Confinement leads manga to a new boom

The manga lives a new boom. Or perhaps, given the data, a real explosion. Confinement has given all book sales a more than notable boost, but it has ridden the world of Japanese comics on a bullet train. The numbers are overwhelming and have made the manga surpass the veteran American superhero comic by a long way. And to many other bound creations, not just comics: Fnac has increased its sales of manga and anime by 184% since 2019 and they already account for almost 10% of total book sales in its stores.

And numerous sleeves slip every week into the ranking of best-selling books of Cegal, the Spanish Confederation of Guilds and Associations of Booksellers: this week the seventh best-selling book is a delivery of tokyo avengers (Rule). And last November the manga Haikyu!! (Comic Planet) hit the bell and became the best-selling book in all of Spain, above any novel. It is not surprising that in the heat of the boom new publishers appear, from small companies looking for specific niches to giants like Penguin Random House, which is going to launch the Manga District imprint with titles like Shikimori is not just a pretty face .

The manga ‘Haikyu!!’ became the best-selling book in all of Spain last November

But what makes it that more than three decades after the explosive success of the adventures of dragon ball , first broadcast as an anime series on TV3 and then, 30 years ago now, published as a manga by Planeta, the genre is not only still valid, but has exploded? Why is there a new golden age? Why do we like manga so much? The answers from the experts in the sector are multiple, but above all they go through two fundamental factors that have multiplied the number of otaku , fans of the world of manga, anime and Japanese culture. Factors that are the extension of the ages at which they arrive and… the arrival of the coronavirus and confinement, what some call coronaotakus .

The first phenomenon, that of the extension of ages, is that the manga world is the only one within comics that is currently managing to reach the younger and older generations at the same time thanks to its vigor and the fact that Spanish publishers offer a growing range of sleeves aimed at all groups. Oriol Estrada, exhibition coordinator at the Manga Barcelona fair and author of books such as 501 manga to read in Spanish (Norma), points out that “we live in a new golden age of manga.” “Titles like Haikyu!! and Tokyo Avengers are placed in the number one best-selling books. More and more book clubs and schools ask me to talk about manga. It is noted that a new, young audience has entered, but also that something that happened with the manga has been corrected, which was that it was losing an adult audience: it had very young readers who stopped reading it when they grew up. Now that doesn’t happen anymore. People like me keep reading it and others come back to it given the offer. The Japanese have been segmenting the market a lot for years, targeting content to a very specific audience and have thoroughly studied what works with adolescents and with a more mature audience. And that has ended up working here as well as the manga market has grown.”

The sum of the pandemic and the boost to anime on streaming platforms has triggered manga sales

Annabel Espada, manga editor at Norma Editorial, the second great protagonist in the sector after Planeta Cómic, who admits that they have had a couple of years of crazy sales, points out in this sense that “one of the strengths of manga is that there is something for everyone the types, at the beginning of the phenomenon we received the most oriented to the youth audience, with fast-paced action, adventures, but in Japan there is something for everyone. Gastronomy or sports sleeves, sleeves aimed at young mothers and office workers. It is not confined to a specific time of your life, mature, your interests and experiences change and you can find a suitable manga. And from dragon ball ,the Spanish market has matured, you don’t have to read one piece all life, although it is very good if you like it”, he says graphically.

Estrada exemplifies it with titles like Tokyo Girls (Comic Planet), “baptized as the sex in new york Japanese. He talks about single 33-year-old Japanese women and their love lives. It is read by my wife who has hardly read a manga in her life. And she is hooked.” And at the same time, emphasizes Estrada, “the young audience of manga has been renewing itself, something that superhero and European comics have not achieved: the superhero reader has an increasingly higher average age.”

The sector has managed to interest the new generations at the same time and launch successful comics among the most mature

The second factor that above all has driven the manga has not been an opening to more ages, but a confinement. “Much has been said about the coronaotakus , children from eight to 12 years old to whom confinement has made them discover anime, all day locked up at home. And from there they have been hooked on manga, on the books of those television series, a step that not everyone always took. And that is very noticeable. They wear and read manga at school. The weirdo in the class is no longer the one who reads manga, the weirdo is the one who doesn’t”, warns Estrada.

And David Hernando, editorial director of Planeta Cómic, the giant in the sector, which is now four decades old and who recognizes that they are experiencing madness – sales have doubled since confinement –, agrees with him: “The world of streaming platforms such as Netflix, which is making a big commitment to anime, added to the confinement, has given the youngest hours and hours to watch them and has been decisive for the current boom.

A boom, Hernando points out, “different from 2007, when there was a very important peak, because we came from successes like Naruto , and we overpublish, we release more volume than the increasing reader base. And in 2010, the peak was evaporated by the crisis and caused a debacle with publishers that closed and restructuring. Today, the situation is not comparable, there is a real new reading base”. When the boom settles, he assures, “the sector will be above where it was before it began to rise” for these Japanese comics that, he stresses, “have a narrative code that enters much more quickly” and whose designs, adds Estrada , “they are always renewing themselves, looking for new trends, things that work and look forward. Looking for a new audience and not the one you already have, like the world of superheroes does.”