Manga has made its impact all over the globe, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all that reads from right to left is gold. While your Dragon Balls, Narutos, and Attacks on Titan have all gone on to fame worldwide, it doesn’t mean every one of Japan’s hand-drawn treasures share the same love abroad.

Japan’s Da Vinchi News recently interviewed a publisher in New York whom they call “Mr. C” about four particular smash hit manga series in Japan that could hardly make a dent in the American market. What was it about these titles that made them perform completely differently in these two parts of the world?

Slam Dunk
Mr. C cites Slam Dunk as the ultimate example of the divergence between American and Japanese tastes with regard to manga. From the start, sports comics were never big in the USA. In fact, most reality-based genres didn’t fare so well overall commercially.

On the other hand, in Japan sports-themed stories have often gone on to big success. Internationally sports manga like the Captain Tsubasa and Prince of Tennis series have done well around the world and averagely in the USA with their superpower-laden characters. But Slam Dunk, with its slice-of-life antics and fallible players in-training just didn’t seem to grip American readers like it did the Japanese.

Mr. C also mentions that the past half-decade has seen something of a resurgence of classic manga on Western shores. Legends like Osamu Tezuka and Keiko Takemiya getting have been getting lovingly bound reprints of their old works translated to English, and yet Shigeru Mizuki’s Gegege No Kitaro seems to be just collecting dust on the shelves by comparison.

The industry insider suggests that Japan’s trendsetter of the emo haircut has had an unfortunate lack of proper promotion. This meant that poor Kitaro just couldn’t get a foothold – even with those crazy wooden shoes of his.

Wandering Son
This story of youngsters dealing with their gender identity has been well received both in Japan and in America. Although it’s a slow-moving work of subtle human emotions everyone who has read it seems to find a certain charm to the story.

However, according to Mr. C, in the publishing world there are few willing to take a chance on Wandering Son, fearing that it just wouldn’t sell well. That concern is partly to do with the subject matter but also had a lot to do with the incredibly staggered release schedule of the original series. In the time it took to print only 15 volumes of Wandering Son, other series would have released at least 30.

So, it would seem that this award-winning piece of writing just couldn’t fit into the commercial system to hit it as big as it probably should have.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Although you might now call this series something of a success in North America, it was a long time coming since its debut nearly two decades ago. Mr. C credits this to heavy censorship slapped onto the initial American printings which changed many of the names and situations with controversially violent and/or religious imagery. As a result it kind of well sucked, which would explain why so few picked it up.

However, thanks to the advent of the internet, the original stories were able to spread to America as they were meant to be. Combined with the release of ebook versions to replace out-of-print issues, a true renaissance of JoJo could be enjoyed by Americans.

And who knows? Perhaps with the changes in formats and taste Kitaro, Wandering Son, and Slam Dunk too might someday be top of the list, king of the hill, A-number-one in ol’ New York, New York just as they were in Japan. And if not, so be it. It doesn’t make them any less great.

Source: Da Vinchi News (Japanese)
Images: Amazon 1, 2, 3, 4