Former DC vice president of sales and co-publisher at Yen Press, Rich Johnson, recently wrote at length on the subject of the manga decline over the past three years. In his article, he attempts to discuss just what caused the manga sector to spiral downward the way it did, where American comics and graphic novels still managed to hold their own.
Johnson believes the decline can’t be attributed solely to piracy or to the recession. He argues there was something else at play, that he likens to a “manga burnout.” Here’s an excerpt from his write-up:
A few years later when the shelves were buckling under the weight of all the books published, I would hear sales reps for manga complain that some titles were being bought in smaller quantities than they expected. Some titles were passed on altogether. Publishers were shocked at this and they thought the answer to this problem was more shelf space, always more shelf space. Titles weren’t passed on because of a lack of shelf space; some of the books just weren’t that good. And the consumers only have so much money they can spend any given month. Not exactly burnout, I just think the fan base may have been growing at a slower rate compared to the number of titles released.
Johnson goes on to write that manga in the west needs to grow up the way American comics did in order to retain their older audience. And that the manga for younger kids — such as Sailor Moon — needs to be re-purposed and re-introduced to the market for a new generation of readers. That it’s up to publishers to consciously begin licensing more grown up properties and aim for that one breakout hit that casts a spotlight over the genre as a whole.
It’s an interesting point of view, and one that I personally think holds merit. While the effects of scanlation certainly can’t be downplayed, there’s no denying that the medium is limited by its narrative in the west. Head over to the link above and give Rich’s piece a read.