Poll Results: Is CLANNAD actually popular in the U.S.?

CLANNAD, key

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?

Hypothesis
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.

Method
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?

Results

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)

Conclusions
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.

16 thoughts on “Poll Results: Is CLANNAD actually popular in the U.S.?

  1. Miha says:

    You were asking these questions in an environment that’s filled with a variety of fan types. CLANNAD is–despite what you suggest in your conclusions–a popular property amongst hardcore fans on the Internet. Such popularity warrants a special production, distribution, and marketing approach for it to be successful in the U.S. Rozen Maiden was dubbed if I remember correctly. Dubbed shows have to aim for a higher plain of popularity, dubs themselves warrant high localization costs and a relatively high sales threshold for the company to break even. CLANNAD is a niche series, no one can argue that, but to suggests CLANNAD can’t be successful is a bit misguided as well. At the very least, you can’t call that prematurely based on gathered polling data.

  2. omo says:

    Honestly, 1 in 10 is a great ratio for this kind of show. I’d expect something much worse for the far majority of fansubs people are currently discussing.

    You guys ought to go and survey other stuff so you have some basis for comparison.

  3. Kaadian1364 says:

    Intriguing results there. Although it is an admittedly small sample size, they were all polled from anime conventions. I guess it isn’t all that surprising that the peculiar interests of the vocal blogosphere community don’t necessarily represent the views of typical Joe Otaku.

  4. Scott says:

    Very interesting experiment, but I’m a little dubious over your conclusions from it.

    For one, there’s no control group here. Just how well would have a well-known popular series done? Maybe everyone has heard of Dragonball or Naruto, but what about something like Tsubasa Chronicles, Cowboy Bebop, or some other moderately popular franchise? How well would those titles do compared to your Clannad results?

    Also, how well does the surveyed sample represent the average American otaku? There is no doubt a difference between the internet community and the convention community. While there is some cross-over, there are a lot of internet folks that will not socialize themselves into a convention setting. So the fact that only a third of your survey has even heard of the title might indicate that they are just not that familiar with fansubbing and/or the internet otaku community. And given the topic of the panel I attended and the audience I saw there, that wouldn’t surprise me.

    But who makes up more of the overall American otaku community? Those familiar with the internet community or those unfamiliar with the internet community? My bet is on the former, and unfortunately they’re all too busy lurking on 4chan all by themselves to attend your panel. :-P

    So given those circumstances, I thought the results were very favorable towards the moé-tastic title. Out of the people who have heard about it – those familiar with fansubbing / internet community – half of them determined that it wasn’t their thing. Maybe they just don’t like bishoujo or moé series, so they did bother watching it.

    But out of the half that was interested, there was a 50% retention rate on a show that came out in a time where moé was cliched and overused. If I remember correctly, Clannad, True Tears, and H2O all came out at the same time, so I was just so sick of the formula that I dropped them all that season. Given the short attention span of a regular fansub watcher, 52% a pretty damn good retention rate.

    But I’m just skewing the results to fit my own hypothesis, and from my point-of-view, “popularly” in anime in America is measured by the kind of revenue it can produce over here. If 9% of that diverse American anime market actually went out and bought the DVDs, then that would be an incredible success over here. That’s what ADV is hoping for, but as I have said over and over again, that internet community is never gonna buy it.

  5. reversethieves says:

    So Narutaki picks to put this up the week he goes on vacation. Obviously by utter coincidence and not just to leave me to deal with the fallout alone. So the person who exists to correct my horrible grammar and stop me from venting in utter Brooklyn RAGE is not here to do his job. Please forgive me in advance.

    There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics – Most often attributed to Mark Twain

    I suppose in the end that basically sums up this argument in a nutshell. We take numbers and interpret them however we wish. You want to be subjective but that cannot always be the case. The problem is without numbers the tendency to make things even more biased is almost unavoidable. So it is up to anyone who reads the article to take away from the numbers what they will. I will personally admit that I despise CLANNAD as it’s one of the reasons we picked the show in the first place. I think we tried to be as subjective as possible and look at the show as neutrally as possible. How well that worked out I suppose in not for me to judge. I think we did well which is all I really care about on a certain level.

    I will admit that our sample size is smaller than would be ideal for an actual scientific paper. Theoretically it would have been better to poll at least 1,000 thousand people all over the US with a smattering of different shows with different levels of popularity but such is life. Reverse Thieves is Narutaki and I with a little help from Kohaku.

    If anyone would like to take this experiment and kick it up a notch or add to the data we have already collected than feel free to do so. I am more than willing to read and post said results. I guess in part it is like everything I do. Partially to springboard interesting discussion, part to be informative, and part to vent my overwhelming hatred for all that does not fit into my insane schema of how the universe should work.

    @Miha
    I think you misunderstand the point of the poll (or maybe I am misunderstanding you). I know that there is a vocal fan following for CLANNAD on the Internet. The question was does that translate into an actual over anime fan following. My hypothesis is exactly what you sort of confirmed. The Internet hard-core fan base has little to do with the wider overall anime fan base.

    Had Geneon tried for a different tactic with Rosen Maiden (such as no dub and different marketing) it would have surely been less of a disaster. My opinion is that despite all that it does not translate into an uiversal fan following in the US. I predict that had Geneon tried for a different tactic with Rosen Maiden it would still have failed not matter what they did. I think the same thing will happen with CLANNAD. The few superfans with money will buy it but no one else. Including just the casual fans on the Internet.

    Can I say that with 100% certainty? Hecks no. I only surveyed a little over 300 people. But I feel I got a diverse number of anime fans. When you are looking at overall popularity you have to look at all of anime fandom not just the Internet. When you are trying to see if a show would succeed you have to look at the overall fanbase not just a percentage of it. You have to find a way to succeed with the small percentage you do have as you suggested. I am not sure if there is a way to do that with current prices to license show in Japan.

    @omo
    I do wonder how many of those who enjoyed would actually but money towards it. The number of people who enjoy something compared to the number of people who would buy something are two very different animals.

    I am definitely not averse to trying this survey again when the next con season comes again. We might try some new shows like Soul Eater, Maria Holic, Naruto, ect. We would then poll people at Otakon, NYAF, and Anime Next. Depends how Narutaki feels and depends how much anyone would care about such an experiment. Another question I forgot to ask was would you buy DVDs of the show? Would you pay to download it? Would you watch it on a streaming sight with commercials? The survey could definitely be expanded.

    @IcyStorm, @Kaadian1364
    All too true. I feel that we sort of went in assuming that we would be proven right but it was not unquestionable to us to be proven wrong as well. Sometimes you have to check to make sure that what you assume is true actually is true. I can theorize that Honey and Clover is the most popular anime in the US but I would be dead wrong. I could theorize the much more sane idea that Naruto is the most popular anime in the US. But without checking I can’t say for sure. Dragonball Z could still be the most popular anime in the US. Can I say for sure that CLANNAD is only an extremely niche show in the US? No. We would need more people surveyed to be that confident. Can I be more confident in saying that it is extremely niche? Hecks yeah.

    @ Scott
    Jumping to dubious conclusions based on biased facts is what the Internet is based around. Right? If not I have been on the wrong Internet this whole time. Also how can I start browsing your Internet?

    I still contend that out of that 9% maybe only 10% would actually throw down money to buy CLANNAD. But the problem is I have no numbers to back that up. I could ask people how many of them would spend money of a show but sales figures show time and time again people are not 100% truthful when they answer questions like that. Only actual sales figures would give you the true answer. But like I said before this was out first attempt. I want to try again building on this attempt. I would also love to see other people try similar experiments.

    —-

    Man I am a chatty bitch when Narutaki is not there to shut me up.

    – Hisui

  6. houkoholic says:

    I think you are missing another possibility – you can’t forget that the internet is bordless. Just because someone types in English on the internet doesn’t mean that person will be living in America. Case in point, Animenano and Animesuki seems to be filled with a lot of Singaporean and Malaysian bloggers and forumnites – and indeed, famous ones like Dark Mirage and Kurogane are examples of famous bloggers of both country respectively, another famous English-speaking otaku Danny Choo is yet another Singaporean but lives in Japan. (heck, *I* don’t live in NA and is not American/Canadian by nationality either)

    I think Clannad is immensely popular even in real life, but the popularity in real life are highly different by regions. Clannad (or bishoujo/moe shows in general I would say) are way more popular and readily accepted in the SE Asian region than in the NA region and the “buzz” is distributed accordingly. The popularity is not false or due to a vocal minority as you are trying to test, but rather those guys hyping about it aren’t actually in America. I think even the Japanese are starting to realise this as they shift focus towards SE Asia. eg Geneon might have pulled out of USA, but their owner Dentsu are now pouring money into Singapore’s anime market instead. Plus I also recall Crunchyroll guys saying that more than 20% of their traffic are actually from Singapore, despite them being mostly an English site. So I think this is a point that needs to be taken into consideration when coming into the conclusion.

  7. reversethieves says:

    @ houkoholic
    I see what you are going for but I just can’t agree with that. I can’t see what I perceive as a vocal Internet following in English speaking circles for Clannad actually just made up of mostly non-Americans. I tend to know where a good deal of the bloggers I read come from and while I am sure there is a distinct and vocal SE Asian presence on sites like Anime on DVD and My Anime List I can’t see it being so strong as to overwhelm the American voices on the site. I could be wrong. I will admit that I have never asked the Clannad fans on Anime on DVD where they are from. I just can’t see it skewing the curve that much.

    Now if you are trying to say is CLANNAD popular in SA Asia I can’t say that I have any idea if that is the case. I would even go as far as to say I would assume that you are right and it is popular. Narutaki and I mentioned in an older post
    (http://www.reversethieves.com/?p=28) some shows are crazy popular in other countries but no one cares about them in the US. If you looked at anywhere but the US you would assume no one could hate Fist of the North Star and Saint Seiya. But you go to the US and everyone either does not know about them or hates those shows. (Both shows BTW are awesome.)

    The main point was to examine if CLANNAD is popular in the US and the US alone. I still stick by my guns with the assessment that it does not have the US following that the Internet would make it seem to have.

    If you are correct that makes it even worse because that would mean that the US following is even smaller. The people who keep talking about it would be foreigners participating in mainly US forums. That would make it crazy niche in the US.

    – Hisui

  8. lelangir says:

    I would be interested as to how you went about conducting interviews at the con. Cons seem to be very ordered things – if you survey at the DMC table, how many die-hard Clannad fans are gonna be over there? Likewise, surveying near “the shoujo section” would skew data. Then again, staying by entrance doors would solve that issue, and your data seemed pretty heterogeneous.

  9. reversethieves says:

    @lelangir

    We basically took random targets of opportunity during all the days we were at both conventions. We asked people before and after panels we attended and random people hanging at in the halls when ever we got the chance. We also asked the audience as a whole at the beginning or our panels at NYAF. I did not really target anyone. You basically had to not avoid eye contact with me.

    – Hisui

  10. Miha says:

    “When you are looking at overall popularity you have to look at all of anime fandom not just the Internet. When you are trying to see if a show would succeed you have to look at the overall fanbase not just a percentage of it.”
    Yeah, but it’s foolish to think like that. Even in Japan, CLANNAD does not have a huge fan following if you compare it to prime time anime shows. What you’re doing at U.S. anime conventions is basically asking questions to these non-wota types that generally don’t lurk on the Internet, they care for maybe one to two U.S. TV anime shows, and that’s it. Your 68%-I-donno-CLANNAD result proves that. Pretty much anybody who visits torrent sites had a passing moment with CLANNAD at one point or another.

    Also, I don’t see much point in discussing niche licensing models because we, the consumers, really don’t know enough. However, we do know that prices for anime licenses have dropped based on what licensee representatives have told the general public, we know that upfront licensing fees are more or less a thing of the past now, and we also know that ADV licensed AIR in the past, a show with a fan following that is basically the same as CLANNAD’s, yet they’re still pursuing such shows. I think it’s arrogant to think we know more than the licensees. Some people suggest that licensing moe shows killed the industry, yet licensees are still showing interest in them. Now why is that?

  11. Adam says:

    Well… among the group of die-hard Romance-comedy and romance-drama fans there has yet to be ANYTHING by key animation that hasn’t had surprisingly large results… although I’M still waiting for Kanon ’06 to get finished.. it is somewhat of a proven fact thusfar that Key animation’s work sells unusually well for niche genre work. Now the other thing about the poll is that I’m shocked at the results… seriously, i was expecting the series to get something like 3-4% of the total but Clannad came through with a whopping 9%, that nine percent is a huge deal. Shonen series like naruto or bleach tend to be very well known and have an almost 50/50 like to dislike ratio. for a niche genre series, let alone a romance based one to score higher than 5 percent is simply astounding.

    however something else needs to be said, the poll was done with all ranges of viewers (which for this particular poll makes sense) however Clannad is only known amongst the active circles, to me asking joe-otaku whether or not they had seen ANYTHING other than a big name shonen series or surprise hits like the suzumiya haruhi no yuutsu I would most definately expect that not only do they not know of it but that they most likely hadn’t heard of it.

    However as for sales, I agree with the previous statement about Rozen maiden being a flop due to being a dub. I do not usually even consider purchasing a series unless it is so good that i have to restrain myself to not buy it. Clannad would easily be such a series and i am damn sure that if it comes to the US (assuming it is not 1. Dubbed only, having a dub is fine but give us the option. 2. consisting of crappy subs.) I will almost invariably end up buying it. I have thusfar even managed to hold myself back from buying what i deem to be my personal favourites, yet i am absolutely certaiin that this series would be an exception for me.

    also it is my oppinion that most of us Vocal outspeakers are the type to only buy a series if we actually intend to allow(read force) everyone we know to watch it, and not only are willing but are desiring to watch it again and again.

  12. dm00 says:

    That must have been a lot of work — even accounting for a lot of “no” answers leading to twenty-second interviews, talking to 320 people must have taken around five hours at the least.

    Thank you for doing this, and thank you for posting the results.

    Hopefully, others will follow your example, and will learn from your experience.

  13. Wheelman56 says:

    I think CLANNAD’s popularity is just about right for how much hype it gets. Romance comedy/drama doesn’t get as much attention as action genres here in the states, and taking that into consideration it’s very popular. If you look at the popular anime database sites MyAnimeList and AniDB, you can see that it’s quite popular online.

    [As of Aug 3, 2009] CLANNAD has around 37,000 MAL users with the anime on their list and around 6,300 on AniDB. Pretty good considering Gurren Lagann has around 42,000 on MAL and 7200 on AniDB. Gurren Lagann fans are arguably more vocal (depending on where you are) even though they only have about a 12% increase in fans on those two sites.

    Death Note, which is #1 in popularity on MAL and #5 on AniDB, has around 75,000 MAL users and 12,000 AniDB users. About half of the users that CLANNAD has in both cases. Not to mention, the CLANNAD After Story has been dancing around #1-#5 in Ratings on MAL since its completion, and has been #1 on AniDB in ratings for a while now.

    So, is it popular? Yes, of course it is. Probably one of the most popular romance anime on the Internet right now, and will most likely define romance anime for American viewers the same way Cowboy Bebop defined anime for many. It’s impressive that it’s gathered such a following here in the U.S. even though its not a shonen or action show.

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