“Why Manga Doesn’t Sell Overseas”


The head of Square Enix’s anime and manga publishing arm, 田口浩司 / Kouji Taguchi, responsible for producing such anime as Saki and Full Metal Alchemist, has given what he sees as the reasons why manga sales in the US are still dwarfed by Japanese sales.

Speaking in an interview given at the recent “CoFesta” (Japan International Contents Festival), he had this to say:

The best sellers in the US were Full Metal Alchemist and Naruto, but these only sold a tenth to a twentieth of what they sold in Japan.

I think the main reasons are as follows:

1. Fewer copies are printed and those that are get sold at a much higher price, from $8.99 to $12.99.

2. Children don’t get as much money, their allowances are just smaller.

3. The other reason is location. If you live in Tokyo there will be 3 bookshops nearby, which you can easily cycle to. In the US there aren’t any, they can only buy on a weekly trip to the mall. Even if anime is highly popular, they just don’t visit the stores to buy manga often.

It is interesting that he would (quite sensibly) cite pricing and distribution as the key factors holding down sales, rather than focus on the supposed tastes of Japanese audiences versus international ones.

The success of franchises such as Pokémon in the US seems to demonstrate mass market acceptance is more a question of marketing than of content issues, and presumably the same generalisations hold true of the other major markets.

He mentions digital distribution may be the way forward:

Publishers such as Shueisha, Kodansha, Shogakukan and Kadokawa are setting up a digital platform on the PSP for distributing manga.

In Japan the prices are cheap and there are many stores, so I don’t think it will catch on.

But in the US, the prices will be reasonable and there are no stores, so I think maybe customers will like it.

Similar schemes exist for the iPhone/iPod, but Apple’s notoriously restrictive content censorship and the lack of involvement from Japanese publishers probably make this platform less appealing.

He also mentions that overseas phones simply do not yet have the features to properly handle manga; in Japan this form of distribution has been growing rapidly.

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    Comment by Anonymous
    10:52 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Manga does well in Japan because it's cheap and because they love the serial format. Comics are also a big deal in Japan as they make up a huge portion of the publishing industry. In the US, it's expensive and it can't compete even with the American comic industry in America, which, except for crappy movies, has become completely irrelevant in it's own country. I don't really see American success as a priority for the manga world or even an admirable goal. The last thing we need is for the words "comic book code" ever to be uttered in Japan. Want the real manga experience? Learn Japanese.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:37 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Want to keep manga all for your greedy little self? Don't want anyone else playing in your own personal pond because you won't feel special anymore? How appallingly self-centered and selfish. My 10 year-old niece is supposed to learn Japanese so she can read Saint Seiya? Think of somebody other than yourself for a change.
    And the idea of a comic book code being enacted in Japan because of foreign sales is hysterically funny.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:31 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well, the "loliban" movement us pretty much the first step towards a "comic book code" in Japan.

    Avatar of mi
    Comment by mi
    11:03 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    good thing that they did not touch the piracy problem

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:27 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Why do Western comics sell? They're available in the news agent... Do that dammit!

    And the content of one volume of manga is heaps more then one issue of comic.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:07 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'd be happy if publishers picked up more mature themed manga like Monster or other such more adult themed manga.

    The shelves are caked with shonen/shoujo, but there's so much more out there...

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:28 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I used to work for Viz, and I can't believe no one on this thread has pointed out the #1 reason manga cost more in America than they do it Japan.
    In Japan, publishers get 60% of the cover price of each copy sold.
    In America, publishers get only 40% of the cover price of each copy sold.
    Faced with that brutal difference, costs of printing, shipping, production all play a much bigger role in making a profit and necessarily require a comparatively higher cover price.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:57 28/12/2015 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's a good thing digital publishing basically makes publishers themselves unnecessary.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:42 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I thought you were full of shit but i looked on google and its true. Its amazing they can publish them in amaerica at all. They get more money in asia.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:41 13/02/2015 # ! Neutral (0)

    it could be that Americans are illiterate and ignorant to the point where i don't even think they can read.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:37 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I sometimes wonder if these so called loli lovers are actually fan of petanko more so then loli.

    Just so you know.. you guys *DO* actually understand the difference, no?

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:06 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Simple, Americans don't read.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:37 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Which is why Amazon.com failed shortly after it was started.
    Oh, wait....

    Avatar of Riiku
    Comment by Riiku
    13:32 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    He forgot one more important point:

    4) Americans are fucktards

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:23 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    That must be why we're richer and more powerful than you (regardless of where you're from). Suck it, loser.

    Avatar of Hunger
    Comment by Hunger
    13:05 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    MASS MARKETING PLEASE!! so that japan will finally look around Southeast asia and notice that there are still people they could sell their stuff to =_=

    Avatar of tB
    Comment by tB
    07:28 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Prices in the states and otherwise are really out of control. They seem to be increasing the prices every time a new season comes out.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:35 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Maybe if the US politicians would quit their 40-year record of screwing the value of the dollar up the ass we'd see it inflate a little less.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:37 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    9 to 13$ ? it's 5 to 8€ in france, cheaper, but not a lot at the current rate change
    but i don't think we got better allowance ^^
    and there japanime shops on the center, so it's not hard to buy some... and i see sometime naruto and other at the supermarket...
    perhaps a reason of why we are the first foreign country buying mangas...
    (i was surprised when i heard that some month ago, as i thank it was the US...)

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:44 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Europe is actually a very good market for manga, as just the pair of France and Germany together tend to gross more money from it than the US/Canada combi. Maybe it's because Europe has been digesting mangas regularly since the 70's?

    Though after reading many of these comments, the price discrepancy may be having something to do with it.

    I do wonder how the market in Australia is, though.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:09 28/12/2015 # ! Neutral (0)

    be glad its just 5-8€...

    in Norway the prices just went up this year from a 79-109,- NOK (8 to 11,5€) per pocket to an 99->149 (10,5 -> 15,5€) for the standard volume pockets like Naruto, Fairy Tail etc (and thicker series like Ubel Blatt is soon to pass 300,-... jupp 32€)

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:05 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    We have Marvel and D.C. already.

    Avatar of Smiling Jack
    Comment by Smiling Jack
    09:27 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Except Marvel and D.C. only know how to recycle decades old characters similar to Nintendo with Mario and the Zelda games.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:43 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    He hit the nail on the head. Manga is WAY too expensive. Keeping up with a series like Bleach or Inu Yasha will set you back several hundreds of dollars. Hell, you could buy every next gen system instead. Add to that, you must make specialty runs to the mall or a book store to find only a fraction of the available manga, and buying manga becomes a chor. Plus, there are wonderful web sites like manga hut, where you can read pretty much any manga, as it is released in Japan, for FREE!!! So, why would I bleed myself dry? I use to spend like a fiend on manga, anime, and movies. Now, I do it all online for free, or close to it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:04 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Glad to know you get a thrill by fucking over the creators who make the anime and manga you enjoy.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:13 28/12/2015 # ! Neutral (0)

    You got that wrong. The publishers are fucking the creators. He's fucking the publishers.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:31 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Manga doesn't sell because all the tightarse asians stand in the aisle and READ THE WHOLE FUCKING THING instead of buying it. CHEAPASS CUNTS BUY THE FUCKING BOOK.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:39 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    True, dat. Cheapass anybody, really.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:39 13/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I think I am going to get myself a sony E-Book reader anway, if they to start with DD, I'd be the happiest Otaku ever.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:37 13/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Futinari!!! FTW!

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:35 13/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Please this is totally unrealistic.

    1 - We have a lot of discrimination against comics and manga, that are just for children, only geeks read and a lot of stuffs.

    2 - Culture: Americans don't read

    34% of literate americans read newspapers against 85% of the japanese.

    61% of literate americans read books for entertainment agains 100% of the japanese literate.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:22 08/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    buy.com is a really good place to get manga for cheap prices

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:50 13/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Reading manga on the computer isn't the same thing as reading it in print, so when a series I download gets released I do make an effort to pick up the real copy. If I start in on a series and like it I'll go buy the real copy if it's available. Anymore when I download I tend to focus on stuff that will probably never get released in the US, like say Franken Fran.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:13 28/12/2015 # ! Neutral (0)

    True, reading on a huge flat screen is way more enjoyable than reading in a small book.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:55 12/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    he forgot the main reason - internet why buy when you can read it for free.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:09 13/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Tits bigger than you Face = Gross

    Avatar of drunkspiderman667
    Comment by drunkspiderman667
    04:49 10/12/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    americans dont read comics later on in there lives.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:46 10/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    There's a really important reason they've missed: a lot of people in Western countries seem to think comics and cartoons are for little kids.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:38 16/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    My thoughts exactly. The percentage of people that read manga in Japan is much higher than the percentage of people in the USA that read not just manga but comics as well. Thanks to the USA government in the 60's creating the Comics Code Authority it left the USA's comics industry gutted from it's former glory, now all that's left is a shadow of it's former self. Be aware this could now happen to Japan because of this Youth bill, the fact that so many manga fans here in the USA read online doesn't help things either. Comics and manga companies are hoping to sell their stuff, and if it's not making the money they will just stop printing it.
    Granted the opening reasons are a part of the factor why manga doesn't sell as well in the USA.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:32 09/04/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    I read the english translation of the manga in my country, Malaysia. The localized version sucked and are heavily censored even if they're cheap about RM4-Rm7.50 (USD1.30-USD2.50).
    (I recall a scene in the Dragonball manga where they added a black bra for Bulma).

    The really good English translated one is about RM30+ (USD10) whcih is pretty steep for most people. Plus these books are sold at specialist bookstores which are found in the capital as far as I know.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:02 09/04/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    yeah, One Piece volume 60 translation is bad , very bad.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:52 23/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    I live in Florida, United States. I lived in Japan from 1990 - 1994. I loved Japan alot, though I was oo young to notice all the characters / cartoons there. I was more into that badass food known as sushi! - Anyway... As I got older I started looking into manga / anime... Ironically I was turned off by it. But when I was 17 I saw a VHS series alled La Blue Girl. Hit 18 bought the DVD set for all 6 episodes for like 120 bucks. I cut lawns to make money.
    After seeing hentai / I totally started looking into other things. Suffice to say. As of Yesterday... I now own 120 hentai DVD's ( Uncensored Only - can't find the censored ones here nor have away to get a region free DVD player / I own about 2 book selves of manga / hentai and other. I have about All volumes of Dragon Ball / Bleach / Witch Blade / Rin / etc etc... I just wish all I buy would show these companies especially the hentai ones there are fans overseas like me who do buy hentai. And none hentai like.
    I hate censorship just as much as the next person reguardless of country. The problem is priacy. Morons in the US who say its A-Ok to show people being killed on TV / and blood gore all over the place. But god forbid, we see some cartoon monsters having sex with a none living character... Sigh. I'm powerless in the end I guess. I buy my stuff, I have "VERY" few things 'free'. I believe if you love it, you buy it. Pixy-soft title: As known in English to me "Anti-Demon ninjas" - I wanted to see the whole series, uncensored of course.. But If I buy it, it has to be uncensored. I just can't get past the pixels.
    I understand it. But, if only peple in Japan and elsewhere could have it removed... Thus no more fears of reverse importing... And for people like me I could buy easier without fear of censorship / and the need to buy a region free dvd player which is damn above my budget.

    Avatar of casiopao
    Comment by casiopao
    00:36 06/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Huh not selling??? Is that the fact that happens on your countries guys?

    On my country one manga is only around 1 to 1.5 US dollar so almost all people just buy manga everytime they like the manga.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:27 28/06/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    These are my reasons for not buying more:

    Selection: I have only 2 places to buy manga within a reasonable driving distance (25 minutes, one way). Books-A-Million and Waldenbooks. I do all my shopping at Waldenbooks because of the second reason on my list...

    Price: Waldenbooks is the only place nearby that has good coupons. I won't spend $8.99-$14.99 on a single volume of manga. Borders (Waldenbooks parent company) comes out with good coupons. Usually between 30-40% off of a single item. The problem goes back to the previous reason. Waldenbooks has a crappy selection. Sometimes they only get 1 or 2 copies of a new volume in. Sometimes they don't even have new books on the shelf on the release date. I'm STILL waiting for them to have the Ultimate Edition of Fruits Basket #4 - the hardcover ones. It was supposed to have been released over a year ago.

    Publisher Reliability: There's no guarantee a US publisher will finish releasing a series if the sales aren't good. If they don't, my only recourse is scanlations. Foxy Lady #2 is being released at the end of June. Volume #1 was released over 18 months ago.

    Publishing Time: With scanlators, I can sometimes read a manga weeks after it's been released in Japan. It could take YEARS for it to show up "legally" in the US.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:47 19/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Eurofag here. The price definitly is my main gripe with manga sold around here. €6.50-€10.00 for one volume is just too damn expensive. Add in the fact that releases are extremely slow, while the quality is not even much better than that of a good fan translation, and you can see why few people buy manga here.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:41 28/06/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The real reason is that the american publishers censor the manga and also you cant find a lot of titles in US. So who is guilty? the publishers

    Avatar of Kitsunemimi6
    Comment by Kitsunemimi6
    17:06 15/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah, I can't even get to a store that actually sells Manga pretty much at all...

    Wal-Mart & Target just aren't cutting it...

    Comment by Anonymous

    Biggest reason of course is that people don't want to spend their money on crap.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:17 12/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    You don't have enough money lol
    Poor whites lol
    Stay away from Japanese culture, fucking criminals.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:51 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    more like naruto doesn't have guns.
    and fma doesn't have nascar.
    and bleach doesn't have jesus.
    and one piece doesn't have ninjas.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:39 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Bleach indeed haves an other world without Jesus. What a heresy!

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:03 11/10/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Jessus...you mean..aizen isn't...?
    oh crap! o_o

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