Last year in April I foolishly wrote a post talking about the state of manga in America. At that time, Tokyopop closed its manga division, Kodansha took over Del Rey, and unannounced cancellations took place. Let’s just say a lot of things have changed since then…but in the end, did anything really significant change from last year?
Ok, ok, there has been a couple of things that have popped up. Last year at the time I wrote that post, there wasn’t a single legal edition to read manga, aside from EManga and Netcomics (which also publishes Manhwa). But since then, Gen Manga, JManga, JManga7, Shonen Jump Alpha and Viz Manga have appeared and now you can actually read manga, without necessarily feeling guilty. Even Emanga recently changed how you read manga, as now you can download it. Now, it’s not to say that these publishers don’t have their share of problems, and of course, Alpha and Viz Manga content are North America only, but at least there’s something, and maybe they’ll be more alternatives in the future. By going to New York Comic Con, while anime most definitely took a backseat, manga I believe did not, as there seemed to be interested people attending certain panels and stopping by various publisher booths, so I think manga knowledge grew a bit there.
However, just because there are more legal alternatives to manga doesn’t mean anything if no one still knows about it. Needless to say, people (from the U.S and Canada) will still prefer the usual style of reading manga on illegal sites, but chances are there are people who actually don’t know legal alternatives to reading manga exist. I ended up doing a panel this year at Castle Point Anime Convention where it was an informal discussion on manga. Along the way when it seemed things were dying down and there needed to be a discussion point, I brought up JManga. No one knew what that was, and while it was a small room, the seats were full. What does that mean? Publishers just aren’t doing enough to reach that audience, or get them to care enough to check out their site.
What also probably continues to hurt is Borders dying last year since that cuts down on the actual obtaining of print manga. For me, the best way (or most convenient way) to purchase manga is to go to Kinokuniya. It’s not drastically far away, and has way more options than going to Barnes & Noble or Midtown Comics at times. The other way of course is ordering online. But it’s starting to feel like there’s just lesser ways to obtain manga. Granted, this is already a small enough medium as it is; it just continues to feel smaller.
Anyways, if you check out your Facebook feeds and see some people sharing content from an illegal site, it’s plenty obvious there’s not enough done to try and convince them that “Oh maybe I should read this type of publisher instead.” My hope is that somehow, someway, publishers can find a method to get these people on their side, if only because there was a bunch of great manga released this year: Attack On Titan, A Bride’s Story, 5 Centimeters Per Second, just to name a few. But there’s a part of the audience that’s missing out on these works; hopefully in 2013 this will change.