Maybe you’re familiar with the term manga. If not, pull up a chair as I explain what it is. Manga are Japanese comic books. In essence, that’s it. You can hop out of the chair now.
What most people don’t realize is that manga in the U.S. are collections of serialized stories usually published weekly in Japan, accounting for the largest circulated readership in Japan after newspapers. And these comics span just about every genre you can imagine: romance, aliens, horror, sports, magic, humor, space travel and nonfiction. Manga is possibly the major form for written storytelling in Japan. Weekly serialized compilations sell millions of copies and are read by people of all ages.
Around 10 years ago, during the height of manga, if you happened to wander into a local bookstore with a section for them, you would see kids strewn around the floor reading stacks of these comics. The areas housing these books often represented the largest department in the store. Now, manga represents no more than a few shelves and no longer draws the rabid fans it once did.
Why the drop? First, the financial commitment to inventory; the enormous volume of manga books borders on the absurd. Popular series can encompass as many as 70 to 100 volumes, not to mention they were producing upward of 40 titles or more a month. It is difficult to justify the often immense costs to inventory a full range of manga.
Second, importers became so enamored with the potential income derived from manga that they demanded nearly everything published as manga. They rushed to cut deals to import every manga comic available, and even hired slews of artists to create their own versions. A basic tenet of comic books — and other mediums as well, of course — is that there are easily as many bad ones as good ones. So, just because a manga was made didn’t necessarily mean it was good or would sell. As the American public became more discerning, eschewing these less popular or poorly made manga, overall sales plummeted.
And third, as the internet grew, manga became even more available as new avenues opened to access favorite titles, often before they could even be printed for U.S. consumption. This added to a drop in sales in brick-and-mortar stores and played a part in the implosion of the industry that shuttered many book stores.
Over the past several years, though, manga has experienced a bit of a renaissance. With sellers selectively importing only new popular comics and focusing on historically popular titles, manga has gotten back on its feet and has stumbled back onto bookshelves.
Here is a list of the more popular recent manga titles: “Attack on Titan,” “Assassination Classroom,” “One Punch Man” and “Tokyo Ghoul.” Some of the classics include “Akira,” “Death Note,” “Dragon Ball Z,” “Lone Wolf and Cub,” “Sailor Moon” and “Uzumaki.”