Monday, July 26, 2004

Konbini and clusters of manga shoppers

What would Japan be without the konbini, or convenience stores? They're everywhere, and people flock to them no matter what their socio-economic status, it seems to me. I see business men, students, housewives, office clerks, and "salarymen" using them to buy everything from bottled water, to take-out dinners, to the ever-present manga, or comic books. Manga are read everywhere by almost every age group. For an example of what manga look like, click here.

They're a huge business in Japan and even business men sit on trains openly reading manga without any embarrassment at all. Their themes range from science fiction to super heroes (for men and women), to violence and sex, and dozens of other themes. They're designed for all age groups, including very young children, teenagers, college students, and "for adults only."

The konbini has flocks of customers standing around the magazine rack where they peruse the latest catalog-thick isues before slapping down as little as 200 yen (roughly $2) or so for their reading pleasure. How can books compete at that price?

Capturing worldwide attention is the spinoff of manga, anime , the animated version of manga. Its market in the U.S. is over $2 billion annually and growing by leaps and bounds. Along with the TV anime market and the fast-growing video and DVD rental segment, is the anime toy shops that are popping up all across the U.S. Girls seem to prefer Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yuugi or Revolutionary Girl Utena. Men prefer such anime as Inuyasha, Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho, Tokyo Pig, and Hamtaro.

This Japanese export is a hot ticket in the American economy and I'm sure manga and anime will become as big in the U.S. as they are now in Japan. What an interesting phenomenon.

1 comment:

[denise] said...

It has become such a big market for anime and manga here in the US, that US comics are taking on the style just to keep up. I've seen bookstores expending shelf upon shelf of manga. All of them nowadays are being read in its original right to left form with extensive notes on customs. They aren't priced the way I'm used to in Japan but someone has to translate it right? I'm kind of torn at the moment with this sudden explosion. I'm glad people are becoming worldy but at the same time I don't think they are. It's become this pop entertainment because it's what everyone is doing (ah, well kids and young adults anyhow). Most aren't taking the time to understand the culture. I'm worried that Japan is being criticised unfairly as over sexed, violent and perverted because of this. (nevermind they have the lowest crime rate in the world) This exciting new world of anime and manga is being seen as animated violence and sex for kids. It's not understood that it's a market that caters to all audiences and people here become shocked when they find out. I feel like there should be a warning label or prereq program one has to complete before reading/watching. People have to understand that this is a COUNTRY'S CULTURE, a DIFFERENT SOCIETY, a WHOLE OTHER WORLD separate from the US. Sorry to go on so long. It was just a passionate subject for me. Gomen.