Behind the glass, frozen on the covers, the faces of Son Goku, Eren and Izuku attract connoisseurs. The bell of the door rings. Slight disappointment. In the rays of the Lighthouse, the Japanese heroes of Dragon Ball (Glénat), The attack of the Titans (Long) et My Hero Academia (Ki-Oon, 2016) occupy only three shelves out of the dozen in this bookstore. But, discreet, a label reassures manga lovers: “Other books are in stock.” With a gesture towards a cupboard, Nicole, manager of the Parisian brand, sums up these recent months of growing demand: “Our reserve has exploded.”
All over the country, already near from pmondial hate in sales is the boom. In 2021, one in every two comics sold comes from the Japanese archipelago. Thanks to triple-digit growth (124%), the series sold more than 28 million copies between January and August 2021, against an impressive performance of classic comics at 20 million according to the GfK Institute. A record volume, already exceeding 2020 by 6 million.
Infographic: Pierre Kron
“We are in a golden age, rejoices Nicolas Ducos, sales director at Kana (house of the superpowered Naruto). The market has exploded again for three years, with exceptional increases recently. ” At home, as with their competitor Kazé, sales doubled over the first ten months of the year –123 and 115% respectively. “More and more booksellers are taking the opportunity to do work, and create a manga department”, notes the Syndicat de la librairie française.
Streaming, pandemic, Culture pass… The engines of this latest explosion ignited one after the other. And, this December 8, 2021, arrival in bookstore of the hundredth volume of the best-selling series in the world should give yet another boost by machine: One Piece (Glénat). Gold medal with 490 million copies since 1997, against silver for the Gauls of Asterix with 360 million.
The maturity of a market
Back to the 1990s. First breakthroughs: “Le Club Dorothée” on the small screen, followed by titles like Akira (Glénat) and Dragon Ball, for paper. When he arrived in France, manga sometimes rhymes with omerta. Images «awful and terrible» shock deputies like Ségolène Royal. For Nicolas Ducos, everything starts from a “Unbelievable mistake. We show children violent cartoons, intended for teenagers at least. ” The result: work and years are needed to wash this “Very negative image”, and allow a «prescription» to the youngest.
“When I started reading manga twenty years ago, it was a fad, remembers Alexandre Regreny, founder of independent editions Black Box. Now it’s part of a culture. ” On the younger side, “A first barrier has been lifted”, schematizes Nicolas Ducos. For 15-29 year olds, weighing nearly two thirds of the readership according to GfK, prescription by parents, relatives, or even librarians has been able to bear fruit. The proof: the indestructible “shônen” (manga for boys) still seduces three readers out of four according to the figures ofIPSOS/CNL.
A craze that wins over their elders. Jérôme Manceau, marketing director at Kazé and Crunchyroll, puts forward a hypothesis: today, far from the beginnings with little “seinen” (manga for young adults), “The offer makes the readership grow”. An assertion supported by the good results of Black Box, specializing in this genre: between 17 and 25% growth for four years. Alexandre Regreny interprets it simply: after three generations, “It is a market which is reaching maturity”.
Du binge watching au binge reading
«L’anime». In its conquest, the Japanese comic strip uses its televisual alter ego as a springboard. “A lot more people watch anime rather than read manga,” recognizes Jérôme Manceau. Almost a quarter of a century after the ram of the “Club Dorothée”, the succession is more than assured. Anime Digital Network, Crunchyroll… Then Netflix for the general public: services offering anime abound.
Matthieu Pinon, co-author of History (s) of modern manga, is not afraid to say it: My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer (2017, Panini), One Piece… “The majority of manga series are successful thanks to their animated version.” Exactly like the American comics, which “Also benefit, during the release of large Marvel or DC blockbusters, from an upturn in sales to the detriment of manga culture”, complete Fabien Tillon, author of Culture Manga. From binge watching, young readers switch to binge reading. “A bulimia of consumption”, smiles Alexandre Regreny, maintained by the rhythm of publication, almost bimonthly. Far from the Franco-Belgian series, once a year.
A title to illustrate this marketing force: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Delcourt). In 2007, Tonkam recovers the rights for France of this title born in the 1980s and which had started by making “A total path”, remembers Matthieu Pinon, only 1,400 copies in one year. However, in October 2020, the series exceeds the million sales. The explanation, according to the author? The 2012 TV adaptation. “When she arrived, especially on netflix, it was a revelation for a whole audience. ” And this powerful mechanism of derivative products also promotes longevity. Latest example: the first volumes of Naruto, trusting the head of sales in 2020, five years after the publication of its last chapter.
Infographic: Pierre Kron
Confinement, then “manga” pass
Cinemas, theaters, cafes … On March 17, 2020, the leisure card is drastically reduced by confinement. After a few months of adaptation, screens and books indirectly benefit from a monopoly. For the manga market, this is the jackpot: 29.5% growth in 2020, against a nice increase of 6.3% for comics in general, and 2.4% for literature. “For parents, buying manga appeared as a solution to occupy the children who were going more and more in circles”, interpreter Fabien Tillon.
In its 70 square meters, the “comic book special” bookstore with 40,000 Twitter followers replaces the spark at that time. His nickname: @librairesecache. “In eighteen months, my manga sales have doubled”, he says, impressed. With one word, among others, to explain it: Netflix. As the screen time intensified, including for almost 7 out of 10 children and teenagers, the “anime” effect was amplified. Nicolas Ducos affirms it: “All those hours of Japanimation have turned into manga sales.”
May 2021, last boost: the Culture pass. 300 euros are allocated to 18-year-olds, to be spent on «cultural proposals». “Greater purchasing power allocated to the current manga audience, translated Jérôme Manceau. Obviously, the market has widened. ” At the @librairesecache checkout, the pass represents 30% of Japanese comic book sales, compared to “0.0001% of its BD figure”. Six months and almost 800,000 young people later, the Culture pass has changed into a “manga pass”: the genre monopolizes the top 12 of the system according to Weekly Book, with a million volumes purchased.
The law of series?
Behind these few locomotives, the wagons are struggling to follow. In 2020, five licenses and four publishers grabbed the top ten places with tens of thousands of purchases: the historical One Piece, Dragon Ball Super, Naruto, and young people My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer. “It’s misleading when we talk about sales, emphasizes Alexandre Regreny. If we remove the figures of the leading series, the rest stagnates below 3,500 sales. “
The French manga would benefit “Explosions of niches, rather than that of a market in general, comments Fabien Tillon. It only takes a major series to stop for the figures to regress or even collapse, as has been the case several times since the 2000s. ” Two examples for him: the last volumes of Shaman King (Kana) et Fullmetal Alchemist (Kana) in the early 2010s.
A few volumes from the end of the adventure of the twenty-something giant One Piece (26 million copies in France), will the next generation bridge the gap to come? For the moment, the boost provided by the pandemic is slowly abating. The return (almost) to normal was predictable for the founder of Black Box, “but even if it fell back, it is more than what we did two years ago “. On the side of his colleagues from the shônen, a last doping product is emerging for 2022: extension of the Culture / “manga” pass from the age of 15.