U.S. manga sales rose 29% to $110 million in 2016, according to ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp, who reported the continuing rebound of the category during his presentation at the ICv2 Insider Session conference on the first day of the New York Comic Con, held October 5-8 at the Javits Center.
Griepp credited the popularity of the Pokemon franchise, which is published by Viz Media, for giving the manga category a boost.
But according to NPD BookScan executive Kristen McLearn there’s more to it than Pokemon. In her presentation during the ICv2 session, McLean pointed to growth in several manga genres, including fantasy, horror, and romance. “I think there is something really significant going on with manga,” she said.
There was certainly plenty of manga and anime action at NYCC, including guest appearances by creators of two top-selling manga: Akira Himekawa, the two-woman team behind the Legend of Zelda manga (another series that has been propelling the most recent manga boom), and Hiro Mashima, the creator of Fairy Tail. Kodansha Comics, Viz Media, and Yen Press (as part of Hachette) all had booths on the exhibit floor, as did small publisher One Peace Books.
The phenomenal popularity of the anime Yuri!!! On Ice has not gone unnoticed—Filip Sablik of BOOM! Studios cited the property during the Diamond Retailers Breakfast. Boom! is pitching an original graphic novel, Fence by bestselling novelist C.S. Pacat and artist Johanna The Mad, designed to appeal to the same fanbase.
So it was big news when Kodansha announced that it has licensed Again!!, a manga series by Mitsuro Kubo, co-creator and character designer of Yuri!!! on Ice. Again!! is a time travel story about a young man and a former classmate, who go back in time to the first day of their lackluster high school years for a chance to do it all over—but better. Kodansha will also publish Tokyo Tarareba Girls (by Princess Jellyfish creator Akiko Higashimura) and Grand Blue Dreaming in print; both manga were previously digital-only.
Vertical Comics had a few licenses to announce as well: Pop Team Epic, a four-panel gag manga about two teenage girls, one tall and the other short; and The Delinquent Housewife, a family comedy about a high school student who shares a household with his sister-in-law, who is terrible at housework.
Viz Media, meanwhile, was playing to its strengths with announcements of two new Pokemon manga, Pokemon Sun Moon and Pokemon Horizon: Sun Moon, as well as a craft book, Pompom Pokemon. (Viz director of sales and marketing Kevin Hamric was also interviewed on the PW podcast, More to Come)
In addition, Viz announced at its panel that it will speed up releases of its popular series, My Hero Academia to one volume every other month until it catches up with the Japanese releases. The title is doing quite well for Viz, with three volumes in BookScan’s top 20 graphic novels for August—including the most recent volume in the top spot. In addition, Viz will release a Perfect Edition (a deluxe omnibus edition) of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys and two One Piece art books, One Piece Color Walk: East Blue to Skypiea and One Piece Color Walk: Water Seven to Paramount War, both in hardcover editions.
Fans are also anticipating the 2018 release of the first U.S. print volume of the RWBY manga, the print adaptation of the popular web anime series created by Shirow Miwa and Rooster Teeth Productions. The series has been published in Japan by Shueisha and available digitally in English in Viz’s Weekly Shonen Jump digital weekly. U.S. fans have been clamoring for a hardcopy edition of the manga.
According to Viz the free chapter of RWBY on Viz.com generated the largest traffic spike on the site. Vol. 1 of the RWBY English print manga will be released by Viz’s Sig imprint in January 2018.
Additional Reporting by Drucilla Shultz