Let’s Talk About Why We Don’t Talk About Manga

Just weeks ago, Kodansha confirmed one of their most popular manga series has reached a major [...]

Just weeks ago, Kodansha confirmed one of their most popular manga series has reached a major milestone.

Attack on Titan has officially sold over 60 million copies since its creation back in 2016. The record-breaking growth of Attack on Titan is just one of many signs which indicates how popular manga is today.

However, there are those who still insist on belittling the medium and even go so far as to call it inferior to comic books - but why must there even be such a conflict? Despite the massive market for manga; its loyal readership, and resurging sales the foreign audiences continue to perceive the medium as childish or even crude because of several notorious ecchi series.

In reality, though, manga stands as weighty competition for comic books. It's time readers paid some overdue attention to the growing medium.

Manga, which dates back to 12th Century Japan, first came to the West in the 1980s when publishers like Viz Media introduced the genre abroad. In it's current form, manga is known for its diverse sub-genres, distinctive art styles, and magazine serials like Weekly Shonen Jump. By the 2000s, Western readers were hooked on manga as more titles like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, and Naruto hit bookshelves.

Today, global sales for manga outdo those of comic book publishers like Marvel or DC Comics. In 2015, Eiichiro Oda's One Piece series sold over 14 million units while Marvel's best-selling Star Wars run accumulated more than 1 million orders. Other manga such as The Seven Deadly Sins, Attack on Titan, and Assassination Classroom followed suit as each sold between 10-8 million copies.

manga header image

Clearly, the popularity of manga isn't something to call into question. The medium continues to win over readers, so why then do we not talk about manga as we do with comic books? Sadly, the answer is stigma.

For one, there's the perception that manga isn't for adults. The millennial 'manga boom' primarily drew kids and teenagers into bookstores, leaving adults to think tankobon volumes were childish. For those bystanders, they started to believe that reading stories about over-powered Saiyans or magic girls were beneath them. And ta-da - A stigma was born!

Outside of the medium itself, people do sometimes perceive manga readers very unfairly. This stigma comes from the ever-popular hipster mentality that says, "I liked so-and-so before you did. I found it before it was cool." Of course, not all manga readers abide by this mindset, but this privilege has become a defense mechanism to some. Such exclusivity protects fans from being mocked by others who don't share their fondness for manga and would shame them for their otaku lifestyle.

The genre is also plagued by its fandom's acceptance of piracy. Seriously, it's as if websites took on Captain Luffy's day-job for themselves as there are now dozens of illegal manga pirate bays all over the Internet. Filled with fan-made 'scanlations,' these sites are easy to find as some fans would rather read unofficial translations of manga than wait for Viz Media or Tokyopop to publish the stories on a delay. Unfotunately, these sites have scared off potential readers who felt uneasy about reading pirated stories.

And, what's more, there is also the idea that manga is too girly. More than half of manga readers are females with most between the ages of 12-17. This readership comes courtesy of shojo manga, a popular genre that's marketed towards girls. These stories often feature female leads who either fall in love, save the world, or probably do both. However, curious readers could be turned off by what they believe to be vapid, flowery stories.

It's because of these stigmas that people will give fans 'The Look' when they say they read manga - a look that says, "Huh, why would they admit this secret shame?"

But, of course, another question could be asked in rebuttal. Why should anyone insist manga is an embarrassing secret? Who gives them that right?

Manga isn't being talked about because there are readers who still hesitate to confront its stigmas and assert themselves as loud and proud fans. And, if they want manga to become more mainstream, then fans will need to become a bit more chatty.

These days, fans should feel free to celebrate manga without having to hide their interest or only geek out about favorite series at conventions. It's clear there are tons of readers who'd love to join in on such a celebration, so fans must take their next step in bringing the medium to the forefront of popular conversations.

It's time we talked about manga.