The Japanese manga industry has recorded the biggest slump in sales ever.
Industry figures for fiscal 2009 show a shocking 6.6% drop in sales on the previous year, to an admittedly still huge 418,700,000,000 yen ($4.6 billion).
Sales of manga magazines were particularly hard hit, plummeting 9.4% to a level not seen for years.
The drop is seen in the context of a long term decline in sales since their peak in the nineties, which it seems publishers have been powerless or too incompetent to arrest.
However, the reduction is far from evenly felt – Shueisha was only recently crowing about its record sales for the 57th volume of One Piece, at 1,691,000 copies the best selling yet.
A lack of fresh hits and a reserved attitude to buying on the part of consumers are thought to be key causes of the decline, along with changes in reading habits – manga cafes and other venues are thought to be contributing to a decline in sales.
Even mangaka themselves have at times decried the state of the industry – new blood is said to be hard to find. Publishers too are pursuing a business model essentially unchanged for many decades.
Could the fortunes of the manga industry, already locked in the throes of creative enervation and sapped by the economic malaise which grips Japan, get any worse?
With the onslaught of censors bent on stripping it of its creative liberties, it appears they could…