Publishers eye Indonesia in building a market for Japanese manga

July 21, 2014

Naruto, Conan, One Piece. These are Japanese comics (published as tankōbon) that are currently popular in Indonesia. New publications from Japan become available immediately as part of the line-up of Indonesian bookstores. As Japanese manga market gradually shrinks from declining birth rates, publishers are shifting their focus to Indonesia. Manga is synonymous to “Cool Japan” and will become a large market in the future as new works are continuously imported. This report explores relationship between the the Japanese publishers and the Indonesian audience.


Group of third-year middle schoolers (Gramedia bookstore in Central Jakarta)

Naruto has captured the hearts of children. “Naruto! I read this!” At 3 p.m. during one weekday afternoon, we met a group of four children in their third year of middle school at the comic shelf corner of the Gramedia bookstore in Grand Indonesia, Central Jakarta. “Naruto is very cool,” says 14-year-old Aburizal. Each volume costs 18,500 rupiah, but he owns all 65 volumes. Naruto is a popular manga series serialized in Shōnen Jump (published by Shueisha). It is a signature piece of the magazine alongside One Piece and tells the story of the orphaned ninja Naruto Uzumaki who joins forces with friends and grows up as they overcome challenges. The series is very popular outside of Japan and has been translated and published in more than 30 countries. “I get excited reading it,” says 14-year-old Narsiwanto. The television anime has also been broadcast in Indonesia.

“It’s a bestseller here. There’s high demand for it,” says 28-year-old Hari, a manager at the bookstore. “It’s fun because the title character is a ninja. Its story of friendship and action scenes also make it popular.” The store is under the umbrella of Indonesia’s largest publishing group Kompas Gramedia. About 80 percent of the comics sold here are translations of Japanese works. Similar to Japan, new works are prominently displayed next to each other on a flatbed in front of the cashier. All of the publications displayed are Japanese. Older works are placed on the shelf according to the author’s name, and young customers often browse through these titles. July’s top three sellers are: 1) Conan, 78 volumes (serialized in Japan as Detective Conan in Shōnen Sunday); 2) KungFu Boy, 15 volumes (Ironfist Chinmi, Monthly Shōnen Magazine); 3) One Piece, 74 volumes. As of July 17, Conan has sold 116 individual copies this month.

There is also a small corner shelf with Indonesian comics. These works are closer to picture books rather than comics. Mahabharata, available in eight volumes, has an higher target audience age and sells for 30,000 rupiah each. It is the comic adaptation is a popular television drama series that is currently airing. When one opens the work, the panel layout and big lettering is more similar to American comics rather than Japanese manga. The historical theme is more aimed at adult readers. It does not have an atmosphere that young boys and girls will enjoy.

Impending crisis in Japan’s domestic decline

“The quality and quantity of Japan’s manga are the best in the world,” says Wataru Hoshino, editor-in-chief of Bunka Tsūshin, a specialty publication for Japan’s publishing industry. Manga magazines are published weekly, and serializations are compiled into comic books to be sold in bookstores. Publishers identify writers whose works can be commercialized, and creating a unique system to grow the industry. There are many works that have become explosive hits. A compilation book of One Piece published in April received 4 million copies in first printing. Other works such as Attack on Titan and Kuroko’s Basketball have also become big hits in recent years.

However, the industry faces uncertainty ahead. There has been no movement in comic book sales in Japan, which totaled 223.1 billion yen in 2013. Manga magazine sales totaled 143.8 billion yen, down from 165 billion yen in 2011 and 156.4 billion yen in 2012. It is expected that the decline in sales of magazines as a source of comics will continue in the future. The target market of young readers has shifted interest to smartphones. This problem is made worse with structural problems of Japanese society such as declining birth rates and aging population. Publishers are turning to overseas markets as Japan’s domestic market shrinks.

In the early 1980s, the television anime Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon began broadcasting in the United States, and translation comics began publication. France soon followed. However, according to analysis by the Research Institute for Publications, “there have been visible signs of decline in popularity of manga comics compared to 10 years ago. New works are being translated at the same speed as they are published in Japan, but the growth in the number of readers is not matching that pace.” U.S. and European markets have become steady and mature. Eyes are turning toward China next.

Targeting Indonesia’s burgeoning young population

South Korea and Taiwan already have well-established manga markets. China has a huge population, but there are strict government regulations on publications, and the entry of manga into the country has been difficult. Therefore, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia have been selected as the destinations of manga content. “There is already deep familiarity with Japanese manga through the broadcast of anime on television,” the Research Institute for Publications finds. “Indonesia especially has a favorable impression of Japan. With a large percentage of the population in their teens and twenties, this is not a market to be missed.”

Many fans eagerly browse the Japanese comics corner.

Many fans eagerly browse the Japanese comics corner.

Japanese publishers have worked with local agents by signing book deals with translation publishers since the 1990s. Kadokawa, a publisher of titles such as Psychic Detective Yakumo and My Neighbor Seki, saw sales in Indonesia “grow threefold between 2012 and 2013” according to its overseas publication sales department. The company owns an 80-percent share of the men’s light novel market in Japan, and it looks to “license not only comics, but also light novels” in the future.

Another company, Kodansha, has been licensing its publications for release in Indonesia since the mid-1990s. “Blockbuster works representative of Japan’s magazine system are very popular. The renewal edition of Sailor Moon, which was published last year, has become a favorite,” according to its international rights division. France, North America, South Korea, and Taiwan are the top markets to which Kodansha exports copyright licenses of its comic book titles. Indonesia comes in ninth at 3.4 percent of licenses (2012 data).

It varies by the work, but an advance (prepaid royalties) is paid at the time of contract signing for translation and publication. Following publication, about 7 percent of the sales revenue is paid as royalty. “The copyright business provides enormous amounts of revenue for every company. Republication incurs no additional costs. However, when the anime’s airing period ends, the market size in the region where the work is printed tends to shrink,” says Bunka Tsūshin editor-in-chief Hoshino. A new market strategy is needed to expand the sale of Japanese comics in Indonesia in the future.

Source: The Daily Jakarta Shimbun

Gramedia publishing arm sells 100 new publications a month

July 21, 2014

In order for Japanese comics to be translated, placed on the shelves of bookstores, and reach the hands of readers, the help of Indonesian publishers is necessary. Most Japanese publisher have established a relationship with publishing division of Kompas Gramedia Group, Elex Media Komputindo (EMK) and M&C, as a business partner. We visited the editing office that connects the comics industries of Japan and Indonesia.

M&C editing office: creating a new work in two months

The publishing division of Kompas Gramedia Group is located in a building in Palmerah, Central Jakarta. M&C, located on the 6th floor, has 29 employees who are editors and book binding designers. They primarily edit shōjo manga, and the company publishes 100 new comic book titles every month. Among these, approximately 85 percent are Japanese manga, with the remaining works coming from South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. “Almost all of our business is with Japanese publishers,” says editor Mustika.

Ine checks the manuscript of a translated comic.

Ine checks the manuscript of a translated comic.

What does the process flow of translating a comic book look like? In general, the Japanese publisher or agent will sent a catalog of its titles which are no longer serialized. This process is different for works whose serialization are currently ongoing. After the request for a work from that catalog has been submitted, the work begins. Editors then forward a copy of the original Japanese manuscript to external staff responsible for translation of the speech balloons and other text. The document is then printed, and the galley proof is reviewed. Cover design is submitted to the Japanese side in order to verify the balance and color of the title and cover image. The completed work hits the shelves two months after the original manuscript is received. A minimum of 5,000 copies are printed for the first edition, and the number can reach as high as 80,000 copies for more popular titles.

M&C's bestselling comic series so far, Miiko!

M&C’s bestselling comic series, Miiko!

However, not all Japanese manga can be printed as is. Keeping in mind the cultural customs of Indonesia, violent scenes and sexual scenes where the skin is exposed are removed from the panel, and revisions are applied. This checking process is important to the work of an editor. M&C’s bestselling work so far is Miiko! (published in Japan as Look This Way, Miiko! by Eriko Ono and serialized in Ciao). It continues to sell 12 years after the original publication. The story’s lead character is a girl in her fifth year of elementary school. “The characters are cute. Many readers say they can relate to the stories, which have school and home settings,” editor Ine explains on the reason for its popularity.

According to a survey by the company, readers pay most attention to the story and cover art when deciding on a purchase. “This is where Japanese manga excels,” says Mustika. Many of Indonesia’s young population are girls, and because of that the popularity of comics aimed at girls are quite high.

From readers to creators: introducing manga author school

What about shōnen manga? Comics aimed at boys are managed by EMK. The company has published translations of Japanese comics since 1991. It adapts the blockbuster titles Naruto and One Piece, as well as the now-popular Attack on Titan. Rois, editor at EMK, chimes in.

“Readers have been familiar with broadcasts of Japanese anime since they were children, so there is no animosity toward Japanese comics. When talking about Japanese comics, they give very positive feedback.” Joining the company seven years ago, his task to publish two new books every week. As a manga fan himself, “it’s important to choose which works will be adapted to be sold.” In order to make up for the upcoming Lebaran holidays, “it’s been troublesome because the printing deadline has been moved earlier, and the publication schedule had to be adjusted,” he laughs.

M&C editors (from left) Mustika and Ine

M&C editors (from left) Mustika and Ine

M&C and EMK publish the majority of comics translated from abroad. There is also a division in the group that sells domestic comics from Indonesia, but it does not generate many sales. Development of domestic writers is a challenge for the future, but there is currently no newcomer discovery and training system such as the ones Japan publishers have established. “I look forward to the development of domestic writers,” says M&C’s Mustika.

There are an increasing number Indonesians who want to transition into creators from readers and become manga authors. Last month, Manga Pro Class was opened at Ambassador Cafe in Blok M, South Jakarta for the purpose of training professional manga authors. Another workshop IkuZo! also opened in West Jakarta last month. Instructions are led by Japanese former manga editors, teaching the know-how of creating comics.

Manga Festival begins with participation from Japanese parties

As Indonesia attracts attention as an upcoming large market of comics, 12 of Japan’s major publishers of comics publications will come to Indonesia in late October. Between October 31 and November 9, Manga Festival in Indonesia will be held in the capital city of Jakarta, featuring planned exhibition of manga content and autograph events with manga authors. “It will be a place to showcase the appeal of Japanese comics,” says the Executive Committee. “Manga is one example of Cool Japan content that the nation can be proud of,” according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is co-sponsoring the event. “Considering the market size, Indonesia has a lot of growth potential,” says METI’s Media and Content Industry Division.

Publishers’ strategies are not limited to the current translation business, but also expanding toward licensing rights for using manga characters in the future. Anime adaptations, sales of licensed goods, and the opening of additional manga schools are also expected. “In order to further grow a more mature reader market, broadening the manga culture is important,” says Bunka Tsūshin editor-in-chief Hoshino.

Source: The Daily Jakarta Shimbun