SHAFT overtaking KyoAni.

...and this picture helps explain why. 😉

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Read through the first post on that anime thread carefully. Take particular note of Nichijou’s DVD sales figures. And let it sink in that these sub-1000 sales is for a Kyoto Animation anime.

Kyoto Animation pulling down fewer than a thousand DVD sales from Nichijou is truly a clamorously careering collapse for what previously seemed like the ultimate brand name in the industry. But due to that collapse, and the meteoric Madoka Magica rise, I would argue that SHAFT has now overtaken Kyoto Animation as the biggest and strongest name in the anime industry. In this blog, I will go on to explain how we’ve come to this point, and what it means for Kyoto Animation, SHAFT, and the anime industry as a whole. First of all, my intention here is not to bash Nichijou. I respect that it has some passionate fans, and that it does have an uniquely surrealist comedy that may appeal to people in ways that few other anime shows do.

Nonetheless, its poor DVD sales are a reflection of the possible Kyoto Animation/Nichijou mismatch that I first noted back in April.

I think that Nichijou would have worked better as a comedy if given a less visually dramatized approach, which KyoAni has unfortunately consistently applied to it. As is, however, the comedy is very hit-and-miss because the punchlines are very hit and miss. And given that the comedy aspect of Nichijou is hit-and-miss, and the show has virtually no plot to speak of (not even episodic ones), then the anime’s marketplace reception would have to depend on moe appeal.

However, Kyoto Animation is shockingly being beat at their own game by SHAFT. Specifically, by the most insanely moe show I’ve ever seen…


Denpa Onna, for its part, is pulling down respectable sales figures of 5,267 Blu-Ray sales and 1,361 DVD sales. Perhaps more importantly, though, Denpa Onna proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that SHAFT has mastered the art of moe appeal. This was the art that Kyoto Animation revolutionized and popularized. From 2006 through 2010, Kyoto Animation would have to be considered an animation company of unparalleled success (on a per anime basis, at least), and this was on the backs of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-On, and Key adaptations, all brought to animated life with a dauntlessly delectable dash of moe.

So why has Kyoto Animation, once an unassailable force in the anime industry, fallen on hard times with Nichijou? I think the that these woes began with a certain endless recursion of time…



Haruhi 2009 was a sure symbolic sign that Kyoto Animation had developed an unhealthy degree of hubris. They had become overly fixated on cheap gimmickry, at the expense of doing simple solid work. Even before a certain infamous anime arc of 2009 became the main anime controversy of a summer of discontent, we could see a hint of such gimmickry in how Haruhi 2009 began as a stealth airing from out of nowhere, bucking standard marketing and promotional approaches for the anime industry as a whole.

Kyoto Animation basically felt it could do whatever the hell it wanted to do, and the customer would lap it all up regardless. But with Haruhi 2009 selling significantly worse than its 2006 predecessor, the first chinks in Kyoto Animation’s armor were displayed.

Thankfully for them, though, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie was a rousing commercial success, as was K-On!! Back in 2010, these two helped to reassert Kyoto Animation’s dominance.

One key about Disappearance and K-On!!, though, is that you could tell that KyoAni was sincerely putting some real effort in with these two, and lovingly crafted them to be appealing to their core consumer base.

The animation was made to fit the material, rather than the material being made to fit the animation.


What I mean by that is that Kyoto Animation’s artistic and animation approach to both Disappearance and K-On!! was to have it play to the inherent strengths of the source material for each, while doing what could be done to negate their inherent weaknesses. In Haruhi 2009’s case, though, the material was made to fit the animation – specifically by stretching out the Endless Eight story to ridiculous extremes while giving Kyoto Animation’s various animation teams an excuse to play around and experiment with their artistic styles in one E8 iteration after the next after the next after the next.

Much the same is now happening with Nichijou, I believe. Kyoto Animation is pulling out all the stops, animation-wise, for Nichijou, and is once again experimenting artistically. The problem is that this is being done, I think, with little respect to what would serve the source material best. Nichijou is nowhere near as suspenseful as Disappearance is, and so while a flair for the dramatic makes perfect sense for Disappearance, it often doesn’t make sense for Nichijou. I would argue that it’s causing the comedy value of Nichijou to suffer, and this is not good since Nichijou is first and foremost a surrealist comedy.

But Kyoto Animation’s hubris is not merely impacting their basic animation work. I would argue that it’s also having a negative impact on what projects they choose to do.

Prior to Nichijou airing, I don’t recall there being a great fan push to get it animated ASAP. On the other hand, I know that Haruhi and Full Metal Panic fans have grown increasingly impatient with Kyoto Animation over the years, wondering why it takes the studio so long to do more of one or the other or both. In FMP’s case, I know sales have struggled, but on what basis does Nichijou get greenlit for two cours over Haruhi getting more adaptation work done when there are seven Haruhi novels left out there to adapt?

This choice on Kyoto Animation’s part shows how out of touch it is with its own fanbase. Many Kyoto Animation fans are longing for more Haruhi, while relatively few were crying out for Nichijou before it was slated for an anime. Now, in an ideal world, Kyoto Animation would do more than just two or three projects a year, but given those limitations, choosing to adapt Nichijou instead of adapting more Haruhi was a mistake, in my opinion.


While Kyoto Animation has grown out of touch with its fanbase, SHAFT has unquestionably learned how to appeal to anime fans in general.


As of this writing, two of the three best selling TV anime shows of all-time belong to SHAFT, and you can see both of them in the picture above. 😉

What Shinbo has effectively done is adapt his quirky and unique style to be one that still has a distinctively avant-garde feel, but is also an alluringly accessible one. It hence feels different, but not too different. SHAFT has also wisely, and consistently, made its animation fit the material, rather than making the material fit its animation. This is why Bakemonogatari looks much different than Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and why both looks much different than Denpa Onna.

SHAFT is showing admirably astute ambition, in that it is slowly but surely eating one slice of the anime pie after another after another.

With Bake, it conquered harem anime in general, and made an excellent foray into Light Novel adaptations.

With Madoka, it now is competing with Nanoha for dominace in the Mahou Shoujo sphere, while showing how well it can handle one cour anime originals.

And now with Denpa Onna, it is making an impressive play on moe fans in general.

They key for SHAFT is to simply keep doing what it has been doing since Summer 2009 (while also taking more care to budget properly for later episodes, admittedly).

SHAFT can learn much from Kyoto Animation’s recent disappointments. From them, SHAFT can learn how an animation studio needs to be very in touch with the anime fanbase, and responsive to its current anime wants, in order to be successful.

And for Kyoto Animation to pull a comeback, that is what it will have to do. It will need to learn from its mistakes, cut out the gimmickry, and get back to basics. Hopefully, we’ll see more Haruhi work soon.

But Kyoto Animation will need to act quick. SHAFT is not its only major competitor that’s on the rise.  A-1 Pictures and PA Works are also posing serious challenges to the once seemingly invincible Kyoto Animation.

A-1 Pictures has shown an uncanny ability to appeal to otakus with its great success in Anohana (according to what I read on that, it will sell well in excess of 20,000 DVDs/Blu-Rays), while PA Works has demonstrated animation quality (and commercial success) to rival Kyoto Animation in anime shows like Angel Beats! and Hanasaku Iroha.

These two animation studios also have their finger on the pulse of the modern anime fandom. And if Kyoto Animation doesn’t soon get their finger back on that pulse, they may find that their own pulse might start to be weak…

I hope it won’t come to that, as Kyoto Animation’s talents are great, and work marvelously when applied wisely and seriously.


2006 through 2010 will likely be remembered as the KyoAni era in anime. But whether that continues further into this decade remains to seen. At the moment, you could say that KyoAni is getting SHAFTed. 😉

What do you think, good reader?

34 Replies to “SHAFT overtaking KyoAni.”

  1. No its not over, even thought i like Both Kyoani and Shaft i still consider Kyoani superior, but i guess your right about the Puella Magica rise. Maybe if Kyoani did a original work which is serious setting and not moe i think they can pull it off, something like clannad AS, but i cant understand why Kyoani is sticking to moeness, im sure they can do better.

    and just wait when they do Little busters lol yes i still have hope for them doing LB ^^
    i guess kyoani has to stick with key since its been rather succesful to help them gain a bit more into there reputation.

    but so far for the moment i have to agree that Kyonai has been shafted.

    1. Only original KyoAni production that I can think of, Munto, was terrible. Even their remake of it, with higher quality animation and stuff, was pretty darn mediocre.

      If Kyoani makes another original work, hopefully they stay close to their strong points and not have a Munto rehash. Kyoani does indeed same to have a strange string of success with Key VNs, so a Little busters adaptation would actually be pretty awesome. Now hopefully they actually announce it sometime =_=

  2. on nichijou: From what I’ve heard, the crappy Nichijou sales aren’t completely because people don’t like the comedy. Japanese fans claim the anime is a terrible adaption of a great manga… but since the manga was so obscure to the rest of the world, it doesn’t really apply to us.

    This is why Bakemonogatari looks much different than Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and why both looks much different than Denpa Onna.

    I’m not sure if you’re trolling here or what, but Shinbou’s style barely changes. To me, they look identical. The story and characters, on the other hand, do change.

    Overall, I’d say Kyoto Animation’s still doing fine. Nichijou has been one badly received anime, but look at KyoAni’s track record. Munto was undeniably bad, but everything else the gods at KyoAni have laid their hands on have become runaway successes.

    SHAFT is much more hit-or-miss, and they’ve just hit a few good ones. Once Shinbou got out of his comedies (SZS, Hidamari Sketch, etc.), more people have come to appreciate his style. Then you look at shows like SoreMachi, Maria+Holic, Natsu no Arashi, etc., anime that have utterly failed to be anything less than “hey, look at this junk.”

    You also have to consider how few anime Kyoto Animation actually produces. At max, they put out a series a season. SHAFT, on the other hand, can go up to four series a season. Shinbou is one crazy dude.

    On other companies: A-1 made Fractale and Occult Academy last year, each of which had a large negative reception.

    tl;dr I disagree.

    1. Actually, a couple of your arguments are the same as my own.

      Yes, the Nichijou anime is a bad adaptation. That’s much of what I mean by how KyoAni is forcing the source material to fit its animation style, rather than finding an animation style that brings out the natural strengths of the source material. This is a failing on KyoAni’s part, not Nichijou’s.

      And you’re right that Kyoto Animation produces few anime shows… which is precisely why a commercial failure for them hurts much more than such a failure hurts SHAFT.

      SHAFT has recently taken to doing a lot of shows annually. As long as SHAFT has big sellers like Bakemonogatari and Madoka Magica, it can afford to have some flops amongst the many other shows that it does. So Shinbo is not crazy at all. I would argue that he’s smart for not putting all of his eggs in one basket, as KyoAni so often does.

      So if a KyoAni work flops, then there’s nothing else there to pick up the slack. Nichijou is all KyoAni has going right now, and so that’s going to really hurt their revenue for the first half of 2011.

      As for A-1, Anohana is selling great. In the entertainment industry, “what have you done lately?” is always what counts the most. By that standard, A-1 is doing fantastic right now. Meanwhile, KyoAni is slumping badly, and needs to take more care in choosing what to adapt, and how to adapt it.

    2. Also… Madoka’s characters don’t look anything at all like Bake’s. Likewise, Denpa Onna’s characters look much different than Madoka or Bake’s.

      So these three anime shows all look different from one another, imo.

  3. Thats something that nobody SHOULD care about : two studios that survive on all hype and no substance, compete with each other…
    Oh well, if i HAVE to choose a side – i side with Kyoani. At least they actually do ANIMATION. Shaft’s technical skills are so far down the drain, i’m guessing about 70% time of any given episode is alotted to stills and extremely simplified chibis.

    1. Totally disagree with you Karry.

      There’s plenty of substance to Madoka Magica, and to some of KyoAni’s works as well.

      Also, I saw nothing wrong whatsoever with the animation of Madoka Magica, and certainly nothing wrong with Denpa Onna’s animation.

  4. Whoever chose to adapt Nichijo for KyoAni should be fired. He probably wanted to replicate the success of Lucky Star, but LS had moe girls and otaku-oriented jokes while Nichijo is a surrealist comedy with zero fanservice. And they expected it to sell? *Facepalm*
    However I don’t think that a single flop is enough to say that Shaft surpassed KyoAni. Shaft produces a LOT of shows and only two of them were big hits. To make an analogy, it’s like KyoAni is shooting with a sniper rifle while Shaft is shooting with a machine gun. KyoAni almost always hits the target, while Shaft randomly hits the target once every ten shots.
    I say: let KyoAni make a Little Busters adaptation and they will be back in the game.

    1. Woah, great analogy!

      It is true that Shaft does make a lot of crap with only a few hitting the mark, but I’m not quite too keen on saying KyoAni’s Nichijou was an epic fail.

      In KyoAni’s view, Nichijou IS a failure, especially in comparison to the revenue generated by past shows. However, I suspect this is only because that Nichijou features a genre that is not as popular with otakus as say, Madoka. Well, it’s not that Madoka isn’t spectacular or anything, but the whole Mahou Shoujo w/ dark plot is pretty much the knockout combo for anime that attract otakus. On top of those genres, there’s also a bit of moe here and there, so that’s pretty much adding insult to injury compared to Nichijou.

      The Otaku Connection:
      Once in a while, when idol groups like AKB48 release a new album, we always hear otakus purchasing a surreal amount of the exact same copy. In fact, I have 3 copies of the first volume of Madoka. This shows that, even though if the # of viewers were the same, Madoka just appeals to otaku more, who are the main boost to a show’s revenue.

      Target Audience:
      To be honest, Nichijou doesn’t seem to target the male shounen-seinen demographic. The male shounen-seinen is EXACTLY the group of people who would spend or over-spend on merchandise. Thus, because Nichijou’s target audience is completely off, they shouldn’t expect to sell as well as past shows like Haruhi, which targets said demographic.

      Show Quality:
      In Nichijou’s defense, I actually think it’s a pretty good show. However, it does have faults. It’s completely unorganized, which makes the viewer not sure what to expect each episode. So, if you actually look at it from the show quality, there would be less # of people buying the merchandise anyways!

      I haven’t read the manga yet, but it seems to be that the manga is of better quality. On a side note, does anybody remember Azumanga Daioh? Well the “short stories” from Nichijou more or less resemble that of AD’s feel. In fact, the 2 are pretty similar in terms of how the story is expressed. However, AD has quite a feel differences which makes distinguishes is from failure and must-watch. These differences are exactly what Madoka has. Moe, interesting characters that show development, and consistent feel to the show. Nichijou has a lot of ups and downs, so it’s not very smooth, which isn’t a good thing.

      Nichijou should’ve never been adapted to an anime. Not that the anime isn’t a good watch, but the Nichijou manga was never “built” to be animated. It has too many aspects that makes it a failure is it were to be an anime, which we can all see now. Also, I think KyoAni had too much expectations for this show. It’s not like every anime they make is going to be a huge hit like Haruhi. On top of that, the target demographic is completely off, which will heavily influence the revenue generated as seen in the statistics. However, on the SHAFT’s end, Madoka is one of those shows that hit the “bullseye”. It’s got everything an otaku would want in an anime, which explains why frenzied otaku would be so fanatic as to buy numerous copies of each volume. I guess the success of Madoka is just overshadowing Nichijou’s “small success”. Bad timing to insert a show that is bound to be mediocre-good against a show with huge potential.

  5. You say how KyoAni fans want more Haruhi, more K-On, etc.

    But isn’t that the point? Who actually wanted Haruhi or K-On to get animated before it actually did?

  6. KoyAni getting Shafted? hurr hurr

    And yeah, at the moment it looks like AnoHana is set to do something close to 20k (though thats an early estimation, so no one really knows for sure).

    On the topic at hand

    ”the show has virtually no plot to speak of”
    It does have a plot of sorts, but it’s not exactly clear cut nor is that fleshed out. But I digress, since it’s not really all the crucial in the grand scheme of things.

    ”I would argue that SHAFT has now overtaken Kyoto Animation as the biggest and strongest name in the anime industry”

    I disagree. Despite scoring two of the most successful anime releases, they are a highly prolific studio name with a strong brand attached to them, but are by no means the biggest name around, and certainly not the strongest. They are still notorious for the quality control and schedule slips they make with their shows and release, and they aren’t exactly able to constantly replicate the same success with Madoka and Bakae that easily.

    There is the other point, which is that while KyoAni has failed miserably with Nichijou, that doesn’t mean they are going to disappear off the map. Instead, it’s more likely that they are not going to venture anymore into territories such as surrealist comedies any longer, much like the failure with Muton made them weary from making any more original IP. So, they are probably going to play it safe if you will, and continue to make things they are best at doing.

    ”However, Kyoto Animation is shockingly being beat at their own game by SHAFT”
    I think it was almost certain it would do well.

    For starters, the design of the show is among the best looking thing in any anime. It’s simply too faithful to the concept artwork to a level hardly seen in Televised anime. So people would generate enough word of mouth with the more than happy Novel following coming in to add to the total, and we end up with a decent figure.

    As for beating them at their own game … well, I don’t know, Denpa never struck me as being something KyoAni in the first place so … maybe in the moe aspect and the designs?

    ”But with Haruhi 2009 selling significantly worse than its 2006 predecessor, the first chinks in Kyoto Animation’s armor were displayed.”

    I agree largely with the point you made, but this I need to deviate from it a bit. Haruhi’s 2009 lower sale figures compared to the 2006 counterpart were partially the fault of E8 annoying a lot of consumers, but don’t forget that there is a trend with shows from the mid 2000’s era being less successful sales wise in the BD/DVD area. Gundam and FMA being the prominent examples.

    ”Much the same is now happening with Nichijou, I believe. Kyoto Animation is pulling out all the stops, animation-wise, for Nichijou, and is once again experimenting artistically. The problem is that this is being done, I think, with little respect to what would serve the source material best. Nichijou is nowhere near as suspenseful as Disappearance is, and so while a flair for the dramatic makes perfect sense for Disappearance, it often doesn’t make sense for Nichijou. I would argue that it’s causing the comedy value of Nichijou to suffer, and this is not good since Nichijou is first and foremost a surrealist comedy.”

    Exactly this! I like the show for its visuals, music and sometimes amusing antics, but Lord, you have hit the nail on the head with this one. The show could be much much funnier than it is right now, rather than be generally amusing.

    ”Fullmetal Panic”

    The thing is, I think that has more to do with the sponsors/producers of the studio/IP decision, so I’m not sure how much of the blame can be put on the studio itself.

    I will say this, since the FMP novels were coming to an end around that time, it would’ve made sense for them to try a publicity stunt similar to FMA/Toradora. I believe that was a missed opportunity.

    1. Which anime studio do you think is the biggest and strongest name in the industry then?

      In fairness, you could make a case for Sunrise, but Sunrise is still largely associated (rightly or wrongly) with mecha, which seems to be declining a bit in recent years (NGE notwithstanding, of course).

      1. That is a bit of a tricky question to answer to be honest. If we were to go by the most financially successful and most prolific, it would have to be someone like Toei Animation followed closely by Sunrise. If we go by which one is most influential, then it would be Ghibli, Gainax and/or Sunrise again. Now if we go by which one has the most recognizable brand and would attract the most attention, then that’s a whole different can all together.

        Since each studio has it’s own reputation, and which it’s more well known for getting right (and wrong) in the anime they make. Sunrise is, much like you said, well known for mecha, Gundam for better or for worse. That doesn’t mean they aren’t also well known for other projects such as Cowboy Bebop, but their brand power lies in mecha shows, and thus that’s what make many drawn to them.

        KoyAni is known for high quality faithful adaption of certain projects, with some very nice looking animation. They are not known for making good original adaption (mainly due to how badly Muton had done, and how they made the decision to no longer pursue that path, much like Madhouse no longer is able to make moe anime) and are usually centered around a certain circle of interest. The thing stopping them from being stronger in presence in other areas other than this circle is that they are playing safe more often than not, to the point where they are considered as a one trick pony of sorts (not an exact description)

        Shaft is known to be confused with Richard Roundtree, and not being able to keep up with schedules and having a lot of animation mistakes during the broadcast (so their shows are usually best watched on BD release, meaning they are a studio who target the domestic release consumers directly) and for being the very example to use when describing a small studio with a laissez-faire attitude towards … well, everything really.

        Their brand comes directly from Shinbo, since the man has more or less made his name well known for his eccentric style and music video like directing in their shows.

        Then you have the rest like BONES, who are well known for making great looking animation, Gainax for being experimental (though not so much now days), Madhouse for variety, Production I.G. for being able to weed out anything not of A-Grade material to their other two studios in order to look better, Brain Base, P.A. Works etc.

        So which one is the biggest and strongest, in terms of branding?

        This might seem like a cop-out answer to you, but I think that none of them stands from the other in that area. More like, I think the power of their brands doesn’t come from the studio directly, but rather from the staff working on the most successful anime they had produced. Much like Shinbo being the name that gets attached to Shaft, the thing that makes a studio able to attract buyers is the staff attached to it, and how effective the marketing is on their most prolific release.

  7. I was going to say something about how SHAFT’s had a few big hits, but the vast majority of its series are pretty bad, and that I actually think the Nichijou style goes pretty well with the source material.

    “At the moment, you could say that KyoAni is getting SHAFTed.”

    But then your impeccable logic and wonderful puns convinced me. 🙂

  8. First off, I’d like to say a post talking about Nichijou’s sales seems a bit premature considering we don’t even have its full numbers yet. You do realize that that these are DVD only numbers, right? When the BD numbers come out its sales will obviously be well over 1k.

    That aside, your argument also seems puzzling selective when it comes to evaluating the success of these studios. You say that Shaft is overtaking Kyoani, but based on what exactly? Since you mention 2009, here’s a quick look at what these two studios have done since then.

    SHAFT (OVA’s, BD boxes excluded)
    Bakemonogatari 78,683 Maria†Holic *3,390
    Natsu no Arashi! ***984 Arakawa Under the Bridge *3,467
    Dance in the Vampire Bund *1,208 Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei *4,221
    Natsu no Arashi! ~Akinaichuu~ ***772 Hidamari Sketch x??? (Hoshi Mittsu) *8,512
    Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru *2,202 Mahou Shoujo Madoka?Magica 68,506 (3 Vol. only)
    Arakawa Under the BridgexBridge *2,082 Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko *6,628 (1 Vol only)

    Kyoani (OVA’s, BD boxes excluded)
    K-ON! 43,459 Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu 19,052
    Munto TV **** Haruhi-chan/Churuya-san 14,641
    K-ON!! *38,849 Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu 134,910
    Nichijou **924 (1 Vol. DVD only)

    So you’re claiming that Kyoani is “badly slumping” because its latest anime isn’t a huge hit like pretty much all the ones before it? Despite the fact that the show that came right before it (K-ON!!) and just finished airing earlier this year is one of the highest selling anime of the decade? You also make a case that Shaft is overtaking them using Bake and Madoka, which aired over a year and a half apart, as examples. Well what about all the mediocre to dismal selling shows inbetween? You say that Shaft has “unquestionably learned how to appeal to anime fans in general.” So where was that appeal when Shinbo was directing Natsu no Arashi and Vampire Bund? I don’t understand why you’re making it out like Kyoani has suddenly collapsed because one of their shows isn’t selling spectacularly well while at the same time you are putting Shaft at the top of the world because a couple of its shows have become megahits, despite the fact that a majority of their shows enjoy mediocre sales at best. It seems incredibly unfair that the exception to Kyoani’s rule of success is made such a huge deal of while completely ignoring Shaft’s long list of failures (sales wise). Why are those shows being so willfully ignored? Do they simply not count because it messes with the argument that Shaft has been nothing but wildly successful and on the ball these past few years?

    I also take issue with your portrayal of Kyoani’s apparent “hubris” at choosing what projects to adapt. You make it sound as if these studio’s have the final say when it comes to choosing a project, which simply isn’t the case. That decision comes down from the production committees who actually fund all these shows. For example, it doesn’t matter how much Kyoani might want to adapt more Haruhi or FMP. If Kadokawa doesn’t give it the go ahead, it just isn’t going to happen. It’s the same deal with stuff like the marketing of shows and how they’re aired. These decisions are made by production committees with hundreds of marketing personnel, not tiny anime studios.

    You claim that Nichijou shouldn’t have been adapted because there was no type of fan push for it. That is pretty ridiculous. By that logic, the megahit that is K-ON should have never been made into an anime considering it was an incredibly obscure and completely unknown manga series before it was adapted. You say that Kyoani is “out of touch” with its fans because it has not done more Haruhi and use that in your argument as to why they have “fallen on hard times.” Yet once again you completely ignore Shaft doing the exact same thing. For a studio so in touch with its fanbase as Shaft, why has there not been any Bakemono since its first season? Instead they’ve done projects like SoreMachi and Arakawa, which I’m pretty sure had even less support than Nichijou as far as getting adapted goes. Not only that, but how do you explain giving Arakawa and Natsu no Arashi second seasons even though they had already been proven to be sales failures? This is even worse than Nichijou having two-course considering they had no idea how it would sell. Unfortunately this was ignored in your post. Even Kyoani immediately followed K-ON! with a sequel just two seasons later and has an upcoming movie lined up for December. Not bad for a studio so out of touch with its fanbase.

    So to end this I’ll say that your argument is just too selective to take seriously. And because of that I can’t agree at all with your conclusions. There was simply way too much cherrypicking going on.

    1. Of course I realize that these are “only” DVD sales figures. However, we also already have the Top 30 Blu-Ray sales list released for the week of Nichijou’s initial volume, and Nichijou is not on that list.

      So what if Nichijou sells over 1,000 on Blu-Ray? Anything less than 4,000 (which its guaranteed to be less than as Nichijou’s Blu-Ray sales never cracked the Top 30, the lowest of which is just barely over 4,000) has to be considered a massive disappointment for a KyoAni work.

      You and some other respondents to this blog act as though an anime studio having a substantial quantity of shows to its name is a negative. It’s not. It’s a strength insofar as at least some of those shows are doing great financially, as is the case for SHAFT. This is precisely why it’s no big deal if some SHAFT shows do poorly financially, since they have so much going on at the same time, they’re better selling shows can make up for it.

      In sharp contrast, KyoAni is really limiting themselves, and putting all of their eggs into one basket, by doing so very few projects per year.

      And yes, they’re badly slumping right now, because Nichijou is *all* they have going for them so far in 2011. And to think that they actually greenlit this anime for two cours!

      You accuse me of cherry-picking while you use blatant strawman arguments, and also fudge discussion points. I never once said that SHAFT “has been nothing but wildly successful”. I said nothing of the sort. I’m simply saying that, right now, SHAFT is overtaking KyoAni, and they in fact are doing that right now. Will that hold up in the years to come? That remains to be seen, of course.

      Also, Nichijou isn’t simply not “selling spectacularly well”, they’re bombing. They’re doing terrible.

      As for KyoAni/Kadokawa… I never accused KyoAni of hubris *just* for their choice of which properties to adapt into anime. I also accused them of hubris for how they go about doing those adaptations, as we see with certain cheap consumer-unfriendly gimmicks (E8 being an obvious example), and forcing the material to fit their animation style, rather than finding an animation style that suits the material well. It’s these
      consumer-unfriendly gimmicks and experimental animation that helps to demonstrate how KyoAni is, I think, out of touch with its fanbase.

      However, if you want to spread the blame to Kadokawa as well, be my guess. I doubt that they’re innocent in all of this, by any means.

      1. Welcome to dealing with fanboys Triple R. I’m sorry to see that you’re getting a small taste of the sort of thing I’ve been dealing with for years at this point.

        Sadly I’ve been getting visited by the exact same low production/high yield=teh greatest most visionary studio of all time arguments that are being presented by the people that always seem to come out of the woodwork to defend Kyoto Animation whenever anybody dares suggest that they are anything but the cream of the crop in the anime scene. With the whole Nichijou fall out you can expect them to be extra vigilant.

        If I can give any advice it would be trying to get used to people ignoring what you are actually saying and substituting it for what they want to think you are saying so they can say what they want to say. It’s tunnel vision to the extreme and it can be extremely annoying I know, but let me just say that there are some people not worth responding too directly.

  9. Please excuse the formatting on that sales list. Hopefully this is more readable.

    SHAFT (OVA’s, BD boxes excluded)
    Bakemonogatari 78,683————————–Maria†Holic *3,390
    Natsu no Arashi! ***984————————-Arakawa Under the Bridge *3,467
    Dance in the Vampire Bund *1,208————Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei *4,221
    Natsu no Arashi! ~Akinaichuu~ ***772——-Hidamari Sketch (Hoshi Mittsu) *8,512
    Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru *2,202 —–Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica 68,506 (3 Vol. only)
    Arakawa Under the BridgexBridge *2,082 —-Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko *6,628 (1 Vol only)

    Kyoani (OVA’s, BD boxes excluded)
    K-ON! 43,459—————————————-Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu 19,052
    Munto TV **** ————————————-Haruhi-chan/Churuya-san 14,641
    K-ON!! *38,849 ————————————-Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu 134,910
    Nichijou **924 (1 Vol. DVD only)

  10. Hey hey! Like Arabesque I still find myself having a little trouble accepting the common idea being presented by a lot of anime fans that SHAFT and Kyoani are somehow the only big players in the game that are capable of taking each other on, however I am willing to accept this notion concerning the whole moe anime scene specifically. In that scene they probably are the two biggest players. However, I personally still and always will argue that Gundam is the ultimate brand in the medium and that it’s Sunrise that is showing the most ambition in trying to dominate the entirety of the scene right now or at the very least leave a very big mark on it. I’m going to actually quote myself in a response to our mutual friend Reckoner here in an example I cited as to this belief:

    “I’m stoked though! Can’t even believe just how much Sunrise has on it’s plate right now that looks good and yet each project is technically aimed at a different demographic with potential to pull in just about any kind of viewer. I guess when you have like 7 separate studios under your umbrella and ungodly amounts of capital it’s not really a problem in the long run. Let me see if I can summarize….

    Horizon On The Middle of Nowhere (Comedic Mecha Story seemingly aimed at Light Novel/Moe fans)
    Sacred Seven (Heroic Mecha story seemingly aimed at Shonen Demographic)
    Phi Brain: Kami No Puzzle (Brain teaser show seemingly aimed at Seinen demographic)
    Gundam AGE(Generational Mecha story seemingly aimed at younger kids)
    Gundam: The Origin (Remake of legendary Mecha story seemingly aimed at older salarymen anime fans who probably don’t watch all that much anime anymore)
    Tiger & Bunny (Dramedy superhero story seemingly aimed at…anyone)
    Gintama (Comedic Samurai serial aimed at the shonen demographic)
    School Idol Project (Singing girl anime seemingly aimed at the Akiba crowd)
    Onigokko Royal Radio (A radio drama aimed at people that listen to the radio)”

    Although lately I suppose it can be argued that SHAFT has pulled the rug out from under Kyoani and that Shinbo has found a way to bring his style a bit more down to Earth so that it can appeal to more than a specific niche hardcore. In fact I’ll even support this argument and say that you make a good point here. I think this is something that Kyoto Animation is going to have to find a way to do if they want to remain relevant. To get over the early success that seems to have gotten to their heads a little bit and to maybe start branching out from the fickle moe anime fandom over in Japan that is already starting to lean more and more towards the more open ended spectrum of the equation that SHAFT has been offerring.

  11. I think one of the things that sets KyoAni and SHAFT apart from other studios is their sheer love for animation itself. They approach technique from different directions, with KyoAni devoting much time to fluidity in character motion and SHAFT to cinematography.

    I think a large factor in sales shifting has to do with the source material. Lucky Star, Haruhi and K-ON had great success in the sales of manga and novel forms, which translated to disc sales. Bakemonogatari and Denpa Onna have had decent sales and that has shown itself. Madoka benefited from having a great team of people dedicated to creating something brand new, building on what they learned from their adaptations. If KyoAni were to dedicate the time and money to making an original project themselves, I think it might do quite well.

    1. ”I think one of the things that sets KyoAni and SHAFT apart from other studios is their sheer love for animation itself.”

      Hardly. If we are going to talk about who loves animation for the sake of animation, then Shaft and KoyAni won’t make the top 10 of that list. I like the two well enough, and I’m certain they both have people who love the trade, but they aren’t the ones who are well known for trying to progress the medium to a new level.

      Also, KoyAni has no interest in making an original IP after Muton, since they aren’t that much of risk takers.

  12. Let’s narrow this discussion in to the real point of interest: the ability of both studios to make major hits.

    I think if you look at most R2 DVD/Bluray megahit anime in recent years, you’ll quickly come to a conclusion: they’re generally shows that are very “hot” among particular demographics of otaku. I’d suggest that this is because owning expensive R2 discs of a hot show gives you serious otaku cred.

    I don’t know about you guys, but Nichijou never really felt like a hot property that same way that most previous KyoAni productions did. It’s not a matter of Shaft being hotter – after all, Bakemonogatari was hotter than K-On! in 2009 and K-On! still did fine. But K-On! had Don’t Say Lazy (among other elements that made the show hot with otaku) and Nichijou didn’t.

    Second, there’s a tendency to assume that Kyoto’s name alone can sell a show. And certainly, I think the Haruhi effect helped make Lucky Star and K-On! as big as they got. But I think that Kyoto’s brand name is simply far weaker in 2011 than 2009, partly because of Endless Eight and partly because their animation isn’t way ahead of everyone else in the genres they work in like it was back when they did Air and Haruhi S1. I think Clannad: After Story was their last TV show to look leagues better than its immediate competition, and that finished airing in early 2009. Their brand may have already been weakening in 2010, but nobody noticed because its productions that year were sequels in major franchises.

    Bottom line: what Kyoto has lost is its ability to do what it did with K-On! and make a small name franchise a big one overnight. And I don’t think regaining that will be easy. Studios like PA Works have raised the bar in animation quality so its going to be hard to wow people like Kyoto did in 05 and 06. And creating Haruhi style phenomenon is never easy, I doubt Kyoto expected the sales they got for that one.

    Is it all doom and gloom? Not really, Kyoto’s work is still some of the best among R2 DVD/Bluray targeted animation studios. They’ve lost their status as the king of their genre, not their reputation as a good studio. But they’re going to need to get good licenses to get good sales just like practically everyone else.

    As for Shaft, I’d say only Bakemonogatari and Madoka are true megahits in the way most KyoAni works have been. And I think Madoka got a lot of buzz because everyone was interested in seeing what a Shinbo directed anime original would be like – the vast majority of Shaft’s works from 2009 to 2011 made only a minor to moderate splash. Bakemonogatari is the one that came out of nowhere, Shinbo has actually said he doesn’t know why it was so big. I’d actually say megahits from Shinbo are rare enough that there’s significant room for another studio to achieve a megahit right now.

    Denpa Onna sold better than Nichijou but so did A Channel, which is a much more direct competitor IMO (Denpa Onna reminded me of Haruhi and Air at times, not so much K-On or Nichijou). What the sales of these shows indicate is that Kyoto shows are no longer then automatic hot topic in the genre. And I’m actually kind of glad for that, I loved K-On! but seeing it outsell Taisho Yakyuu Musume by an order of magnitude was tough to swallow.

    1. Excellent post, 0utf0xZer0. I think you really hit the nail on the head when it comes to how KyoAni’s situation has changed over the last couple of years.

  13. I think it’s too early to call the bell after a slip up like this. Maybe if their next show bombs too, we can start worrying.

    But it is not completely false that Shaft owes some to KyoAni’s fail. After all, thjeir monster franchise of Haruhi sold a lot less in 2009 thx to Endless Eight, and meanwhile Shaft breaks the record with Bake. Hmm….

    Truth is, they haven’t proven themselves to be flexible. They are great in the adaptation area, but it seems that the ability to write something out of their comfort zone seems impossible.

    One’s things for sure, though. Adapt, or die. Everyone else’s stepping up their game, it’s up to them to return the favor. There’s a reason why the likes of Sunrise and Madhouse have survived so long… (And no, Sunrise just doesn’t do mecha =D)

  14. Kyoto Animation doesn’t have to do anything just yet. Not unless they have another major flop. Right now with plenty of Haruhi material still left to adapt, and a K-ON movie on the way which will earn them tons of capital, they can still laugh all the way to the bank.

    They haven’t sufficiently backed themselves into a corner yet, but if they don’t move soon, it can get ugly. Almost everything available from KEY that can be adapted is already adapted (Little Busters isn’t a realistic option at this moment). Shaft has already banked majorly on some of their recent failures with Bake and Madoka. KyoAni is also no longer one of the higher standard studios for TV animation since there are plenty out there able to match them tick for tat.

    Nichijou flopping is a very good thing. If they stick with the same old tired formulas, I hope those flop just as badly as well. They need a wake up call.

  15. Regarding SHAFT, I feel that they are perhaps the ones leading the way with actual innovation in the more, and I say this with a certain degree of looseness, otaku shows, especially with elements pertaining to moe and bishoujo in general. Like many who already commented above, I echo that the time for the tried and true formula for slice of life, moe comedy is beginning to fail and shows which rely heavily on these archetypes will also begin to start failing and realising the need for innovation. The new SHAFT-styled moe with Denpa is an example of the somewhat simple yet somewhat complexities related with the characters and their developments. Whether or not this SHAFT style is actually a good direction for the more otaku anime industry as a whole…remains to be seen.

    tl;dr: hooray for competition?

    1. I’d be careful about saying that slice of life moe comedy is on the way out. I’ve definitely noticed the trend towards moe shows being more sophisticated (Madoka, AnoHana, and Hana-Saku Iroha being notable examples), and I think that will affect sales, but we’ve only seen two shows that follow the traditional formula this year: Nichijou and A Channel. A Channel’s first volume sold around 6.5K copies, which is respectable for the genre and nearly twice what Nichijou did.

      That’s not a lot of evidence to go on, and it was just last year we saw Working!! become one of the most successful titles ever in the genre despite airing up against K-On’s second season. We haven’t seen a hit like that this year, but I would say that’s kind of expected with only two entries into the fight. Shows from other “cute girls and comedy” genres like Ore no Imouto and Infinite Stratos have gotten excellent sales. I do think that strong competition from more sophisticated shows with moe may have contributed some to Nichijou bombing, but the shows own flaws and the fact Kyoto doesn’t command the respect it once did seem like far larger factors to me.

      I will admit that Denpa Onna is a pretty interesting show though, and one that actually reminds me of a number of past Kyoto works. The early episodes reminded me of the early bits of Haruhi with Kyon being skeptical of Yuki’s claims, while the later episodes have reminded me a lot of Air in terms of characters and setting if not necessarily plot.

  16. I’ll use the analogy of mining for my take on it, and not just because I’ve spent the past three weeks playing Minecraft almost nonstop.

    KyoAni has been mining the same area for the past six years, namely drama and slice of life shows of similar natures, and this seems to be the only thing they can do. By going into more absurdist shows like Nichijou, they just can’t find how to mine that ore properly, so they’re tossing proverbial dynamite at it hoping to dislodge it for profit, and it’s not working. I’m not saying that Nichijou’s bad, KyoAni’s just taking the wrong approach.

    Meanwhile, Shaft is trying many new things, or mining in many new areas. It’s a higher gamble, but it also has a higher payoff should they succeed, and they’ve struck it big with Madoka Magica. Sure, quite a few of their other shows are pretty good, but Madoka’s the one that really launched them into the stratosphere. And since I seem to be losing this metaphor, I’ll just close by saying that Shaft is doing a better job at branching out at a time when that’s absolutely crucial for sales.

  17. lol the biggest name in anime and always will be, is sunrise. Gundam alone is a billion dollar industry. Throw in macross and a ton of other title such as gintama, and the other companies arent even close. nichijou is just one anime. there is plenty of money in the bank so to speak. You cant expect EVERY title to be a hit.

  18. I think you are missing something.

    The animation studio doesn’t decide to do the work, they get offered the job via contract to animate, assemble the people to do the job and then produce the series. They don’t green light it.

    The magazine that serializes nichjou and owns the rights went to kyoani to have it animated because they felt there was a demand and a profit to be made in it. Kyoani agreed and decided to animate.

    Kyoani cannot decide to make more haruhi, or more fmp, because they do not own the rights. That was part of the reason why endless 8 happened as it happened. They did not have the rights to animate more than they did, not because they thought its a swell idea to do 8 episodes of endless 8.

    Shaft is a decent studio, but they seem to run into a lot of budgetary issues as evidenced by the tv airing of bake.

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