2009 – Manga Sales Plunge Biggest Ever

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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…

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101 Comments

  • You can blame 60% on the dozens of manga reading sites online. 20% for manga that plain suck (stagnant creative period), and the final 10% for the shitastic economy the worlds stuck in ATM.

  • WTF do this people expect? The economy is lousy and people have a thousand things to spend there little money and time.
    Judging from the billions of money going in the sales of manga they are just fine.
    It’s stupid to expect to get record sales every time. I hate the fact that all companies expect every year to get bigger share and more profits and consider anything else as a failure.
    They are acting like those pop singers who make a huge hit and they think they can sell all there songs with the same numbers.

  • The problem is, most manga either becomes “INCREASING MY POWER LEVELS” or Moe, or harem.

    I read a one-shot that was actually pretty interesting, and a little out there but creative nonetheless.

    it gets published and the first issue comes out, it is a COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what the one-shot was about. It was turned into a harem with excessive fanservice, new characters introduced to make it that way and all.

    It was like “hrmm nice story and all, but hey, you know what would really sell? HAREM. turn it into a harem with carefully censored bits, it will sell like hot cakes”

    the problem is the publishers, not the lack of fresh blood. Fresh blood comes in with some interesting ideas, and the publishers tell them “no, make it this way.”

    It’s a lot like the US. “WE NEED NEW WRITERS” *new writers come in* “OKAY, THROW OUT ANY IDEAS YOU HAD AND MAKE THIS STOCK SCENARIO WORK.”

    They know if they push it enough, eventually people will just accept it.

    • yuk,yuk,yuk.

      the only manga store around me is in a books a million that takes 20 min to get to (if the roads are not closed from construction, if they are forget it >.<), and the selection is pretty small…

  • The thing is that there is too much manga. Just like here in the US there are too many comics. They used to be $1.25 or $1.50. Now they cost $3 or $4 dollars! That is crazy! They cost too much. Kids can’t buy comics anymore unless they get a big allowance every week. The manga books cost more ($7 to $10) so there is no way they buy those.

  • What they should do is hired cheap translator for their translation and sell it internationally at a reasonable price.

    Getting FMA international (English) cost $20 but there is a company that buys 1 copy, translate it and sells it for $10. This is probably how their sales plunge.

  • Consumers are becoming more selective than ever. Churning out rubbish work during the boom years might work. But during a recession, publishers have to cut back on non commercial titles!

  • I would expect the new Blueray player and cost of each disk for that plus those new dollfies they are all into now on top of figurines they were already getting has used up all their ‘free to spend’ money.

  • they should go digital, at last!

    affordable ebook readers suitable for manga consumption are available. colour is still an issue, but manga are mostly produced b&w anyway.

    as for monetarisation: the obvious model would be monthly/weekly subscriptions, but there’s much more potential there. publishers could offer individual manga, individual chapters, free sneak-peeks, live updated ads (provided the reader has internet connectivity), etc etc.

    the only thing i do not want to see is any kind of drm. i’m fine with watermarking, but drm is a big fucking screwup.
    the pricing must be reasonable, too, and regional restrictions are an absolute no-go.

    copyright infringement is a big issue, and readily available hq scans from the publisher might seem a bad idea. watermarking offers only limited protection, but so does drm… there’ll always be a genius breaking it.

    that being said, manga books should still be offered, but since most productions are done for mag release anyway, i see the biggest potential in that market slice.

    • I have to object to the e-book thing. So many fans have been reading manga for free on sites like mangafox for so long, that they’re simply TOO used to it. Why pay $10, plus tax, on a Silent Mobius tankobon when the whole series is scanlated for free online?

      I’m not against scanlations, because it used to be only for stuff that wasn’t licensed. There used to be an attitude of, “Hey, this is great, right? Let’s all remember to buy this if it ever comes to the U.S.!” A lot of people don’t even bother with that anymore. They just want their free stuff.

      The problem isn’t those of us who buy stuff. It’s just the leeches who justify NOT buying it.

    • Anonymous says:

      they should leave moe and all that fanservice to the fans themselves so the fans can make more doujins and sexy fanart like that hot image of nami from one piece(which am going to stare at and perform a certain physical activity asociated with the inflamation of the male sexual organ…alone)

  • So what?

    The shift is already being felt.

    K-On will collapse eventually.

    It is actually the only thing that is keeping the moe from dying.

    Bring back Kodomo no Omocha, Key-Works (Clannad, LB, etc), Manga with a good plotline!

    Just my 2 Cents.

    Cheers;
    Niker

  • So what?

    I hope that K-On! Finally shows the industry who really has the money here, the consumer.

    Moefication has already been too overdone.

    Where is the Kodomo no Omocha, Key-Works ( Clannad ) That we all know and love?

    We need to bring back manga/anime/VN to what it was before everything Effed up like now.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Cheers;
    Niker

  • Sounds like they are starting to turn into the american comic industry with the lack of creativity and poor business models that regurgitate the same things over and over in hopes of just keeping the market they have.

  • While no doubt the availability of easily pirated scans and possible economic hardship play a huge facotr in this, how much of this can be accounted for by the low birth rate in japan? Aren’t there simply fewer “Shounen” around to buy the magazines in the first place?

  • >their peak in the nineties

    To be fair, there were more awesome manga at that time, than there are now. Seems to me, someone forgot that a manga needs an actual story and great characters to be awesome.

    • You’re right. Actually, most manga today are just simply a copy of each other and lacks original ideas. That’s why people are bored and stopped buying.

      The last original ‘thing’ I see is Higashi no Eden/Eden of the East and it’s not even a manga!!

  • It really used to be a medium for artistic expression and exploration, but now it’s more generic and copied…

    Who wants a simulacrum? A copy which lacks the qualities and substance of the original?

  • And here I just bought all the Maho Sensei Negima volumes from the local bookstore. It obviously doesn’t count Canada.
    But why couldn’t they expect a decline? I mean, less children kept by their parents exist, and those Shonen-Jump type mangas only get bought by kids, so, naturally, wouldn’t it go down?

  • 1.) Declining Birthrates = A smaller consumer base. Before people point to One Piece and laugh, One Piece is such a long running series and has a wide spread of ages reading it that it’s not as effected by the declining birth rate.

    2.) Internet Scanlation / Illegal distribution. Rather than fight it, the industry should find a way to assimilate it with an updated business model. Sadly, it won’t happen.

    3.) Declining talent. No one wants to be a mangaka when it pays poorly, lacks stability, has an incredibly heavy work-load, terrible working conditions, and frequently involves little creative freedom or actual artistic expression. It’s about time the industry tried to introduce more incentives to actually bring in promising talent.

    4.) The business model. It’s mandatory your sell early and sell a lot. That pretty much kills the diversity of the stories you can create. Anything that might take time to develop is out of the question. They need to start basing their evaluation of works off of more than just sales and questionnaire returns. Rather than simplify, stupidify, and standardize their method of evaluation, they actually need to understand the author, their work, and their potential. Many promising serializations were canned for the wrong reasons.

    5.) Economic Recession / Stagnancy. Obviously, people will be less willing to spend money when they’re jobless or suddenly less optimistic about now and the future.

    • Regarding your point 2:

      You mean they should pay people to read it so that they won’t download it for free? Tell me more about this cunning business model you have in mind.
      (I think it was Ray Kurtzwiel who said that “Sooner or later, the value of anything that can be digitized will be zero.”)

      Other than that, good points.

    • After seeing the manga artists who are against it. . . and many not even big time Loli-artists themselves, I disagree. I also know that it seems quite popular to incorporate loli characters and while I myself do not care for it, I personally think it is not something that would help improve the sales or reduce any issues that have been associated with loli.

  • Holy overstated fucking obvious statements Batman!!

    Lets see, anime hasn't been around THAT long, and it's anime that has exposed non Japanese markets to manga. And anime has been in decline for all of the same reasons listed below.

    The internet believe it or not has not been an overly practical source for digital files piracy for that long either.

    Then there is the inevitable plateau that everything must in time face when you finally reach saturation point which comes to everyone's product.

    Oh and the world economy hasn't been rosy for everyone (even if the problems haven't meant squat to me).

    The manga industry needs to just get over it and live with the reality.
    The gravy train might not have left the station, but it can't run for ever either. Eventually it stops to refuel. Maybe in 5 years time conditions will change. Maybe.

  • I have been watching Anime since Gatchaman, Kimba, Ranma1/2, Mazinger Z, and while I starting reading manga later (mainly becuase their wasn’t what there was now then), I have noticed that creativity and originality has tailed off. Apart from a few marquee titles (very few)the majority of titles are poor or simply don’t appeal to my tastes.

    I still happen to have my “Blade of the Immortal” for the time being, but once that is gone, I may be done with Manga for good. I’m already done with Anime.

  • They need to take the old saying “Quality over quantity” to heart. You can only over saturate a market with so much crap before people just throw their arms up and stop buying altogether.

  • I have been into Anime since Gatchaman, Kimba, and Mazinger Z. I started reading manga later, but what plagues manga is the same thing that is plaguing anime-lack of freshness or creativity. Apart from occasional stand out titles, the majority of the stuff is all the same or ridiculous.

    I’ll stick to my “Blade of the Immortal”. After that I may just stop reading manga all together since it sucks for the most part.

  • Lack of new talent is definitely a problem, especially because a lot of good series seem to be ending soon. Most of the new manga from 2009 that I’ve read weren’t too good. Some were decent but I can’t think of any that could become good, long running series.

  • Lucifer has huge points. The manga industry of late has a series that's been going on for too long, losing too many fans in the process. We need someone of late Osamu-san's resemblance, someone who can start a Renaissance of manga…

    Unfortunately, if manga industry is like any business, this won't happen for good while

  • “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”

    I will have to agree on this, while you have popular series like One Piece and Bleach. One can get tired of it quickly. It saddens me also that there are some series that will never be picked up after being hiatus for so long, those are the ones that interest me.

    • I for one always read manga on the internet.Do you know why? Because I can’t read it any other way.No manga shops in my country.The only manga I own is berserk volume 14.So technically I am not the problem because nobody even tries bringing manga to me so I am not even considered a consumer.

    • i think there are just too many thing a consumer can spend their money on, tv, games, movies, music, sports, gamble, food, imported comics/movies/musics, etc.

      so entertainment methods is growing, yet the number of consumer isnt increasing, or in fact reduced(population drop).

      another big problem now is the artists(mangaka,writer,cg,anime) all getting paid too little, so little or nobody will be interested joining the industry.

      publisher should give more to the artists as well as focus more on growing/nurturing the artists too, instead of focusing on short term profit/plan.

      • The problem is not the number of consumers. The problem is that despite being offered a thousand ways of spending there money and time, most people get a basic salary that does not take in to account there need for entertainment, only there need for survival. So not enough money to spend in everything you might like.
        Also fun activities need time. And people have less ans less time instead of more. The 8 hour work is generally being violated everywhere and people even work on Saturdays and Sundays. And after that you have a tone of other things to take care of for you personal household and personal life so your fun time is very very limited.
        What happened to the dreams we had that robots will do all the job so we can have fun all day?
        It looks like as society and technology progresses we have less time instead of more. Cave men went for hunting once a week and then just relaxed in there caves. Now we work all fucking day, everyday. At least if they could make a robot to clean the damn house it would take of our hands an annoying responsibility.

      • Very shrewd observation. Famous manga editor at Kodansha, Kurihara-sensei, wrote a memo about this back in the year 2000 (!!) because he was watching kids on the subways texting on their cellphones instead of reading comics. More and more entertainment chasing the same dollar.