Yesterday, ANN reported that Oricon’s annual manga sales statistics for 2012 were released. According to Oricon, manga sales totaled 267.5 billion yen ($2.892 billion) in revenues, down 1.5% from 2011’s 271.77 billion take. The drop coincides with a 5.4% decline in sales in the overall book industry, which took in 1.0528 trillion yen ($11.3803 billion).
One could easily infer that manga’s decline is tied to the overall publishing industry’s drops. After all: both saw reductions in sales year over year, which in turn led to reduced revenues. The overall landscape contracted, as people spent less on merchandise. Nobody will argue this, and I don’t expect them to. The real interest in this story is, instead, that the manga market managed to beat out the overall publishing industry in terms of year-over-year change. that it dropped with less severity than other sectors is the interesting story.
In 2011, Oricon’s tracking served as somewhat of an anomaly. By this, I mean that the tracking for 2011 covered 53 weeks, as it began its tracking for the year on December 27, 2010. Because of this, the industry saw a second busy new Year’s holday week, during which sales of entertainment goods spike.
Outside of the holiday, we saw a banner year for manga sales, as One Piece began achieving sales records unheard of in the industry. Volume 60 of the series was the first to break 3 million sales on Oricon’s chart. The industry buzzed, as the milestone was surpassed – three million was thought to be impossible in today’s market! Nothing would top it! The next volumes, while they didn’t quite match the mighty three million figure set by volume 60, would all go on to break two million sales within three days of their releases. In all, the series would sell 38 million copies in 2011 alone.
One Piece would be complemented by a number of strong performers in the greater market, which included Naruto (6.87 million copies) and Blue Exorcist (5.223 million copies), would propel revenues to heights that had yet to be recorded.
In 2012, there would be nowhere to go but down. One Piece, while still a strong performer, would see a decline of nearly ten million copies from its peak in 2011, which other publications would struggle to replace. While Naruto held roughly constant year over year, and Kuroko’s Basketball saw an impressive 8 million sales through November 18, the numbers wouldn’t be enough to replicate the breakout success of the year before.
In this light, one could argue that the change in the manga industry wasn’t as much of a decline, as it was a correction. Removing the sales outliers would produce a curve that would be roughly consistent year-over-year. At this point, though, the narrative has been set. The industry declined, which is grounds for the requisite doom and gloom across forums and social media.