Opinion – Manga in 2015: A Look Back, a Look Forward

So half of 2015 is gone. (Whoa.) So let’s take a quick look back and another look forward!

A Look Back

Viz Media’s shounen titles dominated most weeks, which is no surprise. Jump titles have massive popularity. Assassination Classroom is their newest big hit, and I imagine they’ll be pushing this heavily. One-Punch Man and Tokyo Ghoul also made headlines. Meanwhile, for their Shojo Beat line, I believe Kamisama Kiss was their biggest seller.

Attack on Titan continues to be Kodansha Comics USA’s titular hit, as volume 1 has made The New York Times‘ bestseller list for over 100 weeks now. The later volumes just don’t make as much (or as long) of a presence, and I wonder if many readers just buy the first volume to understand the setup and then follow along on Crunchyroll as best they can. The first volume has been regularly available for around $6 on Amazon, making it relatively cheap for a person to join the fray.

Licensing-wise, Yen Press is made some big moves to challenge the two big leaders. They had several different series make the bestseller list, and they’ve generated a lot of attention (and praise) with news of series like Yowamushi Pedal and Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun.

For me, the highlight new series of the year was The Ancient Magus’ Bride from Seven Seas.

A Look Forward

Several new series will debut in the second half of 2015, including:

  • First Love Monster,
  • Horimiya,
  • LDK,
  • One-Punch Man,
  • Tsubasa WoRLD CHRoNiCLE, and
  • Ninja Slayer,

Titles like Kiss Him, Not Me, currently available as a simu-pub on Crunchyroll, and My Hero Academia will start being available physically. Chi’s Sweet Home, Love in Hell, and Fairy Tale are going to be rereleased in omnibus format. Attack on Titan will finally see the second colossal edition released, and Viz Media will start their rescue of Maid-sama!, originally published by Tokyopop. On the other hand, shorter series Spell of Desire, Maria the Virgin Witch, and A Silent Voice will quickly finish their English publications along with longer series like Voice Over! Seiyu Academy.

Personally, I think I’m most looking forward to Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto. Most of the time, I laugh at the girls in manga who form a fan club for a schoolmate. For this guy, I’d be the president. I hope Seven Seas’ release will match the level of the main character. I’ve been meaning to pick up Chi’s Sweet Home, so I’m glad it’s being rereleased.

The most surprising news of the year has been the announcement adult manga site FAKKU went legitimate. This made some people upset because this is the Internet, but this means Japanese publishers are looking for more ways to innovate. The world wants more of their product, and they are starting to take notice of their international fanbase.

Predictions

With their Shojo Beat line celebrating 10 years, I expect some big shoujo titles to be announced by Viz Media. With Spell of Desire coming to a close, I think they have a hole in the josei market they should fill. They do have a few new series starting soon, but 2016 isn’t that far away.

With Naruto releases going to slow up, it will be interesting to see how Viz Media will proceed. I have a feeling Naruto is going to get a special edition omnibus release, and I think the company will push for their Shonen Jump digital to print initiative.

Kodansha USA has been the most disappointing for me. Their binding issues don’t seem to be going away, and they haven’t really announced much. Titles like Let’s Dance a Waltz and A Silent Voice are short, so they’ll have several openings for new titles.

Will Tokyopop come back with some new titles? I think so. I don’t think reviving Tokyopop would be worth it (or even be feasible) without some Japanese manga, and Tokyopop Germany is still active. I do think they have got to license some big hits, and they need some quality releases after their sudden shutdown left many fans upset. They are also facing some stiff competition from Yen Press and Seven Seas to acquire Kodansha and Hakusensha titles (not to mention Viz Media for the latter).

Yen Press has already announced a slew of licenses, so I’m not expecting much more news from them. I’m sure the other publishers (especially Seven Seas) have something up their sleeves.

As for possible titles, I’m thinking there’s several shoujo with anime (or upcoming anime) adaptations that helps add appeal like Ao Haru Ride, Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, and Akatsuki no Yona. Love So Life and Last Game are popular in the scanlation market, and josei authors like ENJOUJI Maki and OHMI Tomu have several titles still available. The shounen market is more of a mystery, as most of the current AAA hits have already been acquired, unless you count print versions of digital simupubs being announced. Maybe some URASAWA Naoki titles? Yankee-kun to Megane-chan or Baby Steps? No clue for seinen.

Final Comments

2015 has been a great year to be a manga fan. Several AAA titles along with niche ones have been released and/or licensed. I think I’d give Yen Press the crown for their slew new titles, but Seven Seas picked up some great ones as well. I think they surprised me the most and deserve the honorable mention. Conversely, Kodansha USA still needs to fix their binding. I will repeat this ad nauseam because they really need to do something about it.

What new series are you looking forward to reading? Do you have any hopes or predictions for the rest of 2015?

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