A big wave of imported Japanese culture is finding a hungry and growing reading audience

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., June 3, 2019 – Although it’s been growing by leaps and bounds, many readers in the United States are still unfamiliar with a popular style of series-driven Japanese comic books and graphic novels, called “manga.” In fact, manga is currently one of the fastest growing areas of comic books and narrative fiction, according to global information company The NPD Group.

Based on NPD Bookscan information, book sales in the manga subcategory in the retail trade channel grew 16 percent from January 1, 2019 to May 11, 2019, exceeding the 5 percent growth of the total adult-comic/graphic-novel category. This channel includes stores like Barnes and Noble and Powell’s, as well, as major retailers like Target and Amazon, but not specialty comic stores. The manga category is expected to grow at a seven-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8 percent through 2019.

Recent manga book category growth came primarily from brisk sales of “My Hero Academia” titles in March 2019, which were bolstered by related anime episodes also streaming on Hulu. “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story,” a graphic novelization of Marie Kondo’s popular tidying method, also enjoyed a sales spike earlier this year, driven by increased interest in Kondo’s ideas on the heels of her popular Netflix series.

“The United States has traditionally been the dominant exporter of culture around the world,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “However, here we have a big wave of imported culture that is finding a hungry and growing audience­—one that is adventurous and willing to take on new experiences like reading these books from right to left, like the original Japanese versions.”

In the emerging market for manga in the U.S., sales are driven primarily by younger consumers. In 2016 and 2017, 76 percent of manga buyers were between the ages of 13 and 29. While men were more likely to purchase manga (56 percent), women were 16 percent more likely to choose manga titles over other comic books and graphic novels. “Manga is one area of the U.S. book market that catching fire with a whole new set of younger and more diverse book buyers, especially those with a special interest in Japanese content across many platforms, including collectible toys, gaming, books, and video,” McLean said.

There is a strong correlation between the manga series that are growing quickly in the U.S. and the availability of related Japanese anime on video streaming (SVOD) platforms, like Crunchyroll, Netflix, and Hulu. In December 2018, Hulu signed an exclusive deal with anime distributor Funimation, making it the leading SVOD platform for anime in the U.S., and likely to fuel continued growth in sales of these titles. “Watching anime is a discovery mechanism for the related manga,” McLean said. “Once the major platforms made a commitment to anime, manga purchasing really took off. It’s been a very exciting trend to follow.”