and AnimeNation, which are niche markets, the “one week” rule is incredibly relevant. new titles cycle in and out of the higher sales lists with each release day, and yesterday’s darling quickly becomes old news.

As one moves out, to the more mainstream outlets, this becomes less relevant. Instead, people focus on purchasing titles like Fullmetal Alchemist and Dragon Ball. The top five sales spots in both the Amazon and Wal-Mart sectors saw little change through all sample periods.

Point 6: Overlaps Occur

All of the following titles saw an overlap in their sales across at least three of the four markets:

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Part 5
  • Angel Beats!
  • Highschool of the Dead
  • Baka & Test: Season One
  • Spice & Wolf: Season Two

The following titles saw sales overlaps in at least two of the four surveyed markets:

  • Evangelion 1.11 [Blu-Ray]
  • Evangelion 2.22 [Blu-Ray]
  • YuYu Hakusho: Season 2 [Blu-Ray]
  • Eden of the East: Paradise Lost [Blu-Ray]

Conclusion

It’s good to take a look into the market, in order to monitor the changing appetites and purchasing habits of the consumer as a whole. After all, people aren’t static, and neither are buyer habits.

Through a thorough analysis, it’s easy to see patterns emerge among the various sets of consumers. At the outset, it seems random, and nearly incomprehensible. However, once one begins to immerse in the data and break it down, patterns emerge and human nature becomes utterly fascinating. Suddenly, many of the questions, many of the “whats,” the “hows,” and the “whos” of anime sales become less of a mystery, and looking into the future seems like less of a crap-shoot, and more of a sure thing.

This is but a taste of the greater potential of market analysis – with more time and more data, a truly comprehensive look at the market could be done. However, I hope that you do find this data, and the lessons it holds to be useful.