Friday, February 20, 2015

Q Attack, Round 8 - Is Manga Dead in the United States?
Tiger and Rabbit have always been connoisseurs of manga but with the loss of Tokyopop and shifting demands, the industry has changed drastically since Tiger and Rabbit first became fans. Our fuzzy friends discuss manga in general and answer the question, is manga dead in the United States?


Tiger: What are you reading, Rabbit?

Rabbit: ^looks up from book^ Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne by Tanemura Arina.

Tiger: Oh nice, I always liked Tanemura.

Rabbit: Isn’t it sad though that CMX is gone.

Tiger: It is. I was never able to finish Two Flowers for the Dragon by Kusakawa Nari.

Rabbit: Same with Tale of an Unknown Country by Kawase Natsuna. CMX dissolved before they released the final volume of that one too.

Tiger: Yeah, it was sad to see them go but Tokyopop was the one that affected us the most.

Rabbit: That one was rough. It’s great that they partnered with RightStuf to reprint some of their older manga but they were a major player when we first started buying manga. To have them as a shell of their former glory really sucks, I wish they’d come back.

Tiger: I do too but I’m not sure if there’s really a market for it anymore. I remember when we bought our first manga, Jing: King of Bandits by Kumakura Yuichi, at Borders-

Rabbit: Borders?!

Tiger: Yes, it was that long ago. Anyway, when we bought it at the now defunct bookstore, Borders, there were three aisles of manga. Last time we stopped into Barnes & Noble-

Rabbit: Which is also a dinostore.

Tiger: There was only half of a single aisle dedicated to manga.

Rabbit: Viz and Del Rey Manga are still around at least.

Tiger: Technically, Kodansha took over publishing Del Rey’s titles as well as its own manga.

Rabbit: I always think of Dokusensha when I hear that name. I want to pay with toilet paper!

Tiger: I think Dark Horse Manga is still around.

Rabbit: Did we ever purchase anything from them?

Tiger: Gate 7, the CLAMP title, but that’s it. We do have some of their manhwa titles though.

Rabbit: I know it seems like a lot of the titles we buy have been from Viz.

Tiger: Freaking Naruto.

Rabbit: Hey, don’t blame me for starting us down that path.

Tiger: I don’t even like the manga but I’m in too deep to quit now.

Rabbit: At least it’s almost over.

Tiger: That’s what I hate about Viz; they release series that go on forever, literally. I like it when a manga series lasts around seven to ten volumes. It’s sometimes okay to reach the upper twenties but when you start seeing fifties and sixties, it’s time to just give up.

Rabbit: I always thought that hurt the sale of manga, at least for us. When we knew that a series would last that long, we usually avoided it. At ten bucks a pop, cheaper if you buy online, it starts to add up quick.

Tiger: Exactly. We always buy from RightStuf which has a decent price and you can get an even greater savings with their sales and Got Anime? subscription but it’s still pretty pricey. I remember at one time, we had over 20 different ongoing series we were trying to keep up with. Now, we have six series we buy for and two are on hiatus.

Rabbit: It’s so easy to find fansubs online nowadays too. They aren’t the greatest but I know a lot of people who don’t even buy manga anymore and just read it online.

Tiger: You can get it digitally too. I still like owning physical copies but I have to admit, when I bought comics on the PSP, it was pretty rad.

Rabbit: You, liking a digital format over physical?! I’m shocked.

Tiger: Hey, buying digital has its perks. I love my physical media but times are changing and you gotta change with it.

Rabbit: You still refuse to redeem those UltraViolet codes.

Tiger: Because I think they are a pain in the butt, at least the Amazon Video ones are easier to manage. And I have started buying digital music over physical CDs.

Rabbit: The world is truly coming to an end when Tiger gives up physical media for digital.

Tiger: *sticks out tongue* We’re getting off topic here. We can save that for another discussion. Anyway, back to manga. I feel like enthusiasm for it has really died off, especially since Tokyopop shut down, or whatever they technically did. I’ve even moved away from the medium as well, it’s just hard to buy physical copies when you aren’t sure if you can even finish the series before they stop printing them.

Rabbit: Yeah, the last few anime conventions we’ve attended have really shown that too. Even there, you don’t see many vendors selling manga. I still think people enjoy reading manga, but with the prevalence of tablets and smartphones, it just makes more sense to buy them though Google Play or Kindle Store.

Tiger: I hate to say it but if I bought all my manga that way, it would definitely save shelf space for video games and anime.
Rabbit: Moment of truth time, do you think manga is dead in the United States?

Tiger: To some degree, yes I do, at least how we know it anyway. The industry has evolved into something totally different. While manga lives on digitally, physical manga hasn’t been the same since the early 2000s. We don’t seem to see much diversity coming over anymore either. Viz tends to stick to what it knows as do the others. Plus, we also have to contend with the fact that more amerimanga or western manga which really are just graphic novels stylized like manga. There’s even a blending of manga and traditional comics as well. The lines are becoming blurred to the point where you cannot always recognize what is what. Basically, I think that while manga will exist in some form stateside, the physical format of true Japanese manga is on life support and I don’t think it’s going to recover anytime soon. I can’t really speak on how it fairs in the digital realm but that too seems to be ever waning. I’m not sure why that is, maybe it’s because people are moving away from their love of Japanese things. I also think some of it has to do with the niche-ness of it all. We’ve noticed that quite a bit at the various anime conventions we attend. It seems for these companies to make money; they have to appeal to the people who buy into certain niches. They cater to these types of consumers at the expense of others, like me.

Rabbit: I can totally relate to the issue of manga being too niche or specific to certain tastes but I don’t think the medium as a whole is dead. Sure, it has changed quite a bit but like everything, you have to evolve with the times if you want to stay relevant. Being able to read manga online at a cheaper rate is a great way to change with the times. Sure, as bookstores go away, it makes it harder to find physical copies but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I mean, really, when was the last time you purchased a book from an actual store?

Tiger: Uh…

Rabbit: Exactly, we don’t have a hard time finding manga online. RightStuf carries a great selection, so does Amazon even though it’s a little harder to search through, but it’s out there. And there are still companies that are producing manga. I can’t believe you failed to mention Vertical’s hardcover releases of Gundam: The Origin.

Tiger: Oh geez! I can’t believe I forgot about that one.

Rabbit: Terrible Gundam fan you are. Anyway, that has sold like gangbusters and they’re almost 30 bucks a pop. There’s still a market for manga, it may be smaller and it may be different than it was 10 or 15 years ago, but it’s still there. I’m actually glad to see that more people are creating content as well. Granted, I’ve never found a western manga that I’ve liked but I do love manhwa. We mentioned Dark Horse but there’s also Yen Press and a few others that bring over great manhwa too. You could call that pretty niche as well but there’s still an audience for it. So no, manga is not dead in the USA, just different than it was before. I still wish I could finish Tale of an Unknown Country.

Tiger: Or Lagoon Engine!

Is Manga Dead in the United States?

Tiger     vs     Rabbit

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