The manga category continued its rebound at New York Comic con. Sales were brisk, droves of fans turned out to clamor over hit series Attack on Titan and classic properties like Sailor Moon; while Super star manga artist Takeshi Obata made his first trip to North America.
While manga and anime weren’t the main attractions, there were lots of things for manga and anime fans to see, do, and buy at New York Comic Con 2014. And boy, did they come out in force to buy manga.
More Readers, More New Manga for 2015
The good news for publishers is that after a few years of declining or flat manga sales things are looking up. Several publishers in the exhibit hall reported brisk sales, with many mentioning significant improvement over last year's show.
"The manga market in North America is healthier now than it was last year – even compared to the last three years," said Vertical / Vertical Comics Marketing Manager Ed Chavez. "I'm noticing a lot more manga license acquisitions, and more experimentation."
Almost every manga publisher at NYCC announced new titles for 2015, with a broad array of genres for almost every reader.
Yen Press announced nine new additions, including two manga adaptations of light novels (Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? by Fujino Omori and Kunieda, and A Certain Magical Index by Kazuma Kamachi and Chuya Kogino), and two new titles by fan fave artists (Alice in Murderland by Kaori Yuki, the goth manga creator of Godchild, and Prison School by Akira Hiramoto, creator of Me & the Devil Blues). There were lots of cheers for Yen's pick up of Emma, a Victorian romance by Kaoru Mori (A Bride's Story). Previously published by CMX Manga and now very out of print, this 10-volume series will return in 2015 as 2-in-1 hardcover omnibuses.
Also new and buzzworthy for 2015 is Awkward, an original graphic novel by Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon, Nightschool) about the budding friendship between two middle schoolers who have very different interests.
Kodansha Comics added four new titles, including two series with built-in fan appeal. Tsubasa: WoRLD CHRoNiCLE by CLAMP and FAIRY TAIL: Blue Mistral by Rui Watanabe, a shojo manga spinoff of Hiro Mashima's fantasy adventure series. They also added Inuyashiki, a 'mind-bending' sci-fi series by Hiroya Oku, the creator of GANTZ, and L♥DK, a romantic comedy/drama by Ayu Watanabe.
‘Attack on Titan’ Boosts Manga
One likely reason for this turnaround is the runaway success of Attack on Titan. Described by Random House Senior Director Dallas Middaugh as a "once in a decade hit," Hajime Isayama's tale of man-eating giants and the brave human warriors who fight them now has over 1.5 million copies in print in English. At NYCC, cosplayers in Survey Corps uniforms were almost as common as Batman and Spider-Man fans. They weren't just there for show – they were there to shop too.
At times, crowds were three-deep at the Kodansha Comics booth. Fans grabbed stacks of Attack on Titan, the mega-sized Attack on Titan Colossal Edition as well as the prequel series Attack on Titan: No Regrets and Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, and parody series Attack on Titan Junior High. By Sunday, the Attack on Titan: The Beginning box set was sold out, and the Attack on Titan Guidebook was nearly gone as well. Vertical also reported strong sales for the AoT light novel, Attack on Titan: Before the Fall.
There's more to come, including an Attack on Titan: The Spinoffs Collection box set from Kodansha, and two more Attack on Titan light novels from Vertical, Attack on Titan - Before the Fall: Kyklo and Attack on Titan: Harsh Mistress of the City.
How long can this AoT phenomenon last? No one really knows--but for now, Attack on Titan is riding a wave of popularity that shows no sign of waning.
GEN Manga Teams with Diamond
It wasn't just the "big boys" enjoying this rising tide. Robert McGuire, editor in chief at indie publisher GEN Manga observed, "Manga sales are definitely coming back. We are noticing that we're selling more at New York Comic-Con each year." McQuire said sales were great all weekend, noting that they arrived with 10 boxes of GEN titles and left Javits with only one.
GEN's titles are original series drawn by up-and-coming creators from Japan, so they don't get sales boosts from anime adaptations or exposure in manga magazines in Japan. What has helped is signing an exclusive distribution deal with Diamond Books Distribution. "Since we signed with Diamond last year, we've sold over twice as many books. We went from offering it online and hand-selling it at shows to getting international distribution. Diamond has a reach of 40,000 retailers, so that makes a huge difference for us."
‘All You Need Is Kill’ and ‘Sailor Moon.’
A few aisles over, fans queued around Viz Media booth, snapping up manga by NYCC special guest Takeshi Obata, including the early release of All You Need is Kill, a 2-in-1 omnibus collecting the entire sci-fi action tale by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. All You Need is Kill also inspired Edge of Tomorrow, the recent sci-fi flick starring Tom Cruise.
Obata, artist and co-creator of Death Note and Bakuman, made his first appearance at a North American comics show and was greeted enthusiastically by fans. Viz hosted two standing-room-only panels and sold-out signings at Books Kinokuniya and Barnes and Noble stores in Manhattan.
According to Viz Media PR and Events Manager Jane Lui, sales at Viz's NYCC shop were "amazing, almost non-stop." She added, "We didn't have a retail area for many years because we were focused on different priorities, but the fans are really coming out to support us."
Viz top sellers at NYCC included Princess Mononoke: The First Story by Hayao Miyazaki, Ranma ½ anime, and presales for the original Sailor Moon anime box sets. Viz also hosted a standing room only Sailor Moon panel, which had fans old and new swooning over the new English dub of this popular magical girl anime.
Speaking of cartoon nostalgia, Viz's kids comics imprint Perfect Square hosted a 30th anniversary panel for Voltron, a Saturday morning giant robot adventure cartoon, and offered a NYCC-exclusive edition of their Voltron tribute art book. Doraemon, the robot cat from the future was also on hand to promote the recent addition of this kid-fave anime series to Disney XD TV network.
Now that Naruto will wrap up before year's end—Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto is ending the wildly popular series after 15 years and 67 volumes—Shonen Jump and Viz Media will soon be without its perennial manga powerhouse. But judging from robust sales from a broad array of books at New York Comic Con and recent additions to their 2015 lineup like Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida (a supernatural horror series that's getting lots of buzz thanks to the anime on FUNimation.com), and So Cute It Hurts, a gender-bending shojo manga comedy, Viz and North American manga publishers in general, look like they're poised to keep fans coming back for more.