According to new data from NPD BookScan, a data provider which tracks book sales in the United States, manga is outselling American comic books by insane margins. In fact, all of the Top 20 adult graphic novels sold in the first quarter of 2021 were manga with the vast majority being owned by Viz Media.
The gap between manga and American comics is rapidly shrinking, if not already eclipsed. There are multiple reasons for the increasing popularity of manga which I will get into in a moment, but first, let’s look at the numbers.
My Hero Academia comes out on top with Vol 27 of the manga being the best-selling graphic novel of the year’s first quarter. And Demon Slayer appears to be one of the most popular series with nine separate volumes appearing on that same chart and sold more than 100 million copies.
Demon Slayer alone dwarfs western comics. In 2019, the entire comics industry sold 15.5 million copies combined. That amounts to just 10% of sales for one manga series.
— Grant Addison (@jgrantaddison) January 7, 2021
Manga sales, across the board, have gone up considerably. Kurt Hassler, who is the publisher and managing director at Yen Press, said, “For the first quarter of 2021, we saw our sales functionally double, which is well beyond anything we were forecasting.”
Demand for manga and anime has been growing for years. In recent years, more and more streaming services have obtained anime series for their platforms, most notably Netflix, having a wide variety of originals like Knights of Sidonia and Beastars– to name a few.
What further propels the demand are anime tie-ins like the recent Demon Slayer movie that broke records. Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train made $21.1 million in its opening weekend in the United States and broke the record for the biggest debut of a foreign film.
Also, I say "somehow" like it's something I'm incredulous about.
Manga is able to do that because the barrier to entry is relatively low and the industry is actively courting fresh talent constantly. https://t.co/6OW0N9A8iO
— アヌビス | TE Anubis (@TEanubis) May 16, 2021
Anime adaptations tend to lag behind the manga, which is beneficial because if fans want to know what happens beyond the anime, it’s easy to pick up and read.
Contrary to American comics, manga typically has a linear story with one person or a small group that is consistent throughout. This low barrier of entry makes it easy for newcomers of the series to pick up and read; you just have to know where to start.
This is more anecdotal, but something I’ve seen a lot on social media is many people expressing dissatisfaction with western comics. People criticize American comics for repeating a lot of the same stories, being overly political, and having authors who complain and attack manga and its fans.
As someone who uses social media often and is a fan of manga and anime, I see these attacks all the time, with the latest one from Gerry Conway, co-creator of Power Girl, criticizing manga for containing sexism and misogyny.
It's not just incredibly popular with younger readers, manga is also outselling western comics in western comic markets, let alone in their own countries of origin.
Instead of losing sleep over what manga may be doing wrong, you should ask yourself what they're doing right. https://t.co/N1VLifRyLF
— 🟧Smug Orange Cube🟧 (@SmugCube) May 14, 2021
I may be biased here, but I just can’t help but feel that attacking readers and fans like this will not help you gain new readers or have them be on your side. There’s also the issue of big-name comics like Marvel creating characters and stories that appeal to no one.
Unless some critical changes are made, western comics are going to stay behind manga for good.