Meanwhile, the future of manga

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naruto clash of ninjas wii Meanwhile, the future of mangaKai-Ming Cha observes:

Guys, I’m at AX and I’m gonna say it: the future looks bleak.
I’m not sure that manga readers here are really manga readers and I would even go so far as to say that they’re not even comics readers. There’s a love for the medium, but only within the shojo or shonen genre.

Meanwhile, Chris Butcher posts part two of his look at the manga industry and comes to much the same conclusion:

Part and parcel of my last post on the subject is age: the age of the readership and the buyers, and of the folks not already buying the work. I mentioned offhand that perhaps there is a class of comics buyer, or potential comics buyer, that has no interest in navigating the aisles of akimbo-limbed young people. But what if that’s just false? What if the market is solely comprised of this 13-18 demographic, forever? What happens next?

If you were the recommended age of 13 years old when Naruto Volume 1 dropped in August of 2003, you’re going to be coming up on your 19th birthday any day now. In Canada at least, that means booze, and College or University, and sex. Does it also mean Naruto Volume 30?


Butcher concludes that josei, seinen and gegika will make only limited inroads on manga reading youth, and will remain a subset of the indie comics reading audience.

Comments

  1. Kenny says:

    “[Manga]….will remain a subset of the indie comics reading audience.”

    A subset that’s currently much larger than the American corporate superhero reading audience.

    “What if the market is solely comprised of this 13-18 demographic, forever? What happens next?”

    What happens next is comics become relevant again as a viable means of reaching young people. More money goes into the comics industry. Oh, and maybe Marvel and DC will stop publishing their comics and go full forward on becoming movie production places.

  2. A subset that’s currently much larger than the American corporate superhero reading audience.

    You could say the same thing of the American corporate superhero reading audience, back in the 1980s, when 100,000 was considered a minimum sales cut-off for cancellation by Marvel.

    I have to admit, this caught me by surprise, but as much as we blame the American corporate superhero publishers (and as much as they deserve that blame), maybe this shows that they don’t deserve ALL the blame. Likewise, for as much as we curse the narrow-mindedness of “fans” (and again, not without reason), what this seems to show is that even CASUAL readers are more interested in GENRES than in MEDIUM (which actually makes sense, now that I think about it), which means that, much like American comics, manga could soon find itself reduced from a medium to a genre, as well.

  3. The one year that I covered AX in Kai-Ming’s stead I remember two girls, probably 14 or 15, going up to a retailer’s booth full of manga.

    “This isn’t anime, this is manga,” they said. “Let’s go, we don’t want this.”

    I’ve never seen that before. I’m so used to talking about a marketing where it’s a predominantly adult market. I would hate to be in the position of trying to second-guess kids.

  4. “[Manga]….will remain a subset of the indie comics reading audience.”

    A subset that’s currently much larger than the American corporate superhero reading audience.

    I think you misread that. The audience for shounen and shoujo manga is larger than the audience for American corporate superheroes; the audience for seinen, josei and gekiga (which was what Butcher was referring to) is smaller. Misreading this means you’ve missed Butcher’s main point: the manga that sells is manga for kids and teenagers; manga for adults doesn’t sell that well (except yaoi/BL, which has carved out a niche).

  5. Kat Kan says:

    However, libraries are starting to discover that their adult patrons are looking for manga that are suited for THEM, not teens! Manga publishers need to do even more marketing to libraries, in order to sell their seinen and josei manga. There is a market for them.

    As to Chris Butcher’s question, my older son is 25 and STILL loves the Naruto manga.

  6. Kenny, you’ve misunderstood. Everyone knows Naruto outsells Spider-Man. The issue under discussion is that Yoshihiro Tatsumi doesn’t even outsell Jimmy Corrigan.

    In fact (and this was Chris’s point) Tatsumi doesn’t sell to manga fans at all — he sells to a percentage of the people who already own Jimmy Corrigan. The crossover we were hoping for doesn’t appear to be happening.

  7. Katherine,

    I think you’re one of the smartest people on the comics’ blogesphere. So, I think I did a bad job making my point. In fact, I know I did. I’m sorry I’m tired while writing this, because I’ll probably come off all smarmy, which is not my intent this time. Manga has long been looked down upon by the people of the “New York comics mindset.” (The quotations are mine to paraphrase a term I’ve heard in passing.) To marginalize all manga as being “a subset of the indie comics reading audience” is exactly why corporate American superhero comics have been losing readers to the point 200,000 sales is a reason to pop champaign bottles.

    It doesn’t matter if only shonen and shojo manga are popular….what’s important is that some form of comics are popular with kids again. I think in America, comics aimed squarely at grown up audiences will always have a smaller fanbase. Just because Naruto is selling gangbusters to young teens doesn’t mean most of that audience will transition to seinen, josei, gekiga, or anything else. And there’s certainly no reason to think they’ll want to read Jimmy Corgan or anything like that. It’s just exciting to know some form of comics is popular with kids again. Maybe those kids will eventually start picking up other genres than shonen or shojo, or maybe some of them will drift over to small press American comics, but it’s a long building process.

    I guess I just think it’s unrealistic to think anyone who reads Naruto would be interested in any other genre just because it’s manga. I think comics has to go through a period where comics themselves have to become relevant again, and then some sort of Watchmen of manga has to happen to point the way to genres outside of the shonen/shojo stuff. But before even that can happen, we have to stop pretending anyone outside of a *very* tiny percentage of people – less than 1% of the American population – gives a f— about Spider-man comics.

  8. Katherine F said:

    “The audience for shounen and shoujo manga is larger than the audience for American corporate superheroes”

    Was there any particular reason to specify “American corporate” superheroes?

    Are there non-U.S. and/or non-corporate superheroes that sell as well or better as the best-selling manga?

    I guess once LXG starts being published outside the corporate umbrella of DC it might qualify.

    Not being snarky; I just haven’t heard of any “great spandex hopes” in the superhero genre lately.

  9. I don’t agree at all.

    In Japan too it was not overnight that manga for adult men and women became a significant part of the marketplace.

    Josei only appeared in the 80’s for example.

    Manga in the US has only been popular for less than 10 years. And even then, theUS amrket is still dozens fo times smaller than the Japanese one even in the 50’s or 60’s.

    So josei and seinen (which BTW is -not- manga for adult men but for young men 15 years and up ) manga readership will grow in the US too but it will take time.

  10. Charles Knight says:

    I’m interested in knowing more but frankly I can only understand about half the language in this article.

    Anyone got a good site for finding out about those terms (besides wikipedia)?

  11. There are two great books that can help, both Eisner nominees: Understanding Manga and Anime, by Robin Brenner, and Manga: The Complete Guide, by Jason Thompson.

  12. RE: Charles

    broadly speaking:

    shonen: stuff aimed primarily at boys. Ranges from Saturday morning cartoon stuff like Naruto, Dragonball and Yu-gi-Oh! to adolescent romantic comedies like Love Hina.

    shojo: stuff aimed primarily at girls. Most has a romantic bent, but there’s also lots of historical and fantasy works. Ranges from younger fare like Cardcaptor Sakura or Sailor Moon to edgier fare like Nana. Stuff in the vein of Hanna Montana through Gossip Girls would get categorized here.

    seinen: Stuff for older teen boys and young men. Usually what gets translated over here in this category is edgier genre stuff. Most of Dark Horse’s manga fits in this camp. Battle Royale is another biggie. Some of the more salacious fan service titles fall in this camp too.

    josei: manga for young women. Like chic-lit. Stories usually focus on working women and more adult relationships. (often sexy, but not explicit in the way that seinen can be)

    gegika: Art comics, slice of life stuff. Serious fare for adults.

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