Level Comics Bestselling Manga of 2008: A law of duality between AirGear and Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge

Level Comics Bestselling Manga: AirGear and Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge banner

AirGear © Oh! Great/Kodansha
Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge © Hayakawa Tomoko/Kodansha

If Elex Media has three consistently top-seeded players, its more "mature" sibling Level Comics has two: Oh! Great's AirGear and Hayakawa Tomoko's Perfect Girl Evolution or Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge. AirGear ranked first during the first and third trimesters of 2008 but had to give up that coveted position to Yamanade in the second trimester.

(The rest of the Level bestsellers are here; what follows is my attempt to make sense of stuff.)

another shot at an analysis, Part II by huamulan03

Shounen manga apparently does well in the Indonesian market...

Al Ries and Jack Trout's marketing law #8 (every market boils down to a two-horse race in the long run) still holds immutable in this Top 20. That's not just in terms of either AirGear or Perfect Girl Evolution (AKA The Wallflower) rising, but also in original publisher's share of the Top 20 (Kodansha and Shogakukan; see Table 2).

I do have to note, though, that Level's Top 3 manga—in any trimester surveyed—are not seinen, the genre that makes up most of the imprint's titles, if not the basis for its existence. AirGear, Love & Collage or Ai Kora (placed third in Trimester 1), Fight!! Ippo (Hajime no Ippo; T2 #3), and Magister Negi Magi (Mahou Sensei Negima!; T3 #3) are shounen manga, while the Betsufure-serialized Yamanade is shoujo. (See Table 3 for shounen/shoujo/seinen mapping.) Shounen manga apparently does well in the Indonesian market: Naruto, Meitantei Conan, and One Piece likewise reign supreme for Elex Media.

Beyond the continued surprising shounen domination and the observed law of duality in the upper echelons, however, one more direction is evident: the frequency with which a series releases new volumes doesn't seem to effect its ranking (yes, I mean "effect" and not "affect"). If that were the case, AirGear wouldn't be #1, Hajime no Ippo would be. During the period researched (and if I'm correct in the new manga volume numbers), AirGear released only three new tankou to Ippo's 15. That five-fold edge from Ippo's regular, twice-monthly release schedule doesn't appear to have helped Morikawa Joji ("George")-sensei's boxing manga that much.

The frequency with which a series releases new volumes doesn't effect its ranking

Extending the same argument, Yamaguchi Katsumi-sensei's My Favorite Bike wouldn't even make it into the list. MFB volume 3 came out in December 2007, and I'm pretty darn sure volume 4 hasn't even released yet. Someone correct me if I'm mistaken.

So overall, there doesn't seem to be any such thing as an "unfair advantage" gained from releasing more frequently, or having more sales opportunities. Granted I think that incidence did boost the standings of Akamatsu Ken-sensei's Negima! (four new releases; ended up ranked third), Abe George- and Kakizaki Masasumi-sensei's Rainbow (five new releases; finished #4), Suenobu Keiko-sensei's LIFE (one new release in the second trimester, three new volumes in the third; rebounded in the third quarter to climb to #18), and Nogizaka Taro- & Nagai Akira-sensei's Team Medical Dragon (volume 1 towards the end of the second quarter, two follow-ups in the third; debuted at 20 in the third trimester). The exceptions, however, remain fewer.

Table 1: Rankings, changes in succeeding periods, comparison with original TI position, and new volumes released

Manga TI TII C/ TI TIII C/ TI New releases Total
AirGear 1 2 1 UNC V3-5 3
Perfect Girl Evolution 2 1 2 UNC V15-17 3
Love & Collage 3 11 17 V1-3 3
Fight!! Ippo 4 3 5 V40-54 15
Trafficker 5 19 V1-3/3 3
Dandelion 6 18 15 V1-2/2 2
Blade of the Immortal 7 9 12 V1-3 3
xxxHOLiC 8 8 UNC 6 V2-3 2
The Black Swindler 9 17 13 V1-3 3
Vagabond 10 7 7 V21-22 2
Hotaru's Light 11 V2-5 4
Rainbow 12 10 4 V4-8 5
20th Century Boys 13 4 V20-22/22 3
Yugo The Negotiator 14 13 16 V11-15 5
Shin Angyo Onshi 15 12 V13-16 4
Magister Negi Magi 16 6 3 V11-14 4
My Favorite Bike 17 8 0 in 2008
Babysitter Gin 18 V7-9/9 3
Train Man 19 V1-3/3 3
LIFE 20 18 V4-9 6
For You in Full Blossom 5 NEW 10 N/A; C/TII ↓ V13-17 5
Homunculus 14 NEW 9 N/A; C/TII ↑ V7 1
Hellsing 15 NEW 11 N/A; C/TII ↑ V1 1
Red Eyes 16 NEW 14 N/A; C/TII ↑ V8 1
If You Were Here 20 NEW N/A V4-6 3
Haruka 17 19 N/A V3 1
Team Medical Dragon 20 N/A V1-3 3

Bestseller Manga: Original publishers

Of the first Top 20 bestsellers, 11 were Kodansha assets, while the rest were Shogakukan's. In the second trimester, both Kodansha and Shogakukan claimed nine titles, with Hakusensha (For You in Full Blossom or Hana-Kimi debuted at #5 in the second trimester) and Shonen Gahosha (Hellsing placed 15th) nabbing the other two spots. By the third trimester, Kodansha titles climbed back to 11, Shogakukan's dropped to seven, and Hakusensha and Shonen Gahosha's share from Hana-Kimi and Hellsing remained unchanged.

Table 2: Share by original publisher, changes in succeeding periods, and comparison with initial share

Original publisher TI share (%) TII share (%) TIII share (%)
Kodansha 55 45 ↓ 55 UNC
Shogakukan 45 45 UNC 35 ↓
Hakusensha 0 5 ↑ 5 ↑
Shonen Gahosha 0 5 ↑ 5 ↑

It's supposed to be a seinen line...

But only two seinen titles made it into the Top 5, and only in the second and third trimesters. Josei titles (in the first period, #11 Hotaru's Light (Hotaru no Hikari) and #18 Babysitter Gin; in the second, #20 If You Were Here or Anata ga Ireba) disappear by the third trimester, although Hotaru's Light still released volume 5 during this period (IYWH didn't and Babysitter Gin had already finished its Indonesian run by end-July.)

Table 3: Bestsellers according to genre (demographics) across three trimesters

Rank Trimester I Trimester II Trimester III
1 Shounen Shoujo Shounen
2 Shoujo Shounen Shoujo
3 Shounen Shounen Shounen
4 Shounen Seinen Seinen
5 Shounen Shoujo Shounen
6 Seinen Shounen Seinen
7 Seinen Seinen Seinen
8 Seinen Seinen Seinen
9 Seinen Seinen Seinen
10 Seinen Seinen Shoujo
11 Josei Shounen Seinen
12 Seinen Seinen Seinen
13 Seinen Seinen Seinen
14 Seinen Seinen Shounen
15 Seinen Seinen Seinen
16 Shounen Shounen Seinen
17 Seinen Seinen Shounen
18 Josei Seinen Shoujo
19 Seinen Shounen Seinen
20 Shoujo Josei Seinen

huamulan03's predictions for 2009?

My babblings could be just that—babbling, especially as the 2008 figures on which I based sed talking out of my *rse are still incomplete.

So believe (if you're inclined) at your peril.

I would've sed a similar favoring the 20% that gives you your 80% sales focus, but the alarming slowdown we're seeing in 2009 releases has me confused.

Is Level rethinking its position and going for The Long Tail? Does it want to sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities? I think that's a little extreme, and anyway, one or two manga a week's not going to cut it. From what I saw of Level's 2009 plan, there seems to be a large enough pool of choice, but are the imprint's inventory and distribution costs nugatory enough to allow pursuit of this niche strategy?

From my own experience of the Indonesian retail market, the first way out is volume; the second way out is volume; the third way out is volume, with most everything sold on consignment. While I would welcome a more munificent manga smorgasbord that a Long Tail would afford, I also don't want the Level imprint to fold, should the market remain lopsided in favor of popular manga.

I think the release diminution hints at some consolidation going on, and whatever changes ensue, I assume that Level's going to end up publishing its promised 24 titles a month (a 50% increase over its 2008 average). What would constitute this golden 24? Likely the continuing series from among the Top 20 manga of 2008. I really doubt it would be Bye-bye, Pareto and hello, some other strategy scenario; after all, bookstores 'n such still have limited shelf and floor space.

~niki DBA huamulan03 (花木蘭03) via Elex Media

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