Sporadic Sequential
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Thirteen Upbeat Thoughts on Doom and Gloom

Random thoughts on the manga "doom and gloom" talk bubbling throughout the blogosphere:
  1. Yeah, I joke about the lousy taste of teenagers, and I wish everyone read what I read (or at least enough people to keep my favorite series from getting cancelled), but it doesn't really surprise me to learn that fans who were drawn into manga and/or anime fandom by a particular series or two might not stick around when the works that captured their imagination in a particular way ended or failed to hold their interest anymore. I doubt all of the rabid fans who simply couldn't get enough Harry Potter turned to other series to fill the void left in their lives by the end of that popular saga.

  2. I still haven't finished the Naruto Shadow Box, but I've enjoyed what I've read so far, and the series is the vision of a sole creator, so I can't really knock narrowly focused fans of Naruto the way I might grumble about fans who follow corporate superhero X (and only corporate superhero X) no matter who the creators or how lousy the quality. And Naruto is still running in Japan, so that anchor for the U.S. manga market will be around for a while, even if the overall market doesn't mature along with the original audience who started reading Naruto with volume one back in 2003.

  3. Shonen Jump is still around, and still doing well as far as I know (according to Wikipedia, SJ has a monthly circulation of 215,000), so Viz can always use that as a means of introducing new series to subscribers, as they have with Slam Dunk. And I know it's probably overly optimistic of me, but I like to think there's always the chance that someone will enjoy Slam Dunk and go on to seek out other manga by creator Takehiko Inoue. (Hey, it happened with me.)

  4. Shojo Beat, while not as popular as its sibling magazine, still has a respectable audience (38,000 a month, according to Wikipedia). Given that Viz has had success launching two manga anthologies, perhaps at some point they'll attempt auditioning additional anthologies aimed at audiences of advanced age. (Was that the most awkward attempt at alliteration ever or what?)

  5. As a former superhero comic addict, I'm used to low-selling series I loved get the ax. It'd be nice to think manga is immune from such market forces, but it's been evident for several years now that that's not the case.

  6. It's always disappointing when a favorite series gets cancelled midstream, but it's not really something I get upset about. After all, a publisher has no guarantee that I'll stick with a series just because I bought the first few volumes. If I don't feel like I'm getting what I want out of it (enjoyment, value), I'll drop the book mercilessly. So I guess it's only fair that a publisher can drop a book if they don't feel like they're getting what they want out of it (large enough audience, enough profit).

  7. Similarly, it's always an anxious time when a new series I want to do well launches. I want the series to succeed so I can keep reading it, but I have no idea how well it will sell and I have no control over its sales. And while it's always fun to play armchair marketer, in the end I realize that I have to leave it up to the companies that publish these works to promote them. That's not to say that companies always get their promotions right, but I still find it odd when I see fans complaining about how publisher X completely mis-marketed series Y and what they really should have done was marketing campaign Z with an unlimited budget of $$$$$$$$$$. Companies have limited time and money for marketing, and they generally tend to focus on those series that will return the most bang for buck, which means that this month's marketing budget will be used to give an already popular series like Naruto an additional advertising campaign somewhere while unknown but critically acclaimed books will languish with little to no promotion.

  8. Yes, I enjoy series aimed at older readers, but I also enjoy books written for a younger audience, especially now that I have kids. (If I can sit and watch the same episodes of Clifford and Curious George over and over again, I can appreciate manga for kids. Case in point: I think the new Cowa manga from Viz is a hoot.)

  9. I think David Welsh put it best: There's suddenly a large audience for mature American comics? Works aimed at older, more sophisticated audiences will always do smaller numbers than works targeted at the youth market. Just look at prose, movies, TV, etc. Entertainment aimed at the lowest common denominator is going to enjoy the highest sales and ratings. Manga publishers need time to figure out how to position more mature material so it finds its audience. (And it seems like publishers such as Vertical and Drawn & Quarterly are already having some success in this regard.)

  10. While manga is probably the primary source of my sequential art entertainment these days, I still read other types of comics, even if I neglect talking about them here. My favorite book from last year (something I never got around to blogging) was Drawn & Quarterly's Aya, and the year before that my pick was First Second's Klezmer. So even if manga isn't scratching my older reader's itch, I know there are plenty of other places I can look for comic book relief.

  11. I'm so behind in my comic book reading, the manga market could collapse today and I'd still have plenty of manga (and other comics) to keep me occupied for years. So I guess there is an up side to being so slow and lazy. Plus, I really shouldn't be spending my kids' college funds so much money on comics, so less comics tempting me to buy them could be a good thing, financially speaking.

  12. I'm not exactly sure what old arguments and counter-arguments Tom is referring to here, so it's hard to respond in any kind of precise, point-by-point way. I do wonder, though: Did manga advocates ever really deny that their were limited fans who were only interested in one or two particular series? I don't remember running across that particular argument before. And the refutation of that position would have seemed fairly obvious every couple weeks or so: Just look at the sales charts. Apparently there are people who are only buying Naruto and aren't interested in the wider variety of manga out there. (Which isn't the same as saying there really isn't any variety to manga at all; that's something I have taken issue with before.)

  13. The concern about the stagnancy of the manga market's maturation is a recurring one. This same issue seems to pop up every few months. I'm going to have to start preparing some new talking points in advance for the September and November iterations of this discussion.
So in conclusion, buy Vagabond, Real, Cat Eyed Boy, and any other manga that doesn't fit into the stereotypical shonen or shoujo categories. Go Team Manga! Whoo-hoo!!

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