Monster Vol 7The big discussion right now is about manga for grown-ups. It’s ostensibly about “Men’s Manga”, but luckily Simon Jones put that bullshit to rest right-quickly by pointing out that Josei (“Women’s”) manga has been an unfortunate failure in North America as well. About the only ‘mature’ manga doing very well right now is smut, for women (Yaoi/BL/changepurse/etc.), with even hardcore hetero mangaporn having a tougher go of it than it used to.

Johanna can’t help smirking because as a woman who’s been elbowing her way into the boys club for years, she gets to play the ‘turnabout is fair play!’ card, and I can’t say as I blame her. At her Livejournal, the thoroughly unpleasant “Kethylia” makes the same point, but tacks on the added rallying cry of “This Is Just The Way Things Are, And Everyone Oughtta Just Shut Up And Accept It!” which is about the stupidest thing I’ve read on the internet today. To be fair though, I’ve only been on the internet for like an hour.

Way down at the bottom of Johanna’s post, the former editor in chief of Viz Magazine, and guest at The Toronto Comic Arts Festival Jason Thompson drops in to make some incredibly salient points:

  • “The fact of the U.S. manga market isn’t that shojo dominates the charts, it’s that stuff for younger readers dominates the charts. It’s simply hard to get the more adult manga into the big chain outlets.”
  • “Actually, I think there’s almost as many male-targeted manga being published in America as there’s ever been… the thing is that they’re all drawn in a kind of “undercover” style, that cute moe style where you can’t initially tell who it’s aimed at.”
  • “The market itself has changed around [Dark Horse], but I don’t think that the number of people buying DH-style manga has actually shrunk… it’s just that the number of people buying 13+ shojo and shonen manga has grown so dramatically that it makes the market for DH manga look small by comparison.”
    (All Quotes From Jason Thompson)

Here’s a thing: We sell more “men’s” manga in the store than most “kids” manga… In fact, if you look at the Direct Market sales charts, manga from Dark Horse and for a predomenantly older, male audience does a heck of a lot better in most comic book specialty shops than even the big-hot-bookstore stuff. It’s not that men’s manga is unprofitable as a genre, it’s that individual titles don’t catch on (and that’s always been the case, DRAKKUN anybody?) even if they seem like sure-fire bets. Many of my favourite manga have been cancelled, or gone out of print, or had their copyright lapse, or had their publisher go under–it’s not that big a deal. Many of my favourite non-manga comics have faced a similarly tough road. But in an industry where that new GHOST IN THE SHELL 1.5 TP is going to be the top-selling manga of the month through Diamond, and in the top 5 for graphic novels of the month (I think that means at least 10k copies are shipping, if not more…) there’s definitely an audience for that material. As Jason mentioned, it’s a different size of audience, but it’s not, you know, non-existent.

If you scroll back through the archives a few days, you’ll see the announcement for TEKKON KINKREET, a new edition of my beloved Black & White by extremely-famous Japanese Mangaka Taiyo Matsumoto–a book that went out of print YEARS AGO here, with another book by the creator halted mid-serialisation. It’s being re-released, EXTREMELY COINCIDENTALLY at the same time as a film version of the manga is making its way to cinema screens everywhere. Manga publishers want to put out good work that will sell well, (or at least work that will sell well), and they want to give every book a fighting chance. Dark Horse developing a line of men’s manga makes perfect sense–Blade of the Immortal readers will check out Satsuma Gishiden, all those 80′s B&W boom-market fans of Lone Wolf & Cub will pick those up, and then get the prequel series, and all of the other work by the creator. Got a huge, hot property like MPD Psycho? Why not test the waters with a few other series by the same creator, build interest in it before it’s released? Building lines of products makes perfect sense, because at the end of the day we don’t live in a meritocracy and the books don’t rise and fall on their strengths or weaknesses, but instead the marketting that’s invested into them. Wheat from the chaffe, some shake-ups along the way, but there are more than 40 volumes of work by Koike and Gojima in print in English right now–someone in the 80s would have a heart-attack just hearing that news.

The worst thing about that stupid admonishment, the “Shut-up and accept how things are now!,” is that it’s a complacent, ignorant assessement of the market. If people actually thought like that, or rather, if people actually took that stupid advice, they would have talked Stu Levy out of the Tokyopop Revolution, or shouted down the legions of fangirl-Fujoshi who thought that just MAYBE if they put out some boys-humping-boys manga that SOMEONE might buy it, or that a monthly magazine called SHONEN JUMP might actually work in North America, despite its predicted death. It’s the wishers and hopers and dreamers that come up with all of these harebrained schemes and put them into action. It’s those MBAs that sit back and think: “Hey, Naruto’s been out for 5 years now, those kids might actually grow up and not turn into emotionally arrested adolescents still pining over the same stuff they were reading when they were 12. Why don’t we put out some books for teenagers and call it SHONEN JUMP ADVANCED? Why don’t we put out some books for those same kids another few years later, like UZUMAKI and GYO and PORTUS and brand them as HORROR books?” Don’t accept the status quo, don’t rest on your laurels, don’t get comfortable. Innovate, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So, yeah, things are not as easy for manga for grown-ups as for the teen-oriented manga, but who gives a shit? COMICS FOR ADULTS HAVEN’T TRADITIONALLY HAD A GOOD TIME OF IT EITHER. Why don’t you talk to Eric Reynolds about Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service not doing as well as we’d all have hoped when that poor dude is trying to put together an anthology of work by people who can’t afford to do comics, because the sales aren’t there, and they make more money doing spot illos for various magazines. I’m sure he has an appropriately tiny fiddle he can play for you.

Support the stuff you like with your $$$, with appropriately frequent and graphics-intensive blog posts, and at the stores that are willing to stock those books for you (hint: online pre-order discounters and scanlation sites? Not helping your cause any… it’s not like they’re ordering copies ‘for the shelf’).

And never stop dreaming!

- Christopher


18 Comments on “I Know What Boys Like (Naruto) (Girls like it also)”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 9, 2007: Zunecomics.com says:

    [...] David Welsh has more coverage of the difficulties faced by publishers looking to bring manga geared towards adults to American bookstores, and Christopher Butcher offers commentary as well. [...]

  2. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » DC goes digital, says:

    [...] At Comics212, Christopher Butcher weighs in on the market for “manga for grown-ups.” [...]

  3. Simon Jones says:

    I really should get a blog.

    One thing I will suggest though, is that it is a mostly female market, outside the direct market at least. But as I’ve said in other places, it’s a younger market. It’s an anime driven market as well, with the two factors being heavily linked. And Senin and Josei just don’t have the series there, with more mature anime series tending to come from original concepts rather than pre-existing source material.

  4. Chris says:

    Simon- Did I not link your blog? I’m very sorry sir :-/. I’l edit that post.

    - Chris

  5. Greg McElhatton says:

    One teeny tiny correction — Jason Thompson was editor of Shonen Jump, right? Because while he definitely was an editor at Viz, being an editor of “Viz Magazine” is a very different (British) kettle of fish entirely.

  6. matt says:

    an aside: i noticed josh olsen, the writer from a history of violence, will be writing and directing monster as a new feature film.

  7. mark thorpe says:

    Thanks, Chris, for throwing the BS flag on Kethylia’s comments. I didn’t think anyone would do it. Being called an ‘overaged fanboy’(is 27 considered overaged these days?) hit me as pure name calling, nothing more. I shouldn’t have let it get to me though, after all, anyone who uses the word ‘protesteth’, does not deserve my attention or self pity.

  8. Estara says:

    I can follow your argument, as I can follow kethylia’s ideas about this. It’s a topic you feel strongly about and so does she. I object to calling a person who didn’t chose her words with the utmost internet diplomacy “thoroughly unpleasant” on the strength of one post – because BLOODY HELL does the blogosphere have huge amounts of wankers when people get pissed off and pick their upsets to vent. And they’re not usually called “thoroughly unpleasant” by commenters, they have “controversial opinions” or “inciting views”.

    I read you regularly, as I do kethylia. Sometimes I agree with you, sometimes I agree with her. Sometimes the two of you have similar opinions.I believe that is the only way to come to see if a person’s views are interesting and valid to the reader or not.

    I can follow your view on the “stupid admonishment”, that’s completely seperate from calling a person “thoroughly unpleasant”.

    For the record I think both of you are highly intelligent observers and commenters who occasionally don’t use the most diplomatic way of phrasing things ^^.

    My two cents.

    P.S. Not being part of the target group for male manga makes me not really care about this particular discussion myself.

    P.P.S. Third attempt to comment, I get a message this page can’t be used on its own… hmm

  9. Chris says:

    Greg – Good catch

    Matt- Yeah, I’ve heard that’s coming from New Line for a while now… do you have any further info (like a date or anything?)

    Mark- Diff’rent strokes I guess.

    Estara- I find her writing and point of view thoroughly unpleasant. Unless she is immune from criticism, or I am supposed to keep my opinions to myself for some reason, I calls’m likes I sees’m. I’m sure I’ll get an earful of the same, shortly.

  10. Porno Simon Jones says:

    Chris–>

    This is Simon Jones that publishes the pr0n. There are two of us, and I didn’t make those particular comments (which I happen to agree with, so I didn’t feel compelled to give my own two cents.)

    From now on, I will post under this moniker, lest some of my more unsavory, radical rantings be attributed to poor Mr. Jones. ;)

  11. Halliday says:

    I’m looking forward to GANTZ and 20th Century Boys coming out, among other things. I wouldn’t mind seeing someone license LEVEL E by the HUNTER X HUNTER guy either at some point, though it seems unlikely.

  12. Blogless Simon Jones says:

    Ah. Yeah. My comment about needing a blog was more to do with my vaugely incoherent rantings on this topic travelling everywhere over the past few days. Not the my Porno loving counterparts blog isn’t a fine thing to link to.

    But yeah, Manga, I think, is walking a very fine line. Shonen/Shojo/Anime related stuff is where the money is. But part of the thing that drew me to manga orignally is, besides boobies and stabbing, the diversity of it all. And to ignore those areas does do a disservice to the large body of work being produced.

  13. Brian Nicholson says:

    You know, I’m a little confused, as to what constitutes “seinen.” I get the idea of it being horror stuff, that’s very violent, and includes a lot of what Dark Horse publishes- but I also get the idea of it including stuff closer to “art manga,” but maybe you’re just lumping them together due to their unprofitability in stores not The Beguiling? (And does stuff like “Berserk” sell at The Beguiling?) Or am I just overstating the classiness of things like Black And White in my mind?

    I also don’t know what “josei” is at all.

    I don’t read very much manga, is what I’m saying.

    And I think that maybe on some level I get weirded out by this type of “assigning genders to comics” thing- It probably leaves stuff like Junko Mizuno’s work unaccounted for, right?

    But yeah, clicking around this debate, it seems like you’re the only person to make the point you made about how comics for adults don’t traditionally sell well in America, which seems really valid, and a lot more interesting to me than the gender-role-assignation stuff.

  14. Estara says:

    @Chris: If you object to her thoroughly unpleasant writing and point of view, that’s okay by me.

    However “At her Livejournal, the thoroughly unpleasant “Kethylia” makes the same point,”
    reads to me that you were attacking the person herself. Thank you for clearing that up.

    P.S. In Firefox 1.5 I get the error posting again, IE 6 is just fine.

  15. Chris says:

    Brian- A quick guide:
    Shonen: Boys
    Shoujo: Girls
    Seinen: “Young Men” (16-24)
    Josei: Women’s

    It roughly breaks down along the “kids” and “older teen” demographics, with works intended for girls and works intended for boys. I can appreciate that you’re weirded out by the gender-oriented comics stuff, but that’s sort of the way they do things over there. I’ve also tried to point out that it’s irrelevant to this discussion, because the discussion is about mature manga (in all of it’s many forms) versus manga that’s for kids (despite the fact that many, many adults on the internet are wrapped up in it). The kids’ stuff is doing great, despite the contention by some that it’s a gender issue, and the mature stuff isn’t (and Junko’s stuff would fall into ‘artcomix’ and commercial illustration, influenced by the manga industry but standing away from it in a lot of ways).

    Oh, and to answer your question, Berserk does alright. It sold really strongly at the beginning, but 13 or 14 volumes in it’s leveled off to be a strong midlist title. Thanks for writing, Brian.

    Esara-

    Perhaps, sitting at home, petting her cats or delivering hot meals to the elderly, “Kethylia” is a kind, warm, generous gem of a person. But I don’t know that, all I have to go on is her writing and the personality she puts forth, so it follows that I can only comment on her writing and how she presents herself and her arguments, doesn’t it?

  16. Brian Nicholson says:

    Oh, I knew the breakdown by translation, I just don’t know what an example of a Josei manga would be, like how Naruto would be an example of Shonen, or what constitutes something being that. I get the idea that yaoi is its own subgenre, but is somehow related?

  17. Suke says:

    An example of “josei” manga would be “Tramps Like Us” by Yayoi Ogawa–mostly the romantic and job difficulties of a woman in her mid-to-late 20s. Yaoi is a term thrown around fast and loose in this country, encompassing anything that has to do with two men having a romantic or sexual relationship. “Yaoi” varies from the angsty emotional entanglements to the hard-and-fast-going-for-the-gusto sex dramas. Some people call “Banana Fish” (Akimi Yoshida) yaoi, but it has no sex between the two primaries, and no overt romantic relationship, though clearly there is some boundary-crossing love going on. The same with “Loveless” (Yun Kouga)–no sex, but the implication is there, with the added spice of one of the primaries being 12 years old. Yaoi could be related to josei, I suppose, because the intended audience is the same age and gender group, but that is reallythe end of the similarities. I get bored quickly with josei series, but a “yaoi” series (I like my graphic novels graphic, with lots of angst and bishonen)will carry me through many volumes. And I am markedly older than the target audience. My nine year old daughter, is a big fan of shonen series, “Naruto” being the current favorite, as well as the new Viz series “Dragon Drive.”

    Businesses (I am the manga buyer for a small independent bookstore) need the labels to figure out what they are going to buy, because, especially for small stores, funds are limited and you have to buy (primarily) what you know is going to sell. The manga section was dead in the water until I started carrying more Dark Horse, less TokyoPop, and lots and lots of dirty, dirty yaoi. Now it is thriving.

  18. Kristoffer says:

    Who decided what ages are appropriate for which manga? Do you graduate to ‘adult’ (seinen) manga once you reach a certain age?
    I just want to say that the demographics for manga range widely (I’m 21, and still love shonen, as well as seinen manga)…
    I don’t think anybody has yet done a poll or whatnot to figure out exactly which demographic/psychographic read what, but I would think that the results would be surprising as to who reads what.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>