Anime makes a return to prime time television
Plus: Visual Arts sold to Chinese technology conglomerate; Japan's current webtoon market landscape; Young Magazine under criticism for manga cancellation; and more
This is the weekly newsletter of Animenomics, covering the business of anime and manga. Today is Wednesday, August 2, 2023.
In case you missed it: The First Slam Dunk opened in U.S. theaters last weekend, earning $645,086 with a review in The New York Times saying, “This feels like real basketball.” In Japan, the film has now earned ¥15 billion (US$105 million).
Japan’s TV networks bring anime back to prime time
One notable trend in Japan’s anime industry over the past decade is a decline in the amount of anime broadcast during daytime and evening hours in favor of late night time slots, but for some television networks an opposite pattern is emerging.
Driving the story: Nippon TV will debut the upcoming Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End anime during Friday Roadshow, a two-hour evening slot historically reserved for Japanese and foreign films.
Adapted from a Cartoon Grand Prize-winning manga, the anime’s remaining episodes will air in a new weekly anime time slot after Friday Roadshow.
Zoom out: Nippon TV’s decision follows a strategy used by other networks to bring attention to high value productions they have invested in.
Fuji TV often broadcasts special editions of Demon Slayer during prime time on weekends.
TBS will expand its Sunday evening anime time slot from 30 minutes to 1 hour starting in October.
Last year, TV Tokyo established a Saturday 11:00 p.m. anime time slot for the broadcast of Spy × Family.
Behind the scenes: One reason networks are broadcasting anime in prime time again is the shifting audience demographic, journalist Tadashi Sudo writes.
Daytime and evening time slots were previously reserved for family-friendly anime, but that demand is falling with fewer children being born.
As the average audience age of television viewers increases, children’s anime titles are being replaced with anime for older fans.
One big thing: Prime time anime broadcasts also give networks an opportunity to protect their market share against streaming platforms by investing in the growing business segment.
Visual Arts sold to China’s Tencent in share transfer deal
Osaka-based Visual Arts, a publisher of visual novels and their anime adaptations, has been sold to Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent Holdings in a share transfer deal by founder and president Takahiro Baba.
Why it matters: The transaction puts the beloved company known for titles like Clannad, Air, and Kanon under an entertainment giant that has been acquiring stakes in international gaming companies over the last decade.
Neither Tencent nor Visual Arts disclosed the transaction value of the sale, but a financial statement for the fiscal year ending June 2021 showed Visual Arts’ liabilities and net assets were valued at ¥4.2 billion (US$30 million).
The details: In a blog post, the 63-year-old Baba said he is retiring as part of the deal and named Genki Tenkumo, also known by his pseudonym Tohya Okano, as the company’s new president.
In explaining his reasoning, Baba considered his age as the biggest risk to the company. “Of course, I’m healthy now and still want to work, but I’m at an age where anything can happen at any time,” he wrote.
Given that the shares were entirely owned by the Baba family, which has no suitable successors, the company could be forced to close if anything were to happen to him, putting its intellectual properties at risk.
Zoom out: A government report estimated that by 2025 about 1.27 million small business owners in Japan would be 70 or older and have no successors.
How it happened: Visual Arts approached potential buyers directly without the involvement of any advisory firms specializing in mergers and acquisitions.
There are two viable exit options for privately owned companies like Visual Arts—public listing on the stock market or become the subsidiary of a larger parent company.
Given the company’s reputation for what Baba calls “carefree management,” a public listing would have taken time to execute, so he believed a sale to a large buyer would be the best option and provide greater stability.
Clippings: Surveying Japan’s webtoon market landscape
The number of Japanese companies operating a webtoon production studio has risen to 77 firms, growing 30 percent since a year ago, according to a market map published by digital manga vendor Comici. (Daisaku Manda on Note)
Director Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron will make its overseas debut in September as the opening night gala presentation of the Toronto International Film Festival, the first Japanese or animated film to open the festival. (Press release)
Anime Expo remains an attractive destination for anime and video game firms that have no U.S. presence. Although the event has a consumer focus, some exhibitors saw business visitors at their booths. (Japan External Trade Organization)
Tokyo-based Orange Inc. has raised ¥250 million (US$1.74 million) from Globis Capital Partners, the Chiba Dojo Fund, and other individual investors for an AI-based service that localizes manga from Japanese to English. (Press release)
Manga’s outsized presence felt at Dark Horse Comics
“It’s important to remember that manga was made for Japanese readers. At Dark Horse Comics, manga is 1 percent of our output but represents 66 percent of our sales.”
— Michael Gombos, Dark Horse Comics senior director of licensing
Context: Gombos commented on Dark Horse Comics’ manga business in North America at the 2023 San Diego Comic-Con last month, where he participated in a manga translation panel and a manga industry discussion.
A large portion of manga sold in Japan remains unlicensed in North America, let alone in English, but Dark Horse doesn’t necessarily accept every license offer it receives.
Dark Horse’s manga business grew 5 percent year-over-year in 2022, says Gombos, and it is projecting continued growth for the foreseeable future.
Young Magazine criticized over manga’s cancellation
The abrupt cancellation of manga series by Kodansha’s Weekly Young Magazine before it began publication has drawn the attention of Japanese social media and revealed inner workings of how a manga gets serialized.
Driving the story: Manga author Unagiya Sansho took to Twitter (also known as X) last week to reveal the cancellation after three years of preparation due to legal hurdles with the work.
At the time of cancellation, dialogue scripts for five chapters and the plot for 60 chapters had been completed. Serialization was announced two weeks ago.
What happened: A member of Kodansha’s legal affairs department highlighted issues with “inappropriate expressions” in the manga during a final review.
Unagiya Sansho pointed out that the magazine’s editors have been aware of the work’s risqué content since the serialization decision was made two years ago but did not find it problematic.
“There is regret that I should have written my work more carefully, but there was also a lack of verification and awareness on the part of the editorial department,” the author said.
Some context: Weekly Young Magazine is Kodansha’s flagship manga magazine for adult men and has a reputation for publishing works that include depictions of sex, gambling, and the criminal underworld.
Young Magazine is Japan’s third most popular manga magazine for the adult male demographic and has a circulation of about 200,000 copies.