I wouldn’t say I frequent a lot of forums, but I am active in a couple. I can often be found in the anime recommendation section of forums. I can’t go a day without someone/many people suggesting CLANNAD for various reasons, sometimes completely unrelated to the topic at hand. I also see it frequently blogged about, whether it be general praise or following it episode by episode. So after all this, I just kept asking myself was it really that popular? We set out to try and find out.
I can tell you first hand from several online interactions that CLANNAD has a evangelical fan following. You could easily get the idea the Internet that it is this hot show with thousands of very vocal and devoted fans. I remember stumbling on one web review of CLANNAD that called anyone who did not like CLANNAD lame, gay, and without artistic taste which strikes me as a rather extreme reaction. But I feel it is exemplary of the attitude of many of CLANNAD’s die-hard supporters. The question was how much does this translate into an actual fan following in anime fandom. Does a single online supporter translate into something like 100 real life fans or does it translate into two real life fans?
CLANNAD only appears to be popular because of a vocal minority on the Internet. Our theory is there is no sizable mass of mid-range fans of CLANNAD who love the show but don’t talk about it online. There is also no hidden market outside of the established online fans making it an excellent license for the U.S.
In person, vocalized, polling of anime fans attending New York Anime Festival and Providence Anime Conference. This was done to get the widest variety of people who have varying degrees of knowledge of current titles in Japan. We first asked each person had they ever heard of CLANNAD. We also gave a brief description if people seemed fuzzy on what the show was. If they had heard of it we then asked if they watched any of it, whether it be an episode or a whole season. If they answered in the affirmative, we asked if the liked it. This gave us a good insight into several things. One, how much of a general buzz was there about the show. Was the show popular enough that it is recognizable to a majority of anime fans? Two, how many people then investigated the show due to the buzz. Third, when people finally sat down and watched the show did they enjoy what they watched?
Total polled: 320
Haven’t heard of the anime: 219 (68%)
Heard of the anime: 101 (32%)
Of those who had heard, how many watched any of it: 56 (55%)
Of those who watched, how many disliked it: 27 (48%)
Of those who watched, how many liked it: 29 (52% which is 9% of the total group surveyed)
I think a good question that we didn’t ask of people would have been whether or not they were interested in seeing it if they hadn’t. But unfortunately that is hindsight. And we are only two people (plus Kohaku helped) so getting more people to survey during the allotted period was rather impossible. As our experience was everyone under the sun had seen CLANNAD, these results make that obviously untrue. Though I think these results do translate into a small established fan-base with very proud and fervent supporters, that doesn’t mean that people wouldn’t be interested in it if it comes to the U.S. However, it does seem to suggest similar results as seen with the debacle of the Rozen Maiden license.
The Internet has the proven ability to easily give a misleading perception of what is popular. Rozen Maiden is was a huge phenomenon in Japan and had a large vocal fan following on the Internet in America. So it was easy to assume from the number of people in the U.S. talking about it that it would garner solid U.S. sales among an otaku market like it did in Japan. From everything I have heard Rozen Maiden totally bombed for Geneon when released. Most people who had already watched it passed on buying it and almost no one who was not already a fan picked it up. Looking at the numbers we gathered a similar situation could occur with CLANNAD. The vocal minority of fans who love the show have made it seem like it has a large fan-base but in actuality the number of people who purchase DVDs tends to be smaller than the number of people talking about any show. Only 18% of the people interviewed had taken the time to watch the show when it was available free to them.