I would like to focus on the manga portion of The Beat’s thorough analysis of BookScan 2017. NPD BookScan tracks between 80% and 85% of print sales according to Publisher’s Weekly. FYI Brian Hibbs did an amazing job on this report and went crazy into the numbers portion in a way that more casual readers could understand. He kept mentioning “long tail,” which is “used to refer to the large number of products that sell in small quantities, as contrasted with the small number of best-selling products.” Apparently, manga has a long tail? I only skimmed the article since it’s about 15K+ words (90 min read) and focused my attention on the manga portion. If you want to check out last month’s BookScan chart, see Feb 2018 Top 20 Manga Chart.
With over 10,248 items listed, 5.9 million sold for a total of $85.6M, manga seems to be selling well! However, compared to 2008 when 7842 items listed, 10.2 million sold for a total of $100.8M during the manga boom, it pales in comparison. Remember that Borders closed in 2011, which led to many US manga companies to shut down.
Let’s see the top 6 manga publishers of 2017 and analyze the numbers after the break!
The Rankings of US Manga Publishers
- Viz Media
- Kodansha Comics
- Yen Press
- Seven Seas Entertainment
- Dark Horse
- Vertical Comics
Manga Rankings in 2017 BookScan Top 750 GN
The Beat provided a BookScan 2017 Top 750 Graphic Novels chart with NUMBERS (yes, the thing that casuals never get to see). Here’s my Google Docs version of the manga listings: [link]. Over 250 listings were manga so about a third of the top 750 were manga volumes!
Top 10 Grossing Manga – Individual Units
It’s really interesting to see that Kodansha finally hits the top of the list for Top 10 Grossing Manga (individual units) with the Akira 35th Anniversary Box Set priced at MSRP $199.99 with 6 hardcovers & an extra behind-the-scenes book. Legend of Zelda and Pokemon Adventures box sets also do really really well! Check out the data [here].
Note: series total is more important than individual volumes/unit sales, as manga can get really long like Fairy Tail‘s 63 volumes.
#1: Viz Media
With no surprise, Viz Media takes first place by a huge margin? Damn, they sold 3x more than their next competitor! Viz has nineteen books that have over 20k in sales and forty more that sell over 10k. They have 4443 items listed, 2,958,351 sold for a total sales of $41,594,729.
11 of their creators sold over $1 million according to Bookscan 2017 with Sui Ishida’s Tokyo Ghoul as their top seller with 272k copies sold at a total of $3.5M.
Other top sellers were Akira Himekawa (Legend of Zelda), Hidenori Kusaka (Pokemon Adventures), Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto), Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Kohei Horikoshi (My Hero Academia), Tsugumi Ohba (Death Note), Hirohiko Araki (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure), Junji Ito (Uzumaki), and ONE (One Punch Man).
Within the Top 750 Graphic Novels, Tokyo Ghoul series sold reports 272k copies sold, My Hero Academia series reports 176k copies sold, The Legend of Zelda series reports 158k sold, One Punch Man series reports 179k sold, Pokemon series reports 110k sold, Death Note series reports 74k sold, and Boruto series reports around 23k sold (definitely weak compared to the heyday of Naruto).
It also shows when you look at the BookScan’s 2017 Top 20 Manga… it’s all Viz titles! Another WTF moment from me… the numbers don’t lie and with about $6M in the top 20 manga volumes alone… All Shueisha titles besides the Legend of Zelda series (Shogakukan) which shows the power of shonen aka teen titles! 8 out of 20 are superhero manga which shows the potential for major growth if comic book shops started focusing on these titles in their manga selection!
Viz is going to do well in 2018 since My Hero Academia (season 3) is airing in the spring and season 2 hype (along with sweeping the Crunchyroll Awards and more people cosplaying the more interesting characters ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ) will continue the rapid growth on another shonen series. Golden Kamuy and Tokyo Ghoul:re anime are also starting in the spring to also bolster both seinen manga series popularity.
#2: Kodansha Comics
Kodansha has eight books that sell over 10k. They have 895 items listed, 917,596 sold for a total sales of $13,616,224.
Their bestseller is Attack on Titan volume 1 which sold 18.7k copies. However, it places as #23 in the manga category for single volumes sold… Overall, Attack on Titan series reports 170k sold. They really haven’t had a hit title after Attack on Titan (which is on the decline) and now that Fairy Tail has ended, they don’t have much going for them shonen-wise besides Seven Deadly Sins. Their other titles Fairy Tail volume 1 sold 17.2k copies and Sailor Moon volume 1 sold 12k copies.
Going forward into 2018, Kodansha has invested in Crunchyroll for distributing their manga simulpub series, which will serve as long-form previews until the physical volume comes out. I might buy To Your Eternity and Our Precious Conversations after catching up to the simulpub! In addition, Kodansha is leading on digital-only releases which aren’t counted by BookScan, especially for long-running titles that might not have a chance to have a physical release. Some fans will have to buy the series twice if they really want a physical version!
#3: Yen Press
Yen Press has only one book selling over 10k. They have 1403 items listed, 928,962 sold for a total sales of $13,866,675.
Its bestseller is Black Butler volume 1 with just under 15k in the bookstore market. The Beat comments that “In the Long Tail, Yen is actually selling slightly better than Kodansha, but they need 60% more SKUs to do so.” This means that they have to publish tons more in order to get the same amount of sales. Kudos for Yen Press tenacity in the struggle!!!
They have various simulpub titles out which gives you a preview of physical releases but nothing that stands out or is award-winning. However, Yen Press is great on cross-promotional licenses like Your Name and Erased. They partner up with anime loot box companies to also spread their brand name. Yen Press tends to license some series aimed at young women or GanGan or Square Enix titles. They’re also majority owned by Kadokawa so expect more light novel print editions!
#4: Seven Seas
Seven Seas has four books that sell over 10k. They have 554 items listed, 478,336 sold for a total sales of $6,801,527.
Its bestselling title is The Ancient Magus Bride volume 1 with over 13k and the series reports just under 67k sold! Another surprise hit title is My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness with about 11k sold. My Lesbian Experience is probably going to win some awards this upcoming year and beloved by the LGBTQ community.
As for the future, they might be licensing some older hit titles like how they did with Devilman, which has a planned release in May 2018. They are a fan-favorite in the manga buying community since they’re the only publisher that has a monthly manga survey for anyone to suggest a new license! They also continue to license monster girls series and have a couple of new titles from popular anime from fall 2018 season like
#5: Dark Horse
Dark Horse Manga has two books over 10k. They have 527 items listed, 238,089 sold for a total sales of $3,795,506.
Its bestselling title is Berserk volume 1 with over 14k sold. They also did a reprint of the series in 2017 iirc and had major bundle deals at Right Stuf during Black Friday weekend for new and old collectors to get their hands on the series.
Looking towards the future, Dark Horse already has a brand around being the publisher that releases darker seinen hits like Berserk, I Am a Hero, Drifters, Blade of the Immortal, Blood Blockade Battlefront, Gantz, and more. They represent a gateway for western comic book readers to get into manga. Hopefully, they announce more licenses this year with something super exciting that’s also getting an anime adaptation that won’t suck?
Vertical has one book over 10k. They have 269 items listed, 181,216 sold for a total sales of $3,178,964.
Their bestselling title is The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home volume 1 with just under 13k sold. I am not sure of their status but they’re somehow still alive as they split seinen releases with their owner Kodansha: Ajin, BLAME!, The Flowers of Evil, Mobile Suit Gundam: the Origin, Arakawa Under the Bridge, What Did You Eat Yesterday?, A Girl on the Shore, Dissolving Classroom, and more. They’re also essentially the light novel line of Kodansha USA too with the Monogatari series.
As for future projects, I expect them to take on shorter length series to combine or highly acclaimed one-shots that haven’t been published in the US yet. I never look forward to any of their manga license announcements but at least Kodansha USA helps them with marketing their products.
Other Honorable Mentions
The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Ten Speed Press (aka the manga based on the best-selling book about the KonMari method) sold over 17k. My Brother’s Husband by Pantheon sold 4.2k, which is LGBT-oriented and getting a live-action TV show!! I suspect it could’ve sold much more if it wasn’t hardcover for MSRP $24.95 (omnibus of volume 1 & 2 of the Japanese release). Also, Tokyopop is still around selling manga based on movies but I wish it stayed dead.
Comparing ALL US comics publishers
Top 10 Graphic Novel Publishers in the USA
Well, well, well… Viz is the 2nd biggest comics publisher in the United States!
In fact, if you look at the Top 100 books debuted in 2017 within the Top 750 booklist, Viz has 12 books (274k sold), Scholastic (via Graphix) has 5 books (512k), Image has 3 books (106k), DC has 2 books (42k), and Marvel has 0 books. Obviously, Viz is doing something right! They just need to capture the kid power that Scholastic has a monopoly over…
If you thought this blog post was not long enough and want to read more, check out The Beat article where I pulled most of the data: Tilting at Windmills #268: Looking at BookScan 2017 – and this time it’s certified.
I have a feeling that the US manga industry will continue to prosper with Kodansha and Seven Seas picking up more interesting titles, while Viz will start adding more kid-friendly mainstream stories and try to find a few new shojo series to be their marketing point, as nothing has really stood out besides Yona of the Dawn. I hope that Viz’s Shojo Beat and Sublime line continues to expand their series selection. FAKKU might get a mainstream ecchi license to pad out their hentai stuff. A hit title that never got a stateside release will get released by a smaller localizer. A manga app will finally get a major update (Crunchyroll Manga or Bookwalker Global) so the UI looks like a modern 2010s design. Digital-only manga releases will continue to increase drastically as Kodansha announces more releases and smaller English localizers like Renta!, Media Do International, etc will release more titles as they hire more freelancers.
Digital Manga Publishing is on its last legs and will probably declare bankruptcy before sending out Kickstarter rewards. Sorry backers, you got scammed. Tokyopop will still attend the big ReedPop conventions but their new releases will sell less than 4k and won’t even reach Vertical levels of success. Udon Entertainment will file for bankruptcy and never release Rose of Versailles or Sugar Sugar Rune while hoarding the joint-promoted manga licenses… like seriously most of the manga selection at Half-Price Books are the ones that never got sold in mainstream bookstores and it took a lot of tweets to get a “supposed” update on the Rose of Versailles release (originally planned release for 2016). They don’t completely redo SFX like Viz, but STILL have a slower turn around time than Seven Seas (which is a younger company).
Suggestions for the industry
I really wish that Land of the Lustrous and Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju would sell better since the anime is highly acclaimed, but nobody seems to be buying it (their first volume must’ve sold less than 4000 copies to not even show up on top 750 graphic novel list?). Maybe the publishers should try the Image Comics method of pricing volume 1 for MSRP $9.99 and price the rest of the volumes higher? Monstress volume 1 sold 23.5k copies this way AND it’s in full color AND debuted in 2017. Marketing point: hook in the reader for the series and you’ll keep them forever.
There is an issue with some publishers releasing manga series in time for joint-promotion with the anime since most hit anime are based on a manga! You get people to buy the manga because next week’s episode isn’t enough and these anime viewers want to spoil themselves. At this point, they’re going to turn to scanlations because the legal option is not there and showing on Google. Fans are used to the speediness of the other major publishers releasing joint-promoted series. Not all anime series based on manga will be a hit, but you’re losing a lot of potential customers by not maximizing the hype during that time. For example, fans who loved Devilman Crybaby anime (aired January 2018) will have to wait 5 months for the official release of the original series and fans of the hit Made in Abyss had to wait 3 months for volume 1 of the manga after the season ended. Conversely, Kodansha had 5 volumes of Welcome to the Ballroom out before the anime started…
What are your thoughts on this rehash of the BookScan 2017 results? I’m open for discussion below~