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Anime is usually based on manga, light novels, visual novels or video games. Occasionally there are exceptions.

Anime is always more risky than manga. Pretty much everyone has a manga specifically geared to their interest somewhere, and the largely black and white format of manga makes it cheaper to produce than even the average western comic book. Producing a show is much more expensive.[1] And while a lot of manga is made to be accessible and disposable, the demographics of TV watchers is different. This is the major reason anime is mostly populated by shounen and shoujo, as kids simply have more time. Meanwhile, Josei manga rarely ever gets made into anime, if reaching television at all.

Anime also requires voice actors and a hopefully decent animation budget. On the other hand, it's much easier to make a show based on a known money-generating property. Making a show suddenly becomes lucrative once you figure in things like new merchandise (character Image Song and soundtracks, most noticeably) which pays for the show. This is the main reason H-games made into anime are the most successful financially and on the other extreme, why most Anime First shows for youngsters are explicitly Merchandise-Driven. Magical Girl and Mecha series in particular have a high chance of being Anime First.

Occasionally manga comes out after such an anime, but only as a limited run. Some manga run concurrently to a show, so divergences are common and accepted. You don't want them to be exactly alike or the audience will wonder why you're messing with the story. You also rarely get a sort of Double Subversion where the manga comes out first, but the original project was conceived as an anime; the manga was primarily intended as advertisement. (Two well-known examples are Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Neon Genesis Evangelion.)

Not to be confused with the common gripe that all of the anime examples on a trope page come first. (Seriously, guys, it's alphabetical. Either add in some examples from advertising, or let it go.)

Examples of Anime First include:

  1. Even a cheaply done 12 episode anime can literally cost $US 1 Million to produce when all is said and done, and that's the cheap stuff