Japanese manga dominating American comics

By: Ryan Schork

Christiansburg, Va., Jan. 25, 2023 – Inside Barnes & Noble where Japanese Manga books are proudly on display. Photo: Ryan Schork

The comic book industry has surged in sales and widespread popularity in recent years. When thinking about comic books, many people think of Marvel and DC heroes like Spider-man, Batman, and Superman. However, the increased sales volume and popularity of comic books can mainly be attributed to manga.

Manga are Japanese comic books that serve as the source material for animated cartoon shows and movies, called anime. Manga reached record sales numbers in 2020, earning an estimated $5.6 billion in Japan alone, according to Megan Peters. Meanwhile, that same year American comics earned $1.28 billion in North America, according to a joint survey by ICv2 and Comichron.

Just one year later in 2021, comic books generated a total of $2.075 billion in America, with manga making up $1.47 billion of that total. This means that Japanese manga is not only more profitable in Japan, but even in America they are selling better than American comics.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the actual animated cartoons [anime] and then people want to come in and actually read the source material,” said Adam Sutphin, manager of Big Lick Comics in Roanoke.

Sutphin also attributed popular streaming services like Netflix and HBO to the rise of manga. This is due to anime getting much more exposure in America, leading consumers to want to delve deeper into the stories by purchasing manga.

“It’s not really just hitting the scene, it’s kind of becoming more mainstream,” said Sutphin in regard to manga. “I think with a lot more access to the animated movies [anime], it’s getting a lot more eyes looking at it.”

Christiansburg, Va., Jan. 25, 2023 – The expanding shelving space of solely Japanese comic books in Barnes & Noble, pushing out American comics. Photo: Ryan Schork

Major book-selling retailers like Barnes & Noble, have started to phase out shelving space for American comics, opting to give manga more space. While this is certainly due to better sales, Robert Jones sales representative at B&D Comics, believes there are other factors.

Jones claims that manga books are much easier to store, stock and re-shelf than American comic books. This is because manga books are printed in a similar fashion to paperback novels. Whereas comics are flimsier and more prone to damage.

Jones also believes that people are more inclined to buy manga over American comics because of the amount of content held in each book. “Instead of just a small comic book, you get an entire volume [with manga],” said Jones. Rather than just a singular issue of a few pages, customers prefer to buy a book of manga that contain hundreds of pages and multiple chapters.

If one thing is clear, it is that manga is here to stay. “I think it’s always going to be around, and I think it’s going to keep increasing,” said Sutphin. It will be the American comic book industry that must yield to manga or adapt to maintain relevance.

Boycott of Harry Potter video game backfires as sales surge

By: Ryan Schork

Image: Portkey Games

The online boycott of the highly anticipated video game, Hogwarts: Legacy, seems to have backfired as it reaches the pinnacle of purchased charts. Even more impressive, the game hasn’t even been released to players yet. Hogwarts: Legacy is set to release on Feb. 10, 2023, yet players have pre-purchased the game at such a high volume that it is currently the number-one-selling game.

Hogwarts: Legacy, a game based around the world of Harry Potter, came under fire recently because of insensitive tweets by the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter is the most successful book series of all time, with over 500 million copies sold. Furthermore, Rowling is the first author in history to become a billionaire, according to Guinness World Records.  

Rowling has a history of controversy, mainly on Twitter, due to her tweets and overall views of the transgender movement. Rowling has been labeled as a “TERF” which stands for a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. The Hogwarts: Legacy website claims that Rowling was not involved in the game’s production. However, fans are still calling for the boycott as she is sure to gain financially from its success.

After a litany of tweets from Rowling, fans rushed to Twitter to voice their anger with the author and called for a complete boycott of the game. Furthermore, many fans reached out to popular Twitch streamers, asking them to not play or broadcast the gameplay to their fans out of respect for the transgender community. Many Twitch streamers have also taken to Twitter, calling for fellow streamers to also boycott the game. However, this reaction has not been held by most, as the loss of exposure and revenue would be detrimental to their careers.  

However, nothing is as it seems on the internet. The boycott seems to have backfired as sales started to skyrocket after the news broke about said boycott. Currently, Hogwarts Legacy is at the top spot of purchased games on Steam, Xbox, and PlayStation. Whether the spike in sales is genuine backlash from players due to the boycott, or if it is simply because the game is highly anticipated is unclear. Some fans of the series have developed a conspiracy theory that the whole fiasco was a marketing ploy, though this is only speculation.

As the release date for Hogwarts: Legacy approaches, fans are divided on the ethics of buying and playing the game. For longtime fans of the Harry Potter series, the game seems like a dream come true that has now become a nightmare of controversy. While covered in drama and controversy, Hogwarts: Legacy will be played by millions of people around the world.