Kouta Hirano got some exciting news this past week when the staff for the anime adaptation of his current manga, Drifters, was rolled out. Reading about that news reminded me of a list Hirano earned his place on with that series, and about someone else on that list we won’t be hearing as much about from now on.
Typically, even the manga that command the greatest degree of fame and attention take a while to actually get to that point. Takako Shimura spent years writing 18+ manga under multiple pen names before creating the internationally recognized Wandering Son. Shingeki no Kyojin didn’t even make the charts when its first volume came out. Even undisputed king of manga sales One Piece took over a decadein print to surpass Dragon Ball’s 156 million copy total and become #1, and in the last 6 years it’s added about 220 million to that total. A big part of success for most of the authors who have achieved recognition is due to diligence and working a lot over a long period.
Manga that do amass gigantic sales totals from the launch date of their first volume tend to fall into one of three categories. First, there are the licensed spinoffs, adaptations of Sword Art Online and Mahouka and such riding the wave of another author’s popularity, often as part of a larger media blitz. Second, you have the extensions of existing popular manga series that decided to change their titles, your Major 2nds and Baki Gaidens. Lastly, you have the bona-fide originals, series which ride a name and a compelling start to immediate large-scale success.
It’s this third category, the hardest one to break into, that most interests me. In practice, it breaks down into a list of authors with strong pre-established reputations doing other popular series and Jump newcomers, and it’s fun to look at in that “tough achievement to notch” kind of way.
Weekly Shonen Jump is Japan’s most successful manga magazine, something that’s been true, excluding a brief early-aughts blip, for upwards of 20 years. But the brand didn’t get there by some fluke – it earned notability by harnessing a number of talented artists in many eras; Go Nagai in the late 60s, Buichi Terasawa and Osamu Akimoto in the 70s, Hirohiko Araki, Masami Kurumada, and countless others in the 80s.
But that doesn’t mean the past 2 decades were free of uncertainty or bad luck for Shueisha. In actuality, in between the early-nineties peak where the magazine’s circulation topped 6 million copies and the modern era of Oda Eiichiro breaking his own volumes’ records on a regular basis, they experienced one of the biggest misfortunes that can befall a publishing empire: two franchise cornerstone series ending withing 13 months of each other.
One of the most fundamental issues I take with English-language discussion of anime is the degree to which many people simply ignore manga outright. From a demographic perspective, this makes sense; Japan spends roughly 5 billion dollars on manga every year, and in France, the annual income in dollars of the manga industry (~125 million) exceeds the number of people living in the country (~66 million), but the average United States citizen spends about 38 cents per year (120 million per year market, 318 million people) on manga while pirating or illegally streaming approximately 6 gazillion episodes of anime. Ok, I made that last figure up, but I did plug in the 2 sites that “free streaming anime episodes” pulled up for me on google into a web value calculator, and those sites, gogoanime and kissanime, have a combined estimated pageview total of 1.5 billion per year, and they’re hardly the only ones out there that do what they do.*
It’s worth noting that I’m not at all unbiased about this; manga is kind my favorite thing. And that’s why I fall into the devil’s advocate role when people try to build anime-centric narratives surrounding manga. One of the most common permutations of this phenomenon pops up when a manga series ends soon after an anime adaptation of it. I’ve seen it argued in different places that poor anime performances killed off C3-bu, Daily Lives of High School Boys, and Binbougami ga. The most oft-cited piece of evidence in these cases is the timing of the ending of the series; if the franchise became more popular, it wouldn’t make sense to end it in the middle of that boom. The issue with that line of reasoning, though, is that authors can and have quit on extremely popular series at multiple times in the past. Inoue Takehiko ended 100,000,000+ seller Slam Dunk in the middle of a major tournament, and Hiroyuki Takei ended Shaman King early for health reasons. At the very least, author burnout is an alternate hypothesis that needs to be addressed, either with additional evidence for the “cancelled” argument or a direct quote from the author. Since the latter is only available on a case-by-case basis, I’ll be taking a look at the first question; does a lack of a visible sales boost increase the odds that a manga will end a year or so after the anime adaptation?
This past year, viz media pulled off a first for the non-Japan manga industry. I’m referring to Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital “magazine” offering same-week release of the chapters of some 11 Weekly Shonen Jump manga. It’s pretty cool, and at 26$/year for 48 issues (and a buck per back issue), it’s not a totally unreasonable subscription fee. But that specific business model, one of same-week releases for official translations, is unfortunately not something that’s likely to be transferable to the majority of manga. Especially seinen and josei series with smaller fanbases. If you’ve ever wondered if the manga translation industry will catch up to where the anime industry is now with simulcasts, this article discusses the depressing reality of the situation and why such an outcome is relatively unlikely.
The Anime Industry is a lot more interconnected than one might guess at first blush. This manifests itself both in meaningful ways and in silly ones. This series of posts, where I link Yugioh 5Ds to every other anime Kevin Bacon-style, is most definitely the latter. This time, I’m shackling the three most notable currently airing anime to the laughable albatross.
If you know enough anime, it’s pretty easy to play Kevin Bacon and link things arbitrarily. Yugioh 5Ds may be notable only for the “Card Games on Motorcycles” meme, but it’s ridiculously easy to connect (via the creators) to the most notable anime of a different decade. If you’re that much of a geek, anyway.
I thought it’d be a fun little exercise to try and pull out as many mangaka names as I could without relying on references. This is that list, written on lockdown mode and complete with the reasons why I remember them.
I’m a tremendous fan of battle series that play with creative power systems. So I was ecstatic when, some 5 years ago now, a new fantasy adventure manga about a couple who needed to hold hands constantly or perish called Double Arts arrived on the scene. I was equally devastated when, half a year later, Weekly Shonen Jump’s ruthless management killed the series dead immediately after some of the best introductory chapters of manga I’d ever read. I was younger then and didn’t realize that there were thousands of amazing manga I’d never even be able to read in my lifetime, so I was all kinds of devastated.
This whole affair was my introduction to one Komi Naoshi, a multiclass genius of a manga author who handily survived Double Arts’ cancellation and is currently set to break the anime barrier with an adaptation of two-years-young Weekly Shonen Jump (hereafter WSJ) manga Nisekoi. He’s also one of the few personalities in manga or anime who gets exponentially cooler the more I read about him. If you don’t currently have the afternoon’s worth of time to check out his entire mangaography (something I wholly endorse), then you might as well read this column.
This post represents the third of three entries our blog is submitting this week to the Manga Olympics for Bloggers. Voting begins on June 16th, so just enjoy the article for now. Or checkoutourillustrious competition.
Manga in Japan can be hard to break into, and most manga take time to become big sellers. That is why it is always amazing when the first volumes of series do so well so quickly. In the past year, there have been many big starts with the biggest being:
Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui, the creator of Majin Tantei Nōgami Neuro, is the story of what happens when aliens invade – or, in this case, THE alien. Koro is an alien that can move at speeds of mach 20, is incredibly powerful, and destroys most of the moon during first contact. He says that he will destroy the earth in one year, but during that year he wants to teach a middle school class, so the kids of Kunugigaoka Middle School’s class 3-E become his pupils, and Koro-sensei teaches them the 4 Rs- Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmetic, and ‘Radication, for he is also teaching them how to kill him. But how easy is it to kill a genocidal alien when he is also the best teacher you have ever had? Continue reading →