Sunday, February 13, 2011

Manga Industry 2011: Five Predictions

Looking towards the future.

 Recently, Zac Bertschy declared on ANNcast that the manga industry is the anime industry two years earlier. If this is the case, then this year will be a very difficult year for english manga, as the current structure will implode, and publishers will scramble to find a new business model before it's too late. Warning shots were fired last year with the closure of CMX manga (closely mirroring the collapse of Geneon Entertainment) and, more shockingly, the major layoffs and budget cuts of industry giant Viz Media. This is a major year of change, and here are 5 things I think will happen:

1: Vertical becomes the new industry giant

This is incredibly obvious, as the once-underdog company Vertical was the only manga company last year to report major profits, but it deserves note. Once upon a time, I thought that Vertical's artsy format, small number of titles, and emphasis on classics barred them from being major, but in reality, this is what will save the company from the coming downturn. Their small roster of titles means each and every one of them gets a huge marketing push, and what I had previously interpreted as a focus on "classics" and an"arty" format was really a important skill at presenting their material for a larger audience. And these skills will protect Vertical from financial trouble while licencing major titles from across the spectrum of very different manga titles, from Chi's Sweet Home to Lychee Light Club.

2: Tokyopop dies

The fact of the matter is, T-Pop has been publishing too much, and the only big hit they've had outside of the out of print CLAMP titles now published by Dark Horse was Fruits Basket, a title that may very well be eventually forgotten in a sea of already read that. Well, Hetalia is pretty huge, but the series is basically a ton of internet memes, and it's origins as a web comic make it ripe for scanlation. Also, let's face it, anyone who's ever bought a volume of Karakuri Odette can tell you that their marketing sucks, (Hot robot? I think not!) a bad sign when it will soon be a fight to get people interested in your titles.

3: Naruto to fall from grace, One Piece to replace it

The Naruto franchise has been going on too long to sustain itself. This is not meant to demean the title, nor do I think it will ever disappear. What I mean is, there is no way this one title can sustain an entire industry anymore, not even if it teams up in sales with Bleach. But there is one that can. I am of course referring to One Piece, once a side note, but now a record breaking example in sales figures, popularity from reviewers and the public alike, and volume numbers (61 and counting). I don't know if it's level of phenomenon can ever match what it is right now in Japan, especially with this being the first english attempt at starting up the franchise, but it could potentially be the industry's savior.

4: Viz restructures

Viz is doing too much. It hurts to say this, as Viz's various imprints are all great, but they will have to cut down, or otherwise face a big backlash in the near future. At risk are the non-manga New People Films and Haikasoru Books imprints, not to mention the already unprofitable Signature imprint. Fans- show your love for your favorite line before it disappears!

5: Shonen Jump goes online

With the (relative) success of Yen+ Online and the death of print magazines, SJ taking an online initiative is probably the biggest no-brainer of everything on this list. Who knows- maybe it could stop the Naruto-Bleach-One Piece scans once and for all. No, wait, it won't, but oh well.

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