The dominant presence of manga and anime-related exhibitors at this year’s New York Comic Con, held October 6-9 at the Javits Center, marked a significant change from the years before the pandemic. Upon entering New York Comic Con 2022, the overall impression was that manga, anime, and Japanese pop culture were now overwhelmingly embraced by American fans and had taken their place in North American popular culture.
The largest stalls at the entrance to the hall were for Japanese game and game company Bandai Namco, manga publisher Viz Media, collectible figures company Tamashii Nations, and game company Konami (viewing Yu-Gi-Oh card games), along with a huge dragon from the popular Dragon Ball seriess Hover over the entrance. There were also large booths housing equipment from the Mobile Suit Gundam series, housing Studio Ghibli, the animation studio co-founded by animation director Hayao Miyazaki. Crunchyroll, the animation streaming platform, had two large booths, and there were long lines to buy collectibles from game company Good Smile.
Huge lobby banners promoted Yen Press’s new Korean comic imprint Ize Press, along with promotions for popular manga/anime series Dragon Ball, Chainsaw Man, and One Piece. Influencers of all ages in costumes inspired by the Demon Slayer and Spy x Family manga series were as popular as Marvel or DC Comics characters. Marvel Comics had the fun with joint engagements with Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, Japanese creators of Viz Media’s Ultraman manga, along with promoting upcoming versions of Ultraman cross stories with Marvel’s The Avengers.
Monkey D. Luffy’s towering balloon (a character from the popular One Piece manga series) has taken over the fairground. And on Saturday night, Toei Animation took over more than half of the billboards in Times Square with animated promotions for One Piece Movie: Red, the latest feature film in the popular Shonen Jump series about a pirate trotting around the world in a fantasy world. The popular manga series by Tatsuki Fujimoto Chainsaw Man (the story of a young man who can change parts of his body into a chainsaw) has also been the subject of NYCC fanfare, prompted by the anime series’ debut on Crunchyroll and the second win of chainsaw man Best Manga at the Harvey Awards.
The growing interest in manga and webtoons was also reflected in this year’s programming. Along with the high-profile premieres of long-awaited anime releases such as Bleach: a bloody war for a thousand yearsThere were several panels in Thursday’s library programming track dedicated to manga, including “Manga Making and Your Library” and “Manga Defense.” In “The Best and Worst of Manga,” Gillian Rodez, librarian for Japanese manga and culture collection development (and founder of MangaInLibraries.com), answers questions from a room full of curious library professionals and readers.
Viz Media and Yen Press just announced new titles at the show. Highlights from Viz Media’s Summer 2023 editions include Soichi: Junji Ito Short Story Collection by manga master Junji Ito, Spider-Man: Fake Red Written by Yusuke Osawa (Japanese teenager who finds a Spider-Man suit and learns what it takes to be a hero) and The House Husband Method: A Gangster’s Guide to Housekeeping By Laurie Ulster and Victoria Rosenthal (companion title to the manga series about a retired but intimidating yakuza who cooks and cleans for his wife). Yen Press has announced a print version of the Korean romance/drama TV series What’s wrong with Secretary Kim? By Gyeongyun Jeong and Myeongmi Kim, an animated romance manga version of Slice of Life Bubble words like soda pop By Kyohei Ishiguro and Imo Oono.
Another notable trend at NYCC 2022 is the growth of webtoons, including comics content originally from Korea and China, and original comics created by a wave of discerning international creators on mobile comics platforms such as Webtoon, Tapas Media, Manta, Lezhin, and Tappeton. webtoon Lower Olympus By Rachel Smith, a popular website (now the best-selling graphic novel series) that presents a modern take on the legendary lovers Persephone and Hades, received the Harvey Digital Book of the Year Award.
Wattpad Webtoon Studios has showcased its new Webtoon Unscrolled imprint, intended for the print editions of some of the most popular web comics, including the romance series real beauty By Yaongyi (Make-up mastery, shy ugly duckling becomes glamorous and gets boys). Webtoon Unscrolled is the latest entry in the growing webtoons-to-print category. Imprint plans to release 12 new series each year with distribution and sales support from Macmillan in the US and Canada.
Meanwhile, Yen Press reports increased sales of early copies of new titles from Ize Press, a new imprint dedicated to print editions of Korean comics/webtoons. Among the releases is the action-horror series The world after the fall (Apocalypse epic), fantasy romance Bastards are destined to die by Gwon Gyeoeul.
Next to the Yen Press booth was the K-Comics booth, hosted by the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), a government agency that coordinates the promotion of the Korean content industry, including movies, music, games, and of course, comics. Publishers from Korea, including C&C Revolution, Toyou’s Dream, Ultra Media, WoowaBros, Jaedam, and MstoryHub, are showing series that are currently available in English on several web comics platforms. KOCCA’s goal is to introduce more comics readers to the popular webtoon series, and possibly find new ways to translate these stories into other entertainment.
Cho Yeonhun, global commercial development manager for Toyou’s Dream web publisher PW that KOCCA publishers are looking to “expand the frontiers of our business. In Korea, we have movies and TV dramas based on webtoons. We know we have a long way to go in this market compared to Japanese manga and American comics, but we think Korean webtoons have a lot of unique features, And you can read it anywhere, anytime. The US market is huge, and we look forward to doing more here in the future.”