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Old 2013-08-23, 12:47   Link #1
Triple_R
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Reexaming the Anime Industry

Back in 2009 and 2010, I remember reading quite a few threads and posts about the decline of the anime industry, both on this site and on other forums dedicated to anime either in whole or in part. The idea arose of even anime itself dying, or at least declining to the point where it would cease to be a profitable commercial enterprise.

This sort of conversation is far less frequent these days, but every so often I still run across posts talking about the need for us anime fans to give back to the anime industry, and/or about the various troubles faced by it.

Certainly, the anime industry has its issues, and has its budget concerns. Some working within it may be considerably underpaid.

But, as an overall commercial enterprise, it shows many signs of chugging along with considerable vigor and strength.


In recently looking over the upcoming Fall 2013 schedule, I was struck by the sheer quantity of shows being produced. I've also been recently struck by three other observations:

1. That the overall visual quality of anime, on the average, has grown considerably over the past few years. For example, Compare Railgun S to the original Railgun. The improvements in artistic/animation quality are noticeable and considerable. Yes, you still get the odd QUALITY episode, but they tend to be the rushed exception and not the steady and sure rule.

2. In following anime DVD/Blu-Ray sales data, there seems to be more success stories than failure stories. And even the failure stories are often not failures in an absolute sense (i.e. the studio actually suffered a net financial loss on the show) but rather failures only in a failed expectations sense (i.e. the show wasn't as profitable as hoped, but it still came out "in the black", so to speak).

3. Sequels and reboots/remakes are all over the place. It seems like every anime show that's even just a mild commercial success ends up getting a sequel. Only exceptions seeming to be KyoAni shows and adaptations that are well and truly finished with simply nothing left to adapt. I mean, just look at freaking Bakuman. This show didn't even sell that well, IIRC, and there's six cours worth of this show spread out over three separate installments in the series.


So we have an industry that produces a massive quantity of product, that has steadily improved its product in a key area, that has more product success stories than product failure stories, and that has endless product sequels. Does this not sound like a strong and vibrant industry?

I wonder if it's time that the way we view the anime industry should change. Those old discussions about decline from back in 2009 and 2010 seem to linger on in the minds and views of many anime fans, even though it seems to me that 2011 was a turnaround year for anime and that the industry has been going strong since.

This isn't to say that we shouldn't aim to financially support the anime industry. But rather then seeing it as something almost charitable done to help a poor artist we should see it as just wanting to not be left out of a wave of success driving the industry forward. It seems to me that not only is talk of decline a bit outdated, but that the industry may in fact be downright strong at the moment.

I'd love to hear what my fellow anime fans think have to say on this topic.
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Old 2013-08-23, 12:57   Link #2
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Frankly, I think the apparent downfall of anime industry is still there for many reasons already mentioned.

Your observations are a bit misplaced in my views:
1) Railgun and Railgun S cannot be considered as an example of animation going "better over the years". it is exactly because Railgun S is a sequel of a popular series that they could push the budget further.
Other series cannot boats such kind of treatment, especially if they fall in the utter "marketing ploy" role, just for sake of the original source material advertisment.

Really, for every good animated series we get, we have more "less appealing series", even for popular ones like Oregairu.

2) The problem with high sales series is that they are generally hyped by the source material fans. In fact, it is plainly obvious that we got more and more LN/VN/Games adaptations than really standalone anime series / manga adaptations nowadays, which means producers are actually betting on safe spots instead of trying something new. This is even more obvious starting 2010-2011 where we got many adaptations out of nowhere like Oreimo S1, Haganai etc.
Moreover, the diversity in term of genre is becoming even less prevalent these days, with rom com LN being the vast majority of the series at our disposal.

Furthermore, it becomes apparent that only a very few number of series can pretend breaking through the manabi line. And generally, without a big publisher push like Kadokawa, we have tons of series going under the radar.
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Old 2013-08-23, 13:17   Link #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Klashikari View Post

Your observations are a bit misplaced in my views:
1) Railgun and Railgun S cannot be considered as an example of animation going "better over the years". it is exactly because Railgun S is a sequel of a popular series that they could push the budget further.
But we're talking about JC Staff here. Who aren't exactly noted for their great animation. Even the third and final season of Shakugan no Shana had some QUALITY issues, as I recall.

JC Staff is a classic "Factory"-style studio. Those types of studios generally don't put out shows with eye-catching animation quality. And yet, Railgun S has it, and consistently so.


Quote:
2) The problem with high sales series is that they are generally hyped by the source material fans.
Well sure, but that's been the case ever since physical media sales were a big deal for the anime industry. I mean, just consider the original Haruhi anime in 2006. I'm sure we'd all agree that its source material fans were a major factor in the anime adaptation's sales success.

But in any event, it seems like we have more big sellers now than we used to. Whatever you want to chalk that up to, it's good for the anime industry.


Quote:
In fact, it is plainly obvious that we got more and more LN/VN/Games adaptations than really standalone anime series / manga adaptations nowadays, which means producers are actually betting on safe spots instead of trying something new.
I agree that anime has shifted more towards LN/VN/Games, leaving less anime for manga by extension. But this in and of itself does not indicate that anime is in decline, or isn't strong. At least not unless LN/VN/Games are themselves in decline, which doesn't appear to be the case.


We can certainly question the range of content offered by the current anime industry, but that's a separate question from the sheer quantity of content and how well it sells.

I honestly find it very odd to think that the anime industry is in decline when its producing a huge quantity of content. When companies are suffering financial decline, don't they usually cut back on production?

The way many of us* were talking back in 2009 and 2010, I figured we'd be lucky to be getting 10 anime shows a season by now. Instead, Fall 2013 is putting out 30 or more!

Either anime studios are downright suicidal and are throwing good money after bad like they're the US Federal Reserve, or things are actually going pretty well right now for the anime industry.



* I certainly don't exclude myself here, so I'll admit that I too was mistaken. I also thought that the anime industry was in dire straights back in 2009 and 2010.
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Old 2013-08-23, 13:24   Link #4
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By the way, what's the salary of an animator today?

And also if the outsourcing increased or so...
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Old 2013-08-23, 13:43   Link #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
JC Staff is a classic "Factory"-style studio. Those types of studios generally don't put out shows with eye-catching animation quality. And yet, Railgun S has it, and consistently so.
This is a clear indication of popularity and profitable aspect of a specific franchise than anything else. Depending of the budget allocated by producers, a given studio can dish out a very different result.
For instance, Madhouse is usually a pretty good studio in term of animation/sakuga, you can have hectic result like... Chaos;Head, which was arguably a far less popular material than other adaptations they have done thus far.
Quote:
But in any event, it seems like we have more big sellers now than we used to. Whatever you want to chalk that up to, it's good for the anime industry.
I should probably try checking BD sales data of the past years, but from my perspective, it isn't like there are more big sellers, but rather big sellers are more noticeable as most series are gutted barely around the manabi line or even below that point.
Quote:
I agree that anime has shifted more towards LN/VN/Games, leaving less anime for manga by extension. But this in and of itself does not indicate that anime is in decline, or isn't strong. At least not unless LN/VN/Games are themselves in decline, which doesn't appear to be the case.
I wanted to point out that by making such choices, producers are actually selecting favorable source material for profit (well, not like it was a charity business to begin with).
At this point, anime are more or less dictated by other media, namely LN, than really being a medium on its own.
Of course, you have uccessful anime original series times to times, but this adaptation trend is really saturating the market with the same ol' formula.
Quote:
I honestly find it very odd to think that the anime industry is in decline when its producing a huge quantity of content. When companies are suffering financial decline, don't they usually cut back on production?
That's exactly what's going on: you have far less 2 cour series nowadays than before. In fact, save perhaps expected hits like Shingeki no Kyojin, we are stuck with tons of 1 cour series.
The same can be said by the number of inconsistent animation being more apparent this day than before.

What's even more evident of the marketing intent is actually the sponsors shown during some series. If you had the chance to see them (since a lot of subs cut these), you would realize that Goodsmile Company, Bushiroad etc are being more and more present in the producers ad, which is a huge giveaway that producers are more prone to gain profit from goods and all instead of BD alone.

Ever since the boom of 2006-2007, you have a major increase of timed release for many goods, figures and all. Of course, I don't pretend it wasn't the case before, but that trend becomes more... "aggressive" should I say.
Quote:
Either anime studios are downright suicidal and are throwing good money after bad like they're the US Federal Reserve, or things are actually going pretty well right now for the anime industry.
More like producers are now using the anime as a "profitable" means to take on a potential market for their licences.
Let's take an example: Danganronpa is obviously a subpar adaptation based on the fact the series is trying to squeeze 20-30h of reading into 13 mere episodes. What you can see however is that the series is "weirdly" associated with quite many events and goods, as well as the remake being released like only 1-2 month after the anime ends.
A lot of series nowadays work as an investment for the original source material.
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Old 2013-08-23, 14:13   Link #6
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
Sequels and reboots/remakes are all over the place.
I don't see this as a positive development. Like Klashikari wrote about LN/VN adaptations, sequels reflect producers' decisions to hew to proven sources. Some of these "sequels" also result from the swing to one-cour series, where the second season depends on the popularity of the first. All these aspects of the current anime marketplace represent a production system oriented toward sure things and away from originality and distinctiveness. Rather like what Hollywood has become, just with a lot smaller budgets.

Some of my favorite shows like Noein and Dennou Coil are anime-original productions. We still get the occasional tsuritama, but shows like that are increasingly rare. It takes someone with the clout of Nakamura Kenji and his close relationship with noitaminA to get shows like tsuritama produced today. Iso Mitsuo peddled his script for Coil for nearly seven years until someone at Madhouse took it on in 2007. In 2013 he would have run out of doors to knock on long ago.
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Old 2013-08-23, 14:45   Link #7
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I just want to point out that people have been saying that "the anime industry is dying" for years. If you search back even on this forum, you'll find people saying it 10 years ago, and pretty much every year since (it's the one mainstay, regardless of the content trends). And no matter what, people always think they have good reasons for saying that which are based on current market trends and whatever factors they believe are important for their vision of the future of the medium. Maybe their points are valid in their own way. But, in every case, anime finds a way. Maybe it isn't this beautiful garden of daring, original, high-quality productions (was it ever?), and maybe it exists primarily to push books and toys (was that really ever not the case?) but there are good shows and genuine surprises every year. Even within the market constraints, creativity isn't by any means dead.

But maybe I'm just annoyed that we have to have yet another "is the anime industry dying?" thread, under the guise of suggesting that it isn't. Don't be surprised if I merge this with one of the umpteen dozen other similar threads...

/grumpy
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Old 2013-08-23, 15:04   Link #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by relentlessflame View Post

But maybe I'm just annoyed that we have to have yet another "is the anime industry dying?" thread, under the guise of suggesting that it isn't. Don't be surprised if I merge this with one of the umpteen dozen other similar threads...

/grumpy
It's not a guise. Everything I wrote in the OP is entirely sincere.

While Klash, bhl88, and SeijiSensei raise some valid points, I feel that the larger point (which seems to be getting ignored, unfortunately) is the sheer quantity of anime being made in a "number of shows" sense. Yes, there are probably fewer two-cour shows now than before, but the total number of shows is massive. That's simply not what I would expect to see with an industry in decline.

Before putting up this thread, I did a title-based search of this subforum for the word "industry", and the most recent thread that even comes close to what I'm talking about here is two and a half years old, and was started by a member that I'm pretty sure isn't active anymore. Hence I decided to start this thread.
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Old 2013-08-23, 15:08   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
I mean, just look at freaking Bakuman. This show didn't even sell that well, IIRC, and there's six cours worth of this show spread out over three separate installments in the series.
Consider that this is an NHK production, they don't operate at all like late night anime producers,they're much more willing to go multicour and to greenlit a second season.
This has always been the case no matter what the year.
Wouldn't be surprised if Log Horizon got a 2nd season at some point for example.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Klashikari View Post
That's exactly what's going on: you have far less 2 cour series nowadays than before. In fact, save perhaps expected hits like Shingeki no Kyojin, we are stuck with tons of 1 cour series.
While's there's been a decline I wouldn't say it's that rare, just last fall we had zetsuen, jojo, shin sekai yori, psycho pass, sakurasou, little buster, robotic notes, ixion saga ,bakuman, magi.
Also we also had the 2nd cours of jormungand and Medaka box that were both planned split cours.

edit:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R
The way many of us* were talking back in 2009 and 2010, I figured we'd be lucky to be getting 10 anime shows a season by now.
I genuinely don't remember this,I remember people being scared that anime would close itself and lose diversity (and that's still a complaint today) but not that the number of shows would drop sharply.
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Old 2013-08-23, 15:19   Link #10
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
I feel that the larger point (which seems to be getting ignored, unfortunately) is the sheer quantity of anime being made in a "number of shows" sense. Yes, there are probably fewer two-cour shows now than before, but the total number of shows is massive. That's simply not what I would expect to see with an industry in decline.
It's just a matter of using different metrics. If you measure things in terms of the amount of net revenue generated directly and indirectly as a result of anime productions and their associated marketing campaigns, the industry is probably looking pretty good (and the increased diversity of merchandise probably helps). But if you measure things in terms of the artistic diversity of the medium and the ability to create successful new long-running franchises that break out of the mould and attract new audiences, some will assert that the industry is still showing signs of decline. The latter is based on an suggestion that a lack of originality and artistic diversity will inevitably lead to a decline unless corrected. But this suggestion is tempered by the observation that as long as they continue to focus on adaptations of already-popular work (whatever the source), they'll continue to attract the audience that's already a fan of those properties. And then you get back to the point that was brought up in another thread recently about changing demographics and the drop in the amount of children/teenagers and how the anime industry may suffer if they don't shift their focus... But there's nothing saying they won't shift their focus if the market demands it...

Anyway, you can ignore me; I've just seen this conversation done too many times.
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Old 2013-08-23, 15:48   Link #11
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@ Relentless

Normally I would share your sentiment, and if the thread had an angrier tone I would have already hit the report button and demand for the thread to stopped to prevent circular discussion or chided the OP in short sightedness. But the nature of this is not the same.

Though I know Triple R to be not really the type to engage in such generalized rants and certainly does not believe the industry is in any shape or form in a bad spot. This seems more like to me a genuine attempt at learning, which may help prevent threads of the rant nature in the future... to people who can listen. In fact the topic of the post is engaging in ways the anime industry is succeeding. To me at least, this is a superior topic. You're more likely to be able to talk about what someone does, as opposed to what they don't or isn't capable of as the later just devolves into wants and desires.

Yes, I understand that the topic has been discussed much before, but not even economists can say they can predict all the trends without fail, and honestly shifts in many industries can be extremely unpredictable.
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Old 2013-08-23, 16:05   Link #12
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Well, not really an Otaku, but even an outsider like me could tell that the Anime Industry is still thriving. They are just shifting into an even more industrial system, where Game-Novel-Manga-Anime become a chain of production, a quadrilateral. Oh, let's not forget Figure and sometime even Music. I mean, just look at something like... everything?
And Quantity v.s Quality. Do you guys remember the first time you go to a cinema? Pretty awesome, right? But then they become less and less appealing. I think the same thing is happening to most fan. They grow older, their standard is higher, and so on. Also, Anime is now something beyond a national symbol. It won't go down that easily!
Beside, Time will decide everything.
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Old 2013-08-23, 17:04   Link #13
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Even in terms of defining the decline based on diversity as Relentless mentioned, people typically jump that bandwagon every time a season is lacking. For instance, if I were to say such things I would have done so for the previous season. Right now I'd say that the industry is better than ever.

The problem with trying to read decline in an industry is that you have to look at everything. It's not a task that I'd expect any single person to be able to accomplish here on Asuki. It's the kind of thing people are paid to do, assessing the health of an entire industry. That's diving into information on every company, on how each production is received, the state of their employees, etc. If you ever look at something like NASDAQ (U.S. stock exchange stuff), they even have metrics for how a company's management views the state of their company.

Most of us are trying to decide whether the industry is doing well or not based on anime we're being shown from season to season. Maybe you look at some BD sales. Maybe you look at how the companies are doing individually.

Personally, I don't have any problem saying that anime is better now than it was ten years ago. Standards are higher now for animation than they were, and the quality has improved quite a bit. More recently I watched Full Moon, Vampire Knight, and a few episodes of Desert Punk. The techniques they used back then didn't have that three-dimensional depth that anime does now, nor the texturing and the color palettes. That's not to say that every anime is a masterpiece of beauty now, but they've certainly gone nowhere but up.

As far as writing goes, that's more out of the hands of the industry. In fact, it wouldn't be completely incorrect to say that what gets animated is based somewhat on reception to a source material. If it's popular, it could be adapted. If it's not it still could, but it's a risk to do so.

I'll say this though: In more recent years I find that original anime is more enjoyable to watch than comparable adaptations. We have more of those now too.
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Old 2013-08-23, 17:53   Link #14
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@amount of shows, I'm pretty sure there was an upward trend since the early 00s, peaking in 2006/07, then declining a bit, and it's been rising again recently. Fall 2013 is one of the most packed seasons in years, if I'm not mistaken, but there was never a point where one could legitimately go "the industry is dying".
Here's a basic graph I found, it doesn't account for many things but it's enough for a rough picture.
If anyone has complete numbers and/or 2012, 2013 numbers it would be cool to see.

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Old 2013-08-23, 19:55   Link #15
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So... Another question pop in my head. Which genre of anime do you guys see as decilining? With me, it's mecha. Sure, we have Valvrave, Majestic Prince and Gargantia this year, but remember the 2010-2012 period? Big name like Gundam and Macross is kind of dissapointed (the movies, and then AGE. Of course there is Unicorn, but it's an OVA). Original one are kind of un-revolution.
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Old 2013-08-23, 20:22   Link #16
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I thought the audiovisual was improving over the years due to technological advancements and not solely from budget. There are audiovisual standouts every year or so but the normal shows steadily increase in technical quality.
Quote:
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Even in terms of defining the decline based on diversity as Relentless mentioned, people typically jump that bandwagon every time a season is lacking.
Correct.

My only concern for the industry is the rise in light novel adaptations. I have a feeling it's hard enough for studios to not overshoot weekly manga chapters let alone giving enough time for an LN to get far ahead to animate your content's worth without slowing yourself down.

...And do the supposed sales increase count inflation for what it's worth?
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Old 2013-08-23, 20:30   Link #17
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All they need to do now is to dig money out from the pockets of fujioshis. That's how the industry stay alive.
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Old 2013-08-24, 12:54   Link #18
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3. Sequels and reboots/remakes are all over the place. It seems like every anime show that's even just a mild commercial success ends up getting a sequel. Only exceptions seeming to be KyoAni shows and adaptations that are well and truly finished with simply nothing left to adapt. I mean, just look at freaking Bakuman. This show didn't even sell that well, IIRC, and there's six cours worth of this show spread out over three separate installments in the series.
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I don't see this as a positive development. Like Klashikari wrote about LN/VN adaptations, sequels reflect producers' decisions to hew to proven sources. Some of these "sequels" also result from the swing to one-cour series, where the second season depends on the popularity of the first. All these aspects of the current anime marketplace represent a production system oriented toward sure things and away from originality and distinctiveness.
Rats - Klashikari wrote a nice reply addressing the first two points (which were fair points), but SeijiSensei wrote a reply to what I wanted to say. His take on it is slightly different, enough that I'll say what I wanted to say anyway.

I interpret a reliance on sequels to represent caution. In other words, it's known how the original series performed (in terms of popularity and sales), and one can expect that the sequel will perform about the same. An entirely new series represents a major gamble. It could perform better, it could perform about the same, but it could also perform worse. I'd assume that anime is similar to other industries, and making a sequel is cheaper than making an all-new original (assets from the original series can be re-used or modified for the sequel, compared with designing everything from the ground up).

Companies can be cautious for many reasons. It stands to reason that a poor financial situation would be one of them.

I've never paid any attention to to the financial aspects of the anime production companies, though. I think that there are more sequels than there were before, but there are also many more series to make sequels of than there were before. The animation quality has improved, and if series are any less original then it's probably because I've already seen so many series that I can find parallels to most series storylines. As long as people are watching, the industry will be there.
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Old 2013-08-24, 14:14   Link #19
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I think when people discuss if the industry is "dying," it would be best to be more specific. If we're talking about volume of titles produced each season, as well as long term financial sustainability of current industry practices.... It's hard to really say that the industry is dying. Dying artistically though? That's a more subjective debate to have of course, but there are definitely trends we can point to that many would see as unfavorable.

As mentioned in several posts above, the industry's desire to adapt every LN in existence and the reduction of most anime to 1 cour length is a worrisome trend for many who enjoy anime because it has in fact majorly changed the nature of the industry. Whether or not you enjoy it is not the point, it's the mere fact that this trend is undeniable. It should be understandable that many people, including myself, really despise this trend.
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Old 2013-08-24, 14:32   Link #20
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Originally Posted by Triple_R View Post
3. Sequels and reboots/remakes are all over the place. It seems like every anime show that's even just a mild commercial success ends up getting a sequel. Only exceptions seeming to be KyoAni shows and adaptations that are well and truly finished with simply nothing left to adapt. I mean, just look at freaking Bakuman. This show didn't even sell that well, IIRC, and there's six cours worth of this show spread out over three separate installments in the series.
1/ Chuu 2 movie + sequel on the way, obviously Free is going to get a sequel too at this rate.

2/ Bakuman is explained by NHK. Heck something like Phi Brain wouldn't be getting 3 seasons if it aired on TV Tokyo instead of NHK Educational TV.
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