We spoke to Kevin Hamric, Viz Media Vice President Publishing Sales, at San Diego Comic Con, and he gave us an overview of the current state of the supply chain as well as what to expect in the fall. Sarah Anderson, Director, Publishing Sales, joined us at one point to clarify some plot points in Chainsaw Man.
We last spoke early this year (see "ICv2 Interview: Kevin Hamric"). What changes or developments have you seen in the manga market since then?
Kevin Hamric: The only changes are more: We're selling more, we're printing more, we're distributing more. The sales are still strong. Sales are above prior year, above last year, which was a record year. NPD BookScan has already sent out numbers saying that the only [growing] supercategory in the book trade is adult fiction.
The only reason that's up is because of the comic and graphic novel subcategory. The only reason that subcategory is up is because of the other subcategory of manga.
What's happening with the supply chain? Have the shortages abated at all? Are you able to keep your books in print any better than six months ago?
Short answer, no. There was a little bit of reprieve in May and June, but now we're back into a problematic time because of paper shortages and employee shortages. They can't get enough employees to work the presses. They can't get enough employees to drive the trucks. There's not enough employees at ports, and there's not enough employees at our warehouses.
The steadiness of books coming in and being reprinted is OK right now, but we're not going to be out of the supply chain issue until well into next year, maybe into next summer.
What makes you think you'll be out of it then?
Because of talking to our binderies, and our printers. They see how much we're printing, and we're getting a larger allocation at the printers.
What percentage of your backlist is unavailable at any given time?
Right now, our fill rate is still about 25 to 30 percent lower than what we consider acceptable and what it was pre‑pandemic.
You're still shipping a lot of books. There just aren't enough.
The demand is still very high. We just can't keep up with that demand right now. Frontlist is fine. We've been able to increase our print runs to cover all the orders that come in prior to the book being on sale.
When a new volume comes out, you've got enough supply.
We've got enough, and then a little extra after that. We've also been able to stagger the reprints for new releases. We may have a first printing, but we may have already called the second and third printing just so we know that we've got that supply coming in to meet the demand after the first initial sales period.
Let's talk a little bit about specific properties. One thing that caught us by surprise was that in New York in May, Kinokuniya had stacks of Spy x Family on their endcap. There had to have hundreds of copies of each volume. Then it started to hit the BookScan charts (see "NPD BookScan May 2022"). That series seems to come out of nowhere. What happened?
It started selling before the anime was announced. It was already on our radar based on the sales in Japan and what the page views were on the Shonen Jump app, the Shonen Jump subscription service.
We sort of knew it was going to be selling really, really well. We didn't know it was going to sell this well. I's like how My Hero Academia and Tokyo Ghoul took off back in the day. This one really, really is selling extremely well. Without having an anime anywhere, even before it was announced, that's even that much more incredible. At one point, we had all seven volumes on the NPD BookScan list in one week. That's never happened before. [laughs]
I can't think of any series that had that. Maybe Berserk one time or something, but nothing like this. The numbers are ridiculously high.
Another title that's doing well is Chainsaw Man, for which the anime is dropping this year. That's basically selling on the manga, right? There's nothing driving it.
Similar to Spy x Family, the sales, even before there's been any type of anime announcement, were high. Sales for that right now, we're running higher than Spy x Family.
Give me the short description of the Chainsaw Man concept for people that might not be familiar.
Sarah Anderson: Denji is a small‑time devil hunter. He gets killed, then he gets revived by his pet devil dog, Pochita, and becomes Chainsaw Man.
Kevin Hamric: Doesn't that explain it all? [laughs] She said exactly the synopsis of the series.
Sarah Anderson: Denji, that's the character, he's a small‑time devil hunter who gets killed on...I think he's collecting debts or something like that.
Kevin Hamric: Yes, collecting debts.
Sarah Anderson: He gets killed.
Does Chainsaw Man have a chainsaw?
Sarah Anderson: Yes.
Kevin Hamric: In his head and on his arm.
Anything on the horizon that you're seeing trending early that has the kind of heat like Spy x Family? Anything else that's in the pipeline that seems to be increasing rapidly?
Kevin Hamric: We announced Choujin X from the creator of Tokyo Ghoul. It's been available on our Shonen Jump service. The buzz around that is very high. We've got good expectations for that.
Probably, the other hype, not for a series, but anything by the author of Chainsaw Man, we've got two of his early works coming out when he was 17 and 21 years old, Before Chainsaw Man 17‑21 and Before Chainsaw Man 22‑26.Those are his ages, so it's very early work. You can see how he's progressed in his artwork. That's getting a lot of hype right now, too. Those are coming out in Spring ‘23
Between now and the end of the year, what are your major initiatives?
To try to get as many books in stock as possible. [laughs]
New releases, we should have said.
Rooster Fighter. That's probably even a better answer to your previous question, the hype around that one. The premise of that one is a regular‑size rooster in Tokyo is fighting gargantuan‑size monsters. Who doesn't like an underdog story?
Is he using his spurs on his feet, or what?
A little bit, and his beak. He's fighting real‑size gargantuan monsters.
Does he speak?
Nope. He crows, he cackles, so it's all sound effects.
Are the monsters well‑known?
Pretty much so.
When is that coming out?
August. That's in August.
Anything else coming out that our readers should be alerted to?
In October, The Shonen Jump Guide to Making Manga. This is straight from the Shonen Jump imprint in Japan and that editorial group inside Shueisha.
Eight different creators are featured in the book giving tips, and tricks, and advice on how to draw manga, on how they started and how they draw manga, as well as some interviews from them in the book.
Thus Spoke Rohan Kishibe comes out in late September, and this is a spinoff from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure with the most well‑known character, Rohan Kishibe in that beautiful hardcover trade dress that we've done JoJo's in.
Then, of course, our Junji Ito book comes out in October. It's called Black Paradox. Junji Ito, if you group all his books as a series, last year it was our fifth bestselling series.
We've been grouping that in our top properties as his books, and they do come up very high.
He's a horror machine.
The My Hero Academia boxed set goes on sale globally on October 18th. We have a second printing called on that already.
You're still pricing a lot of titles at $9.99. How are you doing that? How long can you keep doing it?
We're selling a hell of lot of books. One of the things we said during the pandemic was we were not going to try to take advantage of anybody or anything. We kept our prices as is. Our basic manga, our general manga is $9.99 US.
Even though our costs have gone up, paper costs have gone up, printing costs have gone up, shipping costs have gone up, we are still not planning, right now, to increase our prices. It takes a lot to change our prices. We're just not ready to do that, nor do we really want to take advantage of anybody or anything.
You're the pricing leader, right? Nobody else is selling below $10, are they?
We are the lowest in the market.
That's very cool. It's an easy buy.
What I call a one bill buy.