How Much Money Does Toei Animation Make From Sailor Moon?

Usagi the Accountant to the rescue!

Usagi the Accountant to the rescue!

We all know that Sailor Moon was — and is — an economic powerhouse, and that plastering the cast’s likenesses on a product is basically a license to print money. But with all the talk going on nowadays about the sharp increase in anime production costs, and the suspiciously missing-in-action Sailor Moon Crystal: Dream movies, I think it’s about time we address the pink rabbit in the room:

Just how much money is Toei Animation making off of Sailor Moon, anyway?

I hope you brought a snack, because we’re going to talk about a bunch of really big numbers!

Not the kind of "Sailor Moon money" Toei wanted

Not the kind of “Sailor Moon money” Toei wanted

As for how much Sailor Moon as a mixed-media property actually makes in total, that question is far more difficult — if not impossible — to answer due to the complicated situation over what entities own the rights to the series and the limits of how far we want to go down to the rabbit hole.

Taking an extreme example, do we stop at how much money Toei Animation made from licensing the anime to Viz, or do we go out even further and try to find out how much money Viz made in media sales?

Since there’s no way that we’d be able to answer any of these questions anyway, I figured it’d be best to just restrict this conversation to something that we can (reasonably) get to the bottom of: Toei Animation’s profits from Sailor Moon.

Toei Animation Co., Ltd. is a member of the Toei group, and an affiliate of Toei Company, Ltd.1 The good thing for us is that since Toei Animation is a publicly listed company, that means that they’re required by law to disclose their earnings to investors, which gives us a nice look at some of the numbers behind their biggest properties, including One PieceDragon BallPretty CureDigimon, and Saint Seiya. Yes, I’m just as surprised as you that those last two made the list.

Sailor Moon will sell anything -- even eye drops

Sailor Moon will sell anything — even eye drops

Toei Animation (for simplicity, we’ll call it “Toei”) splits out their income from their animated series into three different categories:2

  • Domestic Licensing
  • Overseas Film
  • Overseas Licensing

Now that we got the good news out of the way, unfortunately I have some bad news: Toei only provides the income for their top four performers in a given category for each fiscal year, which means there are a lot of years in which we don’t have any information at all on Sailor Moon.

In a way, however, that does tell us something. That means that, in many years, Sailor Moon is actually not a particularly strong earner for Toei in terms of sheer profits. The numbers are still nothing to sneeze at, and I’d be more than happy to take a piece of that pie, but it’s still interesting all the same.

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For the sake of simplicity, I’ll only be showing the years in which we have concrete data.

Domestic Licensing

This category is pretty straight forward. Basically, how much money did Toei make licensing their characters, story, universe, names, etc. to other companies for making products. This will cover your lunch boxes, coloring books, tennis shoes, and all that good stuff.3

Between fiscal years (FY) 2004 through 2017, Sailor Moon only ranks in this category twice — in FY2015 and FY2016.4 It makes sense when you think about it, since the series was pretty dormant for most of this time, with the exception of the live-action PGSM show.

As you can see here, Sailor Moon accounted for just a paltry 5-6% of the profits brought in by the top four series in FY2015 and FY2016, at 339 million (~3.16 million USD) and 341 million yen (~3.18 million USD) respectively.5 One Piece, by comparison, brought in over ten times that.

But it’s not all doom and gloom — this is only the domestic market. Let’s see how the series does abroad!

Overseas Film

I’m not entirely sure how this category differs from Overseas Licensing, but my best guess is that Toei separates income that comes directly from its actual animation and films (which is licensed to overseas companies for subtitling/dubbing) and income that comes from licensing out the story/characters/worlds in its series for products, etc.

Sailor Moon was absent from this category until FY2012, but has had a reasonably strong presence ever since.

As you can see, our sailor-suited warriors of love and justice actually do pretty well in international markets, especially in recent years. In just five years, Sailor Moon income from overseas films has nearly quintupled, growing from 89 million yen (~831,260 USD) in FY2012 to 429 million yen (~4.00 million USD) in FY2017.6 I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Sailor Moon tends to out-earn the Pretty Cure series consistently, even if just barely.

Nothing against the Pretty Cure girls, of course. But I will always swear allegiance to the Moon Princess, and nothing can change that.7

And that leaves us with…

Overseas Licensing

That brings us to our last category: basically, all the merch made for sale outside of Japan that has the Sailor Moon brand or characters plastered somewhere on it. It’s worth noting that Toei is not the only license-holder for the series — Bandai and Naoko are in line for a payout, for example — so it’s not entirely clear to me how the royalties are actually split up when a company licenses Sailor Moon, but at the very least this is Toei’s cut.

In the past 13 years of investor-relations documents that I read through, the series only topped Toei’s top four earners in FY2010 and FY2015, but my guess is that it was just surpassed in the fourth place slot (by Slam Dunk in FY2016 and Digimon in FY2017) and that it’s not because Sailor Moon is earning substantially less money.

First and foremost: what the heck was going on with Dragon Ball licensing in 2010?? 2009 was also absurdly high, and then it drops to one-fifth of that in 2011. Maybe this was from royalties for the Hollywood travesty, Dragonball: Evolution?8

In terms of revenue, Sailor Moon does pretty respectably, bringing in 65 million yen (~607,100 USD) and 115 million yen (~1.07 million USD) in FY2010 and FY2015 respectively. Though pretty impressive, that’s only about one-third of the Japanese FY2015 licensing revenues.

So, uh, what does that all mean?

So, uh, what does that all mean?

So what’s our conclusion here?

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For me personally, this explains a lot about the delays in announcements for the Dream arc of the Sailor Moon Crystal anime. Though the series does pull in a fair amount of money globally, I’m not sure if it’s bringing in a sufficient amount of money for Toei to continue to justify the expenses associated with animating full seasons. I

‘m pretty sure we’ll still get the promised movies, but unless the numbers turn around — or there’s a reversal in the recent talent-crunch in the Japanese animation industry — I’m not sure how optimistic I am about seeing a Sailor Stars arc reimagined in Crystal. It wouldn’t be the first time we were robbed of a Sailor Stars movie.

But maybe I’m just being far too critical about these numbers. What do you think about Toei’s revenues from Sailor Moon? Is this more, less, or about on target with what you thought they were earning?


References:

  1.  See Toei Animation’s homepage
  2.  See Toei Animation’s IR Library
  3. Totally unrelated to anything, but when I was a kid I was absolutely obsessed with Ninja Turtles. I had shoes, backpacks, everything. I was a walking TMNT billboard. I kinda imagine that’s how kids in Japan were with Sailor Moon in the early 90s.
  4. Toei Animation’s fiscal year is from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. So FY2015 starts on April 1, 2015 and runs through March 31, 2016; see Fiscal Year
  5. JPY to USD converted at the rate of 107 yen to $1, current as of February 27, 2018
  6. It’s worth noting that the FY2017 are just estimates, and actual results will have to wait until the fiscal year closes out on March 31, 2018
  7. Similarly, I am an unapologetic Marvel > DC fan, and firmly believe Star Wars is superior to Star Trek. TNG was really good, though.
  8.  See Dragonball: Evolution (Wikipedia)

3 thoughts on “How Much Money Does Toei Animation Make From Sailor Moon?

  1. This is about what I expected Toei to be making off Sailor Moon, and no, I don’t agree with your conclusion at all. I’m not sure why people are so convinced that they are making two movies for Dream arc because they’re being too cheap. They INCREASED the budget for season 3 of Crystal, first of all – if it was a huge flop they weren’t making money on, how would that make any sense? And second, why are you assuming that making two movies is necessarily cheaper than animation 12 episodes for TV? Movies come with an expectation of better, higher budget animation, whereas TV anime is frequently pushed out the door in a shoddy state and fixed for a Blu-ray release. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure producing 2 movies requires a much bigger investment.

    And making movies as a continuation of a TV series is nothing new and definitely isn’t a sign of something not being profitable. Madoka Magica did its sequel as a movie, and I don’t think anyone would attempt to argue that Madoka Magica wasn’t passively popular and hugely profitable. Same thing with Yuri on Ice – the sequel to the anime series is a movie, not a second season.

    It seems like it’s just as possible that movies are a sign of Crystal doing really well. These numbers support that, too.

    • You make very good and valid points — to be totally honest, my negative feeling toward Toei Animation’s approach on Crystal is mostly just a gut feeling, and one that I can’t exactly explain.

      Personally, I feel like we’re being set up for a bait-and-switch, meaning that they went from a prospective 13 episode TV series to two announced in-theater movies. With the lack of information or other announcements, I can’t help but wonder if this was either overly optimistic on Toei’s part (meaning that it’s unlikely that they cant get the funds together to finance something like this) or if it’s part of a long game where they’re planning to downgrade this to a limited-release theater run followed by a DVD/Blu-Ray release. Or maybe they’ll switch it to only a single movie.

      This is really an unjustified gut-instinct, but something about the way this whole situation is playing out strikes me as pretty weird.

  2. Oh man… I would be super crushed if I didn’t get to see the Stars Arc in Crystal, or the Dream movies… the Dream Arc is my second favorite :'(

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