In 2016, two anime became mainstream successes. Both were watched by millions. Both proved popular enough to get their merchandise sold in mainstream American stores like Hot Topic. But in the years following 2016, My Hero Academia's fanbase remains at a fever pitch while Yuri on Ice's fans have settled down with fond memories of what was.
But while neither series has ended (My Hero Academia's Season 4 comes this October, while Yuri on Ice's prequel film, Ice Adolescence, will come in 2020), there is a clear divide between these two series that future anime producers need to take into account when introducing new franchises. That lesson? If you don't produce regular content, a series will fade into obscurity. Length prolongs exposure, which allows an anime to evolve from a season favorite to a classic.
The Most Popular Anime of 2016
Undeniably, two of the most popular anime of 2016 were My Hero Academia and Yuri on Ice. Neither were the most watched anime (that award would go to Re:Zero), but both proved huge successes. Yuri on Ice was the most talked about anime on social media in 2016.
According to Crunchyroll: “We see the larger obsession with [Yuri on Ice] as an example of anime’s continued infiltration into mainstream culture ... it’s another example of people who haven’t been traditional fans of anime getting excited about the content.”
On the other hand, My Hero Academia came in with huge hype, with its manga already proving popular in Shonen Jump. The series enjoyed a great deal of anticipation leading into it. The same can be said of Re:Zero, which was based on a light novel and followed up on hype surrounding the isekai genre. Yuri on Ice had no source material, and thus its success can be contributed solely to the anime's positive word-of-mouth.
This popularity resulted in Yuri on Ice actually beating out My Hero Academia in the Crunchyroll Anime Awards of 2016. Yuri on Ice won seven awards to My Hero Academia's one. This is significant in that, of all the years Crunchyroll ran the Anime Awards, 2016 is the only year any series won more awards than My Hero Academia.
These are key differences that will come into play as we go on.
The Wait For Season 2
My Hero Academia and Yuri On Ice were both relatively short. My Hero Academia's debut season was 13 episodes, while Yuri on Ice featured 12. Both series ended with assurances that a new season would be coming.
But while My Hero Academia aired its second season roughly 10 months after the end of its first, Yuri on Ice, three years later, has yet to air its second season. Long season waits are not uncommon. Re:Zero, the aforementioned most popular anime of 2016, also has yet to air its second season. Attack on Titan, one of the most popular anime of the last decade, took over three and a half years to produce its second season. None of these, however, are as absurdly long as the wait fans have endured for the fourth entry in the Rebuild of Evangelion series. The third film came out in 2012. The often-delayed fourth film is expected in 2020, eight years later.
But the fact remains that My Hero Academia regularly offered new content for fans to be excited about, while Yuri on Ice didn't.
Delays and Lack of Interaction
What Yuri on Ice did have in production was an animated film. The film, Ice Adolescence, remained in production for awhile without fans hearing any updates on the matter. This is in direct contrast to the hype machine behind all of My Hero Academia's productions.
Fans heard about the exact release dates for the upcoming seasons and cinematic films on a regular basis. Social media updates informed fans about upcoming content. This hype built up a big enough audience willing to see My Hero Academia: Two Heroes in international theaters.
A teaser for Ice Adolescence was aired during a theatrical screening of Yuri on Ice, but this teaser has yet to be released online. While the staff and crew of the anime have a social media presence, they left their fanbase in the dark about the anime's future. Initially, Ice Adolescence was scheduled for a 2019 release, but they only updated fans on the film's delay in the final quarter of the year.
This all leads to the same inevitable conclusion: Fans cannot be hyped up for some sequel or entry in a franchise when they don't know anything about it.
Fans Need Content
A fan cannot be excited for something they don't know is coming. However, more important than that, fans cannot be excited when nothing at all comes to keep them engaged.
When Yuri on Ice ended, very little new content was produced. Aside from a stage production, official art and a very brief OVA released with the DVD, after the first season ended, that was it. The series had no spinoff manga, no light novel side stories, no sequel series, nothing.
My Hero Academia, on the other hand, had a massive amount of content. On top of the ongoing manga and continuations of the anime, there were several spinoff series, video games, the films -- fans wanted for nothing.
The results are clear. My Hero Academia carried on its momentum to become one of the biggest anime of the decade. Yuri on Ice, while undeniably beloved and still a favorite of many, settled back a little. Many fans moved on to similar series, such as Banana Fish.
Dormant, But Alive
That's not to say, of course, that the fanbase is dead. A few months ago, a concert featuring tons of Yuri on Ice songs trended all over the world on Twitter. Part of its success is thanks to it being live-streamed. Fan enthusiasm remains because the initial series was so good.
The same can be said for the aforementioned Re:Zero, whose fanbase also rejoiced when word of a second season was released. Despite constant delays without real explanation, Evangelion's fanbase is still hyping up the fourth film in the franchise.
It doesn't take much to hype up fans of a series that's already beloved. You just need to keep striking the iron to keep it a success, which the people behind My Hero Academia understand very, very well.