Demand for manga in the North American market has boomed throughout the pandemic.
But retailers in the Lower Mainland haven’t been able to fully benefit from the high demand for Japanese graphic novels because there’s a global shortage of books.
Supplying manga in local stores has been uniquely challenging, in part because many North American printers haven’t been able to keep up with the demand. Pulp prices have also been high within the last year, contributing to this issue. According to Statistics Canada, the price of wood pulp rose 7.1 per cent from March to April of 2021.
“The sales of manga is still going really well, but we definitely have a shortage of mangas that we haven’t seen in a while,” said Yu-wei Wang, manager of Sakura Media in Burnaby, which sells a variety of anime products.
Many customers search for manga after getting hooked on the anime — the animated versions — they were adapted from. They will finish the anime and want to look for the next volume of the manga. Patrick Shaughnessy, owner and president of Golden Age Collectibles on Granville Street, noticed this increase in demand.
‘You’ve seen [anime] series like Hunter X Hunter and Demon Slayer start playing on downloadable services and people who never had access to them before have now seen them. Those ones have skyrocketed in popularity,’ said Shaugnessy.
Booknet Canada determined that the general/trade manga category, which encompasses the majority of manga aimed at adults, increased 135 per cent from August 2020 to August 2021 in Canada.
?? A Public Service Announcement ??
If you see a manga that you want to read in a store (or online and that manga is “In Stock”)
You should buy it NOW ???
The reprint situation is unexaggeratedly apocalyptic and you might not see that manga in stock again for months.
— Ben Applegate (@benapplegate) April 7, 2021
Wang says Chainsaw Man, a blockbuster manga series which began in 2018 has been difficult to fully stock. There are currently 11 volumes in the series and Wang says it’s been hard to get the entire collection.
“We had [volumes] one, two, three, and seven,” he said.
“We’ve been trying to talk to our supplier to give us those but they are always on back order,” he said.
Gustav Knudson, a UBC master’s student in music, got into manga in 2019 and has seen the supply chain disruption firsthand.
“I had no issue with getting volumes of manga at first, even things that were originally published several years prior,” he said.
Recently that hasn’t been the case.
“The first manga series I started reading physical copies of was Kaguya-sama: Love is War, and that is a series I’ve recently had trouble getting volumes for. The same goes for Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer),” Knudson said.
Cassandra Andrade, a student at Douglas College and manga collector, said the shortage means “we’ve hit the point where unless you pre-order a new manga book before it comes out, you’re basically SOL.”
Or, she said, you can pay a huge markup for a book on the resale market. She worries she won’t be able to get her hands on all the volumes of some of the series she’s been collecting.
There are, of course, other options outside of physical books.
“I’ve caught up by reading the chapters from my missing volumes online,” said Knudson.
Wang said he’s “not against people reading stuff online.”
For those who are attached to collecting physical copies he suggests, “buy whatever you can see and hope for the best. Get whatever volume you see first and then wait for the other ones to come in.”
He said the store is keeping a waitlist for people trying to get their hands on specific manga.