The dominant presence of manga and anime-related exhibitors at this year’s New York Comic Con, held October 6-9 at the Javits Center, was a big change from the years before the pandemic. Upon entering New York Comic Con 2022, the overall impression was that manga, anime and Japanese pop culture are now overwhelmingly embraced by American fans and have claimed their place in North American popular culture
The largest booths at the entrance of the hall were for the Japanese game and toy company Bandai Namco, manga publisher Viz Media, collectible figures company Tamashii Nations, and gaming company Konami (showcasing Yu-Gi-Oh card games), along with a huge dragon from the popular Dragon Ball series hovering over the entrance. There were also large booths featuring gear from the Mobile Suit Gundam series, and featuring Studio Ghibli, the animation studio cofounded by the anime director Hayao Miyazaki. Crunchyroll, the anime streaming platform, had two large booths, and there were long lines to buy collectibles from the toy company Good Smile.
Huge banners in the lobby promoted Yen Press’ new Korean comics imprint Ize Press, alongside promotions for the popular manga/anime series Dragon Ball, Chainsaw Man, and One Piece. Cosplayers of all ages in costumes inspired by the Demon Slayer and Spy x Family manga series were as common as Marvel or DC Comics characters. Marvel Comics got in on the fun by cohosting signings with Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, the Japanese creators of Viz Media’s Ultraman manga, along with promoting upcoming releases of Ultraman cross-over stories with Marvel’s The Avengers.
A towering Monkey D. Luffy balloon (a character from the popular One Piece manga series) dominated the exhibition floor. And on Saturday night, Toei Animation took over half of the billboards in Times Square with animated promotions for One Piece Film: Red, the latest feature film in the popular Shonen Jump series about a globe-trotting pirate in a fantasy world. Tatsuki Fujimoto’s popular manga series Chainsaw Man (the story of a young man that can change parts of his body into a chainsaw) was also the subject of NYCC buzz, driven by the debut of the anime series on Crunchyroll and a second win for Chainsaw Man for Best Manga at the Harvey Awards.
The increased interest in manga and webtoons was also reflected in this year’s programming. Besides high-profile premieres of much-anticipated anime releases such as Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War, there were several panels on Thursday’s library programming track dedicated to manga, including “The Manga Industry and Your Library,” and “Defending Manga.” At the “Best and Worst Manga” panel, Jillian Rudes, a Japanese culture & manga collection development librarian (and founder of the MangaInLibraries.com website), answered questions from a room full of manga-curious library professionals and readers.
Only Viz Media and Yen Press announced new titles at the show. Highlights from Viz Media’s Summer 2023 releases include Soichi: Junji Ito Short Story Collection by the manga horror-master Junji Ito, Spider-Man: Fake Red by Yusuke Osawa (a Japanese teenager finds Spider-man’s suit and learns what it takes to be a hero) and The Way of the Househusband: The Gangster’s Guide to Housekeeping by Laurie Ulster and Victoria Rosenthal (a companion title to a manga series about a retired but fearsome yakuza that cooks and cleans for his wife). Yen Press announced a print edition of the office romance/K-drama hit TV series What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? by Gyeongyun Jeong and Myeongmi Kim, and a manga version of the animated slice-of-life romance Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop by Kyohei Ishiguro and Imo Oono.
The other notable trend at NYCC 2022 is the growth of webtoons, including comics content originally from Korea and China, and original comics created by a wave of international creators featured on such mobile comics platforms such as Webtoon, Tapas Media, Manta, Lezhin, and Tappytoon. Webtoon’s Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe, a popular on-going webcomic (and now bestselling graphic novel series) offering a modern take on the mythical lovers Persephone and Hades, took home the Harvey Award for Digital Book of the Year.
Wattpad Webtoon Studios showcased their new Webtoon Unscrolled imprint, dedicated to releases of print editions of some of Webtoon’s most popular webcomics, including the romance series True Beauty by Yaongyi (mastering make-up, a shy ugly duckling becomes glamorous and gets the boys). Webtoon Unscrolled is the latest entry in the growing webtoons-to-print category. The imprint plans to release 12 new series per year with distribution and sales support from Macmillan in the U.S. and Canada.
Meanwhile, Yen Press reported brisk sales of early release copies of new titles from Ize Press, a new imprint dedicated to print editions of Korean comics/webtoons. Among the releases are the action-horror series The World After the Fall (an apocalyptic epic), and the fantasy-romance Villains Are Destined to Die by Gwon Gyeoeul.
Adjacent to the Yen Press booth was the K-Comics booth, hosted by Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), a governmental agency that coordinates the promotion of the Korean content industry, including movies, music, games, and of course, comics. Publishers from Korea, including C&C Revolution, Toyou’s Dream, Ultra Media, WoowaBros, Jaedam, and MstoryHub, showcased series currently available in English on various webcomics platforms. KOCCA’s goal is to introduce more comics readers to popular webtoon series, and possibly find new ways to translate these stories into other entertainment mediums.
Cho Yeonhoon, global business PD for the webtoon publisher Toyou’s Dream, told PW that KOCCA’s publishers are looking to “expand the boundaries of our business. In Korea, we have movies and TV drama series based on webtoons. We know that we’ve got a long way to go in this market compared to Japanese manga and American comics, but we think Korean webtoons have a lot of unique features, and you can read it anywhere, anytime. The U.S. market is huge, and we’re looking to do more here in the future.”