Yesterday, ANN revealed that several Kadokawa titles released during the summer sold poorly. According to Shunji Suzuki, Nichijou (My Ordinary Life), R-15, and A Dark Rabbit Has Seven Lives failed to break even. In addition, he noted that there was apprehension about the potential sales of a “certain magical girl” work last Spring that ultimately broke even.
It’s always refreshing to see such a frank discussion about the overall market performance of anime titles. Typically, the answers given to the public are farmed from hard numbers, such as sales charts, or from heavily-edited PR responses that offer little substance to the situation at hand.
The news that Nichijou is particularly interesting for a number of reasons. This season, Nichijou has proven to be a darling of the fan community, both in the home market and in western markets. The series is a whirlwind production between Kyoto Animation (K-On!, Haruhi, Lucky Star) and Kadokawa Shoten that features a style not unlike the popular Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba&!. The show was praised in fan circles for its impressive animation style and offbeat content.
There are a number of factors as to why the show didn’t sell. However, many will immediately home in on the price as the immediate cause. The show ran for 13 volumes, with each two-episode disc retailing between 7,000 and 8,000 yen (roughly $90 – $103). This alone had generated complaints on Japanese message boards and chat rooms, as each Nichijou volume was easily 2,000 to 3,000 yen above the average anime DVD price.
However, it should be noted that numerous other shows from Madoka Magica, to K-On!, to Lucky Star hit the market at the same price point at Nichijou. All of these titles not only profited, but topped sales charts during their initial runs. So, while it is incredibly expensive, there is a distinct possibility that other reasons led to Nichijou’s retail failure.
In particular, the market for otaku-centric anime is, well… otaku. 4-panel comic adaptations are far from fresh nowadays, and often require some form of way of differentiating themselves from the pack. Lucky Star used parodies and playful mockery, Azumanga used an offbeat sense of humor, and K-On! used the pandering appeal of schoolgirls doing cute things. Nichijou, on the other hand, was a mess. The show relied on previouly treaded tropes, and jokes that were simply tired from the get go. The show relied heavily on in-jokes, unusual humor, and characters that would appeal to a fairly specific audience. Add this with a visual style that didn’t mesh with the typical Kyoto Anime buyer’s preference, and it becomes more clear that both the core audience, as well as the expanded buyers that rocketed shows like K-On! to the top o the Blu-Ray charts.
While price was indeed a factor in the retail failure of these shows, it certainly wasn’t the only one. The fact that they couldn’t justify said pricing is probably the more important factor. Had KyoAni taken more steps to ensure that there were enough for the core audience to latch onto while maintaining casting a net for the greater TV audience, the show may not have done so poorly. Nichijou definitely has its loyal fanbse. Unfortunately, we’ve just seen that this alone wasn’t enouguh to prop the show up to profitable levels.