How the manga “Tokyo Revengers” became the surprise hit of the year

Ken Wakui’s manga, launched without fanfare in 2019, has established itself this year thanks to its animated adaptation. The author and his editor analyze the reasons for this sudden success.

Released in 2019 without making a splash, the manga Tokyo Revengers became one of the surprise hits of this year. The Adventures of Takemichi, sent back twelve years to save his former girlfriend from an attack by yakuza, fascinates French readers.

With more than 600,000 copies sold, sales have multiplied by 8 in the space of a year and some volumes have been sold out for several weeks. A consequence of the golden age that manga is currently going through on French territory and the broadcast of an animated adaptation on the Crunchyroll platform. The release on November 9 of the fifteenth volume should allow the series to increase its success.

Ken Wakui is the first to be surprised by this craze which goes beyond the borders of the Japanese archipelago, where the 24 volumes of the manga reached in September 2021 a total circulation of 40 million copies. “I was far from imagining that a manga on Japanese scum and bōsōzoku [les clans de motards et d’automobilistes juvéniles, NDLR] may appeal to foreign readers. What a surprise! ”Enthuses the mangaka in an interview conducted for the Kodansha USA YouTube channel and obtained by BFMTV.

“I did not expect such a success,” says Satoko Inaba, editor of the Glénat series. “It exceeds my expectations. I was following Tokyo Revengers every week with interest without daring to take the plunge, and it was in volumes 4 or 5, when it was rising in Japan that I decided to ask for the title, thinking that it could work and that it could be a very good shonen. “

Charismatic characters

First read by an audience in their forties nostalgic for furyo, delinquent manga, very popular in Japan thanks to titles like Racaille Blues, Tokyo Revengers saw its readership rejuvenate and then become feminized with the animated series.

“People who watch the anime then read the manga,” says Satoko Inaba. “Also, in the opinion of fans, the manga is much more fun to follow than the anime. But the anime is a bigger gateway to this universe. People who were not interested in the manga , because it was not published in the Shonen Jump, were able to be seduced and realize that it was not just a furyo. “

The success of Tokyo Revengers is also in part due to the covers, which feature the characters in iconic postures. “We feel that there is a graphic touch,” notes Satoko Inaba. “The manga is immediately noticed in bookstores.” One of the interests of Tokyo Revengers lies precisely in the charisma of its characters: Takemichi, of course, but also the mysterious Mikey, the impassive Draken, and the unpredictable Tetta Kisaki.

“The author of Tokyo Ghoul Sui Ishida said he was very impressed with the character design of Tokyo Revengers: no character has identical eyes! “, details Satoko Inaba.” It’s very different from other manga, where the authors tend to rely only on the hairstyle to differentiate their characters.

The cover of the fifteenth volume of "Tokyo Revengers"
The cover of the fifteenth volume of “Tokyo Revengers” © Glénat

“I first decide the appearance of the characters, without fixing the personalities too much”, continues Ken Wakui. “It is in the course of history that these evolve.” He loves them all and identifies with them all, even the most psychopathic, like Tetta Kisaki, Takemichi’s main rival: “It’s impossible to choose!”

Emotional shocks

Tokyo Revengers has also seduced a large audience thanks to its relentless scenario mechanics which allows time travel to be revisited in an ingenious and unprecedented way. Several outstanding volumes – the fourth, eighth and twelfth – thus marked the spirits and contributed to reinforce the success of Tokyo Revengers. “These are the volumes with returns to the present,” Satoko Inaba analyzes.

“Takemichi believes he has succeeded in his mission and then very powerful events will take place that will jeopardize the life of one of the characters – whether he manages to save it or not. There is always an emotionally very strong moment, where he is going to discover a new, even darker version of his present. He discovers that what he did had no effect. This emotional shock is very strong. Great stories, they are everywhere, but emotional elevators too strong is rare. This is what makes readers addicted to the series. “

This is the feeling that Ken Wakui wanted to create with Tokyo Revengers: “We wanted a universal story that speaks to any reader, not just scum.” One of the strengths of the series is also to play on the nascent nostalgia for the 2000s. The action takes place twelve years in the past, in 2005. An era not chosen at random, reveals Ken Wakui:

The characters of the manga "Tokyo Revengers"
Les personnages du manga “Tokyo Revengers” © TOKYO REVENGERS © KEN WAKUI / KODANSHA LTD.

“The scum style changes over time. I didn’t know what the 2017 ones looked like when the show was going to start, so I got the idea to go back in time to the time that was more to me. familiar. I chose the year 2005 because one of the editors was in 4th grade at the time, the same age as the hero Takemichi. It was handy to check out what was going on at the time. “

“The end should be bloody”

It is also a pivotal time for these budding thugs. The code of honor that governed yakuza stories in the sixties or seventies is gradually disappearing. Japan is ten volumes ahead of France. The story will get darker and darker. New allies and new antagonists will land.

The characters will also say goodbye to the innocence of youth. The series will become more realistic as the heroes approach or grow into adulthood. “The more we advance in the series, the more he approaches the world of crime and it is not so pleasant”, summarizes Satoko Inaba. The end should be bloody, but it’s not for now. Ken Wakui already has it in mind: “I’ve known for a long time how this will end, but I won’t say it!”