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Thinking about Manga in Four Dimensions

I don’t think people realize just how much online manga sales data I’ve collected, or how I’ve managed to collate and correlate it. : ProfessorBlind, Twitter, 9 September


I have a lot of data.

I also check in weekly at online books sales [looking at manga, specifically] across numerous sites. Sometimes, while churning through all that data, I get a hunch — an impression that one title is trending, or that something isn’t quite right. There’s no way to specifically call out what is different or odd about the charts [unfortunately] without a lot of extra work — like I said, it’s just a hunch.

But sometimes it’s worthwhile to dig into the data to confirm that hunch.

This past spring, something seemed to be going on with Fruits Basket. Of course, it’s an older title, dare-I-say a Legacy manga title. Seems like it’s been around and talked about forever — Heck, we even did an MMF on it. But even given it’s evergreen popularity, I got a hunch that something else was going on.

Please note, this did not show up in the top 10 bestseller lists. This was way down on the charts. In fact, when I actually compiled the data, I was surprised – and it took a bit of work to figure out all the various aspects, and provide at least a few theories on why.

I’ll have to clarify quite a bit here, but there’s nothing for it but to get started:

The flat horizontal lines are Benchmarks, average annual sales for some perennial manga titles — from the bottom, they are Lone Wolf & Cub 1 (grey ~2), the Azumanga Daioh Omnibus (green ~18), Buddah vol 1 (yellow ~38), Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind 1 (blue ~49), and Naruto 1 (orange, top line, ~133; yes, kids are still buying into Naruto)

The vertical lines correspond to dates – from left:

  • 13 Jan – Tokyopop announces distribution deal with Diamond, cancelling previous distribution through HarperCollins
  • 1 Mar – Tokyopop lays off majority of editorial staff
  • 26 Apr – Tokyopop’s website closes, and redirects all links to their Facebook page
  • 31 May – Official end of all publishing for Tokyopop in North America

Actually, there was also the announcement that Tokyopop would cease operation, on 15 April, but it seems we all knew it was coming at that point, and the press release didn’t affect online sales one way or the other, quite yet.

The two troughs visible in the chart above correspond to:

First, A lack of supply in February, as Tokyopop changed distributors,

and then, a lack of [online] demand in July, as we all ran into Borders to pick up manga on clearance.


The spikes in the chart? Oh, I think most of us can guess why demand spiked — Casual fans of Fruits Basket who happen to also follow manga news online knew: it’s time to finish up this one. Volume 23 was released in 2009, so it was likely a matter of laziness… “Well, it’s a Tokyopop title; I’ll pick up the Ultimate Editions, or maybe wait for a box set…” [one was announced but never materialized]

But suddenly, not only was there not going to be a box set, the publisher was gone – so we snap up what we can find in stores, and start filling in the holes by purchasing online. Based on my chart, and on immediate demand in August – it looks like volume 17 is going to be the hard one to get.

See Also:

End of an era: Tokyopop shutting down US publishing division
MMF: Why Fruits Basket?
Tokyopop Website Replaced by Facebook
Tokyopop shutdown, CLAMP launch

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About Matt Blind

Matt has been a bookseller for more than 11 years, and a blogger for more than 9. His first manga was Planetes in 2003, his first anime was Star Blazers (Uchu Senkan Yamato) in 1981: In fandom terms, this means he is ooooold. Despite advancing decrepitude, Matt maintains the world's only steam-powered differential computation engine dedicated to manga (which occasionally spits out bestseller lists) & still holds down a 45-hour a week job at the bookstore.


  1. […] Blind has an interesting chart plotting online sales of Fruits Basket against a timeline that includes Tokyopop’s last days and the closure of Borders. His […]

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