The growth of the Haruhi novel phenomenon in Japan and internationally

Proving once again that I have no idea what’s going to happen in my next post, I’ve decided to research a little into my favorite franchise: the Haruhi Suzumiya series. For a little bit of background information, Kadokawa Publishing’s The Sneaker bimonthly light novel magazine has a literary brand entitled the Sneaker Bunko (or The Sneaker Library Collection). This is Kadokawa’s branch for light novels targeted towards teenage males. Light novels are books that have less kanji and are grammatically less challenging than ordinary novels in Japan. That’s not saying that they are any less of literary value, just approached to be easier to read. In North America, a similar market would be the “Young Adult” lines.

In 2003, The Sneaker‘s June edition featured a short story about Haruhi Suzumiya and her brigade playing baseball. This would be called The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya and soon after the first full novel would be published two months later: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. This was a highly respected work and won The Sneaker‘s Grand Prize award for only the third time (has been won twice since) for 2003. Soon after more stories would be published about Haruhi’s Sigh, Boredom, Disappearance, Rampage, Wavering, Intrigue, Indignation, and Dissociation.

Contrary to belief, Haruhi was popular before 2006. Right before the first TV anime series had aired (April 2006, just under three years from the first publication) Haruhi had sold 1.5 million copies with 7 books published. (Indignation would be published during the first airing).  That would give about 214,286 copies sold per volume.  That’s not to say that the anime itself did not spur the series to unprecedented heights. In only a few months later, the series would reach 2.8 million copies sold for 8 volumes; approximately 350,000 copies sold per volume ( a 60% increase in a few months). (1) One year later in December 2007, the series totaled 4.3 million copies for 9 volumes, giving 477,778 copies a volume  (2, 3) for the series after Dissociation was released and the anticipation for Surprise built.

During this time, international publishers began interest in the series. The series was licensed in Hong Kong/China, South Korea, and Taiwan by various Kadokawa subsidiaries and Daewon C.I. around 2006 and the North American version became licensed in 2008 and released in 2009. Currently, the light novels and manga have been published in over 16 countries.

From April 2007 until the end of 2009, the series grew steadily and sales picked up again when the TV anime series “re-aired” in 2009. In 2008, the series sold 1 million copies along (4.3 million to 5.3 million) with the 9 volumes.  In just over another month, the series sold another 20,000 copies to reach 5.6 million (4). At the beginning of 2010, Kadokawa’s official site updated to say that the series sold over 6 million copies total (5). Finally, by the beginning of last month, the series had sold around 7 million copies (6).

With the tenth and eleventh volumes going on sale later this month, the series will have sold over 8 million copies in 11 volumes (6). That averages 727,273 copies per book (and certainty of 513,000 for each volume of Surprise), which is the most of any light novel to date. Here is a chart that someone thankfully compiled at 2ch in December. Since this was calculated, one volume of Index, one volume of Ore no Imouto and one volume of the Bakemonogatari series has been released. Everything else should be somewhat accurate.

Latest reporting date|Total Sold|Total Volumes|Amount sold per volume|Series Name
| 2010/09 | *6,500,000 | *9 | 722,000 | Suzumiya Haruhi series
| 2008/05 |*20,000,000| 45 | 444,000 | Slayers
| 2010/10 |*10,000,000| 24 | 417,000 | To Aru Majutsu no Index series
| 2010/08 | *9,000,000 | 22 | 409,000 | Full Metal Panic!!
| 2010/05 | *4,000,000 | 10 | 400,000 | Seitokai no Ichizon
| 2009/11 | *7,500,000 | 22 | 341,000 | Shana
| 2010/06 | *2,700,000 | *8 | 338,000 | Durarara!!
| 2010/07 | *3,300,000 | 10 | 330,000 | Baka to Test
| 2009/11 | *3,500,000 | 13 | 269,000 | Spice and Wolf
| 2009/07 | *3,200,000 | 12 | 267,000 | Toradora!
| 2010/04 | *5,000,000 | 20 | 250,000 | The Story of Saiunkoku
| 2010/08 | *1,500,000 | *6 | 250,000 | Ore no Imouto
| 2009/12 | *1,190,000 | *5 | 238,000 | Bakemonogatari series
| 2010/04 | *4,300,000 | 21 | 205,000 | The Familar of Zero series
| 2010/08 | *1,700,000 | 12 | 142,000 | Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu
| 2010/03 | *1,000,000 | *8 | 125,000 | Mayoi Neko Overun!
| 2010/08 | *1,300,000 | 11 | 118,000 | Ookami-san series
| 2010/05 | *4,000,000 | 36 | 111,000 | The Legend of the Legendary Heroes
| 2010/08 | *1,500,000 | 14 | 107,000 | Asura Crying
| 2009/10 | ** 820,000 | *9 | *91,000 | Ladies versus Butlers!

Internationally and combining manga sales, the franchise has sold over 16 million copies of books for the various publishers. This is an immense franchise that has grown tremendously in the past 5 years. From 1.5 million to 8.0 million copies sold is outstanding for a 11 volume series. As a fan, I can only say here’s to the success of the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise! Below is a tl;dr chart of the series thus far. Updated on 5/17/2011 with additional dates.

Reporting Date Amount sold Volumes Amount Sold per Volume Reporting Difference Difference from 2005
Jan-05 700000 5 140,000
Mar-06 1300000 7 185,714 86% 86%
Apr-06 1500000 7 214,286 15% 114%
May-06 1800000 8 225,000 20% 157%
Jun-06 2500000 8 312,500 39% 257%
Jul-06 2800000 8 350,000 12% 300%
Oct-06 3200000 8 400,000 78% 357%
Dec-06 3400000 8 425,000 6% 386%
Mar-07 4000000 9 444,444 18% 471%
Jun-07 4300000 9 477,778 34% 514%
Feb-08 4500000 9 500,000 5% 543%
Apr-08 5000000 9 555,556 11% 614%
Dec-08 5300000 9 588,889 23% 657%
Feb-09 5600000 9 622,222 6% 700%
Jun-09 5800000 9 644,444 4% 729%
Jan-10 6000000 9 666,667 7% 757%
Sep-10 6500000 9 722,222 8% 829%
Apr-11 7000000 9 777,778 17% 900%
Jun-11 8000000 11 727,273 14% 1043%

I owe a great deal of thanks to all of the Japanese fans who not only have supported this series, but who have helped collect all of this data and allow it to be stored for fans like myself to report internationally. ありがとうございます!

Citations:
1 – Kadokawa’s public report for fall 2006
2 – Hyougo young authors taking over light novels/
3 – Syu-ta’s blog for Mainichi web report
4 – Syu-ta’s blog for Kadokawa’s mention in 2009
5 – Syu-ta’s blog for Kadokawa’s mention in 2010
6 – Haruhi Suzumiya latest novel Surprise to have a record for light novel first pressing: 513,000 copies for a 2 volume set!

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4 thoughts on “The growth of the Haruhi novel phenomenon in Japan and internationally

    • 乾杯!

      As big as Gundum and Eva were for mecha anime, it’s tight between the Index and Haruhi Suzumiya series for the top light novel franchise. If Tanigawa can get writing again, I’d expect Haruhi to rapidly overtake the Index franchise quickly.

  1. Thanks for all the awesome Haruhi info!

    I especially like that light novel chart. I had no idea Slayers would rank that high but it has more volumes than any of the others and has been around a long time, which is why it’s Total Volumes Sold is so much higher than Haruhi’s. But for only 9 volumes, Haruhi’s sales have been spectacular!

    As my favorite anime/novel franchise, I too hope it continues growing and selling ^_^

    • I highly doubt that Slayers will ever be topped just due to the amount of volumes produced. I think maybe only Index has a chance due to how much material that Kazuma Kamachi can produce in a short amount of time. I’d love if Haruhi could top it though. Tanigawa’s got to get writing though!

      Haruhi’s sales have been amazing and I can’t wait to see how the new novels take off and maybe bring it to 800,000 per volume!

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