Anime aren’t made just to entertain us – no, they’re out to make money too. Serious Business is an exploration of the underlying business that goes into creating, producing, and distributing the anime we love so much.

Profit vor!

I have a feeling last week’s post is going to spawn a few follow-ups. While the main thrust of my point there was thoroughly explored, a few other subjects were raised that I think deserve further exploration. This week will be one of those.

Let’s talk about original series. In talking about TV Free, some people raised the point that the problem was not with that story itself, but the fact that KyoAni is neglecting existing series that their current fans want to see completed – Haruhi, Fullmetal Panic, and any Key adaptation in particular – in favor of original material. I’ll give credit where credit is due – I only heard about how KyoAni managed the lead up to the announcement after the fact, and it sounded fairly ham-fisted. They raised people’s expectations to irrational levels, and as a marketer, take it from me – you never want to raise people’s expectations unless you can exceed even those heightened expectations! You lower them as much as you can without dropping off people’s radar, so whatever you deliver looks even more impressive in comparison. Beware customer’s imaginations, for they are fearsome. That said, please remember that it’s not only KyoAni’s decision whether they continue with those adaptations. All those franchises have publishers and original creators, who all have their say as well. But I’m getting a bit sidetracked here.

Sidetracked by all those bishies from…wait, that’s not the right Free!

So, original series. My opinion on this matter is well documented – I love original series. I love to blog them, for one, but that’s not all. The way I see it, adaptations are at their best when they bring a story to a wider (or different) audience, and when they enhance or somehow add to the story. This season, I’m enjoying the hell out of Hataraku! Maou-sama, which is practically a textbook example of how to adapt something properly. That said, there’s a limit to how much an adaptation can bring to the world, because the story has already been done. That story exists out there somewhere – even if some of us would never experience it without the adaptation – so in some ways it can never be anything but a retread (the exception being shows that split from their source material at some point, like the SOUL EATER anime I referenced above). That’s fine, but it confines the upside. At best, the director and studio are making a good adaptation, paying homage to someone else’s work by not fucking it up – it can’t be said that they’re creating a good story. They’re the builders, not the architects, and though there’s an art to building well, it’s not the same, and not nearly as impressive as doing it all.

On the other hand, creating original IPs (intellectual properties) presents an opportunity to do a more art, to create something totally new that the world has never seen before. Okay cynics, hold up – I accept that there’s nothing truly new under the sun. There’s an old saying: steal like an artist. All artists are thieves, but the good ones “get away with it” because they mix and match elements they liked seeing before into something that is, in the sum of its unoriginal parts, truly different in the end. Suddenly, I’m reminded of a scene in the anime of Ouran High School Host Club – an adaptation, to be fair, but stick with me – where Kyouya is painting inside a picture frame. I’ll spoiler the rest of this in case any of you haven’t seen the show, which by the way, I highly suggest you do – it’s one of the best shoujo anime I’ve ever seen. Actually, that doesn’t say a lot in and of itself, so I’ll add that it’s a very good story as well. Anywho, the spoiler:

Show More ▼

Though an inexact metaphor (actually, a pretty shitty one, if I’m honest about it), that’s what it means to make something original. The story may be rougher, without all the sharp corners sawed off and polished into perfection, but it can be more marvelous and alive than an adaptation can ever be. Of course, it always depends on the underlying story, original or not. Yet, when I compare sitting down to watch the final episode of one of the great original series I’ve seen, where neither I nor anyone else knew how it would end until we watched it there at the same time, the experience is hard to match. Originals can surprise and amaze and exceed expectations in ways that are extremely hard for adaptations to match. The overwhelming majority never even come close.

Seriously though, watch Ouran. The Shadow King demands it.

But there are risks! Original IPs are dangerous precisely because they are untested. While they might be great, they might be total flops. Though some of you undoubtedly liked, even loved them, PSYCHO-PASS and Tamako Market did not sell very well, which is what matters in the shareholder’s eyes. It’s less risky to take something that has proven itself to be successful and not fuck it up, at least in theory; I say in theory because as we all know, many studios go right ahead and fuck that up anyway. Real art is scary, it’s risky, it’s unknown. These are attributes that companies hate in an investment, because they can’t depend on them to give that steady inflow of money that keeps them in caviar and BMWs. Which is stupid! Sure there are risks, but there are rewards as well, including the very survival of their studio. Those who do not chase after the rewards out of fear of the risks are doomed to succumb eventually. Though something else may very well get them first, who knows.

As for the rewards, they are vast. Think of all the great anime franchises, your Evangelion, your Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, your Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, just to cherry pick a few. Those series were rave hits, and spawned movies and occasionally sequels or reboots that have kept studios alive and going for years after the fact. I mean, how do you think Gainax still even exists when most of their best people left for Trigger? The financial windfall of a great original IP is massive, because the studio and its creators own it all. They don’t have to share with publishers, original creators, etc. It’s all them. They own all the risks, but they own all the rewards as well. There’s more than just the money, too; there’s the creative energy of making great art, there’s the ability to pull in talented people who want to be part of that, and it’s more fun as an artist anyway. And also the money. That’s still a big one.

Also, Gundam. Just…Gundam. I rest my case.

This is all a long-winded way for me to get to my prediction about the future of original IPs, and here it is: niche markets. The reason has to do with the risks and rewards. The main risk in creating an original IP is that you’re not sure if people will like it, correct? That’s frightening enough when you have little money on the line, such as is the case with my own creative endeavors, but when there’s a lot of money riding on it then it’s much more important to get it right. One of the best ways to do this is to find a niche that is being underserved and cater to it. That removes some of the risk, because you can be reasonably certain that merely by paying attention to that niche you’re going to get a decent level of sales. Then, using that to assuage the creator’s fear (and use it to blunt attempts by the suits to water the story down so as to appeal to a “broader audience”), they can focus on telling a really, really good story. Girls und Panzer is the current reigning queen of this, with last season’s Love Live! coming in close behind. Those two shows sold wildly well because they took powerful niches – one which was extremely underserved in tank otaku, the other which was larger but still had room for a good story in idol otaku – and gave them good stories. Fans of those shows were raving, and they were good enough on their own right to get cross appeal from non-fans – Girls und Panzer is one of the best original IPs I’ve seen in a while, and I don’t just mean earning power. That story was damn good!

That’s my prediction – going forward, it will be more Garupan and Love Live! than PSYCHO-PASS and Suisei no Gargantia. Not that those won’t still be made, and sometimes be successful! Gargantia is widely and deservedly seen as one of the best shows airing this season, and I expect it will reap the rewards of that success. However, it’s much easier for a business to get behind finding an underserved niche and giving them a great new story than to risk telling a story with the higher potential upside (a wider target market) when they have no idea whether it will be received well or not. They’ll leave that up to the manga-ka and light novel authors more often than not, since they can better shoulder the risk. Ohandbytheway, this phenomenon is not restricted to anime. Look for it everywhere.

One last point before I sign off. I suspect that some of you will argue against my prediction, not necessarily to say that it’s incorrect, but to say that it’s wrong – that the niche strategy amounts to pandering instead of focusing on telling great stories. I’m sympathetic to this argument. As a writer myself, I haven’t paid a lot of thought to my target market, despite my day job as a marketer. With low financial risk – 90% of the cost to write my work is my own time, which I enjoy putting in – I can afford to say fuck it, I am going to tell the story I want to tell, and if people don’t like it then I’ll think up another one and try again! When you’re making an anime, that’s not the case. Remember the money, remember the money! Ideally studios who pursue original IPs would focus on telling great stories to the exclusion of all else, but they still have to eat and pay the bills. To me, whatever gets them to stop worrying about the risks enough to deliver great stories is a net positive. If they need to target a niche to give me more series like Girls und Panzer, that’s totally fine with me, because I still get chills when I watch the final moments of that series. Panzer vor!

A crying Momo is fine too


      1. Except maybe recap episodes. >.<

        Don't hit me. Just pointing that out.

        About spoilers, yea, even though the sheer epicness of episode 1 of Shingeki No Kyojin was amazing enough to get to start reading the manga (finished all 44 chapters in one go cuz the plot twists kept coming), I'm dismayed by how many guys out there just want to ruin the story for those anime viewers who have no idea what was going to come.

        Example of how particular I am about spoilers: When Harry Potter book 7 came out, my sister and me went to collect our copy, before shutting ourselves in our respective rooms reading the book and staying off the internet, so that we can savour the final chapter in all its glory. Best feeling ever, better than surfing the web and coming across "LOL _______ KILLS ________ on page ***!"

        Well…I really enjoyed watching Girls Und Panzer from the start to the end (helps that I only started watching it after all 12 episodes are finished) and given that there's no source materials that I can read it from, every new episode gave me something fresh and exciting that I can enjoy.

        I'm all for original IPs, but it's true that some titles can either be a hit or a miss. Even though I wish animation studios can encourage it, instead of sticking to the same old formula season after season, it's too risky for some to consider.

        When it pays off though, like how Girl Und Panzers turned out to be a surprise hit and revitalized the actual town of Ooarai that was hit by the tsunami, I'm glad for the creators and their team.

      2. Are there really no fillers in original IPs though? My first thought was the Yayoi episode from Pyscho-Pass. I think that if you had cut that episode out entirely, PP would not have suffered in the slightest from a story-telling perspective. It played out more like a supplementary OVA to me. But they probably aired it in order to fill the 22 episode schedule.

        That might be a topic for discussion: seasonal cours and how they limit/enhance storytelling in anime.

      3. Sure, there can be filler in original material. At their core, filler episodes are original material that aren’t necessarily vital to the main story. All the important parts of filler can still be exhibited by an “unnecessary” episode in an original story, one that could be cut away and not diminish the story much or at all, like with the PSYCHO-PASS example above.

        That said, I don’t think that all filler is bad. Sometimes it’s through these extra stories that we really come to understand and love the characters. Maybe I’ll write a post on that some day…

      4. @Stilts: Please do!

        I love series that appear primarily stand-alone and then slow cobble together a plot arc out of hints given before and spaced out season arc episodes. Or not even that, I often prefer GITS’s stand-alone episodes to their arc episodes!

        Series that are always plot intensive tend to miss out on the small moments that are integral to building good character dynamics, because the main plot is always about driving emotions we wouldn’t normally see, in order to contrast with their normal behavior. Without those small moments, there is no contrast, and suddenly that much potential emotional impact is lost.

        Stand-alone =/= filler! Filler is not when the events of the episode have no bearing on the plot, but when they have no bearing on the audience perception of the series’ themes and intent. Even when it appears that no character development has occurred, if simply displaying the status quo using a particular approach (a unique cinematography, for example) presents an important theme or aspect of the series, then it should not be counted as filler.
        Filler is when an audience leaves an episode not having gained anything new pertaining to the series (character, setting, relationship, theme, tone, anything) from watching.

    1. Its interesting how just recently, there was an interview with Suisei no Gargantia’s director on roughly the same topic.
      I’m not really sure how to quote it here, so I’ll just put it in spoiler mode.

      Show Spoiler ▼

      Original link

  1. Niche doesn’t necessarily mean that its good but either good or bad helps to stimulate the market by quite a bit. Good for the consumers overall. That’s why I look forward to the Young Animator’s Project each year.

  2. I’m going to get a lot of flack and hate and downvotes for this to the point my comment collapses, but I honestly think Girls Und Panzer is an abomination, an embarrassment, and the conglomeration of everything that is wrong with anime these days.

    Which is why it sold so much and was such a hit with the otaku communitiy, to no one’s surprise

    1. If you actually intend to avoid all those downvotes you’re predicting, you’re going to have to give us an explanation for why you think that way. Otherwise you just come across as a troll.

      1. I agree. I can understand why people may dislike Girls Und Panzer either for the female cast, possible insults to Tanks (possible), or that it lacks anything else people want to see.

        Other than that, an abomination? I am actually interested in the reason to choose such a word. If it were something like, “didn’t like it” or “bad” then that is understandable.

    2. Agree with Wanderer. I admit the last two episodes made me go WTF. But it has proven popular mainly because, as Stilts has said, it tapped into something in Japan.

      I’m willing to bet also that Military otakus were the vanguard of that, and the fact it had an alright plot and story helped. But before you get downvoted to obscurity, explain yourself.

      1. To be honest, I didn’t think it was popular until about half way through the initial airing of the show. Then I discovered there’s a whole thread dedicated to it on the World of Tanks US Forums which is well over 500 pages long. It’s impressive to watch such military Otaku’s go on the different tactics and equipment employed in the series I think most forget it even involves cute girls piloting them. It was surprising to be honest, seeing it featured on the website and even the developers getting into the discussions. I honestly did not expect it considering the negativity of some of the posts towards anime fans in general within the community.

        I think GuP did the right thing, focusing mainly on the tanks + tactics and placing the slice of life elements second. It was refreshing and a thrill to watch the battles play out. Regardless it had people talking.

      1. I’m not seeing the point of that comparison. Girls und Panzer is not much like K-On! at all. Yes, you can point out things they have in common, but I could point out things things Puella Magi Madoka Magica has in common with Yuyushiki: that wouldn’t make them similar.

      2. Both shows took a large niche (moe girls) and mixed them in with another smaller niche (tanks, light music), and wrote a story that worked with the two, and both are successful. That’s what I was getting at.

    3. Two sides of the same coin.

      -I agree: Me too bored me animes with female characters only. In this type of anime character development is limited and their stories tend to repeat in the same pattern. The characters tend has to be sexualized and presented in erotic fantasies. By representing the romance (and for only having female characters) characters are made ​​yuri, and to top it gain more attention.

      -I disagree: Girls and Panzer is a funny story. It is simple and comic, no complicated plots. Interesting topic by the tanks and war. It has a good story and decent character development. No yuri to the naked eye, unless you want to see.

      1. I beg to differ. It is precisely the over-simplification of war and the flowery conception of conflict (using tanks at that) that really irritates me regarding Girls und Panzer.

        It is also wrong to say that all female-only originals are focusing mostly on any infatuation between the characters. Take Natsuiro Kiseki for example. I find the subtle plot coupled with the troubles of coming of age which really makes this show shine.

      2. Girls Und Panzer is basically about a team competing in a tournament, except that they are doing it with tanks. All these talk about the war…lol..really? Think of it as a sports anime and you will be fine. That’s how I saw Garupan.

    4. If I had to take a guess, Girls and Panzer can be considered as “Military Fanservice with Loli Bait”. Maybe the whole point about it is the idea of all these vintage tanks duking it out with each other, but you’d be hard pressed to say you didn’t at least hear about it because of the Lolis.

      I mean, a similar concept could’ve been executed with a really uptight, fully male, completely desexualized cast. Would that have sold well? I doubt it. Much like how every video game in the west requires at least one female in a bikini of some sort, it seems that Anime requires either a moe blob or lots of useless meat; occasionally both at the same time. Otherwise, it seems that most of the not-blob series become niche and obscure.

      Granted, it’s not like every series ever utilizes the blob. RAINBOW is the first one that comes to mind. It’s just that…if you’re not expecting to have major appeal from something like the studio name, the source work, or something else…the only real option is to opt for the blob.

      1. @Vsin: If I had to take a guess, Girls and Panzer can be considered as “Military Fanservice with Loli Bait”. Maybe the whole point about it is the idea of all these vintage tanks duking it out with each other, but you’d be hard pressed to say you didn’t at least hear about it because of the Lolis.

        Have you even watched the show? Given your comments I honestly wonder. I can’t speak for others, but “loli” had nothing to do with why I “heard” about the show (I found out about it by reading season previews), or decided to watch the show. Same goes for “moe blob”. What drew me to the show was the WWII theme since I have an interest in that subject. Even then the show turned out to be better than I expected.

        Frankly, I’m surprised with all the loli/sex based accusations considering the director went out of his way to ban even panty shots (literally ordered animators not to do it). There are MANY shows with more fan service than GuP. But even beyond any “fanservice” (tank or otherwise), the core of the show is simply competition. I’ve read numerous comparisons of the show with Saki in that regard. GuP at heart is a different take on the tried and true “underdog overcoming the odds” theme. The battles were a lot of fun to watch. Use of motion picture style shots and “tank/gunners-eye” views helped immerse the viewer into the action. Each battle was tense with Oarai winning at the last minute in dramatic fashion.

        The sometimes almost Deus Ex victories are a legitimate topic for criticism, but if in-universe credibility was pushed too far, at least it was done in a creative (sometimes very creative) fashion. The Maus fight being a perfect example. If an Oarai victory was “obvious”, HOW they would win was not.

        That’s part of what I meant about how well planned the show was. The battle scenes were well choreographed. Clearly a lot of thought and effort was put into scripting and animating them, and it was those battles, not “moe blob”/loli, which drew many to the show. A large part, perhaps half or even more, of the post episode RC review discussion was about strategy and tactics. Even if you knew nothing about tanks or were not a “WWII/tank otaku”, the dramatic competition and comedy were sufficient to draw non-core viewers. As Stilts notes, that’s a big difference between Girls und Panzer an Upotte.

        I mean, a similar concept could’ve been executed with a really uptight, fully male, completely desexualized cast. Would that have sold well?

        IMO, probably not, but not primarily for the reason you suggest. I think a better question is would that have worked as well. IMO, no – the show doesn’t work nearly as well with an all male cast and “moe blob/loli” has nothing to do with it. First, your idea makes the show much more similar (too similar IMO) to actual war/combat – which as Wanderer noted, one character literally states “Sensha-do is not war.” With an all male cast the show isn’t nearly as unique. Frankly, at that point I might as well watch the movie Patton, or some WWII documentary type series like Patton 360. A LOT of comedy is derived from the perceived dichotomy between girls & tanks, and those antics help maintain the show’s overall light-hearted nature. Finally, JMO, but an all male cast limits some of the more touching moments. For example: Show Spoiler ▼

        Obviously the show is tailor made for someone like me though clearly there are a significant number of non “WWII/tank/military otaku” fans as well. Still, if the story doesn’t appeal you or others, that’s fine. There’s a lot of anime in which I have no interest in watching. To each his/her own as the saying goes. Are there “moe” and even some loli elements? Yes, but if you want to damn the show for that, then you have a very long list of anime shows to accompany it. Finally, while some may indeed be drawn to the show for it’s “moe”, you’re wrong to blindly assume that every GuP fan is simply a moe blob addict/lolicon – far from it.

    5. It’s easy to see that you are a part of the moe-hating and/or otaku-pandering hating crowd, and you hate the show because it is. But apart from being “all-moe” and is a show pandering to otakus, you have to admit the show’s plot is straightforward and is actually good.

      The Moondoggie
  3. This is a good post.

    However, what gets me is the use of “niche”. Cause I think 95% of anime covered by blogs is ALREADY niche in terms of audience (yes Haruhi IS niche as far as Japan goes), so you wonder how far of a niche of a niche of a niche can the industry get away with.

    I like my anime but am not into stuff like Girls und Panzer (if you are that’s cool though), to me that’s just spinnings it’s wheels for a niche audience, then again I am WESTERN so I have different demands than the primary hardcore Japanese audience so………….

    Billy Bob
    1. But of course, everything is a niche. “Soda drinkers” or “tea drinkers” or “coffee drinkers” are all niches of the larger market of humans who drink anything (i.e. all of us), even if they’re all huuuuuuuuuge friggin’ niches. By that same logic, anime itself is a niche.

      In this case, the “whole” that I spoke of is the anime industry and the fans who are open to watching anime. Any subset within that is a niche. Of course, some are friggin’ huge – mecha fans, for instance – but they’re still technically niches. It just isn’t usually helpful to talk about them in those terms when there are smaller fish that more deserve the title.

      And to give an answer your comment about how far they can go down the niche hole – as far down as they can go and still make money : ) That’s business!

      1. haha, no I dont think you could call coffee drinkers a niche.
        Then you’d be right and everything would be a niche and the word would totally lose ist meaning.

        I think you gotta take your “whole” and look at the different groups that are part of this whole. Then you compare their sizes. At a certain point- which CANNOT be predicted objectively -we start calling this liitle group as filling a niche.

        But I think coffee drinkers are two big a group to call them niche;)
        Though watching anime certainly is – if we call the “whole” hobbies (in the western countries).

      2. That was my point : ) It depends on the “whole” you’re talking about. If you’re talking about the entertainment industry, anime is a niche, but if you’re talking about the anime industry, you really do need to get down past the major categories (mecha, slice of life, etc) to get down to where the word niche becomes useful again.

      3. Come on Stilts, there is a clear difference between niche and not niche anime, at least in Japan.

        Not-niche anime: broadcasted during the day, or cinema movie. Targeted at either kids/teenagers, or the general population. They mostly care about either tv ratings or cinema revenues, as well as depending heavily on merchandising in the case of the kid shows. Example: Shonen Jump adaptations, Studio Ghibli movies.

        Niche anime: late night anime broadcasted after midnight. Targeted at Otaku. They mostly care about Blu-ray/DVD sales. Merchandising is often less significant than the first category, since the audience is much smaller, but it can be significant (Gundam). Example: 99% of what is covered on this website.

        Clearly this is a generalization, but since we are talking about consumers and making money here, the difference cannot be ignored.

  4. I encountered the ‘niche’ targeting in American Science Fiction. I’m a big fan of Larry Correia, and already he seems to have my tastes in heart. Guns, B-movie monsters that meet their deaths by a great use of explosives. Great Old Ones, etc etc. What many people should know (or don’t) is that his stories evolved from a niche community. Passed around the gun blogger scene, to hold an original copy of the very first Monster Hunter: International (where the cover art was done by Oleg Volk) is a source of pride for many gunnies. And the sales of his books are growing.

    Stilts is right in that tapping into a crowd that seemed less than ideal ‘cookie cutter’ population has the potential to make or break a studio. It also possibly explains the massive rise of crowd-sourced funding in the past few years. A fanbase willing to cough up real cash in denominations that can go from a simple dollar to thousands will attract people who will want that money, and normally have fun in providing the need.

    Supply and demand all it comes down to it. And in this case, demand was there…somewhat. Just need to tap it.

    1. On your crowdfunding point, the success of that as a whole doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the idea of targeting niches so much as the power of the idea itself. That said, the success of specific crowdfunding campaigns – specific Kickstarters and whatnot – has often been in building a tribe or trageting a niche and then having your idea validated before you sink a lot of money into it. In that case, it has more to do with my risks vs rewards dichotomy, in that it lessens the risks to a far greater degree than it lessens the rewards (via the crowdfunding platform’s slice of the profit).

  5. We can make case for both sides. Originals that are good and originals that flop. Adaptations that are great and other just flunk. I feel is the sum of the components that make of break a show. I’m going to take and old sample that got me flamed over and over. Amagami SS and its omnibus format. I don’t hate the series but it will never make my favorites list. Because that’s not the way harems work in my head. Another niche show Yosuga no Sora if twincest is not niche then then shoot me. So being niche won’t make it a success. Another example Garupan will I buy the box set? YES. It was fun and entertaining. Will I vote for it for anime of the year? Hell no! The studio dropped the ball with months hiatus. So to make a pile of money the forces in the universe have to convey and merge in perfect order and hope. Suisei Is nice and beautiful but I’m watching for Urubutcher san to start killing people off. If that doesn’t happen it will end in the slice of life recycling bin of forgotten anime. What about Fractale?! the director put his career on the line because it was going to be that good…. No it wasn’t. The list can go on and on.
    So, to summarize. I believe that to make $$$ a story just need the right mix and proportion of the correct ingredients. That will engage people and their wallets. And Yes I do buy anime DVD., in box sets format.

    1. Personally, I never really saw Amagami SS as an actual “harem” anime. To me, “harem” anime tends to mean one guy in a relationship with multiple girls in one whole sitting; things like Maburaho, To-Love-Ru, Samurai Girls, Infinite Stratos, Rosario + Vampire, To Heart series, Da Capo series, Clannad, Princess Lover!, and so on.

      The omnibus format of Amagami SS and Yosuga no Sora prevents such a thing from happening because it’s entirely separate stories (though they each start from the same point with Amagami, or at certain “branch” points with Yosuga no Sora) where it’s one guy getting into a relationship with one girl, resetting after, then restarting, but having the guy get into a relationship with a different girl as if the previous relationship(s) never happened.

      So it allows people to see a male lead with “multiple” girls, yet not be a harem with all the usual hijinks, problems, interferences, etc.

    2. What HalfDemonInuyasha said. While in many cases “dating sim adaptation” and “harem anime” can be largely synonymous, that’s a situation where that’s certainly not the case. Also, shows like Mashiro Iro Symphony where the studio picks one route and animates that. In fact, the more I think about it, most dating sim adaptations aren’t true harem shows because the harem isn’t integral to the story ala Infinite Stratos and the rest. THis is all kind of off topic, but hey 😀

    3. @HalfDemonInuyasha and @Stilts

      Where were you guys when I was battered to bits in the Amagami posts! That was my point at that time they are not harems We agree!!! I even recall Divine saying to me this is the way harems are going to be done from now on! So every one told me that time.

      But going back to the point: are they successful “niche” stories after so many years? At the time of their premiers everyone was raving abotu them. I know Amagami did sell “well” while the other sink in the anals of anime history. So being niche is not a warranty of success.

      1. Of course not. My point was merely that it lessens the (perceived) risk in the creator’s minds, allowing them to do better art and tell better stories. They can still screw it up royally and come out with jack all, no problemo. Many do.

    4. To be honest, I thought that Fractale was one of the best anime I have ever seen.

      Originals are great. It offers a nice change of pace from the usual array of dating/hero anime which would probably follow the typical, albeit unfortunate, hero’s journey formula.

      From my understanding, originals that are popular are because they are different from everything else. There is Madoka which depicts a pessimistic and melancholic tone, which is ultimately different from the typical shows of the same genre. Suisei no Gargantia was, in my opinion, successful as well as it is not your typical sci-fi hero-always-win anime (Gundam Seed for example), but rather an anime which focuses on thematic elements and psychology.

      However, there are also originals that are absolutely terrible. Take Basquash for one. The setting and the whole mecha concept is totally different from other sci-fi anime. What undermined this original show was the studio’s inability to fully utilise their new and original concept, and resorted to the stereotypical and highly predictable plot-line.

      1. I’d upvote you twice if I could – once as an affirmation of your post in general, and once for your approval of Fractale. I suppose I could name quite a number of series that I thought were better, but Fractale still did a fine job of leaving lasting (and personally positive) impressions. Can’t blame anyone for feeling disappointed about its untapped potential and how it remained untapped, but if I could, I’d make these people watch Fractale again once through, expectations thrown out the window, in hopes of presenting to them the unusual charm that this series has.

    5. Please don’t mention Fractale, it pains me to think of what could have been. What I wouldn’t give to see a director show the middle finger to the anime industry and succeed in the way Yutaka Yamamoto wanted.

      Unfortunately, I think what failed in Fractale was the episode count. A story like that could have done marvelously with 2-cours. But that’s the current catch-22 with the anime industry; no one is willing to guarantee multiple seasons for a show unless it’s a guaranteed success, but oftentimes shows can’t be a success without those extra seasons.

  6. This is why I hate Hollywood more every year. They do not make movies for the art- they make them for as much money as they can get, and when they fail to reach their expectations, that results in bad voodoo all around. One of the initial reasons I got into anime in the first place was because here is a country that not only understands that it’s a business, but also an art form. They do take more risks than Hollywood will ever make anymore. I support more original IPs in the future even though it may mean I wouldn’t get to see my favorite story adapted into an anime!

    1. I think those in the anime industry understand that it’s a business just as much as those in Hollywood do. The only difference I really see – and this just came to me a second ago – is that there’s no “indie” anime scene. In movies or video games, the really creative stuff happens in the lower budget indie sectors, because they have less at risk and can therefore afford to pursue their art. For anime – and live action TV also, in fact – there’s really only one market, so you get those who are doing it for art mixed in with those doing it for money, with perhaps a better result all around. After all, that’s how we get some genuinely good anime, and all sorts of that awesome stuff that airs on HBO and AMC.

      Well, unless you want to count YouTube as well, which we’ll increasingly have to. That’s when things start to get really interesting…

      1. Oh yes, Youtube. It’s one of the best places for entertainment by normal people. I think that perhaps it could replace mainstream TV one day. Of course, the big media companies won’t allow that to happen because as long as they are around, user created content sites will just be in the shadows.

    2. Everything is about a dollar now in Hollywood and in other arenas as well. If you know that it is a successful series, you’re gonna make the revenue in DVD and merchandise sales. If it’s something never done before, it’s hit or miss. Hollywood has gotten to the point where they pretty much have this, who cares attitude. For example, me and my brother saw a commercial advertising the upcoming 6th installment of The Fast & Furious 6 which I know has been steadily declining in popularity over the years. One of two reasons is the economy and the other is that the drifting and nice car craze has kind of fizzled in recent years also due to the economy. It’s just not hitting on anything like it used to. The sad thing is that, there will be a 7th and final! installment next summer which will conclude the series.

  7. Ouran Highschool is one of those anime’s that you MUST watch, it is just epic, funny, amazing, wonderful and original in so many ways that I just love it. It is enough to have people on cast like Tamaki, Kyouka, Mori-senpai, Honey-senpai, Hikaru & Kaoru and most definetly Haruhu, not to forget the other charecters in the story that got us singing Lobelia! I would put it on everyone I know’s list. Up to this day, whenever I’m down in the dumps, Ouran Highschool becomes my sanctuary :)…. Thanks, M.

  8. Hmm, no I guess thats not right. I dont think an original creation holds per se more potential than an adaptation. If we really go with intertexuality and stuff which you mentioned it IS true, that certain elements are always repeating itself, so nothing can ever be original. Not anymore at least.

    But I still agree that originals are generally better than adaptations, not always, but still…Question is why. Imo the original stories are meant to be for TV and the story is usually planned beforehand – from beginning to the end. Just take a look at Ergo Proxy Show Spoiler ▼

    or Xamd Show Spoiler ▼

    . That is all well thought out beforehand, whereas in an adaptation either:
    1.) the original story often isnt even finished
    or 2.) they try to stuff a long running story into too few eps (even though the original is as it is)
    and 3.) you have expectations that CANT be fulfilled 100%. You can exceed them of course – but as you mentioned – that can be pretty hard

    With these 3 points I just think it is easier to screw up an adaptation than an original story.

  9. This post pretty much describes why I like studios such as I.G, White Fox and Trigger. They don’t rehash the same material and they bother to make stuff we don’t typically see. I.G is on a role with Psycho Pass and now Gargantia(Also, I wouldn’t say Psycho Pass sold bad. Vol 1 was 9k. That’s above average). White Fox is adapting some interesting materials we don’t see very often(Maou-sama and Jormungand) and Trigger is also taking the I.G route and giving us some nice original material.

    This isn’t to say I don’t like stuff that’s rehashed. I have to have my seasonal dose of guilty pleasures(oriemo, monogatari and love live)but at the end of the day what I want to see is some worthwhile stuff that does some great and interesting things.

    1. Didn’t White Fox also animate Steins;Gate? Yeah, those 3 studios are ones you should watch out for! That and Kyoto Animation, who are veering toward original IPs as mentioned in the beginning of this post.

      1. I’m not too sure what other projects White Fox has worked on, but I do know that Jormungand and S;G had brilliant source material, the stuff that masterpieces are made of, so it comes as no surprise that this studio stands out nicely. That said, I’m still doubtful of the quality of their work.

        In terms of visuals, Steins;Gate really didn’t have anything of significant complexity to reproduce. The focus was mostly on the dialogue and plot, and on the growth and interaction of the characters. It’s not for me to say if something is difficult or otherwise to animate, but I’m just going to go ahead and assume that S;G shouldn’t have been the hardest thing to bring to life, especially when the stuff like the dialogue and the story and its characters have all been completely done up. Even so, and honestly speaking, S;G doesn’t look very well done as an anime on closer inspection. Watching it the first time through, I was completely unaware of this. This thought hadn’t occurred to me until I had completed the VN (about 2 months ago), being completely blown away by the series again, and re-watching the adaptation in my excitement.

        Needless to say, in comparison to the intricate and detailed designs of Huke, the characters in the adapation looked lackluster. But while the difference in quality is a given, I do feel that the characters in the anime don’t look “good” enough. They look like their counterparts in the VN, but only because of the major physical traits that make each character stand out (Okabe’s lab coat, Kurisutina’s red hair, Mayushii’s blue dress and hat etc.). A closer look at each character in the anime reveals a lack of detail whatsoever. But that’s the least of my complains. Now, I’m not saying that White Fox made a bad adaptation, but again, having played the VN, I realized that they missed out on a good number of details that made all the difference in building up the story and the interaction of the characters. Realizing that specific scenes from different parts of the VN were excluded from the adaptation made me that much more disappointed with the anime with each episode. What I’m getting at is that S;G as an anime will look fantastically done to someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to play the VN, but those who do will come to realize the massive difference in quality the VN has in comparison to the anime adaptation.

        I don’t have as much to say about Jormungand, and neither am I in any position to, considering I haven’t actually read much of the manga that the anime adaptation is based on, but what I do want to point out is how the lack of quality in animation is also present, and of this time of much significance since it is clearly more evident in Jormungand, a series that relies heavily on visuals to make it work. From what I’ve seen, the adaptation presents a couple of fights with acceptable visuals, but nothing to be remotely impressed by. Characters lack details and the rest of the animation when they aren’t involved in some firefight significant in driving the story looks choppy and carelessly done. The one thing that left me with a really bad taste in the mouth was the CGI. The CG planes and cars were just horribly done. I’m not even going to mention the absurd gun physics (or lack thereof). But even so, Jormungand seems to be a popular series, with many whom I know have seen it rating it highly. I can only believe that it’s because the concept of the series itself, the detailed story and the characters, which have all been shaped and perfected in the manga, carry the series, which relies as much on intelligent dialogue and a large dose of good storytelling as it does on high-octane action scenes.

        So am I just trying to make White Fox look bad? In a sense, yes. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and I think White Fox doesn’t deserve as much credit as people seem to give it. S;G and Jormungand are two fantastic series, enough so that it would take idiots forming an animation team to screw their adaptations up. By no means has White Fox done anything to make either series look any better than they would without an anime adaptation. In other words, I wouldn’t say that it’s a studio to look out for, at least not in the way implied here.

  10. That picture of Unicorn… Oh man, episode seven is still so far away. 🙁 Anyways, great post Stilts, and you’re right, original IPs, while occasionally fantastic, have much more at stake than adaptations- because it’s uncharted territory. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting Garupan and Love Live! to be so good, so I was incredibly impressed by the fact that despite the fact that it felt like pandering to a certain type of audience, it wasn’t just merely a cash grab- it had great characters and good stories to tell. (I had no expectations for either because the synopsis for both didn’t make them sound all that exciting or interesting)

    Note: the following is just my opinion on the matter, if I offend anyone, I apologize.

    I notice that some studios take more risks than others, while some just play it safe. (It’s safe to assume that’s because some studios have much bigger budgets than others though, right?) For instance, J.C. Staff usually just adapts light novels, and they almost always without fail, do a damn good job with them. And while their animation quality is never SHAFT or KyoAni standards, it’s always great. Why do they not do original IPs? I think it’s because they know what works for them, and they stick to it. But then again, sometimes their adaptations don’t always work. (Joshiraku, anyone? I feel like I’m one of the few people that watched and loved that show…)

    SHAFT is probably the closest thing to an “Indie” anime studio as far as the big names go, they rarely go for the mainstream route, but instead opt for adapting properties that are considered “weird” and sometimes “inaccessible” to many fans. (Take Bakemonogatari and Sasami@unmotivated for instance, both are great shows in their own right, but I’ve talked to plenty of people saying that they are “trying too hard” and “pandering to otakus that want to seem smart”. SHAFT is probably aware that their shows aren’t meant for everyone, but they go ahead with them anyways, because they know the audience they want to target, and there are plenty of people out that enjoy the certain “pretentiousness” that their shows offer)

    Sunrise seems fond of taking risks, but then again, I wouldn’t say making a new Gundam series is a “risk” because that franchise is a cultural institution in Japan- and no matter how poor the quality of the Gundam series in question is, it’ll still make Sunrise a ton of money. (see: SEED Destiny and AGE) Because Sunrise knows very well that Gundam series sell like hotcakes, they can take some interesting liberties with them. For instance, AGE was done by Level 5 and was catered to a younger crowd. Sure, it pissed off the older generation of fans, but it brought in a next generation of fans, despite the fact that the story telling and characterization was poor. I’m sure Sunrise knew this, but they went ahead with it anyway. It sold well despite all the backlash, and accomplished what they wanted: bring in new fans to the legendary franchise.
    With this season, we get Valvrave, or Code Geass 2.0, as I like to call it. It’s an original IP sure, but it’s ALSO a mecha series done by Sunrise this alone, means it will sell like crazy. I don’t need to talk about the show anymore here, because the comments on Seishun’s posts already say everything that needs to be said, go read those if you need to know more. (be warned, there’s a lot of spam) Is Valvrave a risk on Sunrise’s part? Of course it is. Will it still make them insane amounts of money even if the show sucks on every level? Of course it will. (for the record, I’m loving it)

    So in short for those TL;DR people, it seems whether or not studios go with original IPs or adaptations depends on their track record when it comes to taking risks when making a show. (again, just my opinion)

    Geez, that was a lot to write. I’ll leave on this note: because I KNOW Valvrave is going to make Sunrise stupid amounts of money,(because it is every Sunrise show ever) I hope they use it towards giving us a second season of Love Live! or season three of Horizon… Is there a petition I can sign to make this happen? 🙂

    1. Japanese anime studios don’t care about petitions from Western fans 😛 They don’t make shit for money off us and they know it, so I wouldn’t bother. Just buy BDs or DVDs when you want and quietly hope.

      As for your other point, I certainly agree that some studios have different thoughts when it comes to adaptations. Bones loves a long shounen adaptation, while J.C.Staff loves a romcom adaptation, and neither of them usually go for originals. Sunrise I think funds its originals through its cash cows (Gundam mainly, though also things like Kyoukaisen), but the originals they do usually fit into one of two categories, “mecha” or “idol” (both of which they have a track record of making good shows and usually a shit ton of money). Shaft loves to do Shaft-y shows, whether they’re original or not (and f*ck up Negima adaptations, but that’s another thing entirely). And everyone’s favorite KyoAni used to be adaptation masters, but are now going all original.

      Basically, you can see each company’s business plans in their actions. A word of warning, though – remember that many of the larger studios (Sunrise, for example) have multiple teams, so in fact you have different groups pursuing the kinds of shows they feel comfortable doing, and doing well. So it could be that there’s one Sunrise group that likes to make originals just as much as Trigger and is being funded by those who love to pump out Gundam shows, who knows!

      (I’m sure someone does, but I’m too lazy to find out.)

      1. Hmm About BONES, I do not think that they love long-running shounen adaptations, but they had a large number of originals or short adaptations of other materials. Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater aside, there was Star Driver, Rahxephon, Eureka Seven, Darker than Black just to name a few.

      2. DAMN IT STILTS! YOU RUINED THE PERFECTLY GOOD DREAM I HAD. And yeah, Shaft definitely messed up the Negima adaptation, but the manga was so good, I pretty much forgot about it… (and then you brought it back up and the nightmares are now coming back -_-) But I actually didn’t know that the bigger studios had multiple teams, so that’s something I’ll definitely keep in mind when this topic is brought up again. Your theory about Sunrise is probably right though, because Valvrave has some serious star power behind the creative staff and seiyuu… Their budget is probably something really silly.

      3. Regarding Bones, for many years I used to watch their shows solely because it was Bones. They went through a period of intensely high quality between 2002 and 2007, and a whole lot of it was original:

        Rahxephon (amazing, and an anime original)
        Wolf’s Rain (amazing, also original)
        Scrapped Princess (amazing, adapted from a light novel)
        Fullmetal Alchemist [the first one](amazing, and though only a partial adaptation, I thought the anime original parts were well done, even if it isn’t not as good as the manga)
        The Mars Daybreak (a decent show, one of their weakest from these years, but it was an anime original)
        Kurau Phantom Memory (PLEASE WATCH THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T. Also an anime original.)
        Eureka Seven (obviously amazing, and also amazingly original. Also, please watch the middle “filler” episodes that everyone seems to hate, they’re by far the best part of this show)
        Ouran High School Host Club (well outside of Bones’ scope at the time, yet ended up better than the manga it was adapted from)
        Jyu-Oh-Sei (good show worth watching, but suffers from the fact that it was only 11 episodes. Adapted from a manga. Also, Dat OP).
        Ayakashi Ayashi (meh, their lowest point from this time period, though an original work)
        Darker than Black (damn amazing, and also original)

        Of course, they made plenty of good stuff afterwards (FMA:Brotherhood, Tokyo Magnitude, second seasons of Darker than Black and Eureka Seven, Un-Go, Tempest, Towa no Quon), yet ever since FMA:B ended I haven’t been looking forward to their stuff as much. Am I getting old and jaded? Dammit, I’m only 24, that shouldn’t happen.

        PS: I didn’t mention Star Driver in that last paragraph on purpose. I both liked and hated that show. Also, Gosick is average, and Soul Eater, well, I’m just waiting for the manga to end so a remake can be made.

  11. OTOH, an adaptation can expand on a work that only has the seed of a great idea but lacks something. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! is an example whose source material is nowhere near the quality of the anime’s (which greatly expanded the story). The movie Forest Gump greatly exceeded what was a rather mediocre novel. Working within the confines of existing material can create something special just because you are restricted . Poetry has been doing this for millennia in restricting the form the material is organized in (so too is prose in that you deal with sentences, paragraphs…). The problem with IP works is whether there is a story or whether it is just a High Concept . The latter is one where someone comes up with an idea for a visual and then tries to build up a story. At least with an adaptation the developers know where it’s going and how it will end as opposed to getting into development and realizing that they don’t know how to end it properly.

    1. True. Chu2koi is an example of when an adaptation uses existing material as a jump off point to tell a different story, though so much of that was original that I hesitate to call it an adaptation anymore. 80+% original and you’re really in another category.

      Your point about being creative within constraints is very true, though. When you can do anything, often people will do nothing, or will fall back on what is familiar out of fear of their infinite options. When that happens, it helps to constrain yourself so you can innovate within those bounds.

  12. A few comments. This will be long.

    – “For anime … there’s really only one market”. I don’t want to repeat myself, but this is really not true, at least in Japan, which is the only market the anime studios really care about anyway. The kids who watch Pokemon on Sunday morning and the parents taking the family to the cinema to watch Tonari no Totoro (which by the way, is by far the best selling anime ever) are one market. The otaku watching Madoka Magica after midnight are a completely different market. Let’s talk about the latter.

    – Since we need to talk about anime sales, here is a handy reference for sale numbers: Psycho-Pass for example did 8k+ so far which I would not consider as “not selling well” (it was the 18th best seller of 2012). I can agree that Tamako at 4k was likely a major disappointment for Kyoani.

    – I think the whole “originals are more risky” statement must be taken with a grain of salt. If we look at the top sellers from 2000 onwards, we can see that 10 out of the 20 top shows are original. This is a much larger ratio compared to the percentage of original anime broadcasted every season. Of course, one could argue that if the good originals sell very well, perhaps the bad ones sell very poorly (the definition of risky). While this is partially true, I clearly remember that a post on the same forum I linked made a comprehensive analysis of every show from around 2008 onwards, and found that the average sale numbers for original shows are actually slightly higher than for adaptations. The point? Adaptation are often sponsored by whoever holds right on the original IP – because they benefit from increased sales of the original material. Without this mechanism, we would probably see a much larger percentage of originals.

    – Can we really say that the sale numbers (32k+) of GuP were significantly boosted by tank otaku? Personally I doubt – it is simply an anime with a cool and silly premise about a group of cute girls doing awesome things. I think the cool, the cute and the awesome are more important than whatever “niche” hobby the premise targets. Otaku are otaku. It does not really matter if it is a light music club or a tankery club as long as the activity feels “otakuish”. If we really want to find niches in the late night anime market, the only ones that make sense to me are the mecha otaku (because they buy larger amount of merchandising), the idol otaku (same as above), and of course the fujoshi.

    – Overall, I don’t think it matters too much whether an anime is original or not in terms of sales potential – what matters is resonance and execution. If your show does not resonate with the larger male otaku or fujoshi community, you are not going to sell. More than niche shows, I think we will simply get more and more titles that are clearly oriented at the dominant male otaku profile – titles like K-On, GuP, or Saki are good examples.

    – Finally, I do not think anybody can fault KyoAni – when a title with average execution like UtaPri can sell 18k+, and KuroBas does 24k+, you know there is much untapped market potential…

    1. * My point on the anime market was NOT that there are not many different target markets (niches) within it – I say as much in my post. My point was that there doesn’t appear to be two tiers within those who make anime – there’s no “triple A” and “indie” like in video games, there are just different studios. Of course, I might be wrong – that’s from a Westerner’s point of view – but that was what I was saying.

      * While originals might actually be safer in a mathematical sense, that doesn’t honestly matter – what matters is the perception of risk on the creator’s part. If creators think what they’re doing is risky, that may make them more conservative in their storytelling to ameliorate their risk. That’s why I said things like “My point was merely that it lessens the (perceived) risk in the creator’s minds, allowing them to do better art and tell better stories.”

      * As for Garupan, I’m fairly comfortable saying this from the comments on RandomC’s posts alone. I was, to be honest, shocked by how many high quality comments Moomba’s Garupan posts got, with a lot of them talking about the intricacies of all the tanks and other jazz like that. It’s an assumption, yes, but I feel it’s a safe one…especially since that assumption was likely on the creator’s minds when they were making Garupan, and thus is valid in my thesis for reasons state in my previous bullet point.

      * Finally, original or adaptation does matter, but you’re right – what matters above all else is how good the story is and how well it’s told. That will always be true though, so it’s not much fun to talk about it all the time, ne? ; )

      Thanks for the comment!

  13. @Stilts:
    That said, there’s a limit to how much an adaptation can bring to the world, because the story has already been done… At best, the director and studio are making a good adaptation, paying homage to someone else’s work by not fucking it up – it can’t be said that they’re creating a good story. They’re the builders, not the architects, and though there’s an art to building well, it’s not the same, and not nearly as impressive as doing it all. .

    Frankly I think that’s a bit disparaging to directors (and general contractors or “builders”). As you point out, poor direction/production can “fuck up” any good story – “original” or adaptation. We’ve certainly seen enough shows which suffered from less than ideal direction and/or production. Of course the story matters, but it’s just one part of a good anime.

    Perhaps I’m taking this point more seriously than I should, but that line of thought diminishes the value of adaptation. I have trouble understanding why you place so much emphasis on who writes the story rather than on the story itself and how well it’s told. Consider Fate Zero. It was not “original” (based on a LN) yet voted by both RC and readers as Anime of the Year last year. Besides, “original” in some sense is relative. Shingeki may not be “original” in absolute terms, but since I wasn’t aware of the series before this season, it was “original” to me.

    To be clear, I am certainly not against original anime by any means. I’m as big of a GuP fan as any on RC. What matters to me is the quality of the end product – whether that’s the work of a few individuals all “in house”, or a collective effort by a studio/director and independent author of some source material

    Fans of those shows were raving, and they were good enough on their own right to get cross appeal from non-fans – Girls und Panzer is one of the best original IPs I’ve seen in a while, and I don’t just mean earning power. That story was damn good!

    Frankly, I don’t see the “idol niche” at all, but that’s irrelevant. I whole heartedly agree with you regarding GuP’s broad appeal beyond its “niche” and posted as much previously. However, IMO a very large part of that broad appeal is due to director Tsutomu Mizushima. He considered the perspective of all viewers – not just the core audience. Information such as tanks specs and explanation of tactics helped non-core viewers better understand what was going on. Overhead battle views made keeping track of each match much easier. Pink tanks might see funny or even stupid, but it was a simple way to help viewers distinguish the various Oarai teams. The same can be said for Oarai’s team mascots and even the other school’s “nationalities”.

    What impressed me most about Girls und Panzer was the amount of thought, planning and hard work done by the director and staff in creating each episode. I think a great deal of the show’s success is directly attributable to its very high level of execution. It reminded me how good anime can be when the creators (director/producer/writer) truly care about a show and put for their best efforts on a consistent basis. This may seem strange, but I felt the creators respected the viewers and never took them for granted. Their efforts paid off – both for the viewers and financially.

    I’m all for more original shows like GuP, but more than anything else, I simply wish for a higher level of quality in general. “Less fucking it up” as you might say. As Upotte shows, pandering to a niche alone isn’t sufficient to make the show a success (financial or otherwise). So even if you’re right about seeing more “niche” anime in the future, without the same high level of commitment to quality production, I wouldn’t expect another Girls und Panzer anytime soon. Hopefully we will.

    1. @daikama

      Your comment about Uppote! (a manga adaptation) vs GuP (an original) was something I was wondering about since I didn’t know how well Uppote! did in sales. You had cute girls and accurate weaponry in both, but GuP actually had a decent story and characters people could empathize with. Shows that generate that empathy for their characters (such as GuP and Madoka Magica) are probably the ones that gain a following outside of their supposed niche.

      1. @Bear:

        Good point and very true. Good/likeable characters can make up for even a mundane story/plot in terms of appeal. I’m not so sure the reverse is true. Still, I think a significant part of GuP’s appeal was the way the tank battles were done in terms of both visually and creative tactics. If the battles were boring or too repetitive, the show losses quite a bit of its luster IMO.

    2. I’m not diminishing the effort and skill required to adapt things properly. In this case, I was simply stating what is relatively unarguable – if you are adapting something that already exists, you are bringing less new to the world because it already existed before. You’re solving a problem that is handed to you instead of finding a problem and then solving it.

      Think of it like this – a team that is adapting existing source material is doing maybe 80% of the work in bringing that story to the universe (really less, but I’ll be kind here), whereas the team creating an original work is doing 100%. That’s not to say that both aren’t difficult and worthy of praise – and truly, an excellent adaptation can beat a good original story any day, because at the end of it all, it’s the story and storytelling that matters most – but the math there (if it can even be called math) is fairly clear. That’s why I said things like “creating original IPs … presents an opportunity to do a more art.” I never said better art, just more. That team gets to have more of the fun.

      And as for Uppote!, that one was a pretty clear example of how, even if you target a niche, it’s wise not to go too far. It was so gun otaku that me, as someone who has no interest in guns, was utterly bored by it, while Garupan get the tank otaku stuff to what was relevant or interesting. Of course, Uppote! was quite successful targeting a niche as a manga, so there you have the old problem… constrained by the source. Constrained by the frame : )

      1. @Stilts: Thank you for clarifying.

        As for your point about “creating something that doesn’t exist”, doesn’t it all boil down to a quantity vs. quality argument? Sure there would be more stories, but you certainly cannot logically argue that all will be good ones. In other words, more does not by default equal better. That’s not so say that there won’t be any good/great original anime stories (like some consider GuP), but I don’t think its quite the panacea you seem to imply.

        There’s an opportunity cost here. While it’s not exactly a zero sum game (i.e. for every original anime, one less manga/LN is not adapted), at some point there are limits and more original shows will cut into adaptations. Thus an increase in original anime may or may not provide viewers with an overall higher number of quality of stories. As Bear rightly notes IMO, an adaptation might “expand on a work that only has the seed of a great idea but lacks something”. Furthermore, it may bring an unnoticed, but well told story to a larger audience – perhaps even keeping the series alive. Lastly, particularly for stories based on a LN which have few illustrations, adaptation may bring a good story to life simply due to the visual aspects. Consider the LOTR movie trilogy. Reading about the stand at Bridge of Khazad-dûm is one thing, watching on film it is quite another.

        More quality original anime is great, but more mediocre (or bad) original anime at the expense of properly (key) adapting a well written story from an outside source isn’t IMO.

        Going back to your articles central theme, I do think you raise a good point about the likelihood of at least some anime studios considering more original anime since pandering to a “niche” does reduce sales risk to some extent. I would also add one point in support of your thesis. With an original anime, the profit margin should be higher (production costs being equal) simply because there are no licensing fees involved as when using an outside source.

      2. @Stilts:

        It seems I did in fact misread your reply >_< (somehow missed "I never said better art, just more.”). Sorry about that. As a result, much of my above response is irrelevant (feel free to delete it and this post BTW), so please disregard as warranted.

      3. Nyahaha, no wai – I leave my mistakes in my posts to force myself to live with em, so you’ve gotta too ; ) I think it’s a mark of honor! After all, you were interested enough to get into the conversation, so why not leave it? Maybe it’ll spark a thought it someone else’s mind. Just hopefully not one like “this dude is totally wrong”, heh ^^

  14. I think it’s always a touchy subject when we compare what’s “good” to sales because a lot of us are out of japan fans who most likely get their anime for free or other means that does not support studios for the most part. It is frustrating that it’s dependent on select niche japanese crowds whether we get more of something we enjoy. A good sales can be 15-30+k in japan but then you look at downloads (legal or illegal) or streams and anime can have 30-100+k downloads but sale only under 10k in japan. Very frustrating to fans. Of course I’m speaking about psycho pass japanese sales compared how many enjoyed it.

    With that girls und panzer was enjoyable and was 100+k streams/download so it’s fair to say it’s a hit outside the normal niche too.

    As for the original vs adaptations, well I’m just glad both exist. Bones and production IG are some of my fav companies, they seem to hit it off with adaptations but also deliver some exceptionally well original ideas, this creates a more diverse selection of anime through out the year and keeps things expected and fresh. I won’t lie when I heard there was a muv-luv anime I didn’t care if it was awful (ended up pretty good) I would support it 100% just to hope alternative will come one day. There is always a desire to see your fav story or manga get animated and it’s no wonder companies like JC staff focus on adaptations to play it safe.

    The biggest cons of adaptations I would say to fans is if it becomes an advertisement. I’ve got burned with so many anime like guin saga, Titania, Muv Luv (hopefully eclipse gets second season), nana, Berserk etc that I really enjoyed. The thing with original is it’s set and probably will likely tell it’s story properly in it’s timeframe. While I did enjoy the anime I listed it’s hard to recommend due to it’s incomplete nature.

    1. Just wunna say, I agree – while I expect to see more niche-focused originals (or adaptations, probably), it’s best when we have both. Moar anime is better! As long as the quality doesn’t drop, of course.

  15. Sometimes you can get original shows which really end up being very good, but still bomb on the market. Shingu is an example of that; everyone I’ve ever convinced to watch it has raved about it once they finished, but it didn’t sell well.

  16. Those two shows sold wildly well because they took powerful niches – one which was extremely underserved in tank otaku, the other which was larger but still had room for a good story in idol otaku – and gave them good stories.

    Are you sure that this is indeed the main reason why Love Live and Girls und Panzer were as successful as they were? They were massively appealing and very popular even among folks who weren’t a part of your purported “niche” to whom its draw does not apply- In fact I would daresay that a vast majority of the fans of these show’s aren’t military/idol otakus. So what drew them in?

    Well, the way I see it, it’s quite possible that the niche appeal of these shows had little to nothing whatsoever to do with their success. The niche was the “twist” that the creators of these shows incorporated into the setting to make their own version of and exploit a highly popular, over-saturated, dead-horse meta-genre: “Girl groups.” Namely shows centered around the interactions and character development of a mid-size to large majority-female main cast, who are often constructed from a wide range of stock personalities (Arguably the key to the entire meta-genre’s success and a conscious design choice in an attempt to appeal to as many people as possible) within various settings.

    Rather than an exemplar of innovation, one could contend rather that these shows are a travesty of it, attempts to exploit the popularity of other “girl group” shows such as “K-On!” and “The Idolm@ster” by aping the core mechanics that made them so successful- namely strong character development surrounding a core group of girls with personalities drawn from a wide range of stock archetypes which ensures that there is something/someone (I.e. A main character) that will appeal massively to everyone. They’re just more of the same old “girl group” fluff in different skins and can hardly be called innovative when with regard to core plot mechanics they are all essentially the same, with the only actual difference being nuances of setting…

    1. You missed the important part of that statement… “they took powerful niches … and gave them good stories.” The niche target served to (in my view, at least) lessen the perceived risk to the creators enough for them to deliver the great story that garnered so much crossover appeal with viewers outside of the niche. Knowing they had a few thousand BD sales pretty much in the bag let them focusing on telling good stories and trying to capture more fans. It was a safe jumping off point that gave them the courage to make the story excel, rather than being cowed by their fear and watering their product down.

      Ohandalso, I’m not saying they’re exemplars of innovation. I would be hard pressed to find an anime that truly did that, if only because I watch too much of it (/ read too much else besides) and am way too trope savvy to not be able to pick out dozens of similarities or influences in everything I watch. Still, they delivered good stories, which is what’s important at the end of the day. In my book, at least.

      1. …lessen the perceived risk to the creators enough for them to deliver the great story that garnered so much crossover appeal with viewers outside of the niche.

        So I think what you’re saying is that they’re possibly cases of “false long tails.” The producers were wiling to take the risks that they did because in their minds it seemed like there were enough people placed at the extreme end of a certain niche preference distribution to guarantee a profit regardless. It does not matter that in most scenarios, what they think is the case likely isn’t really representative of reality at all. It only matters that they perceive a guarantee of at least minimal profit even where there really isn’t one at all- because when they do their apprehension about doing something a little risky (Make a new IP) for the sake of a better story evaporates.

        Take military otakus for example- under your theory, the producers of Girls und Panzer decided to take a risk on a new IP because they were of the impression that with regard to this niche genre, the preference distribution is skewed enough in a long tail fashion as to guarantee a minimal profit regardless. While this might not actually be (And most probably isn’t) true. At least according to my experiences, military otaku are actually pretty rare- it just seems like there’s a lot of them because they’re so passionate and vocal (Don’t quote me on this…XP)- so even if there is a long tail distribution, it probably isn’t substantial enough to guarantee any significant profit. Nonetheless the probably “false impression” that this was indeed the case emboldened the producers enough take a few risks by creating their own IP which enabled them to make a better story overall resulting in mass appeal and massive profit regardless.

        Ohandalso, I’m not saying they’re exemplars of innovation.

        Sorry, my mistake…XP Didn’t really understand your point until reading through some of your replies to other folks later on.

        I would be hard pressed to find an anime that truly did that, if only because I watch too much of it (/ read too much else besides) and am way too trope savvy to not be able to pick out dozens of similarities or influences in everything I watch. Still, they delivered good stories, which is what’s important at the end of the day. In my book, at least.

        Same here- I was just ranting about innovation the Shingeki section a few weeks ago. My favorite show of the season and I was still complaining…XP

  17. That Kyouya episode was so incredible, whenever I see the word “Ouran” nowadays on the internet and such, I immediately picture that scene you mentioned–and the meaning behind it. To this date, I’m still waiting (hoping, wishing) for BONES to pick Ouran up again and finish it…

    1. That’s exactly what I was getting at : ) I just didn’t name it because I try not to use too much marketing jargon in my posts, haha. This is an anime blog, and I can only mix in my crazy marketing viewpoints from time to time, ne? ; )

  18. Psycho-pass was fucking awesome and Tamako Market was great… I wonder why they didn’t sell?

    No offense, but the term Garupan sounds awful and wouldn’t it be Girupan anyways :/

    Good article, but I still have no clue what an original IP is.

    1. IP stands for “intellectual property.” It’s really a term of law/marketing but the layman’s context of the phrase usually refers to a franchise (Like Final Fantasy, Assassin’s Creeed, Gundam, Fullmetal Panic). When people talk about “original IPs” or “original intellectual properties” in the context of anime they are usually referring to original shows created solely for anime which isn’t an adaptation of a pre-existing novel or manga or part of larger franchise (As in how all Gundam shows are not original IPs because they are part of the larger Gundam franchise and how Hataraku Maou Sama! and Oreimo also aren’t original IPs because they’re adapted from a pre-existing manga and novel respectively)…

      1. Thanks, I think that is the first comment that you have written which I have actually finished since most of the time your comments are longer than the actual post :p

      2. Original IP used in a layperson’s terms means an original series. But if you want to be technical about it (depending on which legal jurisdiction you are in as well), then adaptations are very well adaptations of manga/light novels are very well original intellectual properties so as to speak – it comes with its own set of copyrights and trademarks, albeit some of it would be derived from the original manga/light novel itself with consent.

    2. GAH, I can’t win! Last week I used a term and didn’t define it, so this week I made sure to put the meaning in parenthesis in the post. *cries*

      Fortunately, Zen has my back. Hato~ <3

  19. I’m not sure how to respond to this all. I read through the whole thing, but I’m still kinda in the fog of what you want us to reply about. Something about niche markets? Or who makes better IPs? The old business/money investment vs art/personal style topic? Something in between these?

    1. Ahaha, you can reply with whatever you want – including nothing at all. My aim was to discuss the risks and rewards of creating original works in anime and give my prediction as to what future ones will be like – i.e. targeted at niche markets like the upcoming TV FREE is.

      Does that help?

    1. Oops, let’s try that again.

      Ctrl+F (Cowboy Bebop)
      >No results found
      Ctrl+F (Samurai Champloo)
      >No results found
      Ctrl+F (Watanabe Shinichiro)
      >No results found


      1. They’re good shows, but it’s tiresome to mention the same ones in every single discussion about original series, ne? ; )

        Though truthfully, I should say that it’s because they weren’t the transformative series for me that they were for so many people. They’re very good, yes, they just don’t spring to mind as readily for me…probably because I first watched them dubbed on TV whenever they happened to come on and at a time when I wasn’t yet able to truly appreciate them, heh. Viewing context matters!

      2. They do deserve to be mentioned at least once though. Repetitiveness does not discount its worth. (But I do understand what you mean.)

        Ehehe, I hope you didn’t get the wrong idea. Wasn’t referring only to your post, but to the whole page in general (since ctrl+f does take into account pretty much all text on this page), meaning the rest who’ve made comments as well. Just found it strange that it took this long for someone to name those titles and the man behind them here. Would have thought that they were the more recognizable names when it came to original anime.

        It definitely does matter. Bebop was probably the first memory of anime I’ve ever had, even if I had no idea what anime was at that point of time. The Swordfish and the term “bebop” in particular were the key things that resided in the back of my mind for… About a decade or so? While I didn’t remember the series itself until about 3-4 years ago, I recalled the bizarre yet strangely catchy term and the slick curves of the magnificent red Swordfish throughout my adolescent years. Coincidentally (and I’d say thankfully), some artsy channel in my area was airing midnight anime, which I had just come to know of, and I found myself watching some series named Cowboy Bebop, with that exact epitome of cool that was the Swordfish. It felt like some sort of reunion, and it was a fantastic one. I suppose this could have impaired my ability to view the series objectively, but I guess this just proves your point. I doubt I’d ever tire from mentioning Bebop at any time and in any situation.

        Oops, I just shared my tale like an old fogey with a pipe on a rocking chair on a porch. Excuse me now, I must drink my prune juice.

  20. Originals are nice and I think good for the industry. It tells me studios and producers are trying to use their imaginations. They may not be all good, but at least they are trying. If you look at Hollywood these days, you get less originality and more remakes and sequels. I applaud Kyoani and any other studio for trying to be, well original and for taking some risks along the way. And it’s not like the major studios are lacking in money to try some risk once in awhile.

    And if they (Kyoani) fail (again) they can go back and make some more Haruhi or K-On! later to make the money up.

    A couple of thing on Garupan:

    I still don’t see why people compare Upotte!! to Garupan. One was about girls that ARE rifles (I’m still not all that clear on how this works even with ANIME level suspension of disbelief), the other about girls riding and “fighting” IN tanks. Is it me, or am I the only one seeing the big distinction. If anything, Garupan is closer to Saki or Initial D or even Pocket Monsters (Just think of the tanks as pokemon). It’s like saying Gundam and Gurren Lagann are similar just cause both have mecha in it. My opinion: Garupan = Filet Minion. Upotte!! = Hamburger.

    Main point: Garupan was total left field, under the radar when it was first aired. I know, cause I was in Japan in middle of Oct right after ep 1 came out and I couldn’t find anything Garupan related in Akihabara. I was very sad and had to console myself with Macross, Ika Musume and Madoka items. Now I hear you can get Garupan related products at every convi store on every block, assuming it’s in stock. They now even have Yukari doing a JGSDF tank PV and they even brought a real tank to Ourai for a festival. This show is a great example of how an original work can shine and make money hand over fist when done right. If it isn’t too early, I think Garupan will be one of the legendary original shows like Eva, Angel Beats!, Madoka, and Code Geass.

    1. I get the Upotte!! and Garupan comparisons – they’re both military-focused anime that have come out recently. Of course, you’re right about the subject matter – while Upotte!! was more of a gun otaku’s infomercial for the hardware, Garupan was more of a sports anime that happened to include tanks. Garupan would be better compared to a hypothetical paintball anime than Upotte!!. Still, it’s understandable that the two be compared, and Upotte!! come out looking bad for the comparison.

      1. I get your point, but one could make the claim that GuP is a WWII tank infomercial. The key comparison in both GuP and Upotte is the accuracy of the hardware. It’s also true of K-ON and their instruments. People who have even a partial interest in the subject matter can be attracted to a show that contains that type of ornamentation. All three shows could have made up generic hardware and people would have watched them, but then they would have just been generic girl group shows. Much like the generic Mecha genre. I think the sense of the viewer that the creator actually took the time and effort has a lot to do with the popularity of a show like GuP.

        GuP also managed to create a consistent “world” to set their story in that allowed “willing suspension of disbelief”, something that was much harder to do with Upotte. Girls are guns but shoot themselves, can’t kill humans unless a human fires them, never graduate (Why the F are they in school then?) and so on.

  21. I hate to be negative about this, but where does all the praise for Studio Trigger come from?
    Sure, it’s a studio founded by ex-Gainax members and their first major project Little Witch Academia was great, but who knows if they will keep up with this in the long run?

    Take Manglobe for example, they started with great original shows like Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy and Mitchiko to Hatchin, then took a huge step back with their adaption of The Sacred Blacksmith, before coming back one more time with House of Five Leaves. And what have they done since then? At best average manga adaptions like The World God Only Knows, at worst stuff like the third season of Hayate.

    1. Newer, less impressive Manglobe series don’t lessen the value that their earlier series such as Champloo and Ergo Proxy hold. I think we should celebrate their success rather than be cynical of their coming works. If they screw up later on then so be it.

    2. I didn’t think I praised Trigger so much as slammed Gainax – it’s true that a lot of their best people left for Trigger. Whether those people do anything else impressive at Trigger remains to be seen, though Little Witch Academia was a damn good opening salvo.

      Gainax, though, while still having some life in it, is looking like it’s going to pump out more stuff like their okay Medaka Box adaptation rather than fascinating original works. Kinda worrisome.

  22. In a nutshell: Since KyoAni makes more money from being the head of the production comitee itself instead just the “Animation Studio”, they’re going to stick to IPs in the future.
    It started with Chuunibyou and looking at their currently planned shows, the fad is long from over. Too bad doing adaptions doesn’t make them as much money. Too bad, Haruhi…


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