JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

South Korean tech firms shake up Japan's storied manga industry

Monday, March 01, 2021, 10:18 GMT+7
South Korean tech firms shake up Japan's storied manga industry
A booth assistant looks at "manga" or cartoons displayed at Japanese publishing company ASCII Media Works' booth during a photo opportunity at the Tokyo International Anime Fair March 25, 2010. Photo: Reuters

TOKYO -- Two South Korean technology companies are borrowing from mobile gaming to shake up - and dominate - Japan’s storied manga industry, a plot twist that has expanded the comics’ fanbase to a new generation of readers.

Backed by tech giants Kakao Corp and Naver Corp, Piccoma and Line Manga have become Japan’s highest-grossing mobile apps outside games. Such online manga platforms have seen a surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Piccoma’s third-quarter transaction volumes more than tripled year on year to 11.6 billion yen ($110 million), extending a wave of online manga sales that has already seen digital surpass print in Japan’s $5 billion manga industry.

Line Manga, now operated by SoftBank’s internet business Z Holdings, saw transaction volumes jump by a third to 8.2 billion yen in the same period. Naver declined an interview request.

Piccoma passed Line Manga to become last year’s top-grossing manga app on both Apple’s IoS and Android. Its rise can be traced back to 2016, when it introduced a revenue model it calls “zero yen if you wait.”

The app’s manga tales - from classroom love stories to supernatural horror - are serialized. Users must wait for a timer to unlock the next instalment, or pay to read ahead.

Inspired by smartphone games in which playing is free but extra content is not, the approach marked a radical departure from the typical model of selling an entire manga volume up front at prices of $4-$6.

“We thought if we could grab 5% or 10% of the bigger games market it would drive growth,” said Yukiko Sugiyama, senior manager in Kakao Japan’s business strategy department.

Readers, eager to find out what happens next, often end up paying. The business model has become standard as dozens of book sellers, tech companies and publishers rushed to offer their own apps.

Paper trail

Megumi, a 34-year-old office worker in western Japan, said she reads 20 pages or so of manga on her phone during her lunch break, and turned to the two apps when stuck at home taking care of kids during last year’s pandemic state of emergency.

She became “addicted” to and paid for a hit Line Manga series, “True Beauty”, about a young woman whose makeup skills make her popular with men.

The strip originated in Korea, where the rise of the internet saw paper sales collapse, replaced by smartphone-optimised comics.

Manga apps offer a vast back catalogue of titles and exclusive strips.

“You can read manga carrying just your smartphone - it’s handy,” said Kana Misaki, a 36-year-old care worker living near Tokyo who reads manga “overwhelmingly” via apps.

In Japan, online manga is generally still formatted like a book, and traditional publishers are a powerful force, with editors closely involved in each stage of production.

Printed in black and white on cheap paper, paper manga remains affordable and disposable. The industry is protected under Japanese law from books being sold for less than their cover price, even online.

“For new titles, paper sales are much higher,” said Shu Hashimoto, an editor at publisher Kodansha’s long-running Weekly Shonen Magazine.

Even the most ardent app users say they will buy paper editions of their favourite titles.

“You don’t know when titles will disappear from the apps, so when I want them close at hand I buy them,” Misaki said.

Reuters

More

Read more

France outlaws sex with children aged under 15

The French parliament on Thursday adopted legislation that characterises sex with a child under the age of 15 as rape and punishable by up to 20 years in jail, bringing its penal code closer in line with many other Western nations

17 hours ago
;

Photos

VIDEOS

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta celebrates spring with ‘hat boi’ performances

The art form is so popular that it attracts people from all ages in the Mekong Delta

Vietnamese youngster travels back in time with clay miniatures

Each work is a scene caught by Dung and kept in his memories through his journeys across Vietnam

Experience summer sand-boarding in Mui Ne

Sand-boarding, a popular activity amongst local children in the coastal tourism town of Mui Ne in south-central Vietnam, is attracting hundreds of tourists to the Red Sand Dunes

Young maple trees given better protection as Hanoi enters rainy season

The trees are currently growing well, with green leaves and healthy branches.

Hunting skinks for food in southern Vietnam

Skink meat is known to be soft, tasty, and highly nutritious.

Latest news