Today in the column Troy posed some interesting questions, kind of the staple of manga talking points, and among them was the question:
The Ultimate Selling Point:
We’ve talked off and on about the pros and cons of manga vs. the American mainstream, and I’m ready to set my Cubs hat on one opinion. I believe that the ultimate selling point is one simple thing: finality. The grand majority of manga offers stories that end by a single creator or team, and I think that there’s something compelling about seeing that coherent vision realized. Granted, this isn’t an epiphany on the same level at that in James Joyce’s Araby, but I do believe that’s my final answer.
To which I respond:
I don’t agree that finality is the key either. I know personally, I’m aware that the finite nature of manga is appealing, but more in a rewarding sense, not a conscious one. That is to say, I didn’t first start reading manga because I’d heard there were stories with actual resolution, that payoff is what kept me coming back for more. Even though they’re finite, manga are still serial in nature.
Besides, I simply can’t envision the generation of young manga readers delving into the bookstores after hearing about these comic stories that have finite arcs. Nope, that’s not the key selling point.
I really believe manga’s selling point to the new market is it’s name. It has much more to do with it being called “manga”, and not “comics”. It’s uniqueness, or newness., the different format, styles, vibe, approach. Everything about manga is different from traditional US comics. That’s the key component, and that’s why it’s able to find this new success that comics lost decades ago.
That said, there are many other reasons that have contributed. Attributes or factors that have allowed the success to happen. It’s really the chicken vs the egg, but I think if you ask about the ultimate selling point, it comes down to marketing, and manga by it’s very nature, has marketed itself to the US marketplace better than mainstream US comics have in decades (the name, the format, the model, the content, etc, etc.).
What’s in a name? Everything!
This is huge for me, and relates back to some of what I feel most strongly about the comics medium. I'll just leave it at that for now, but suffice it say comics need a new name.
Check out the column HERE
Okay, so after posting my comments earlier, and posing that manga’s namesake, or marketing uniqueness (name, format, style) was it’s ultimate selling point, I got to thinking as I was away at work…
And ya know what?
The name is key, the fact that manga differentiates itself from comics, in every way, right down to the name, that’s huge. And admittadley, there are a lot of other factors, with creative drive/ownership and finite/complete storytelling (thus allowing true character growth, as others have mentioned) a huge part of it (that must also be there). But none of that matters without something else, manga’s x-factor. It’s synergy with other media, namely anime.
Manga and anime are much more associated than comics and cartoons or comics and movies. For example, if you see an anime, and look to a major outlet for it’s manga counterpart, you’ll find a concise offering. Sure something like Dragonball may have scores of volumes, but they all relate very well to the anime. Not the case at all with US product. Not only does the US product differ wildly, there’s an avalanche of different versions (as mentioned), formats, etc. Take a look at how Marvel sets up properties that hit the big screens, they dump a wide assortment of material on the market to coincide with the film. For FF, you’ll have; regular, MK, Ultimate, Adventures, FF Foes, and oh yeah, the adaptation (just off the top of my head). It’s suicide. Not only does the market not have the ability, or need, to support this product, virtually none of it relates well to the movie property. Not to mention (as others have), it's confusing as hell. If this were an anime, kids could walk to the bookstore manga section and find one, or maybe a couple runs of manga that is very similar to the source, and any number of straightforward volumes per each, all in the same format and style (similar in style even to the anime). Try the same for comics.
That’s your formula, that’s the key. It’s synergy. Having other media that directly corresponds to your print material, and having concise offerings in print, that don’t vary from wildly from the interpretations, is what drives the audience to your product, or warms them up to it. Today’s youth wouldn’t be crazy for manga’s artistic sensibilities if they didn’t have reason to from exposure to the various anime…
Other media synergy (anime/cards) + marketing (name, format/price point, distribution) + content (creator driven, style, finite, etc.)
I submit, it’s those three keys, in that order, that have made manga successful. The penetration of anime and related merchandising, have opened the doors for manga. The way the Japanese system works, allows this to happen. Which is a key difference from how the US industry works, or rather doesn’t.
A perfect example where the US industry, or comics, got it right (and what a surprise, it’s not one of the big 2) is Sin City. Not only is the movie very much in line with the source material, the source material is very straightforward. Why? Cause it’s creator driven, just like manga. Just like manga across the board, and shock-o-shito, the Sin City trades are doing very well.
Other media synergy + marketing + content = success
Memo to the US industry: