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Manga is Making Headway in America

The Westleaf Staff

Manga in the United States has gained more visibility in the average bookstore over the years. In the early 2000’s Barnes and Noble had a single shelf with manga titles that weren’t very current. Today, there are entire sections devoted to manga, with multiple bookshelves. This has increased the sheer number of titles, there are hundreds of mainstream ones available, in addition to major publishers.

One of the driving forces of manga really taking off in the past ten years, is anime. In the past, customers had to order DVD disks from specialty resellers or occasionally Amazon. Now, there are a multitude of streaming services, such as Crunchyroll. It provides a legal way for people to watch anime the day after it hits Japan and has English subtitles. The company has just announced that it currently has five million subscribers and more than 120 million registered users. The streaming service announced in December that Sony’s Funimation Global Group will acquire Crunchyroll from AT&T. Sony reported that the purchase price is $1.175 billion, to be paid in cash. Netflix and Amazon have also doubled down on anime and even produce their own original content.

“Anime and online fan communities are always the biggest drivers of manga sales,” Kodansha USA Publishing VP of Sales Yae Sahashi said. “We believe there’s been renewed and excited interest in anime, with new audiences brought in with each new season. Anime is now easier to watch wherever and whenever via platforms like Netflix, Crunchyroll, and Funimation. Many of the anime premiering right now were delayed from 2020 into 2021 due to the pandemic, which may be partly why spring manga sales have surpassed holiday sales for the first time.” Sentar adds that “anime is driving much of this business, and it will continue to expand as countries—Japan and otherwise—tap into the hungry international market for adult animation.”

How are manga sales doing in the US? According to ICv2, the North American manga market was just under US$250 million in 2020. According to NPD BookScan, the manga buying spree continues in 2021. Sales of print manga titles in the U.S. increased by 3.6 million units in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. Manga is starting to take over the adult market too. NDP Bookscan’s top-selling Adult Graphic Novels list for April 2021 is dominated by manga, with the medium occupying every slot in the top 20. Even more impressively, 19 of the top 20 are titles from Viz Media. My Hero Academia Volume 27 takes the top spot, and previous volumes occupy two other slots on the list. The other big players are Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Chainsaw Man, holding nine slots, three slots, and two slots.

“Last year was our biggest year ever, despite the pandemic, and 2021 numbers are off the charts,” says Lianne Sentar, sales and marketing manager at Seven Seas Entertainment. “Based on what we’re seeing in these first few months, 2021 will be the biggest year yet—we’ve truly never seen numbers like these.”

Kurt Hassler, publisher and managing director at Yen Press, a joint manga and graphic novel venture between Hachette and Japanese publisher Kadokawa, also noticed the buying trends. “For the first quarter of 2021, we saw our sales functionally double, which is well beyond anything we were forecasting,” he says.


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