Manga Pricing by Sex

I had seen MangaBlog calling Viz sexist for pricing Shojo Beat (girls’) titles at $9 while Shonen Jump (boys’) titles were $8. I didn’t pay much attention because

1. I’m used to it. Women’s haircuts are more expensive than men’s regardless of amount of hair. Women’s shirts, even when visually the same as men’s, cost more to dry clean. Women are charged more when variable pricing applies in certain industries, like cars. Etc.

2. it seems like something of a jump to assume sexism when I don’t have enough information on actual facts. Maybe the sales figures are higher on the boys’ books, I dunno. It’s plausible, though, since girls have been taught from a young age that if they want certain kinds of entertainment, they’ll have to watch things not aimed at them. In other words, I think girls are more likely to read “boys” books than vice versa. The $8 books are also some of the most popular with some of the best media support.

3. I’m grateful that we’ve got those books at all. I haven’t really noticed a sharp division between the Shojo Beat books and other girl-oriented Viz titles I read (is that the “regular” shojo line?), so giving me a dollar off some of them just seems like a bonus. (Assuming I paid cover, which I never do, because I preorder to get discounts and trade for books and use other smart shopper methods.)

Then Christopher Butcher tackled the subject (link no longer available). He makes two good points: one of which is a variant of my #1 above, the other of which suggests that “discount” pricing may not continue. If fans don’t really notice prices, within a certain range, and if people assume that books in the manga format are usually $10 (or even higher, as with Del Rey’s $11, although that’s kept me from trying more of their books), then Viz is missing out on $1-2 of profit per book in these lines. As usual, his comments are comprehensive and educational.


  1. Matthew High

    Sexist? Utter bullcrap.

    Viz also charges $9 for Inu-Yasha. Does that mean they are discriminating against Takahashi fans?

    Viz also charges $9 for Tenchi Muyo. Does that mean they are discriminating against Tenchi fans?

    Viz charges $10 for nearly all of their older-audience titles. Does that mean they are practicing ageism?

    For someone to wring their hands and cry sexism where none exists is just silly. Why are some books priced at ten bucks while others are at nine bucks or even eight bucks? Well, I don’t have any special insight myself, but if I had to fathom a guess, I would say it’s all just a matter of BASIC SUPPLY AND DEMAND, and nothing else. The young boy’s shonen titles sell more (they regularly pop up on the top of the GN sales charts) — higher sales equals lower production cost per unit. The same thing happens in the other direction (such as with Be Beautiful’s yaoi manga, which a much lower number of units sold, have a price point of $16 and sell like hotcakes on Amazon at that price).

    People who wrap themselves up in the self-declared cloth of victimization get no sympathy from me. Bleah.

  2. Actually, some have already discussed the influence of age on likely pricing strategies in comments at those two sites.

    And how do you judge supply and demand when launching a new line, anyway? Isn’t it a guess until after the books are already on sale?

  3. Matthew, While I ultimately agree with Chris that manga publishers will price their books at a point where they can move them profitably, I don’t think you can entirely divorce economics from sociology. Part of the demand equation had to be the target audience (primarily girls and young women) and what Viz believed they’d pay, as it would be with any imprint they decided to launch.

    Do I think there was any malice or sneering in the pricing decision? No. Do I think Brigid is allowed to be annoyed that it costs her more to keep her daughters in manga than it would if she had kids who primarily read shonen titles? Yes.

  4. I wonder. Does the success of the Shonen Jump titles in anime have some influence over prices?

    Most of them seem to have a fairly strong prescence in that field as well, as someone like me who doesn’t closely follow anime is aware of their series. While I don’t recall seeing any Shojo Beat anime series. (they might be out there, but I just haven’t seen them)

  5. I have solved the problem–I introduced my daughters to Naruto this week.

    I think Viz is just starting to roll out the Shojo Beat anime series, as they recently announced the Full Moon anime. The big difference is that Naruto and One Piece are on TV, while Full Moon will be on DVD. I can’t think of any shoujo anime that have been on TV. What I don’t know is whether the Viz folks knew Naruto was going to be on TV when they were pricing the volumes. Even so, as Johanna points out, how would they know it was going to be a success?

  6. Kevin Lighton

    I can’t think of any shoujo anime that have been on TV.

    Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura (the latter as Cardcaptors) were both on TV. They were, however, both before the current boom (Sailor Moon, at least, was before Mixx Publications (now TokyoPop) existed), and were heavily edited/hacked up to be acceptable for US networks and to remove as much trace of Japanese as possible.

  7. Is it always a man who shouts “Sexism? Bullshit!” or is it just me?

  8. Is it always a man who shouts “Sexism? Bullshit!” or is it just me?

    I wondering about that, too.

    Has anyone asked VIZ why they price the same size, format, etc. books differently? That seems unusual to me because I think other publisher don’t do that. I mean, DMP dust-jacketed, slightly-larger format manga cost $12.95 no matter what the subject is, and they’re all very well produced and edited. Be Beautiful’s yaoi line, on the other hand, is $16 a small, so-so produced and edited book, but people, mainly women, are willing to pay it.

    Yeah, hair, facials, manga, etc. it can get expensive being female.

  9. I don’t know Viz’s reasoning, but they’re one of the few manga publishers whose list is large enough to have several different lines. Tokyopop also seems to be experimenting with price, with Kingdom Hearts and some upcoming younger-skewing titles at $5.99 for 100 or so pages.

  10. […] Previously, Shonen Jump titles were $7.99, while Shojo Beat books were $8.99. (A discrepancy that caused some conversation back in 2006. In that post, Christopher Butcher predicted this price rise, three years […]

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