Over the past four years, manga has established itself as one of the most popular categories of books in North America. Spurred by the success of anime streaming on services such as Crunchyroll and Hulu, manga sales in the U.S. have quadrupled since 2020. According to a recent report from the Beat based on BookScan data, of the 44.7 million graphic novels sold in 2023, “nearly 21.8 million were manga (almost 49%).”

While the rapid rise in sales that began in 2020 has tapered off, unit sales for the first nine months of 2023 remained 351% higher than those from the same period in 2019, per a presentation at ComicsPRO by Kristen McLean, executive director at Circana Bookscan. And though manga has been through a few booms and busts in the past 40 years, recent sales trends, according to McLean, “accomplished a whole new market for manga in the U.S.”

Such robust sales have encouraged large and small companies—whether established trade publishers forming new imprints or indie micropublishers—to enter the category. Also notable is the rise of comics from other parts of Asia and comics by global creators aimed at manga readers. Innovations are also emerging in how some series are created and marketed, with English-language readers as a primary target audience.

Manga beyond Japan

In the past, a vocal subset of fans insisted that “real” manga needed to originate from Japan. But today’s manga readers are increasingly omnivorous, consuming manga, webtoons, and light novels originally published in Japan along with comics from South Korea, China, and elsewhere.

Manga’s popularity has paved the way for more webcomics from South Korea to transition from digital products read on mobile devices to print editions. Ize Press, the Korean comics–focused imprint of Yen Press, is leading the way with a mix of action, fantasy, and romance stories from the Manta, Tapas Media, and Webtoon apps. Other publishers with forthcoming Korean comics in English in 2024 include Drawn & Quarterly with Dog Days by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, Ablaze with The Awl by Gyu-seok Choi, Seven Seas Entertainment with Reborn Rich by JP and BG, and TokyoPop with Maron the Magic Ocean by Mimi.

Publishers focused on Chinese comics include Paradise Systems and Aloha Comics, along with Media-Do, which recently debuted Three Seconds After Our Eyes Met, one of a quartet of new titles from Taiwan Creative Contents Agency, a nonprofit that supports the development and distribution of Taiwanese comics overseas. Seven Seas, which boasts a growing line of danmei (boys’-love novels and comics from China), is also putting out Kinnporsche, a boys’-love novel series by Daemi from Thailand.

Penguin Random House made waves in 2023 when it launched Inklore, an imprint that features comics by global creators aimed at webtoon and manga readers. Led by the perennial bestselling Lore Olympus series, which first took off on Webtoon, Inklore’s launch releases represent a mix of manhwa (originating from South Korea) and manga (from Japan). Manhwa highlights include Cherry Blossoms After Winter by Bamwoo, a manhwa boys’-love romance originally published on Content First’s TappyToon app, as well as the romantasy webnovel and webtoon hit Under the Oak Tree by Suji Kim from Manta. Leading Inklore’s manga titles is gamer rom-com My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv. 999 by Mashiro, which got a boost from its anime adaptation airing on Crunchyroll.

This fall, Abrams ComicArts will launch its Kana imprint in the U.S. (a cousin to the Kana manga imprint in France owned by its Belgian parent company, Média-Participations), aimed at mature readers and specializing in higher-end packaging and art comics.

Independent outfits have also ramped up production, with many featuring up-and-coming creators from outside of manga’s anime-driven mainstream.

Manga made for America

Japanese manga publishers and their North American partners have also been making bigger investments in marketing comics to the overseas market.

This has been apparent at fan cons, especially at New York Comic Con in 2023, where the exhibit hall floor was dominated by huge balloons featuring popular manga characters, including Luffy from One Piece and Goku from Dragon Ball. Japanese publishing giant Shueisha also showcased its Manga Plus app and Shueisha XR’s immersive multimedia manga experience, Manga Dive.

Kodansha USA has taken a novel approach to courting the English-language market by publishing original series by Japanese manga creators first in North America via its Kodansha Reader Portal, and later releasing them in Japan. Among the works published under this program are the science fiction action series Re:Anima, the horror action series Blood Blade, and the fantasy-adventure series The Spellbook Library.

The goal of these ventures is to “help bring amazing Japanese creators and their stories directly to English-reading fans,” says Alvin Lu, president and CEO of Kodansha USA. “The growth over the last three years definitely didn’t hurt. There was a hunger for a variety of different kinds of stories, as we saw the entire manga industry see a boom, not just the usual players or the usual stories. So, we felt that now was a time to experiment.” Kodansha USA’s new online serialization model allows stories to be introduced to readers the same way they are in Japan: as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly installments, to build interest in series before the release of print editions.

A number of other publishers have launched mobile apps and subscription services—such as Square Enix’s Manga Up!, Kodansha’s K-Manga, and Viz’s Viz Media app—with many chapters released in English the same day as their publication in Japan.

Also notable is Viz Media’s Viz Originals initiative. Besides publishing graphic novels—including e-gamer adventure Status Royale by Ru Xu and horror anthology Betwixt, which features new stories by Junji Ito and Becky Cloonan—Viz Originals recently solicited comics creators to submit one-shot short stories for consideration.

This approach follows “the successful methods that Japanese manga magazines use to discover new talent and support and showcase aspiring mangaka,” says Fawn Lau, executive editor of Viz Originals. Viz’s move takes a page from the playbook that launched the careers of creators like Tatsuki Fujimoto, who spent several years submitting short stories to manga publishers before moving on to longer works like Fire Punch, Look Back, and Chainsaw Man.

Publishers are also catering to Western readers by releasing manga adaptations of genre fiction popular in the U.S. Manta, the webtoon app from South Korean e-book company RIDI, for example, has experimented with publishing comics based on romance novels by Western authors, such as Lyssa Kay Adams’s Bromance Book Club and Samantha Vitale’s The Lady Alchemist.

Forging new ground entirely are Quarto’s Saturday AM and Tokyopop’s Noir Caesar. Both imprints bring the “we need diverse books” mantra to manga by highlighting global creators with story lines that incorporate Black and Latinx characters—an area where manga from Japan has been relatively weak. Many of these are original English-language stories, such as Mutupo, a fantasy adventure by Kay Rwizi inspired by Zimbabwean mythology.

Children’s publishers are ramping up their manga efforts, as well. In August, Scholastic is releasing its first manga title Awakening (Unico #1)—a revamp of Osamu Tezuka’s classic manga, cocreated with American Samuel Sattin and Japanese manga artist team Gurihiru.

There was a hunger for a variety of different kinds of stories, as we saw the entire manga industry see a boom.

This focus on creating and marketing comics for overseas manga readership is extraordinary because the prevailing attitude of Japanese publishers has long been that their main priority is catering to their primary (and largest) audience: readers in Japan. And while this focus is likely to continue, manga’s popularity in the U.S. is now undeniable. Series like Spy x Family regularly appear in the top 10 on BookScan sales charts alongside popular prose novels.

What’s next? Perhaps new publishing and marketing initiatives in the American market will have an impact on readers, creators, and publishers back in Japan. As Lu puts it, increasing the publication of English-language-first stories “to include different kinds of manga creators from all over the world, and have it fly under the Kodansha banner in Japan, would be a grand next step.”

Deb Aoki writes regularly for the Beat and PW about manga.

Read more from our Manga feature:

Manga Goes Dark with Smudge

New imprint from Living the Line books trades on the appeal of cult manga.

The Latest Unicorn: Scholastic Adapts Manga for the Middle Grade

Manga for readers 12 and under is still a small category in the U.S., so it’s big news that Scholastic will begin publishing manga under its Graphix imprint. First up: an updated take on Osamu Tezuka’s Unico series, first published in 1976.

The Rise of Manga Indies and New Imprints

From micropublishers showcasing up-and-coming creators to larger companies adding specialty imprints, there’s lots to discover on the edges of the manga mainstream.