Made-in-Japan manga goes global with Webtoon, Deadpool

TOKYO — Deadpool, meet All Might.

Perhaps nothing shows how much better the world of manga, comics and cartoons originating in Japan, has become globalized than the meeting of superheroes, American and Japanese.

Deadpool: Samurai”, released in Japanese last year, was released in English translation this month. The Japanese “Deadpool: Samurai” was the best-selling Marvel comic book last year, surpassing over a million views online. It marks the first partnership between Marvel and Japanese comic book publisher Shonen Jump.

Sanshiro Kasama, the author of ‘Deadpool: Samurai’, said he was thrilled to take on the job because he’s always loved Marvel heroes and wanted more Japanese people to love Deadpool.

“I said yes, yes, yes, yes! I really want to do this. It’s amazing that the guy who always wanted to make a manga like Deadpool actually manages to make Deadpool. I was so excited,” he told The Associated Press.

One of the challenges was that Marvel was protective of its characters and often insisted that what it was having Deadpool do was irrelevant. In one scene, where Deadpool shot someone, a gun had to be replaced with a paint gun, Kasama said.

“Deadpool: Samurai” features art by Hikaru Uesugi, Kasama’s collaborator, but the scenes with All Might had art by his original manga artist Kohei Horikoshi. “Deadpool: Samurai” is the first collaboration between Marvel and American manga publisher and anime distributor VIZ Media.

Manga quickly became the number one category of adult fiction in the United States. market, according to The NPD Group, which tracks these trends.

Japan is still the world’s largest manga market at 45% in 2020, but the rest of the combined global market is rapidly catching up, according to Grand View Research, a San Francisco-based researcher and consultant. The global manga market, valued at $23.5 billion in 2020, is expected to reach $48 billion in 2028, he said.

Julia Mechler, creator of the manga “Hymn of the Teada”, found that an American editor was more interested in her work, which featured an Okinawan woman, than Japanese editors, who saw it as niche and political .

Mechler wants his works to give voice to Okinawa, an island in southwestern Japan where a horrific ground battle took place in the final years of World War II.

“I thought the beauty of Okinawan is that they really appreciate peace,” said Mechler, whose mother is Okinawan and his father is American.

“I learned that peace is the most important thing in the world. Peace and life. And it sounds like a cliché, but, looking at the world, it’s actually very hard to pull off.

Mechler believes the lines between Japanese manga and the works of non-Japanese are blurring as the world of manga becomes increasingly global.

Japanese animation, known as anime, is popular on Netflix. Shows like “Demon Slayer” and “Attack on Titan” were first released as manga. Netflix promises more anime this year, as do other streaming services like Hulu and Disney+.

Manga is also behind the hit Netflix series that features human actors like “Fishbowl Wives,” which focuses on marital infidelity in a middle-class Tokyo neighborhood. These shows attract not only Japanese viewers, but also American and other viewers.

Another hit show from Neftlix, “All of Us Are Dead,” in which zombies invade a high school, is based on a webtoon, a form of manga that began in South Korea.

Although manga has long been available online through Kindle, Apple Books, Google Play and other platforms, Webtoon offers its products for mobile phone reading by rearranging the boxes to align them vertically, allowing readers to make scroll from one panel to another with the flick of a finger.

When the manga is read on paper pages, the story moves from one box image to another. Some Japanese manga fans still prefer to read the old-fashioned way, even online, but newcomers seem to be adapting quickly to enjoy the webtoon manga style.

Webtoon Worldwide Service, which includes Naver Webtoon in South Korea, founded in 2004; Line Manga in Japan; and services in the United States, Europe and other countries, recently reached 82 million monthly users. Growth is particularly strong in the United States

“As a platform, we want to provide benefits to artists by providing the best environment, in terms of readership size and profits, of course,” said Baku Hirai, COO of Line Digital Frontier, who oversees Webtoon activity. in Japan. “By being on our platform, the work is relayed both nationally and globally, providing the opportunity to become a global success,”

Although taking off two decades later than in South Korea, webtoons are here to stay in Japan.

Works are being developed in Japan that bring together the best of webtoons and manga, says Kojuro Hagihara, general manager of Tokyo-based Sorajima Studio, which produces webtoon works for various platforms.

“All we need is a mass hit, something that will appeal to people who don’t usually read webtoons. To do that, we need to create a webtoon work that will be made into a series on Netflix or Amazon Prime,” he said. .

The 2021 startup studio has gathered investment from mainstream Japanese manga publishers like Shueisha and Shogakukan. The studio has so far three works, all profitable, including one published in the United States. It predicts 26 works for this year and 50 for next year, which would rival the productivity of webtoon studios in South Korea.

“Things are going great,” Hagihara said.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter

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