Analysis post – sales boost for Winter 2015 anime adaptations of light novels

Coming into this season we had quite an interesting situation with regards to the light novel series getting adapted. We had one series (Juuou Mujin no Fafnir) at the bottom which had never quite managed to break 6k sales, making it a definite underdog. We had another (Durarara!!) which, as I mentioned before, had seen previously huge sales which plummeted over time, meaning that there was potential for the series both to explode or to flop. Either way, though, this was definitely the biggest name series with an anime this season.

And then there were four titles in between, all four of which had previously had remarkably similar visible sales figures, with all four being in the 15-20k sales range.

In such a situation it was always going to be interesting to see what came out on top and what fell behind.

Actually measuring and comparing the result, however, is harder. All four of these middle series (but neither of the other two) have seen their first volume rank precisely once in the main rankings. Two of these have seen sales resets at some point. There have also been a few new volumes released, which we will get to later.

Other than this we have the Oricon website data, but it is somewhat erratic whether or not something gets on here – for instance, SaeKano volumes 1, 5 and 6 are included, but volumes 2 to 4 are not.

In short, the Oricon sales data isn’t particularly useful.

However, we do have a data set that is useable: the POS bunko rankings. Bear in mind that this is separate from Oricon and produces slightly different results. It also doesn’t have any actual figures – it’s just a ranking. But it shows off quite nicely the fortunes of the various light novels over the week, and covers the top 500 bunko (Oricon only shows the top 50, although the other rankings mean we often get data for things well below that).

The data below all starts with the w/c 29th December, which is when the old volumes of light novels airing this season suddenly appeared in the rankings. Volumes in their first 3 weeks of sales have / on either side of the ranking as these are probably more influenced by the fact that they are new than the fact that the series has an anime adaptation airing.

Remember that as this is rankings not sales figures, a low figure is a good thing. xxx indicates that it was not in the top 500 for that week. ___ indicates that it had not yet been released.

weeks (for convenience):
1 – 29th December 2014 – 4th January 2015
2 – 5th January – 11th January
3 – 12th January – 18th January
4 – 19th January – 25th January
5 – 26th January – 1st February
6 – 2nd February – 8th February
7 – 9th February – 15th February
8 – 16th February – 22nd February
9 – 23rd February – 1st March
10 – 2nd March – 8th March
11 – 9th March – 15th March
12 – 16th March – 22nd March

Shinmai Maou no Testament:
v01 –  180 – 094 – 099 – 152 – 220 – 251 – 287 – 365 – 447 – 391 – 457 – xxx
v02 –  279 – 117 – 118 – 171 – 258 – 275 – 289 – 376 –  xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v03 –  312 – 154 – 136 – 187 – 276 – 277 – 286 – 391 –  xxx – 491 – xxx – xxx
v04 –  397 – 190 – 152 – 211 – 309 – 313 – 300 – 386 –  xxx – 442 – xxx – xxx
v05 –  436 – 215 – 179 – 210 – 339 – 324 – 342 – 430 –  xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v06 –  330 – 206 – 177 – 218 – 334 – 310 – 322 – 383 –  xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v07 – /035/-/058/- 098 – 157 – 254 – 309 – 339 – 400 –  xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx

Juuou Mujin no Fafnir:
v01 – xxx – 203 – 173 – 334 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v02 – xxx – 274 – 220 – 363 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v03 – xxx – 373 – 268 – 408 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v04 – xxx – 499 – 341 – 410 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v05 – xxx –  xxx – 352 – 487 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v06 – xxx –  xxx – 372 – 486 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v07 -/239/-/293/- 346 – 428 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx

Absolute Duo:
v01 – 235 – 087 – 109 – 191 – 222 – 200 – 261 – 360 – 474 – xxx – xxx – xxx
v02 – 375 – 107 – 132 – 221 – 245 – 218 – 319 – 441 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v03 –  xxx – 187 – 211 – 337 – 368 – 280 – 440 – 473 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v04 –  xxx – 175 – 204 – 287 – 311 – 253 – 354 – 458 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v05 –  xxx – 195 – 231 – 313 – 342 – 320 – 395 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v06 –  xxx – 204 – 235 – 321 – 383 – 346 – 405 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v07 – /121/-/125/- 203 – 303 – 413 – 301 – 364 – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata:
v01 – 388 – 182 – 134 – 106 – 080 – 081 – 133 – 126 – 171 – 161 – 161 – 163
v02 – xxx – 284 – 176 – 149 – 102 – 105 – 150 – 179 – 208 – 248 – 203 – 239
v03 – xxx –  xxx – 266 – 209 – 137 – 128 – 170 – 225 – 258 – 297 – 329 – 335
v04 – xxx –  xxx – 357 – 262 – 210 – 163 – 206 – 255 – 269 – 300 – 338 – 403
v05 – xxx –  xxx – 312 – 247 – 187 – 147 – 167 – 203 – 247 – 242 – 259 – 289
v06 – xxx –  xxx – 330 – 279 – 221 – 157 – 189 – 243 – 249 – 277 – 286 – 291
(FD) – xxx – xxx – 452 – 340 – 292 – 228 – 267 – 257 – 340 – 348 – 404 – 355
v07 – /240/- 278 – 273 – 264 – 257 – 138 – 173 – 209 – 241 – 334 – 257 – 283
GS* – ___ – ___ – ___ – ___ – ___ – ___ – ___ – /037/-/073/-/173/- 336 – xxx

*Girls Side

Durarara!!: (note: only volumes that have appeared on the rankings are shown)

v01 – xxx – 402 – 253 – 318 – 337 – 317 – 379 – 404 – xxx – 387 – 376 – xxx
v02 – xxx –  xxx – 473 – 441 – xxx – 496 – xxx – xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx
gd* – xxx –  xxx – 465 –  xxx – xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx

*gaiden

Durarara!!SH:
v01 – xxx –  xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v02 – 428 – 498 – 379 –  xxx – xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx – xxx
v03 – ___ -/035/-/016/-/084/- 120 – 174 – 268 – 396 – 414 – xxx – xxx – xxx

Seiken Tsukai no World Break:
v01 – 439 – 313 – 094 – 229 – 299 – 247 – 387 –  xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx
v02 –  xxx – 440 – 115 – 244 – 312 – 250 – 461 –  xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx
v03 –  xxx – xxx – 146 – 263 – 316 – 238 – 384 –  xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx
v04 –  xxx – xxx – 205 – 302 – 332 – 258 – 378 – 476 – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx
v05 –  xxx – xxx – 239 – 308 – 340 – 285 – 381 – 438 – xxx – 448 – xxx – xxx
v06 –  xxx – xxx – 297 – 343 – 375 – 335 – 420 –  xxx – xxx – 490 – xxx – xxx
v07 –  xxx – xxx – 314 – 358 – 406 – 377 – 428 –  xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx
v08 –  xxx – xxx – 325 – 392 – 426 – 368 – 453 –  xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx
v09 –  xxx – xxx – 344 – 357 – 402 – 362 – 462 –  xxx – xxx –  xxx – xxx – xxx
v10- ___ – ___ – /014/-/076/-/146/- 233 – 283 – 442 – 482 –  xxx – xxx – xxx
v11- ___ – ___ – ___ – ___ – ___ – ___ – /039/-/025/-/145/- 273 – 444 – xxx

Obviously the season has not quite finished yet, but with only one series getting on the rankings anymore it’s a reasonable time to post this – it’s already a couple of weeks later than my original intentions.

Now to start on the actual analysis.

First off, the possibility that Durarara!! could have a new surge could hardly have come less true – it has had the smallest boost of any of the light novels with anime adaptations this season. It is true that it has had more novels to get a boost than the others, being an older series, but the level of boost for each novel has been tiny. Furthermore, it seems that the first volume of the first series was the only one that got a noticeable sales boost – which runs completely counter to what would have been needed to give it a sales boost. In other words, the anime has brought in a very small number of new fans to the series, and not done anything to reinvigorate the old fanbase that were attracted to the series from the first anime.

Juuou Mujin no Fafnir got only a slightly bigger boost, although due to the far lower initial popularity of the series it is a far bigger one proportionately. This sales boost was thus, evidently, from people discovering the series for the first time from the anime, and the almost perfect sliding scale from volume 1 to volume 6 (volume 7 being too new to count) is indicative of this. It dropping permanently off the rankings after week 3 could either be an indication that later episodes failed to attract new fans, or it could simply be that it never got very high to start with and thus was inevitably going to fall off pretty fast.

The other four series are the more interesting ones.
Before the anime even started, Shinmai Maou no Testament was getting a strong sales boost. This was partly aided by the new volume that had just come out (it’s relatively common for earlier volumes of a series to get a slight sales bump when new volumes are released), but Absolute Duo had received a new volume just 4 days previously, and Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (henceforth to be referred to as SaeKano) got one the week after, but neither saw the same impact. With volume 1 appearing on Oricon’s rankings on w/c 12th January with a little over 4000 sales showing the actual volume 1 sales as being over 60k (far, far above what the series had shown up as before), the series seemed set to get a healthy and strong sales boost. But then something happened. Who knows what it was. Probably it was simply a case of the anime not generating much buzz and thus not bringing in many new people, but by the start of February the series had faded into relative insignificance, and it only continued a gradual decline from there.
Something similar happened with Absolute Duo. In this case, however, there wasn’t much of a pre-airing bump, but the boost was concentrated even earlier, thanks to the airing time of the series basically being perfect for maximising the week 1 sales. The first volume of this series also spent one week on the rankings, although sadly the series had suffered the same sales reset that we have previously seen with other MF Bunko J series. By the last week of February both of these series were down to just one volume right at the bottom of the rankings.
Seiken Tsukai no World Break’s anime started later, and its sales boost thus came later as well, although it appeared at the same time as Shinmai Maou no Testament – with half its total sales, which is quite a surprise given that individual volumes had recorded similar sales figures for the two series up to this point. Volume 10 came out at the same time, which probably concentrated the sales still further, and this series also saw just one volume (other than another new one) at the bottom of the rankings by the end of February – although this time it was volume 10 rather than volume 1.
Three series, all of which saw the same pattern of a strong early boost followed by a fairly rapid drop into irrelevance, and all disappearing from the rankings at around the same time. With Juuou Mujin no Fafnir already long gone, it’s should be no surprise that the 2ch sales thread was filled around this time with comments about how the anime series had disappeared. It’s worth noting that this is fairly normal – last season, Madan no Ou to Vanadis, OreTwi and Inou Battle all dropped away at around this point as well. AmaBuri also plummeted hard, although it had been doing so well up to that point that it stayed comfortably within the top 500 (within the top 200 in fact) with every volume. This season, also, had one series that has stayed up in the rankings, although unlike in Autumn where AmaBuri was on top from start to finish, this time it was the series that had initially appeared to be the series that was receiving the smallest boost of the four that managed to hold on.
That series was SaeKano. The series peaked as late as week 5 (OreTwi peaked in the same week last season but that had started a full week later – although that’s counting episode zero for SaeKano) and, aside from a dip after week 6, it never really dropped away. Indeed I had been expecting it to follow a similar pattern (just a bit later) to the other series, meaning it would have been more or less completely out of the rankings by week 10, enabling me to post this at that point as a conclusive roundup of the full light novel sales boosts of the season. But here we are, after week 12, and it’s still just slowly trickling down the rankings. Due to its various oddities, the Oricon website light novel rankings have given us the sales data for volumes 1, 5 and 6 on most of these weeks – but as you can see from above, the volumes in between (which obviously simply aren’t eligible) have also been doing just as well. Last week, volume 1 became the first light novel series to achieve 30k sales this year purely thanks to the anime sales boost (last year saw 8 volumes achieve this feat, spread across 3 different series).
Why this one series has followed such a different trajectory to the others is not altogether obvious, although a gradual build up of interest in the series as it went along is the likely explanation – as people say to one another “hey, check out this great series”. There are people who claim that the light novels get better as they go along (although I personally think they’re great right from the start) and this may have also led to increased interest over time. It is, I guess, also possible that the boost was initially suppressed by episode zero (although this would run completely counter to the western obsession with the unjustified notion that Japanese otaku like stuff with as much fanservice as possible), and new fans then took a while to get comfortable with the idea that this was something they actually wanted to buy.

Whatever the reason, it may also be worth noting that, once you exclude the late-starting ISUCA and Precure and the series with <300 watching counts, SaeKano has seen the biggest % increase in MAL watching figures in airing anime every single week since it began, bar just one where Death Parade was slightly higher. Perhaps these two things are connected in some way?

…That sounds like an interesting thing to investigate in itself, although chances are it would require more data than I actually have.

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