Can Sports Manga Really Breakthrough in North America?

Haikyu!! manga art

Here we are in the summer of 2020 and it’s usually San Diego Comic-Con time. And with it comes discussion of how manga is doing in 2020. There was a Manga Publishing Industry Roundtable discussion at Comic-Con with representatives from almost all of the U.S. manga publishers (which you can watch here) about what’s happening in the U.S. side of things. While manga sales have dropped due to the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have rebounded back in some ways. A great thing about this is that it’s not just mainstream titles that are selling; it’s also series that are from other genres like slice-of-life and horror.

Which now leads into the title of this post because at the end of the discussion, publishers were asked about what they would like to see in the future. Erik Ko, chief of operations at UDON Comics, said something that really piqued my interest. He said that he wants to see if sports manga can truly breakthrough in North America (i.e. reach levels of sales and popularity a la My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer, etc.). Erik mentioned how his daughter loves Haikyu!! on Crunchyroll and watched all 3 seasons multiple times (It’s also mentioned that Haikyu!! sold well during the pandemic for its U.S. publisher Viz Media).

While the manga has officially ended as of this writing, Haikyu!! will last for a while as the anime will have a 4th season and possibly more. However, while Haikyu!! is loved by a lot of anime/manga fans, it’s not exactly a series that has gotten EVERY shonen fan or manga reader talking. With the many sports manga licenses that manga publishers have gotten over the past few years, it doesn’t sound like there’s significant traction.

This does beg the question of what …continue reading