As reported earlier, Kodansha Comics debuted in America with seven manga volumes released in May, the first of which came out on May 10. Ten days later, four titles hit shelves and three made the New York Times Graphic Books Best Sellers Top 10 Manga List. The fourth title, Arisa, climbed to a spot on the next week’s list. Four for four – not a bad start at all.
The numbers, reported June 5 (for the sales week ending May 21), show Negima! volume 29 at no. 1, beating out several titles that had been on the list for 3 or more weeks. Shugo Chara! volume 10, a title for girls, and Fairy Tail volume 13, a comedy-based fantasy adventure, also debuted in the Top-10 list at the 6 and 7 spots, respectively. On the June 12 list (for the sales week ending May 28), Arisa volume 2 premiered at the no. 9 spot, Shugo and Fairy Tail moved up one rank each, and Negima! held its champion spot for the second week.
So what does this mean? The other slots are filled by books published by Viz and Yen Press, including Maximum Ride by James Patterson and NaRae Lu. Viz puts out hundreds of books a year, and its Shonen Jump line often creates manga bestsellers that stay in prime selling position for several weeks at a time, so its appearance on the June 5 list with titles that have been on for several weeks seems representative. The Patterson book is American and the rest are translated titles from Japan, so the purchasing of Japanese manga continue to dominate over American works. Four are titles aimed at girls; they are in solidly alternating spots with the ones aimed at boys, claiming spots 2, 4, 6, and 9 – so, without knowing from the list actual volumes sold, titles aimed at girls and boys seem fairly even.
Here’s the big one, though: All but one graphic novel on the list – Blue Exorcist – is a volume that continues an existing series. Just as Harry Potter 4 or Steven King’s newest book in a series would be considered an individual book for selling and categorizing, so are graphic novel series’ volumes – they just happen to have many volumes, because pictures take up more space than words alone. So, the fact that consumers are buying latter-volumes tells us two things: First, for the moment, people are sticking with titles they know, rather than new. Second, fans are willing to wait for the return of their beloved series – and with enough fury to propel those titles to no. 1 for two weeks running.
It says something about the quality of all the titles on the list that fans would wait so long and, in the case of Negima!, buy so powerfully – it had only a partial week of sales upon hitting no. 1. No doubt this was a good day for the Kodansha Comics’ team, but the June 5 and June 12 lists are also good news for all manga publishers: They prove that fans can come back with force after extended absences. And it’s good news for fans, of course – you’re finally getting that next volume.
Disclaimer: The writer of this article is an intern at KUP. She tried to think of a witty statement to reassure you all that she’s being as neutral as possible, but couldn’t. The lawyers would like to let you know, however, that she is writing this article as a manga fan, wholly aside from the position in the company. (Though working there did give a +1 to her research skills.) No kittens were harmed in the making of this article.