Regarding Oricon Rankings and What You May Want to Know (Part 2)

I think it is about time that we talk more about Oricon and their sales charts. It is not to say that the post I wrote about it before is no longer applicable as it still is, though you can consider this latest write up as more of a supplement to ensure that anyone who consumes Oricon’s data can have a better understanding as to what the numbers are all about.

Limited Rankings as of Late

Now as we all know, Oricon gathers the data you see posted on this Blog (or elsewhere) either on a weekly basis or on a monthly basis by collecting survey forms from participating entities — around 19,000 of them — daily. These entities will fill out the forms, noting down the number of copies or units sold for a given product which Oricon would later on aggregate the numbers and produce the daily, weekly, monthly or yearly charts. Note that I have covered their methodology in the Regarding Oricon post right here. So, please check that out for more information.

To obtain these data, you can do them in mainly three different ways. First, that would be to utitlise the Oricon News platform and click on the ranking page (as detailed in the Regarding Oricon post) to obtain some of the free data concerning to titles or releases that made it onto a chart for a given period. Second, you can subscribe to the Oricon Yuutaijuu service (I would like to call it the personal service) as detailed here for more “complete” data. Instead of the Top 30 Manga charts you get on Oricon News, on Yuutaijuu you can get the Top 50 along with other more comprehensive lists such as the Weekly Series or Monthly Series. Third, is by using Oricon Business, which as the name suggests, caters more towards larger entities rather than individuals. Through Oricon Business, the data you can get is COMPLETE. The Manga sales charts would go all the way to Top 100, and you can even take advantage of its search system to get data for specific titles or releases that you are interested in. Note that as of the time of writing, I do not possess an account there (only for Yuutaijuu). Price is very steep. For example, just the disc charts alone, you will need to fork out around 1,300 USD to 1,500 USD a month, and that is WITHOUT the permission to share with the general public (the same with Yuutaijuu). As for Books, Novel and Manga charts, the price is subject to consultation with Oricon, and I am pretty sure it will cost more than the disc charts.

Before we move on, do take note that for both Yuutaijuu and Oricon Business, they belong to the Oricon’s Data Service Business segment while Oricon News belongs to its Communication Business. Knowing which segment it belongs to is crucial as it will help you understand this article better.

For the past few years, there have been some big changes as to Oricon’s reporting of the weekly and annual sales charts on its Oricon News website. One of the biggest changes felt would be for the disc charts where a couple of years back, you can still obtain six weeks worth of data despite the publication of new charts for the latest period. Today, that is no longer the case as Oricon has locked the disc charts for the prior weeks when a new one is released. For instance, let us say a new chart for the period between July 4 and July 10 is published. When the chart for discs for the period between July 11 and July 17 is released the week after, Oricon will no longer have the sales numbers appear for the chart between July 4 and July 10. You can refer to the snapshots below.

Oricon News’ ranking page with estimated sales (July 11 to July 17, 2022)

Oricon News’ ranking page without estimated sales (July 4 to July 10, 2022)

Though, the most disappointing one will be the annual charts on the Oricon News website, particularly for Anime Blu-rays and DVDs. Before this, Anime would get its very own segment for the half year charts, now, that segment has been completely removed, and the rankings are being constricted to a meagre Top 10 for the year 2021 for DVDs, Blu-rays and Music DVDs in general. To compare, the half-year sales charts in 2018 will at least net you the Top 20 for Anime Blu-rays and DVDs, plus the Top 50 for DVDs and Blu-rays for the general category. The restriction for Anime-related content was already visible when the chart for 2019 was released where the category was taken away completely. It came back the year after, however the chart was shrunken to just the Top 10 before being jettisoned yet again for the chart in 2021. Instead of getting the Top 50 like we always did for the general category, in 2021 that too has been reduced to only Top 10. A similar observation was made for the Books, Light Novels and Manga annual charts, for the year 2020 onward. If you look at the annual charts for the year 2019, the Manga sales charts would go all the way to Number 50 for volumes with a Top 10 disclosure for the series chart and now the charts have been reduced to only Top 30 for volumes and Top 5 for series. Light Novel on the other hand, remains as usual with its Top 10 list being posted until the latest half-year sales chart. 

This new and limited way of reporting annual or half-year sales is confusing since Oricon did not make any announcement as to why the limitations are currently in place. So, the assumption is that, a strong one that is, the company may be facing some issues with its Data Service business, the one that is responsible for all the data you see on Oricon Business and the Yuutaijuu sites, and of course the free rankings you see on its Oricon News website. Going back past Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, I did not particularly observe any drop in sales of its Data Service Business leading up to FY2021 as it for a fact has been growing consistently since FY2016 with the largest rise seen between FY2015 and FY2016 where the business segment grew by 10.45%. The growth slowed down from FY2016 to FY2022 with growth year-on-year (y-o-y) remaining flat throughout those years. Then, FY2022 marked the first decline since FY2016 for the segment when sales slipped 0.46% to 662,983,000 yen (≈4.84 million USD) from 666,031,000 yen (≈4.86 million USD). That said, profit wise, the segment is a lot more unstable with a climb of 30.42% high recorded y-o-y for FY2016 and a fall of 8.60% low y-o-y for FY2019. From FY2016 to FY2022, the business has experienced three occasions where it succumbed to less profit while the other four were growth. Nevertheless, it does not seem to look that bad (since it is still making profit from it), though the drop in sales for FY2022 is certainly concerning as if it continues to see a decline in the next few years, this may spell bad for the segment. So, are they facing fewer subscribers through the period for FY2021? That is quite likely, plus, the restriction came in tandem when sales started to slow down for Oricon and will make sense for them to limit what data they present to the public (for free) by trying to steer people towards its Yuutaijuu (paid) platform.

Going forward, what will we see from Oricon, let us say if its y-o-y performance continues to report less income from its Data Service business? The Oricon News presents a great avenue when it comes to driving up sales for the company, though not largely due to the rankings only, for others as well such as advertisements, promotional videos, surveys etc. With Oricon trying to divert attention towards its paid platform for the common consumers, it may not go as well as it hoped considering its contents are being leaked in quite a serious manner. Thus far, I have also not encountered any actions taken by the company to take down or issue any copyright strikes towards those who share the results posted on the Yuutaijuu platform on any social media platforms. Perhaps doing so may ire the general public, hence the company has stayed away from taking a hard approach? Or perhaps something else is at play here. Would further decline in sales force Oricon to take actions? And if it does, will it be a stern action? Honestly, we will not know as of yet. The last time any strong action was taken by Oricon was when it sued a Japanese journalist, Ugaya Hiro — who accused Oricon for data manipulation — and won a libel suit against him in 2008. Ever since, we have not seen any other actions taken. Still, their current strategy will very likely not work with the ample amount of leaked content that is being shared online. Why subscribe to Yuutaijuu when you can just consume them for free when the charts are shared on social media? In addition, Yuutaijuu itself, while it being an amazing platform for those who know Japanese, is not friendly at all to those who are not familiar with the language. Oricon has also made it clear on its help page that they are:

…sorry to say that this site have been designed for Japanese residents / Japanese speakers only, and we presently find it quite hard to serve for not Japanese speakers.

It is understandable why a service in a language other than Japanese is not offered as Oricon will need to expand its resources to set up a unit that caters for foreigners. Hopefully, we will see one in the near future. Furthermore, if you live outside of Japan and seek to utilise its services, a credit card will be your best bet. Otherwise, it will be almost impossible to subscribe to its service as finding an alternative to make the payment will be very hard — trust me I have tried.

Nevertheless, I do not expect Oricon to trim down the freely available charts further, since the current charts are already restrictive enough. Deep down, I still hope they would reconsider restoring the freely available charts on their Oricon News website at least by reverting the annual charts as to how they used to be as doing so will also help drive readers to their website and they can generate income via displayed ads, though Yuutaijuu is definitely the best way to gain direct revenue. Not to mention it being highly scalable too.

Does Oricon Count Digital Sales or Not?

Well, before this I could not make this confirmation. While it is true that some websites have strongly indicated that Oricon does not count digital sales, they have not provided any supporting evidence. Thankfully, I have received a reply from Oricon with regards to whether they count digital sales in their weekly, monthly, annually charts or not. And the answer to the question is NO. You can refer to the email reply down below:

Which reads:

We thank you for always using our service.
We would like to hereby answer your inquiry.

As for the Book ranking which includes Light Novel (BOOK and Bunko), the sales of e-books are not reflected in the total.

I hope that going forward, when someone is in need of a verification, you can show this to him or her.

Then again, digital sales is growing in Japan, so the exclusion of it may provide sales information that are far from its actual performance. For example, as of FY2021, the digital sales for Shogakukan alone accounted for 39.54% of its Publishing Business when put together whereas for Shueisha that would be 31.10%. Note that the digital publishing segment has also grown tremendously for the two entities, for instance, in FY2016, the Digital Web Business for Shueisha only amounted to 12,182 million yen (≈89.15 million USD) as opposed to the 44,909 million yen (≈328.54 million USD) in sales for FY2021. Note that these are based on numbers as reported in the Annual Report on the Publication Market 2022. I will dive in further as to the performances of these companies later on in a separate post.

Are the Numbers from Oricon Accurate?

In May 2021, there was a question raised by Kim Morrissy in an article posted on Anime News Network (ANN) about the number of copies sold for Kimetsu no Yaiba for the year 2019. According to the article (paragraph 5), Shueisha was quoted to have said that the series actually sold 10.8 million volumes for the year below One Piece which reportedly sold 12.7 million copies, however the Oricon annual chart for the same year puts that figure at 12,057,628 copies, making Kimetsu no Yaiba the best selling Manga instead of One Piece. The aggregation period was also the same too, both tracked sales between November 19, 2018 and November 17, 2019 (refer to this article that was attached to ANN’s post). In this case, Shueisha should be more accurate when compared to Oricon considering it being the official publisher for the two aforementioned titles, but the difference of about 1.2 million copies worth of sales for Kimetsu no Yaiba for that year begs a big question. How could such a difference in sales tracked had occurred? As of this junction, there is just no way of knowing unless we have the sales data from the publishers to compare with.

With all that said, Oricon’s sales data is still highly reliable, having been used by various organizations such as The Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) in their annual reports. Therefore, you can safely trust it, though do remember that discrepancies may arise.

There are probably more things that have been left unsaid here, so if I missed anything out feel free to drop a comment or two below. I hope you guys find this article useful!

All currency conversion was done at the time of writing.

Google Charts:
Oricon’s Communication Business
Oricon’s Data Service Business

Oricon Securities Report (FY2022)

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