The month of May brought a volley of bad news for the manga industry—the shutdown of CMX, layoffs at Viz, and Go! Comi slipping beneath the waves for the last time. But some observers are finding reasons for optimism nonetheless.
Dark Horse director of new development Michael Martens told PWCW's Kai-Ming Cha that manga sales are up 13%, thanks to a mix of established adult series (Berserk, Gantz) and their new CLAMP ominbuses, and Ed Chavez of Vertical told Bookgasm's Rod Lott that his company saw an 18% increase in revenues last year, due in large part to strong sales of Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack.
Marten's comment was made at BEA, where Cha found plenty of manga publishers hawking their wares. The two big guys, Viz and Tokyopop, didn't have booths, but Viz CEO Hidemi Fukuhara was there to rub shoulders, Del Rey, Dark Horse, Yen Press, Japanime, and small-but-powerful Fanfare/Ponent Mon had reps at the show, and Fantagraphics was handing out galleys of their first Moto Hagio manga. And apparently, things were going on behind the scenes: Cha noted that BEA is mainly a trade show, so people were there to do business as much as to exhibit on the floor.
While larger publishers are having troubles, tiny Vertical is bringing over a number of fan-pleasers (Twin Spica, 7 Billion Needles, Peepo Choo,, Tezuka's Ayako) and one manga they hope will break out to a wider readership, Chi's Sweet Home. And Chavez notes that their best seller, Black Jack, has defied the usual law of diminishing returns:
Those laws affect every title, but BLACK JACK has now twice bucked that trend over the last 12 months. Last summer, BLACK JACK, already six volumes into its run, began to gain readers, with orders surpassing the two previous volumes. We are seeing the same trend for VOLUME 10, where orders are as high as they were around this time last year.
What's next? The BEA picture suggests that the remaining manga publishers are still in the game, and with Yen Press planning new announcements at San Diego (and Fantagraphics flying in Moto Hagio for the event), the industry could be finding its footing again. Stay tuned.