Square Enix On Why Manga Doesn't Sell As Big Overseas

Illustration for article titled Square Enix On Why Manga Doesnt Sell As Big Overseas

Final Fantasy maker Square Enix doesn't only make Final Fantasy. The Japanese company also has an anime and manga division, responsible for titles like Saki and Full Metal Alchemist.

When division head Kouji Taguchi was asked why manga sales in the US were still considerably smaller than in Japan, he replied:

The best sellers in the US were Full Metal Alchemist and Naruto, but these only sold a tenth to a twentieth of what they sold in Japan.
I think the main reasons are as follows:
1. Fewer copies are printed and those that are get sold at a much higher price, from $8.99 to $12.99.
2. Children don't get as much money, their allowances are just smaller.
3. The other reason is location. If you live in Tokyo there will be 3 bookshops nearby, which you can easily cycle to. In the US there aren't any, they can only buy on a weekly trip to the mall. Even if anime is highly popular, they just don't visit the stores to buy manga often.

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As website Sankaku Complex points out, it's interesting that Taguchi focuses on distribution instead of simply stating that Japanese and Western tastes are different. Taguchi also went on to state that manga publishers are increasingly moving forward to digital distribution.

"Publishers such as Shueisha, Kodansha, Shogakukan and Kadokawa are setting up a digital platform on the PSP for distributing manga," said Taguchi. The Square Enix exec doesn't think this will catch on in Japan because prices are low and there are many shops selling manga. However, this form of distribution could very well catch on in the States.

誠:劇的3時間SHOW:『咲-Saki-』『鋼の錬金術師』の田口浩司プロデューサーが語る、儲かるアニメの作り方 (1/6) [Business Media via Sankaku Complex — Image NSFW] [Pic]

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DISCUSSION

One thing is about Color. Odd, yes, but people like to have color with their pretty pictures. Very few western comics can get away with being black and white, but pretty much ALL manga is.

But here's the bigger thing: Characterization. Manga on the whole isn't big in the United States because it often has some of the shittiest characters in any medium ever. Many anime characters are either cliches or seem to be characters that are all of the author's repressed emotions coming to life.

Americans read left to right, not right to left; while this might seem ridiculous, it can be a bother to some people.

Then there's this, the idea of western vs. eastern audiences ([sullyeliot.wordpress.com]). Manga aren't written for people in the west, they're written for/by people in the east. They're less accessible overall to American audiences unless the translations are flawless and the characters are already pretty good.

Then there's the whole "comics are for nerds/manga is for otaku" thing.

The fact of the matter is that there just isn't that much truly AWESOME manga out there and it's not getting the exposure in the west that it should be.

As mentioned previously, manga is really expensive. There was one volume of Planetes I found that sold for around $35-45. Granted, that was out of print, but that's still pretty outrageous.

Look, what the sequential art movement really needs is cheaper, more easily accessible comics. You know, like web distribution. Some sort of service like Steam or itunes, with things like Steam's weekly sales, or a the ability to digitally publish comics from indies (there's less of a risk of publishing comics digitally, since server space costs a lot less than printing several thousand comic issues).

In addition, comics and manga should both get sold on newsstands again. The specialty store needs to go. The concept needs to (and hopefully is doing so) change. The stuff needs to be readily available and constantly in the public consciousness.