Top-ranked Japanese manga in the U.S. for 2010 show changes in perception

Translated by The Asahi Shimbun from the website of Anime Anime Japan Ltd.

Japanese manga have in the past decade been said to be “very popular outside Japan.” But what exactly does that mean?

Manga quickly gained fans across the United States after 2000 in part because a large number of manga titles were turned into blockbuster anime feature films that swept the country.

However, manga sales are now reportedly falling in the United States. Still, sections dedicated to translated versions of Japanese manga are common at bookstores.
So which titles are actually succeeding over there?

Sales reports show that “Naruto,” “Bleach,” “One Piece” and most recently “Hetalia: Axis Powers” continue to sell well.

Meanwhile, comics awards and “the year’s top 10” lists of manga titles show different views.

Let’s look at the Japanese manga titles that won a leading U.S. comics award or were picked as the year’s best comics.

Garnering the most attention in 2010 was the manga “A Drifting Life” by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, which won the “Best U.S. Edition of International Material–Asia” and the “Best Reality-Based Work” prizes at the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.

The manga’s winning in the Asia category was no surprise to industry insiders because that award had been given only to works from Japan up until the year before.

But taking the Best Reality-Based Work prize was a remarkable accomplishment, with the manga being picked from works that included U.S.-produced comics.

However, “A Drifting Life” was not eligible for other awards in 2010 because it was published in 2009 in the United States. It was selected for the Eisner awards because they were given in summer 2010.

Meanwhile, publisher Seirin-Kogeisha’s anthology comic magazine “AX: Alternative Manga Volume 1” seemed to attract the most critical attention in 2010.

Magazines and blogs such as Publishers Weekly, the science fiction blog io9, Diamond Book Distributors and Graphic Novel Reporter (GNR) all named the manga as one of the year’s best.

It seems that “AX” has gained the spotlight because of rising interest in alternative manga titles in U.S. publishing circles.

This trend is also reflected in “Twin Spica” being selected as one of the best comics for young readers by School Library Journal (SLJ) and GNR. SLJ also recommends “7 Billion Needles,” a manga serialized in the monthly Comic Flapper magazine, as one of its best new comics for teens in 2010. Moreover, “Saturn Apartments,” running in the monthly Ikki comic magazine, was cited by the Young Adult Library Services Association.

Past masterpieces are also gaining the U.S. spotlight now. Moto Hagio’s “A Drunken Dream and Other Stories” was recommended by The New York Times in 2010.

These trends point to a sea change in the stereotypical image of Japanese manga as being merely a form of entertainment for boys and girls and as always being associated with anime.

Copyright The Asahi Shimbun Company.