Manga publishers seek new readers on TikTok
Plus: 'Pokémon' extends movie theater absence; Miyazaki film sees strong presales numbers in North America; Kadokawa dominates light novel rankings; and more
This is the weekly newsletter of Animenomics, covering the business of anime and manga. Today is Wednesday, November 29, 2023.
In case you missed it: Netflix has landed the international distribution rights to Maboroshi, the anime film by acclaimed screenwriter-turned-director Mari Okada.
Okada made her directorial debut in 2018 with Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, which won Best Animated Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
Manga artists, publishers go to TikTok to find readers
TikTok is best known for its short video content, but a growing number of manga artists and publishers are turning to the social media platform to promote their manga using its new Photo Mode feature launched last year.
Why it matters: Manga artists and publishers increasingly see themselves as part of the creator economy that uses platforms like TikTok to promote products and services using direct-to-consumer channels.
Driving the story: Flower Comics, a women’s manga imprint of publishing giant Shogakukan, told Nikkei Business Publications that posting manga excerpts on TikTok has led to increased digital manga sales.
TikTok’s Photo Mode allows accounts to include up to 35 images in a single post, much more than Instagram’s 10-image limit and more aligned with the number of pages in a manga chapter.
By the numbers: The most viewed content on the publisher’s account, from Rina Yagami’s I Was Taken Away Yesterday for Some Reason, was posted in July and has 1.9 million views, even though the series ended publication in 2019.
What they’re saying: “It’s difficult to budget for a completed work without a hook such as a screen adaptation, so even if you want to get some exposure, there are limits to what you can do,” says Yuji Sakamoto, a marketing deputy manager at Shogakukan who runs Flower Comics’s official TikTok account. “However, with Photo Mode, all you need are images, so the hurdle is low in terms of budget.”
Zoom out: Editors of the Weekly Shonen Sunday manga magazine, also part of Shogakukan, likewise posted chapters from Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End to help promote this season’s anime adaptation to TikTok audiences.
No. 9, a Tokyo-based digital comic agency, will hold a pair of online seminars next month teaching manga artists how to use TikTok and its Photo Mode to attract new readers.
‘Pokémon’ absence from theaters signals strategy shift
A new Pokémon anime film hasn’t been released in Japan since 2020, extending a movie theater absence by the multimedia franchise that hasn’t happened since the film adaptations debuted in 1998.
Why it matters: Pokémon’s theatrical absence runs contrary to the recent anime industry trend of franchise films performing well in the box office.
Encore screenings of One Piece Film: Red this month pushed it to become Japan’s sixth highest-earning film of all time.
What’s happening: Writing in his Monthly Anime Business column for Anime Hack, journalist Tadashi Sudo says the Pokémon franchise has seen sluggish box office revenues since 2012.
Ticket sales rose when Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! was released in 2017 as a reboot, but the recovery didn’t last, according to box office revenue data from Pick Scene.
Sudo attributes the box office weakness to a difference in content focus, with Pokémon being tied to its characters—Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, specifically—whereas franchises like One Piece and Detective Conan have compelling manga stories to rely on to continuously draw audiences as they get older.
The bigger picture: The Pokémon anime ended its Ash Ketchum and Pikachu storyline in March after 26 years, and the new Pokémon Horizons series that replaced it introduces a new set of characters.
Sudo sees this change as a benefit for the franchise because it diversifies the Pokémon character business to not be reliant on the same two characters.
Bottom line: Pokémon’s absence from movie theaters doesn’t mean there’s a lack of Pokémon content, as multiple miniseries have been produced by anime studios since 2020.
Sudo counts no less than 15 Pokémon productions outside of the regular series and films, including Pokémon Concierge, which debuts on Netflix next month.
Clippings: Strong U.S. ticket presales for Miyazaki film
The Boy and the Heron ticket presales numbers are “extremely strong”, says North American distributor GKIDS ahead of next week’s release of Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film in the United States. (Deadline)
Shogakukan has acquired the anime merchandise e-commerce platform Tokyo Otaku Mode as a subsidiary to take advantage of its cross-border e-commerce offerings. (Animation Business Journal)
Originally founded as a Facebook page sharing information about anime and manga, Tokyo Otaku Mode was the first recipient of investment money by the public–private Cool Japan Fund but has struggled in recent years to define a business model.
Female manga artists make up more than half of the 80 winners of Weekly Young Jump’s Comic Award so far. The monthly awards were established by magazine editors last year to create a path for rookie artists to publish their first serialized work. (Totsugeki Young Jump)
Dai Nippon Printing’s Manga Planet subscription service launched in India this month, giving local manga readers access to its catalog of officially-licensed titles for ₹99 (US$1.20) per month. (Animation Business Journal)
Tokyo-based KaKa Creation raised ¥160 million (US$1.1 million) to create vertical short animations for TikTok with the assistance of AI tools, reducing the amount of manual labor needed to make CG corrections. (The Bridge)
COVID-19 pandemic changed anime studio interactions
“Since the coronavirus pandemic, the number of directors and staff working remotely has increased, making it difficult to exchange opinions with others. There is a sense of crisis in the fact that more and more workplaces are unable to engage in debate.”
— Kenji Horikawa, anime producer and founder and president of P.A. Works
Context: Horikawa’s comments on the current anime workplace environment was made in a joint interview with MAPPA president Manabu Otsuka, discussing the latter’s production of Mari Okada’s film Maboroshi.
Horikawa was the producer for Okada’s directorial debut film Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms.
Otsuka and Horikawa praised the energy and passionate discussions of the production team led by Okada, assistant director Tadashi Hiramatsu, chief animation director Yuriko Ishii, and art director Kazuki Higashiji.
1 chart to go: Kadokawa dominates light novel rankings
Takarajimasha has published its annual rankings of the best light novel serials of the past year, with titles published by Kadokawa’s imprints dominating both the bunko (mass-market paperback) and tankōbon (large paperback and hardcover) format categories.
Why it matters: As recently reported by Animenomics, Kadokawa is tapping its light novel intellectual property portfolio to adapt into anime, and these rankings show the strong readership of its titles.
Rewind: Kadokawa achieved its dominance by establishing multiple light novel publishing imprints in the 1980s and 1990s, like Fantasia Bunko, Dengeki Bunko, and MF Bunko J, all of which remain popular today.
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