Manga Doom and Gloom

Heidi and I were doing a bit of back and forth yesterday, tightening up today’s AX article which will be out later on in the PW Comics Week newsletter (recommended: every writer needs a kick-ass editor and I have lucked out by having two) – and the phrase “doom and gloom” was tossed around a bit.

It’s probably me just feeling said gloom, but to recap all that’s happened in the last month or so:

The two pillars that built manga (Borders and Tokyopop) are crumbling.

Add to that this leak of Kodansha moving in.

Add to that the launch of Sho-Shu Productions.

Add to that that a few smaller publishers have quietly gone away this past year.

It may not be gloom or doom for that matter, but the signs are there: change is afoot – and not just in the U.S., but in JP, manga’s birthplace.

A lot of this news was dropped on us recently, around the end of May, and here convention season has launched and I’m not sure that we’ve all had a chance to digest all this information – or lack of.  What is next?  What’s the next step?

I was at the Dark Horse booth towards the end of the con, talking with Jeremy (head of publicity) and Michael G. (director of asian licensing) and Jeremy was saying how, whenever he’s at these shows (anime and manga) he’s always reminded of how much branding needs to be done to make Dark Horse a recognizable entity – the way it’s recognized in the American comics market alongside DC and Marvel.

But that’s not the way manga fans work.  Mike G. (and Lillian of TokyoPop who I posed this too as well), was like, they (the fans) don’t care.  “They don’t care who publishes it.  They only care that they have it.”  I would go so far as to say that fans only care that they can read it – and not necessarily buy it.

It was a very strange moment of feeling a bit slighted.  Like “she’s just not that into you.”  It’s not the shirt, or the hair – she’s just not that into you.  And that’s the overall feeling that I’m starting to get.  It’s not the books, it’s not the company – fans are just cherry picking their faves and sticking with those.

When I see manga, I think “Manga: It’s An Endless World!” there is so much good stuff out there – which isn’t to say that I like all of it – but there is such variety.  Yet, for fans,  it seems like they see manga and think “Manga: It Ends at Naruto!”  or “Manga: It Ends at Fruits Baskets!

I don’t know.  I don’t have the answers.  Kodansha won’t talk to me, either.

But there is a visible shift, and the big question is whether the fans will stick around for the changes, and still be there during and after that process.

3 Comments »

  1. […] market for five, ten, twenty years from now. Because as gets pointed out in a subsequent post, things are definitely changing. Also: didn’t know about the forthcoming […]

  2. I think for a while, it did matter than a manga was from TP, because of their success in selling cheapass production values as “authentic.”
    I think the bleed started when Viz came back with Naruto and Shojo Beat, as other publishers adopted TP’s production philosophy, and TP stopped getting new Kodansha titles.

    Some of the manga readers will move on from their “kid stuff,” but I’m sure there are lifelong readers too. The trick is going to be in not repeating the biggest mistake cape publishers made, which is to provide the same crap over and over to an aging and shrinking audience.

  3. Adalisa said

    Yet, for fans, it seems like they see manga and think “Manga: It Ends at Naruto!” or “Manga: It Ends at Fruits Baskets!

    Oh, this. this is so true, and it applies to other countries as well. I write as a Manga reviewer in México, and for a long time whenever I proposed titles to be reviewed (Long story as on how things are done differently down here) I was always met with “But will it appeal to fans of Naruto” or “Well, yes, but can you write about Sailor Moon again?” over, and over again. In México, is not so much Naruto as it is Saint Seiya. A series that is little over 15 years old, and it is still hailed as the best thing ever by the fans.

    Manga readership is shrinking because most readers really don’t care about manga as a genre, but manga as ‘the big thing now’.

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