This post is going to give you an idea of just how much in advance I write my posts. If I was to post once a week instead of once a day, I would have the next year and a half covered. That might be relaxing… should I do that? Should I switch to a weekly or twice-weekly schedule? Ok, this is not the subject of the post… Maybe I’ll do a poll at some point…
So I did a poll on Twitter to find out what English manga publisher was popular at the moment.
Naturally, my sample size is itty bitty so take this with a huge grain of salt. As you can see, Viz is the clear winner here.
I can’t say the results are very surprising. Viz is the biggest company of the lot with by far the most resources. Also, Shonen Jump has been a staple with anime fans for decades now. Even if you don’t read Jump or know about it, it’s a publication with a very high percentage of manga that get adapted to anime. I would say that among all the English language publishers, Viz probably has the highest percentage of titles that get anime adaptations, so this really boosts their visibility.
It also might have something to do with the genre of titles they publish. Even if you don’t like shonen per see, you have likely heard of the big ones and if you see they were published by Viz, you might look into what else they publish. Like Spy x Family for example, or Chainsaw Man. They have some good titles is what I’m saying.
However, I think that my little poll has a lot more to say if you look at what the results weren’t rather than at what they were.
First of all, I think that no one other than me really saw the evolution of the poll. Early on, Yen press actually took an impressive lead and held onto it for a long time. Until a bit over 40 people had voted it was at roughly 50% of the vote. For a while after, Viz, Yen and Seven Seas were almost equal with only Kodansha trailing behind. It’s only at the end that Viz started pulling in all the votes.
Again, with a sample size this small, it’s difficult to make any informed assumptions. With less than 100 people voting, this says a lot more about who follows me on Twitter than about what anime fans think. But I would like to point a few things out.
First is the fact that I explicitly stated that I was missing a lot of publishers. Because Twitter only allows you to put up to four choices, I left out a bunch of publishers. I just put in the four first that came to mind at that moment. And asked people to add in whatever publishers they liked best in the comments if they weren’t listed. But no one did. Not a single Tokyo Pop or Kuma press. No one mentioned Dark Horse, Del Ray or Vertical. Heck even DC has a manga division.
I know for a fact I have a lot of BL enthusiasts who follow me. I see it in my timeline. Yet not one mentioned a BL-focused publisher.
Now this could simply be that people didn’t want to bother. It’s way easier to hit a button on a poll than to write something. But still, I get a lot of random comments on tweets that really don’t have anything to comment about. In a poll where 72 people bothered to vote and not a single person had a smaller publisher, they were excited about. It makes me think that most of us either don’t really pay attention to publishers and that’s why we only know the big ones other people talk about or that smaller publishers are getting weeded out as market share for manga is getting more profitable.
These are just assumptions of course. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions. But even as I researched a little for this post, I found that it was much tougher to get information on smaller presses than it was a few years ago. Sure, there were a lot of publishers with only a handful of titles in their library but there were a lot more of them.
To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Consolidating publishing like that has pros and cons. These larger companies have better resources. Although it’s not always the case, they can at least, in theory, bring us a higher quality product, whether it’s in the physical product, the quality of the paper, colouring pages, so on or in the translations and localization with pages of explanation. I love those. Very few mangas have them.
Books from bigger publishers are also easier to find as way more book shops carry them and they have the possibility of offering digital and physical options so that readers can choose what best fits them.
On the other hand, this streamlining of publishers could lead to a lot less variety. There are titles that are just not going to be picked up by these larger publishers that would have had a chance with smaller ones. That doesn’t mean the publishers themselves won’t diversify. I just found out that Seven Seas has decided to create a specific Boys’ Love and Girls’ Love label most likely with the idea of publishing more manga in the genre under that specific label than they would have otherwise. But they’re not creating a domestic slice of life urban fantasy label. I would love to see that happen…
So that is the first thing I noticed about the poll but there was also another one. Kodansha was consistently last throughout the entire duration. So even among the popular publishers, there were degrees. There was a comment about this and how Kodansha had so many great shoujo. And you could argue that shojou is a less popular genre which would explain its rating but it’s not like it doesn’t have other popular titles.
In the past few years, Kodansha has brought us Blue Period which is a great manga and anime, Megalo Box, Zombie Landa Saga, Bakemonogatari, Cells at Work, Fairy Tail (say what you want it was popular), Weathering With You, Fate/Grand Order, Rent-a-girlfriend.. You get the idea, they have a lot of variety. And I would have thought that the Bakemonogatari fans alone would have brought it to no 1.
But then I found something out. In the past few years, Kodansha or rather Kodansha international, that is the English publisher, has published a lot fewer new titles. Just one in 2021 in fact. Of course, they have ongoing titles such as Noragami… I couldn’t find anything on English sites but I found some articles in the Japan times that actually were talking about Kodansha closing their international division. Now it should be said that these were very old articles, from back in 2011. But it seems that throughout the years, Kodansha has considered closing their English publishers a several occasions. And maybe that’s what’s happening again.
This gives a bit more weight to my theory that there is a thinning out of the number of English language publishers.
At the same time though, there is more new manga released every week than ever before. Or at least, more that are readily available to me. So maybe I’m completely wrong…