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Wednesday, April 07, 2021 

Manga sales continue to be big, and some history on a Japanese specialty museum

The Asahi Shimbun's given more confirmation as to the whopping sales of manga in Japan, both print and digital:
Combined sales of print and digital manga surged beyond 600 billion yen ($5.5 billion) in 2020 for the first time since records began in 1978, Shuppan Kagaku Kenkyujo (Research institute of publication science) said.

The 23-percent year-on-year increase to 612.6 billion yen surpassed the previous sales peak of 586.4 billion yen set in 1995, when Weekly Shonen Jump and other manga anthologies were at the pinnacle of their popularity, it said.

The institute attributed the growth to stay-at-home lifestyles during the COVID-19 pandemic and the huge success of “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba,” which also ran in Shonen Jump.

The digital comic market grew by 31.9 percent to 342 billion yen, up 82.7 billion yen from the previous year, and topped the 270.6 billion yen in combined sales of print comics and manga magazines.

Still, the print comic market turned upward for the first time in 19 years.
This is telling far more than you could expect from most US press sources covering sales of domestic product, both print and digital. The estimates equal far more than mainstream superhero comics are making, and that's mainly because, compared to mainstream, again, Japanese mangakas are turning out various items far more worth reading, since they're less focused on ideological indoctrination.

While we're on the topic, here's also a history article on Nippon about a veteran mangaka named Yaguchi Takao who recently passed on, his involvement with the Masuda Manga Museum, and it tells something interesting about the contrast to how a late veteran like Osamu Tezuka's work is valued in contrast to more modern art drafts from illustrators who aren't as well known:
In recent years, manga has come to occupy an increasingly prestigious position as one of the leading exemplars of the “Cool Japan” phenomenon. One sign of this growing prestige are the high prices paid for original artwork for on the international market.

In May 2018, original artwork for Tezuka Osamu’s Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu in Japanese) sold for €270,000 at an auction in Paris. Representatives of the artist’s production company in Tokyo said they weren’t aware of how the artwork, originally created in the mid-1950s, had found its way onto the market. At the time, the original drawings for manga were regarded as just one preliminary stage in the printing process, of little value once the manga had been printed. Tezuka himself apparently gave little thought to keeping track of his artwork once it was printed.

By contrast, many manga artists today struggle to cope with the work involved in storing and taking care of their substantial collections of manuscripts and original artwork. With nowhere to store their collections, some artists have resorted to selling off their drawings to fans for next to nothing. Others simply throw their drawings away. If no relatives are alive to inherit the manuscripts, these papers sometimes simply disappear without trace after the death of the original artist. The artwork can sometimes be assessed for inheritance taxes: the position of the tax bureau and the Ministry of Finance is that a decision is made on a case-by-case basis, depending on previous sales of the artist’s creations and the opinions of experts in the field.

As the artistic valuation of manga increases, it becomes increasingly likely that artwork will be assessed for inheritance tax in the same way as paintings and other types of art. In the case of manga, where the original artwork can easily run into many thousands of manuscript pages, these payments can become astronomical. Donating the artwork to a museum means that it is removed from an artist’s estate and is no longer eligible for inheritance tax.

In 2015, Yaguchi donated around 42,000 of his own original papers and manuscripts to the Yokote Masuda Manga Museum. With support from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, work on preserving and looking after the collection of manuscripts began in earnest.
I think, if there's anything in modern manga worth archiving, the Japanese history society should help some mangakas to store their art drafts better than they currently can, and maybe it'd be a good idea to translate some of it to digital format and store it on the internet as well. But maybe most important of all, is to distinguish what are the best stories and art from an artistic perspective. That's how you judge what's best for regard internationally. For now, we've certainly got an example of how Japan's archivists are proving pretty good at preserving a lot of past material.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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