Manga: A long and winding road…

Something that’s been thrown around a slight teeny, tiny bit: in the U.S., there are few manga readers.  As in, people who read all sorts of manga and read widely.  Instead, manga here are reading for genre.  The audience now likes a certain story and a certain art styel.  Thye’re not interested in reading outside of that.  When Viz was showing their Inoue stuff, there wasn’t a peep in the audience.  Sumi and Water, his art books, are coming out in Sept. as are a few other manga, including REAL and SD, but no cheers or murmurs of excitement- or even of recognition.
The Arina Tanemura and Dragon Ball art books, however, were met with a wave of “ooohhh”

A special edition of Shonen Jump was met with cheers.

Which brings me to this idea of a future manga market.
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.
They love the anime, and honestly, while I was watching the Le Chevalier D’eon anime, I couldn’t help but thinking “this is cartoons.  It’s for kids.”
It’s not just because I read manga and am looking for some semblance of sophistication in my life, but I really do think that manga is more sophisticated than the anime adaptations.  But the audience for manga is the anime audience, and they  love the anime, but they’re young.  And they’re not goign to be loving this when they’re older.
It really looks like this market is going to outgrow manga.  That doesn’t mean that manga is some trend that will die, but that it’s going to take a lot longer for the market to mature than we’re anticipating.  It’s not going to be within this generation.  This generation is going to outgrow it adn it’s the next generation going in that’s going to keep the current market as we know it alive.
But as for this seinen and josei – that’s for American comics readers.  That’s for pple who love comics, who love American comics, indy comics, who love the pairing of pictures and words.  Who don’t love “manga” or “big-eyed girls” or strictly one type of love story and nothing else.  I think we’re seeing this maturation of audience outgrowing a story in boys love.  Girls become more curious in sex and are willing to let some of the romance fall to the side to get it – so bring on the more graphic stuff!
But as for Hot Gimmick readers or Vampire Knight readers – I’m not positive that they’re going to advance to Suppli.  I think they’re going to abandon the medium altogether.

22 Comments »

  1. Matt said

    I’ve just read this post with much interest… I read manga myself, but I honestly don’t know where to “begin”. There’s not a well-established manga scene in my area (UK, not US.. most of the manga here is imported from the US though), there aren’t many comic shops, I don’t know anyone else who reads it.. so I have to actively search the internet for manga to read.

    The trouble is, a lot of the manga I recognise is because of anime that I’ve already seen. A great example is the Full Metal Panic manga, I’d probably enjoy reading that, except that I’m already familiar with a lot of the story lines because of the anime, and so I haven’t read it because I want to read something unfamiliar. Ditto with Ai Yazawa’s Nana.

    I’m really writing this post to ask for some recommendations… if you do give me some, I very much appreciate it. :)

    To give you an idea of what I’m reading at the moment… there’s Yotsuba&!, but I don’t get the impression any more volumes will be released for that because ADV appear to be imploding, I’ve recently started Monster, which I think is absolutely brilliant, I’ve also been enjoying Angel Sanctuary too. I’ve also been reading some darker stuff like MPD Psycho, but I wouldn’t really want to read anything more graphic than that. So basically, comedy’s good, but what I’m really interested in is something with a more serious, psychological thriller sort of theme to it..

    Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’ve added your blog to my RSS reader now, so I look forward to reading your future posts.

  2. [...] Cha, my editor at PWCW and someone who knows a lot about manga, says the kids are reading manga as a genre, not a medium. In other words, it’s all about the [...]

  3. Wow, thanks for articulating a phenomenon that I–one of those folks who just loves comics in general–had noticed the edges of, but not quite managed to grasp. I’ve been to a number of anime cons lately (my wife makes and sells a non-manga comic) and your post really rings true. The only manga available at these shows generally seems to follow a handfull of extremely familiar formulas. And surely these kids are going to get tired of them, eventually. I went through my own “all anime/manga is interesting” phase about 15 years ago, so I know how long that lasts.

    So is there an opportunity–or responsibility, even?–for the rest of us who are kind of tangential to that crowd to try and broaden the kids’ interests? The vast majority of them aren’t receptive to anything that doesn’t fit their preferred formula, but there’s always that chance that you could push something new and interesting into somebody’s hands the very day that they start to get sick of superdeformed comedy sequences. I really think that the whole general comics scene will be better off if today’s manga fans hang around after they grow up.

  4. Laurie said

    thank goodness I’m one of the few that likes comics as a medium . I mean, choosing Arina over Inoue? I do like Arina a bit and VK looks ugly to me but I’ll definitely get both Inoue’s books ^^ Not a bit fan of his manga but I just love his art ^^

  5. Hey Everyone, thanks for your feedback. I really keep this blog for myself and my own rants, so thanks for reading.

    Matt in the U.K., there is a thriving manga and anime community online. The website Anime on DVD is full of active forums as is the Anime News Network. Also, if you get on IRC, manga fans abound. You’ll have a chance to geek on just about anything.

    As for recommendations, Death Note is great psychological thriller material if you haven’t yet read it. I would add Parasyte to that as well. MW by Osamu Tezuka, or Ode to Kirihito, are incredible reads, done by the master himself.

    And if you want some older humor, do check out Slam Dunk! which will be out in September. It’s goofy and slapstick but with an incredible storyline. Another solid and rewarding series is Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail which is more sorcery and magic, but from a guy’s point of view.

    There’s so much out there and I’m trying to highlight some of it on this blog and at Publisher’s Weekly, so KIT and tell me what you think.

    Likewise, it’s so flattering that someone like Brigid would link to my blog and refer to me as “someone who knows a lot about manga” when really, I’m learning about it as much as you all are so I’m always open to recommendations, too. Although, as a warning: I do have a soft spot for Vampire Knight.

    ^_^

  6. gia said

    Hey, it was good seeing you at Expo! And I, too, have a soft spot for Vampire Knight– the art and plot are both completely overdone and beautiful at the same time.

  7. Aleithia said

    “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.”

    Honestly, I fail to see why this is a problem. Most people who read novels do not read novels for the sake of reading a novel. Instead, they read ones by the authors they like or that are related to a topic they like (fantasy). It’s unrealistic to expect the majority of the population to love the medium in and of itself and not a work. Nor is there any one standard of what is “good.”

    This really is no different than if someone complained that more people read James Patterson than a classic such as Tristram Shandy. People read for different reasons. If you’re reading to enjoy a novel, James Joyce may not be the wise choice. If you want to score pretentious points, well, I’d pass on Tolkien. If you’re looking for an epic galactic war, I’d pass on Ernest Hemingway. There is no objective reason to argue that all people should read any one work over another. People have different tastes; this is a good thing.

    “They love the anime, and honestly, while I was watching the Le Chevalier D’eon anime, I couldn’t help but thinking “this is cartoons. It’s for kids.”

    And you would be wrong about this (in most cases). I fear that you are letting your preconceived cultural norms interfere with your judgement. Some anime is, of course, made for kids/teens–especially the properties that tend to be popular in North America (Bleach, Naruto). Then there are the family shows, such as Sazae-san and Doraemon, which aim for the mainstream Japanese audience of all ages–these generally have little North American market appeal. Finally, we get to the otaku anime, which generally air during the middle of the night. These shows are, in most cases, designed for the young adult, otaku male demographic (20-35). Of course, these shows will have little appeal outside of the otaku sub-culture because they were not designed to have mass appeal. But the same can be said of any product made for a subculture or subgroup (such as Amish dolls or, dare I say, movies about super heroes).

    Of course, there are several other important groups outside of the targeted demographic that watch any given anime. This brings me to my next point regarding the use of the terms “seinen” and “josei”

    “But as for this seinen and josei – that’s for American comics readers. That’s for pple who love comics, who love American comics, indy comics, who love the pairing of pictures and words.”

    There’s actually a fair amount of seinen on the market. However, much of it generally isn’t marketed as seinen because North Americans, in general, would have a hard time accepting that works they do not deem mature or masculine may have appeal in Japan for certain segments of adults. So much of what is on the market tends to be marketed as shoujo or shounen or even kid’s manga. This is common for many manga regardless of its original demographic (Aria was created for males–but most people seem to think it’s shoujo, Yotsuba&! most certainly was not intended to be a kid’s manga, etc). Plus, as looking at statistics for any major manga periodical will show, a title’s appeal is not limited to its targeted demographic in Japan ( a large portion of Shounen Jump’s readers are actually female, looking for the BL undertones).

    In the end, you’re complaining that your tastes are currently in the minority. People like what they like and none of our tastes are superior or more refined than any others. I may not like Naruto or Death Note, but that doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t (for the record, there is little to no market in North America for my preferences in manga). There is no objective reason to state otherwise.

  8. [...] On her own blog, however, Cha is a bit less sanguine about the future of the industry: 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. They love the anime, and honestly, while I was watching the Le Chevalier D’eon anime, I couldn’t help but thinking “this is cartoons. It’s for kids.” It’s not just because I read manga and am looking for some semblance of sophistication in my life, but I really do think that manga is more sophisticated than the anime adaptations. But the audience for manga is the anime audience, and they love the anime, but they’re young. And they’re not goign to be loving this when they’re older. It really looks like this market is going to outgrow manga. That doesn’t mean that manga is some trend that will die, but that it’s going to take a lot longer for the market to mature than we’re anticipating. It’s not going to be within this generation. This generation is going to outgrow it adn it’s the next generation going in that’s going to keep the current market as we know it alive. [...]

  9. Susie said

    I’m with you on this observation.

    When the kids were devouring Sailor Moon and Pokemon, I thought that in a few year’s time there would be a larger market where it wouldn’t be the brightly-colored kid’s stuff. Hopefully more slice-of-life stories would be published. There IS more of it now, but not enough that consititutes a genre.

    I think maybe there’s a parallel between manga and American comics because not all of the kids reading superhero books graduate to the indie auto-bio comics. They either become thirty year old collectors of continuity or stop reading altogether.

    The only difference I see is that I don’t think manga will have trouble acquiring new young readers.

  10. [...] The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon meditates on Kai-Ming Cha’s recent post about the limitations of the manga market. Precocious Curmudgeon’s David Welsh, meanwhile, [...]

  11. [...] Cha, my editor at PWCW and someone who knows a lot about manga, says the kids are reading manga as a genre, not a medium. In other words, it’s all about the [...]

  12. [...] The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon meditates on Kai-Ming Cha’s recent post about the limitations of the manga market. Precocious Curmudgeon’s David Welsh, meanwhile, [...]

  13. [...] Kai-Ming Cha at GenuineArticle [...]

  14. [...] response to my last message, and probably to Kai-Ming Cha’s blog post from the floor of Anime Expo, David Welsh put up a really lovely, reasonable little essay about a [...]

  15. [...] read books?  I could go on about how that’s the way most people chose their books, but this commentor already did a terrific job.  This isn’t the problem.  The problem is that publishers keep [...]

  16. ErinF said

    Before I read the other comments…

    KM, you were at AnimeExpo, the biggest anime convention in the U.S., so naturally there were a lot of anime fans there. Did you go to MangaNext in the last couple of years? MangaNext caters to a totally different crowd of much younger kids who like manga first and anime on the side. I think there is a growing gap between anime and manga fanbases that wasn’t there a few years ago.

    As to whether those kids will leave manga behind, I have two comments:

    1. When I first started podcasting, Full Metal Alchemist was starting to get popular, and I received a lot of email from fans who got really into Pokemon, outgrew it, and then were drawn “back into anime” by the more mature Alchemist series. If those kids were 15 in 2004, they’re only 19 now. I bet they watch Bleach.

    2. There’s a well-documented phenomenon of Americans staying immature longer – up to age 30 and beyond, as fanboys and fangirls marry later and start families later, and they tend not to give up comics or videogames. There’s no reason to believe the current generation will outgrow anything since they can stay kidults until over 30. (I am a prime example.)

    Finally, Le Chevalier D’eon is way too boring for kids. Only friends my own age (nearly 30) actually like this show – unless they have ADD. Noah is a huge fan. The anime is way different than the manga, btw.

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  18. Nate said

    “But as for this seinen and josei – that’s for American comics readers. That’s for pple who love comics, who love American comics, indy comics, who love the pairing of pictures and words.”

    …and for people who like reading stories that focus on adults.

    Meanwhile, someone pleads guilty to obscenity charges for importing manga with scenes of a girl (as in a female minor, not as in slang for a woman) character getting raped by men and animals and some manga fan goes all “shockwaves through the entire manga community” ( http://www.mangablog.net/?p=4452 ) WTF?

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  22. Leanne said

    This really is the third article, of urs I really read.
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    egg” the very best. All the best ,Bill

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