Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why is "The World God Only Knows" struggling so much?


The most hardcore anime fans, such as many regular posters on Anime Suki, usually have a pretty good idea of which animes will be successful, in the sense of ratings, DVD/Blu-Ray sales, and related merchandise sales. They keep persistent track of which animes will be coming up in the following season, which animation studios will be handling each of them, how popular the source material (if there is one) for the various animes are, and the overall vibe surrounding each of them. They tend to have their finger consistently on the pulse of the anime industry, the anime fandom, and key related fandoms (manga fans, light novel fans, eroge fans, etc...). I myself follow anime somewhat closely, but I don't keep tabs on this wondrously wider world of the modern otaku with quite the admirable thoroughness and zeal as these folks do.

So... when an anime does significantly worse than initially expected or hoped for by these hardcore anime fans, it becomes an intensely intriguing intellectual curiosity for me. This was true when the heavily hyped Umineko anime bombed, and it's also true now with TWGON (which is the acronym I will use through out the rest of this post to refer to The World God Only Knows) likely suffering a similar fate.

Ratings wise, TWGON has been a disaster, even for a late night anime airing in Japan. I've also read an anime fan state that preorders for DVDs/Blu-Rays of this anime has also been low. Now, information of this nature is still sketchy at best, but there's enough red flags being raised to suggest that Keima might not get to see many more "flags" in his anime.

So, that begs the question... what might be contributing to one of the more heavily anticipated anime series' of the year not doing so well? After some thought, I have three ideas to put forward. One is not of my own design, but the second and third are. Anyway, with out further adieu, let us delve into the three possible causes for what's hurting this anime:


1. The Pacing is Broken

Buggy pacing is buggy.

This appears to be the leading answer at the moment, and there's definitely some sound rationale to it. By all accounts, the anime is significantly padding out stories that were relatively short in the associated manga and/or light novel. The general consensus appears to be that the Kanon storyline was an episode too long, and having two "filler" episodes surrounding it may have been quite excessive.

Now, I myself liked the Kanon storyline, and found it very entertaining and fulfilling as is. I also found the "buggy game" episode before it to make for a good chuckle and some lighthearted fun. However, I have to admit that having another filler episode (i.e. one not involving Keima trying to capture a loose soul and free a girl from its hold) immediately after the Kanon storyline might have been the proverbial glitch that broke the game's flow.

When you think about it, we've now had a five episode stretch in TWGON in which only one "capture" has occurred, or even been attempted. That's a long time without multiple captures. It could definitely be a factor in the anime's struggles.  

Still... once an anime viewer watches over three episodes of a short one cour anime, it's probably rare for such a viewer to drop it even if he or she does grow somewhat bored. So I think that there may be more at play here than pacing alone. That brings me to my second possible cause for the struggles of TWGON.


2. Too Much Competition

Welcome to Kuroneko's world, Keima...

It stands to reason that the target demographic for TWGON are people who are both anime fans, and eroge fans/players. Now, when it comes to what these people do in their leisure time, I suspect that it's divided up mostly between eroges and anime. Some time is probably spent playing real life eroges, which necessarily eats into the amount of time that can be devoted to watching anime. 

Now, the animes that such anime/eroge fans would be into are likely to be, first and foremost, anime adaptations of eroges. Right now, there's at least three such animes airing, and that's just going by my limited knowledge. Those are Amagami SS, Yosuga no Sora, and Fortune Arterial.

Now, after that, an anime about eroges, or where eroges play a key role in the plot, could also be choice viewing selections for anime/eroge fans. Here we come to TWGON, and perhaps the Fall 2010 anime season's most prominent anime, Ore no Imouto.

So, that's at least five animes that would hold natural appeal to anime/eroge fans. Maybe that's more than what such fans can balance within their limited leisure time along with playing real life eroges. Perhaps one of the five has to be dropped simply as a matter of time management, and Kirino et al ends up trumping Keima here. 

This certainly wouldn't be unprecedented for the entertainment industry in general, either. I know of some pretty solid RPGs that have been hurt considerably by being released too close to the latest Final Fantasy game. Likewise, maybe TWGON would have been better off being released back in the Summer, when it's only major competition for anime/eroge fans would have been Amagami SS.

In fact, I'm starting to wonder if the anime/eroge crossover market has reached a saturation point in general. That's a discussion for another day, however. For now I will look at the one remaining possible reason that I can see for TWGON's plight.


3. The Art Style


Now, this is probably the wildest, the most speculative, and the most theoretical of my three possible causes for the unexpectedly small viewership of my anime. But please stay with me here, and let me explain.

The art style for TWGON isn't exactly bad. It's respectable, solid... typical.

And maybe that's the problem. 

Suppose you're a casual or middle-of-the-road anime fan living in Japan and surfing the internet or the TV for a new anime to watch. You have dozens upon dozens of animes to choose from, and your knowledge of where they come from and what source material they may be based on is nil. So, for you, your anime viewing choice might depend in large part simply on the visuals. 

You see TWGON, and maybe you think "It looks too generic. It's overall art style reminds me too much of all sorts of other animes. Other animes like..."



Notice the considerable artistic similarities between TWGON, and the above images taken from Kaicho no Maid-sama! and Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou. All three animes use solid coloring, normal body proportions, simple hair designs, and very basic and streamlined apparel for the characters. It's a bright and solid, but decidedly "no frills" approach to the anime's art style.

Now, contrast that with the following anime screen-shots and how our casual anime viewer might respond to them...


"Whoa, that's gnarly dude! I haven't seen any anime recently that looks much like that!"



"Really impressive attention to detail! Love the realism, and slight distinctive touches on the hair and faces!"



"That's pretty conventional anime art... but the high production values are obvious! With its unique use of shading and lighting effects, this looks like a very high caliber work!"


Now, a couple things to keep in mind. 

Kaicho no Maid-sama! and Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou bombed in DVD/Blu-Ray sales.

Durarara!, K-On!!, and Angel Beats!  are amongst the very best selling animes of the year

Maybe having a generic anime art style kills viewer interest, while having something distinctive, something with impressive attention to detail, and/or something with noticeably high production values will garner greater interest and economic success. Something to consider, anyway. 


So, what do you, good reader, think? Do you agree with one of these three possible causes, all of them, none of them? I'd love to hear from you. :)

In any event, I hope that TWGON can turn it around... but if it doesn't bounce back, maybe the anime industry can learn something from its failures, which would at least help the world of anime going forward.

12 comments:

  1. I'm not exactly sure what is causing the bombing of TWGOK sales but I think too much competition may be the most likely reason.

    I don't think art style is something that otakus priortise that much, although it is still a factor when determining a purchase. I agree that although the artstyle is generic, it isn't terrible to warrant bombing just because of that factor. If art style was very important, then technically SHAFT show should bomb because well... you know... they have a reputation of having not-so-friendly and avant garde artstyles and every 2nd show seems to be unfinished in the animation department.

    Pacing could be a reason, but I don't think that is also huge either. A Certain Magical Railgun had huge pacing issues as well, to the point where 1/3 to 1/2 the series was filler. Yet, it was amongst one of the favourites and top selling animes in 2010. Same can be said Angel Beats.... this one had huge holes in terms of plot development pacing. Though I think a major factor in the drive for Angel Beats sales is the fact it had the "Key" brand stamped on it and I will be dubious if a series without the reputation of Key would have done that well.

    The most likely reason as I said above, may be due to too much competition. As you said, OreImo is the clear favourite of the season and one can clearly see why. A "Genshiken" like anime (replace university club with a general anime/manga community club) with an everyday male lead (Okazaki v2.0, funnily enough voiced by the same person too and it feels exactly like what Okazaki would be like if he had a younger sister) with tons of anime/manga/light novel/eroge references and parodies. Formula for success really and a lot of attention is on this anime.

    Though I still don't understand why it isn't possible for multiple series to be top sellers in a particular season. It's not like hardcore otakus are not going to be buy a series because of "opportunity cost"... buyers of these overpriced DVDs are generally of the "fanatic" type anyway :p

    This is a personal hypothetical reason, but perhaps it's due to the absence of a character that "otakus" can relate or see favorably upon in TWGOK. I'm not exactly sure but maybe the otaku community just doesn't like Keima, heroine or sub-heroines.

    If we look recently at top sellers, Railgun had Mikoto, Angel Beats had Tenshi/Yuri, Durarara had the fabulous male cast (Izaya and the rest which I forgot the names of) and Bakemonogatari had Senjougahara/Nadeko. It appears that the top sellers all had highlight characters, whilst in TWGOK, there really isn't one.

    Nonetheless, I've been following both TWGOK and OreImo this season, and I can say that both are decent animes. Not fantastic or out of the world but generally entertaining, which it's done its job for me since that's what I watch anime for :).

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  2. Acejem - You raise some very good points.

    One key difference between Kirino and Keima is that Kirino is into the whole range of otaku interests (anime, manga, eroges, etc...) while Keima seems to be exclusively about eroge. Maybe that's a turn off for anime fans who would prefer it if Keima was more into anime as well.

    Like yourself, I'm finding both animes generally entertaining (well, except the latest episode of Ore no Imouto, but other than that I've liked it).

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the feedback. :)

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  3. Technically, PSP visual novels aren't eroge due to publishing rules on consoles, but I'm not actually sure if there's an equivalent short term for them.

    I wouldn't make too big a deal of the TV ratings, shows in that time slot with similar ratings have apparently sold decently. This week was admittedly atrocious but the same is true of many other shows this week... not sure what's up with that. The Bluray preorders, on the other hand, are cause for more concern. It'll be interesting to see what the real numbers are.

    I heard about the TWGOK manga long before an anime was announced, and someone apparently greenlit this for two seasons (one now and one after a one season gap), so I get the impression the manga was a pretty good seller. So you probably are looking at either the anime being seen as inferior to the manga, or too much competition. I'm inclined to lay a little more blame on the former due to what happened to Umineko, but I'd actually say the two go hand in hand. And I wouldn't just blame Ore no Imouto. Despite a smaller than usual compliment of shows, we've seen a lot of shows break the 10K and even 15K barriers this year, and even otaku have their financial limits.

    Finally, of course, there's the fact that a $4 manga volume and a $60 anime Bluray probably target different segments of the anime fandom... it's possible that TWGOK's fans just aren't as free spending as those of other franchises.

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  4. I think the second reason is the culprit. Not only eroge players watch this, you know. Most people I know of who watch this anime just usually go for the more highly anticipated ones. One person in particular (who has no prior knowledge of the manga series, and only heard of the anime) was going to watch Index II, Sora no Otoshimono, and some others, and wasn't going to watch it until I introduced it to him. He's now another converted fan. XD
    I think it isn't the story or pacing that is the problem. I like the pacing so far, no major problems. The art style is fine (I don't care too much, neither does my friend), and the story is good.
    It's just too much competition. And, as the person above me said, Limited Budget. :)

    A good anime is a good anime.

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  5. Yes, this is definitely a case of Overshadowed by Popularity. Okay, so the pacing is janky and the art style is nothing to write home about, but other series' have suffered from far more flagrant flaws and have gotten along just fine. TWGOK is a very solid series with a strong, compelling premise that just tragically can't stand up to the unrepentant controversial colossus that is Oreimo.

    And it is tragic, really. Sure, given the tongue-in-cheek nature of the series, TWGOK should by no means have carte blanche to set the medium on fire, but it deserves more than to be reduced to waving one measly sparkler at the fireworks show.

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  6. IllConstruct - You're right. The pacing/art issues don't really impact my personal enjoyment of this anime much at all, and they're no big deal when compared to most other animes.

    I think that the current Competition is the issue. TWGOK is just getting overshadowed by Ore no Imouto, which is a shame. It's really too bad that TWGOK didn't come out back in the Summer.

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  7. Aww, I guess there's too much stuff going on. This is clearly the best show of the season though. :/

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  8. I agree with 1 and 2 is a possibility. However the art style is fine.

    The main problem is that the comedy is not being pulled off. Comedy is at the heart of TWGOK. They omitted some really great jokes and messed up the comedic timing of those jokes included.

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  9. I think the key difference is an excessive amount of attention focused on the girls, combined with toning down Keima.

    People liked the manga not for the girls, but because Keima was this Ferris Bueller type character. You can't relate to him, but you are in awe of him, and enjoy watching him. You're thinking: "what is he going to do next."

    Not enough awe inspiring moments in the anime adaption.

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  10. For me, its neither the three suggestions.Hardcore Otaku fans will be willing to buy those DVDs too. TWGOK anime is also done by TVtokyo- all famous company in japan. Its actually the timming that's the problem beacuse its late night it simply cannot gather fans. Remember the fact that TWGOK manga was also thought to be shit in the past.

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  11. I happen to stumble upon this entry about TWGOK when I wanted to search comparisons between the second season TV broadcast versus its Bluray. (Another story and another matter entirely) However, your post piqued my interest and I thought I would leave a comment about it.

    The World God Only Knows is a solid series. After having watched both seasons and the OVA, the anime is done pretty well, the story is good and interesting, and the cast of characters are memorable.

    However, I think one of the key problems is in its timing of release. There were powerhouses like Ore no Imouto, which was released at the same time. Then, the naming of the series does not stand out. "Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai" sounds cool, but coupled with the fact that it came within seasons of other series with "Kami" in its name, people write it off as forgettable.

    I, myself, would not have picked this series up in the first place if it weren't for the fact a friend of a mine was an avid reader of the manga. The name coupled with the timing of its release, coupled with releases of anime of a similar name all bear down upon the fact that people did not give TWGOK a fair chance or viewing, which probably affected its popularity.

    On another note, I think the secret of Umineko's failure was in the fact it did not ride the coattails of the Higurashi series quickly enough. The time between the two was too great and thus, interest waned and went to other places. That coupled with the fact that Umineko is NOT an eroge, meaning more access to fans to the original work, by the time Umineko came out, the fans who had been drawn into the world of 7th Expansion were playing the game and thus, horribly disappointed in the Umineko anime, or the fans of the Higurashi anime had moved on to other series and simply missed out on Umineko.

    This is my two cents. And great and observant post on the potential disaster of TWGOK. A lot of the points you brought up indeed lead to a solid reason on why it did not succeed like other series that came before it.

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