Despite growing exposure on TV, the sales and the number of releases of anime on DVD have declined steadily the last three years, while at the same time manga sales and title releases continue to grow, according to a report on the two categories delivered by ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp at the first annual ICv2 Anime and Manga conference. Organized by ICv2.com, a pop culture trade news Web site, the conference kicks off the first annual New York Anime Festival, organized by Reed Exhibitions (PW's sister company) scheduled for December 7-9 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Total U.S. manga sales in 2007 rose about 10%, to more than $220 million, and about 1,468 titles are estimated to have been released last year. Griepp also estimated that more than 1,700 manga titles will be released in 2008. In comparison, sales of anime on DVD have declined from more $500 million in 2003 to about $400 million in 2006 with more decline projected, while releases also declined from more than 600 titles last year to about 500 in 2007. Griepp described the situation in anime as "the best of times and the worst of times," blaming the decline on both the rise of illegal downloading and a consumer revolt against high prices.
While manga sales and releases are projected to continue growing, Griepp noted that there are questions around the category. In a market dominated by material for teens, particularly teen girls, can publishers introduce material for adults? And while Griepp noted that new manga publishers continue to enter the market, he also said that shelfspace is bookstores is not growing as fast as the increase in titles. "There's not enough space to support 1,700 titles. Some titles will get bookstore distribution and some won't," said Griepp.
The conference attracted about 125 attendees. Highlights from the day include the always provocative Al Kahn, CEO of 4Kids Entertainment , who complained that the Japanese anime and entertainment industry "was in the doldrums. Japan is over and [innovation] has moved to Korea." Kahn also announced that "manga is dead in Japan" and complained that Japanese publishers, "have too much power and don't care what consumers want," which prompted a rebuttal from Viz Media sr. v-p Liza Coppola and Yen Press's Rich Johnson.
Digital distribution of anime and manga and the accompanying impact of piracy was also a major focus on the conference. While illegal downloads of anime is considered a factor in declining DVD sales, digital piracy of manga—generally through translations posted online of manga not yet translated into English--was generally considered to boost interest and sales in the U.S. In the panel Technology and the Otaku, both Jeremy Ross, Tokyopop's director of new product development, and Viz v-p Daniel Marks,called enforcement, "ineffective," and "a game of whack-a-mole," and called for publishers to experiment with alternatives that make comics and anime available to consumers quickly and for a good price. And all the representatives on the panel (which also included DC Comics v-p John Nee) said they were taking a serious look at the Kindle, Amazon.com's new digital reading device, to determine its suitability for reading black and white comics material.