Rich Johnson’s thoughtful post on the Manga Era of comics has drawn some equally thoughtful responses. Brigid Alverson found much to agree with, but also took issue with some of Johnson’s conclusions, including the importance of piracy:
The fact is, people don’t have to engage in illegal downloading any more. Manga pirate sites put up scanlations and scans of licensed manga in a handy format you can read in your browser. There are at least half a dozen sites like this, which you can readily find just by Googling the title of the manga you want to read, and there are at least five iPhone apps that pick up content from these pirate sites as well. And traffic to these sites is growing. While grownups like Rich and I don’t use them, teenagers, who love manga but have little spare cash and even less of a concept of intellectual property, are well aware of them. I think this is actually a huge reason why sales of shoujo manga have dropped, much more than the impact of Twilight.
Retailer Tim Stoltzfus also had some thoughts:
The only thing that he appears to be missing from my point of view is the “90% of everything is crap” theory. Manga was doing well, in part, because the best of the form was all that was coming out for a little while. Once you get past the top 10% or so, though, the quality diminishes quickly. Imagine if you took all the movies man has ever created and started releasing them in a country where movies didn’t exist until that day. Your good movies would be huge sellers, but eventually you would get to the mountains of movies like Biodome and Maid in Manhattan, and the sales will drop off a great deal.
Simon Jones feels that manga for grown-ups isn’t necessarily the answer
I am somewhat worried by more calls for adult manga in response to this bust cycle, however (ironic, I know). It’s not that I wouldn’t like to see more varieties of mature manga being published in the states, but I just don’t see any evidence the lack thereof was the cause behind the layoff at Viz or the various publisher closures, nor would adult manga have inoculated them from these industry contractions
Matt Blind points out that the boom may have ended, but manga publishing hasn’t:
The legacy of the anime boom is that several major publishers (slow turtles that they are) decided to get into the manga business, and so in 2010 we have not two but five major players in the manga market, and all but one (the first, the last, Dark Horse) are backed by major book pubs or have longstanding agreements with them. And a number of imprints (or new start-ups!) are just waiting for the economy to improve, and for the fans to start buying again.
As for my own thoughts — well, it was kind of painful to even type “rise and fall” in the title of this post. I do agree with Blind that the remaining manga publishers are in it for the long haul. And I, reluctantly, agree with Jones in that adult manga is never going to pick up the slack from Naruto. I think there is some conversion, but it’s not a huge percentage and I’m not sure that it ever will be, given the nature of the US market.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.