Has Manga Become a Niche Category?
Ed Chavez, Marketing Director at manga publisher Vertical, has been answering a bunch of questions online recently, and his comments are quite informative.
One that particularly struck me was this answer (link no longer available) to the question as to whether manga is becoming more niche.
Knowing that seinen still lacks, even though vocal fans ask for it, kinda tells me that readers either grow out of manga or only stick with a specific type of it… Essentially pigeonholing it (turning it into a niche).
Having talked to some comic/media critics I think it is becoming harder for them to get into manga also.
Will kids still consume the stuff? Sure. I mean, most manga pubs are seeing growth while stores are cutting manga shelves. But unlike the 00s, where a shojo boom introduced a whole new demographic to manga, there hasn’t been a culture-shifting movement recently to break manga out of this current position it has settled into.
I love manga. It kept me excited about comics at a time when I was ready to give up by giving me stories I was more interested in, particularly those starring young women.
However, I agree with what Ed is saying here. I find myself working harder to find series I want to follow. Many new releases seem to fall into pre-existing categories that have already demonstrated success: vampire romance, harem fantasy, adventure quests, and so on. It’s harder to find the kind of female-oriented story that so appealed to me (although Vertical is one of the few still releasing josei manga), or work aimed at adults.
There’s nothing wrong with being a niche — many products, such as superhero comics, have succeeded quite well for decades targeting a specific audience looking for more of the same they already follow. But with so much manga out there still untranslated, I’d like to see support for a wider age range of material. Why does the audience “grow out of it”? Is manga only selling now to customers who already like it?